By James Dungeon
[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Maggi Lieber, co-chairman, life member, and newsletter writer for the Prescott Gem & Mineral Club. The club’s 15th annual Prescott Gem & Mineral Show is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 3 & 4 & 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 5 at Prescott Valley Event Center, 3201 N. Main St. , $4-$5, children under 12 free with paid adult. Find out more at PrescottGemMineral.Org.]
What exactly is the Prescott Gem & Mineral Show and what can you tell us about the vendors?
This is our 15th annual show and sale. There’ll be more than 60 vendors selling a variety of things, all lapidary-, rock-, gem-, mineral-, and jewelry-related. Some of the vendors are members of the Prescott Gem & Mineral Club, others come from Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado. We even have one coming up from Texas. They’re mostly coming from all over the Southwest. We have an approximate 80 percent return rate on vendors. It’s a good indoor show, climate control, and you don’t have to worry about the wind blowing away the wares — not that rocks wound blow away, mind you. To make sure we have quality vendors, they have to have at least 80 percent rock-/mineral-/gem-related materials.
The event seems to cater to rock hounds and jewelry people alike. What’s the specimen-to-jewelry ratio?
Jewelry encompasses about 30 percent of the show. I have friends who say they don’t want to go to a gem show because they’re not into lapidary arts. If I ask them about their jewelry, though, they’ll get excited. So, yes, there’s some precious and semi-precious stones there. It’s not just for rock hounds and lapidaries. It’s definitely geared to the general public. It’s probably about 15 percent mineral specimens, 10-15 percent rough and slab for people who` want to do their own, and there’s a small amount of books and equipment there, as well. Plus there are fossils and at least one dealer I know who specializes in meteorites. There really is a wide range.
What role does education play in the show and sale?
Well, we have a large kids’ department so kids can do touchy-feely stuff and actually touch fossils and dinosaur bones, which is really cool. This year we have a new thing: a place where you can bring rocks to be identified. That’s something we’ve added by request from previous shows. A lot of people end up with a piece of jewelry passed down that they can’t I.D. Sometimes a rock hound or fossil hunter passes away and their relatives end up with a ton of treasures. People don’t know what they are, but they recognize that they’re special and have some sort of value.
They can tell there’s something special about them.
Exactly. Maybe it’s just that there are pretty colors in it. Mother Nature can put together some beautiful colors. A lot of people are surprised to find out all of these materials look like this naturally without dye. … People do know that geodes are often dyed, though. Speaking of which, we’re going to be doing geode splitting again. The club buys the rough and for a few dollars you can buy a piece and it’ll be cracked open right there. It’s really fun — like opening up a Christmas present.
What rocks, gems, and minerals are common to Arizona and the Southwest?
The most common thing is probably petrified wood, most obviously because of the petrified forest, which you’re not allowed to collect from, but there are pockets of the stuff all over the place. There’s obsidian because of the area’s volcanic origin — it’s volcanic glass, basically. There are a lot of fossils. A lot of people don’t stop to think about it, but Arizona was all underwater a long time ago; this was the sea and there are fossils here from that time period. If you go a little further out to Utah and Colorado, there are dinosaur bones and coprolite, which is petrified dinosaur poo. It’s always funny to ask kids if they know what they’re holding and they pass it to their friends like they were holding something fresh and warm.
What about your favorite thing to look at at the show?
I’m a tektite addict. That’s the result of a meteor striking the Earth millions of years ago and a splash of soil and earth going up into the atmosphere and falling back down. The result is a tektite. It’s black, like obsidian, but with the coolest textures. I just love the whole space rock thing. You just polish them up and they’re gorgeous.
What’s the makeup of event patrons?
I’d say about 50 percent of our patrons are form the Prescott area. We get a lot of people up form Phoenix and some people form Tucson make a weekend of it, as well as people in from New Mexico.
Could you go over the nuts and bolts of the show?
Sure. It’s Friday through Sunday, Aug. 3-5 and $5 to get in for adults, $4 for seniors, who we define as 65-plus, as well as students. Children under 12 are free with paid adults. The hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday.
What would you recommend to bring for first-timers?
Definitely bring cash, and probably more than you think you’re going to need. I always set a budget and I always end up having to use the ATM — it never fails and, yes, there’s an ATM on the premise. My best recommendation is probably to walk the whole show first, otherwise you’ll end up spending all your money at the first booth. You never know what you’re going to find, though, so it’s helpful to look around first. If you have any questions, you can always ask the staff. … In terms of set prices, that’s definitely up to each dealer or vendor. If you’re buying a lot of slabs or items from one dealer, they might give you a break. It never hurts to ask.
How is the club involved in the show?
Apart from the individual members who have booths, there’s a big club table that’s manned by a member at all times. Whoever’s there will be happy to discuss the club, what we do, and give out information about our monthly meetings, which are the first Saturday of every month in P.V. We usually have a program or speaker at each meeting. Membership is $12 for individuals and $18 for families. … When the group started in the early 2000s, it was a group of about 20 to 25 people. Now we’re getting close to 450 members. … We’ve also got 10 to 15 displays from club members that are filled with whatever is near and dear to that member’s heart. Some are rocks in their natural states, polished but otherwise unaltered, and another one might have to do with wire-wrapping or beading. That just shows the talents and broad interests that the club represents. And the show and sale, for that matter.
The 15th annual Prescott Gem & Mineral Show is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 3 & 4 & 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 5 at Prescott Valley Event Center, 3201 N. Main St. , $4-$5, children under 12 free with paid adult. Find out more at PrescottGemMineral.Org.
James Dungeon is a figment of his own imagination. And he likes cats. Contact him at JamesDungeonCats@Gmail.Com.