By James Dungeon
Rocks are pretty darn cool.
That’s a pretty soft sell for the Prescott Gem & Mineral Club’s 14th annual show — the practically eponymous Prescott Gem & Mineral Show — but, it’s not a particularity hard event to sell.
Come look at some neat looking rocks from around the state and around the globe. Lots of them are pretty. Maybe buy some and take them home and look at them some more, or turn them into jewelry. Whatever your thing is, really.
Seriously. It’s rocks. And rocks are cool.
The Prescott Gem & Mineral Show is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 4th & 5th and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Prescott Valley Event Center, 3201 Main St., 928-772-1819. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, vets, and students, and free for children under 12.
Linda Loschke, a board member and previous president of the Prescott Gem & Mineral Club, discusses this year’s show. Find out more at PrescottGemMineral.Org.
Can you give us an overview of the event?
We have more than 50 vendors who come and sell their different items. Some have beads, but it’s mostly rock-related cabochons. There’s cut and polished jewelry as well as unfinished specimens. We have a raffle, a kids activity area, geode cutting, and other demonstrations, but the main event is really the vendors who come and sell rock-related items. The Prescott Gem & Mineral Club started in 2001 and the first Prescott Gem & Mineral Show was in 2003, so this is our 14th annual event. The first year we held it at the old fairgrounds in very primitive conditions. Then we moved to the Embry-Riddle auditorium for years, then, four years ago, we moved it to the Prescott Valley Event Center. It’s for people who are interested in rocks to come purchase specimens and jewelry. It’s for people who want unusual, hand-crafted pieces.
What kind of gems and minerals do people associate with Arizona?
Amethyst, quartz, agates, those kinds of things. Turquoise, obviously, but that’s pretty much mined out. It’s very hard to find pure turquoise. Most of the stuff you find has been stabilized, which means it’s mixed with a chemical to make it hard. There’s a lot of agates found in Arizona, a lot of jasper and a lot of onyx. And, of course, there’s obsidian and quartz.
That’s not necessarily germane to the show, though, considering the vendors are from all over.
It’s a pretty wide range of stuff. The vendors, themselves, are mostly from states surrounding Arizona, but the things they sell are from all over the world.
What’s something you’ve purchased and enjoyed from the show?
I buy cabochons and make jewelry out of them — pendants and earrings and those sort of things. I’ve also been a vendor and sold my jewelry there. There’s a lot of really good quality handmade jewelry there.
To play devil’s advocate, in the digital age you can find this kind of stuff online. Why go to a gem show — specifically this gem show?
For one thing, you can see what you’re buying. Different dealers have different eyes for things. We’ve got a lot of repeat vendors too, including one who’s been here since we first opened up in 2003. One of our vendors, Keith Horst, is a lapidary instructor at Yavapai College, and he’s got a reputation of having very unique, high quality stones. When you go to a show, you’re looking for something unique, something different that you wouldn’t find online, or, at least, certainly not at a jewelry store.
When you prepare to go to a show, do you recommend planning on buying one really nice piece, or several lower-dollar items?
Well, I would say the latter, but we do have a vendor who has more high end, expensive things, if that’s what you’re looking for. I wouldn’t say that things, in general, are inexpensive, but, for the quality, it’s all well-priced. … It’s absolutely a great place to shop for holidays, birthdays, gifts of all kinds because the items are so unique.
What kind of things do you look for, personally?
I look for rock specimens that I don’t have and wouldn’t go out and collect myself. The Prescott Gem & Mineral Club goes all over. We’ve had field trips to Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, and California. I look for something from places like Russia and Afghanistan, places I don’t think I’d ever get to.
We ran a story about the show last year, and a lot of the comments we got were about how much the show’s grown and changed over the years.
Since we moved to the event center, it’s really grown and grown. When I first started working the vent in 2009, it was held at Embry-Riddle, and we had about 2,000 people. Last year, we had more than 4,200 people come through the doors in those three days. That larger arena has really helped, and we’ve included more vendors. Our advertising budget had been about the same, but Melanie (Capps) is doing a great job. Everyone knows it’s the first weekend in August. And our vendors come back year after year. That’s a good sign. … In order to be a vendor, you send a sample of your items to Melanie and she scrutinizes everything. One of the things we’re doing this year is trying to get more people with rock specimens instead of just jewelry. We have a lot of jewelry, and that’s good, but we want things to be diverse, too. We added the geode splitting a couple of years ago, and that brings in more kids, which also brings in more parents. I believe the geodes are from Morocco. We ran out of them last year, so there’ll be more this year. It’s in the back area of the show near the children’s area. There’s also a florescence booth, so people can see some specimens under a black light. So, there are different facets to the show.
Who is this show for? What do you see as your demographics?
Well, let me ask you, do like rocks?
Sure, who doesn’t like rocks?
See? Everybody likes rocks. I think we appeal to people who want to see what different rocks they can find, as well as other things like meteorites, and, of course, jewelry. We get a pretty large contingency of people who’ve taken the jewelry class at Yavapai College who buy specimens to use in their jewelry. We’ve also got wire wrappers, too, and a few beaders. … You know, you talk to little kids and they love rocks. What happens when you go out hiking? What do they pick up and carry around with them? Rocks! Just as we have really diverse members in the club who do all kinds of things with rocks, I think the show appeals to a really diverse set of people with many interests.
The club, proper, has a Junior Rockhound program, correct?
We have a program for kids from 6 to 16. They meet once a month and they’ll have a booth there about what they do and they’ll have some specimens on display, as well. It has about 17 members and has been part of the club since, I believe, 2011. They earn badges just like the Boy Scouts and they’re part of the Rocky Mountain Federation.
What are some of the questions you field at the event?
Mostly the vendors get questions like, “Where does this rock come from?” People want to know if it’s from here in Arizona or another country. I mentioned Russia earlier, and that’s because there are a lot of beautiful rocks that come from that country. Mexico has some beautiful fire agates, too, by the way. Personally, rocks from Russia and Mexico are my favorite. But, yeah, the most common question, by far, is where the rocks come from.
The Prescott Gem & Mineral Show is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Aug. 4 & 5 & 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aug. 6 at the Prescott Valley Event Center, 3201 Main St., 928-772-1819. Tickets are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, vets, and students, and free for children under 12. 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.