Gem Faire brings sparkle to showgrounds
Gem Faire spent a weekend at the Earl Warren Showgrounds, its first California show since mid-March.
The marketplace travels along the West Coast, sometimes dipping into the Midwest, selling gems almost every weekend of the year — except, of course, this year. The fair has just begun traveling again.
“Most of us are out here on a gamble because we didn’t know what it was going to be like post-COVID,” said Michele, one of the owners of QRZ, inc who did not want to give her last name.
Booths were spaced apart, and Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer and gloves sat on the tables. A few vendors inconsistently wore their masks, but most adhered to guidelines.
The products varied from large chunks of raw crystals to polished jewelry. Customers could nab a string of beads for a dollar or spend thousands on a substantial piece.
The show takes a lot of effort. Vendors from all over the West Coast pack up thousands of dollars in product, pack it into rubber bins and drive hours away from home. Many of the vendors stay in a hotel.
“This business is a lot of traveling. It’s definitely taxing and hard, especially if you have a family,” she said.
Pam Spears, who works with her mom and aunt at Sister Stones, is a hairdresser during the week and sells gems on the weekends. Her mom and aunt have weekday jobs too.
She feels like a therapist as she assists customers choosing stones. She showed a woman stones to help her marriage, suggesting lemon citrine crystals for menopause.
She wasn’t pushy. She just answered questions as the woman expressed her concerns, like the new power lines outside her bedroom.
Ms. Spears suggested a few crystals, quickly recalling the stones’ long names and where she set them up on display.
They weren’t expensive picks, surprisingly. It’d be easy to upsell someone with no background knowledge.
“I hope not to over influence somebody to buy outside their budget, especially during this time,” Ms. Spears said.
Saturday, she sold a lot of crystals to a woman who, after purchasing, explained she was homeless. Ms. Spears felt bad for the woman and said a prayer for her, feeling uneasy at the amount of product she sold to her.
She hopes the gems help her customers like they’ve helped her. She’s collected stones since she was young, so she knows the varieties well and how people utilize them.
Her collection even helped her quit smoking five years ago.
She said many of her customers purchase crystals for metaphysical reasons, and she sees a lot of people looking for personal growth this year.
But sometimes, it’s educational. She has a variety of fossils for sale, and sometimes professors purchase from her.
Some weekends, Gem Faire has a day dedicated to kids. Classes take a field trip to see the fossils and get a geology lesson.
Michele likes seeing the variety of stones each weekend. There are pieces from all over the world, and most vendors seem to have an individual style.
“You get a lot of culture from everybody,” she said.
The salespeople looked like they came from a variety of backgrounds and ethnicities. Some wore Yeezys and bold-faced watches, and others looked modest — not like the kind of person who has thousands invested in gems.
The customers vary too, but the $7 entry fee weeds out a lot of unmotivated onlookers.
“That’s the kind of people we see is the people that enjoy this stuff,” Michele said. “I think a lot of people buy crystals for spiritual reasons, like how you feel when you’re around them.”
She likes the shows in Santa Barbara, but the event attracts buyers from all over the west coast.
Steve Small, who buys silver and gold at Gem Faire, says Santa Barbara is one of his favorite stops. He said he gets nicer estate pieces.
“This weekend was so good, I ran out of money buying,” he said.
He had been waiting for the fair to resume and apart from a couple shows in other states, the vendors weren’t touring.
Gem Faire is scheduled to return to Santa Barbara the weekend of Feb. 19.