Nearly $1 million in gemstones were stolen from a trailer hitched to a pickup truck parked outside a vendor's south-side motel room, police say.

The theft happened at the Motel 6 on East Benson Highway near South Park Avenue sometime between Sunday evening and early Tuesday morning.

Washington resident Tammy Moreau and her two companions were getting ready to leave town Tuesday morning after spending the past week selling Oregon sunstone to wholesalers at the GJX exhibition downtown.

Moreau was returning to the truck after paying her motel bill and dropping off her room keys at the front desk when one of her companions found the trailer's door locks had been cut.

Moreau mines the gems from the Sunstone Butte Mine in southeast Oregon along with her boyfriend. Their entire inventory of finished jewelry, loose, polished and uncut stones varying in hues of copper, yellow, green, brown and red had been taken, she said.

The gems have an estimated wholesale value of between $800,000 to $900,000, Moreau said.

About 2,000 stones were stolen, said Sgt. Matt Ronstadt, a Tucson Police Department spokesman.

Several gray duffel-bag-style cases and a wheeled suitcase-style bag were taken from the trailer, Ronstadt said.

Each contained several black and glass display boxes filled with gemstones, he said.

This was Moreau's first time selling at the Tucson gem show, though she attends several other shows in other states. However, without product or insurance, Moreau said she's unsure what to do.

"This is the only way we make our living. We have no other jobs, no other income," she said. "I'm just sick."

Major thefts during the gem show are rare, Ronstadt said. Usually, vendors report small cases of shoplifting where a few items are missing, he said.

Anyone with information about the theft is asked to call 911 or 88-CRIME (882-7463).

Gem-show thefts

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Within the last 10 years, there have been high-dollar thefts reported at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show:

2004 - $473,000 in total reported loss from gem-show-related thefts.

2006 - In one incident, more than $1 million in cash, personal checks, traveler's checks and credit-card receipts were stolen from a midtown hotel. Some of the stolen items were recovered. A total loss of about $540,000 was reported that year.

2008 - $473,000 in reported thefts. In one case, an estimated $120,000 worth of jewelry was stolen from a truck parked in the 3600 block of West Placita del Correcaminos, near the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa.

Source: Tucson Police Department and Star archives.

Contact reporter Veronica Cruz at vcruz@azstarnet.com or 573-4224.