July 2022
Prescott Gem and Mineral Show
A Metamorphic Experience

The earth shakes, and a rumble deep down signals a volcanic eruption. Molten lava pours over the sides of the volcano. In the cooler air the gases trapped in the molten material expand. Pop! A cavity forms in the lava. Mineral-rich rain seeps slowly into the lava and our cavity, passing through but leaving behind elemental molecules.

Through the magic of time-lapse text we watch as small crystals begin to grow inside this bubble. More time passes as pressure and sediment form a hard shell around our crystal nursery.

Fast-forward thousands or millions of years to August 2019 and the Prescott Gem and Mineral Show. A little girl watches rapt as a dull gray stone ball she’s selected from a heap is gently and expertly cracked open. Nestled inside are hundreds of small crystals, and those six-year-old eyes are the first to see them in the history of the world. It just doesn’t get any better than that, and you don’t have to be a rockhound to appreciate the wonders of geology.

Long before Arizona became a state it was known for rich mineral and metal deposits, especially copper, and the combination of volcanic, metamorphic and sedimentary rock and copper make ours the most mineral-rich state in the country. Copper-based minerals like turquoise, azurite, malachite and chrysocolla can be found throughout the state, as well as gemstones like peridot, garnet, chalcedony and one of the rarest amethysts in the world, from the Four Peaks Mine.

Petrified wood shows up in every county, and you can find beautiful agates and jaspers in a vast array of colors and qualities. Arizona is one of the world’s few sources of fire agate, an iridescent, opal-like gemstone prized by many jewelers.

You can see all this and much more right here. The Prescott Gem and Mineral Club began over 18 years ago, and the annual show it hosts has grown to become the state’s second-largest. Careful curation of exhibits attracts quality vendors, offering everything from rough materials to high-end gemstone jewelry, and features local, nationally recognized lapidary artists like Keith Horst.

My favorite is the fluorescence room, featuring specimens that seem completely uninteresting in normal light, but under ultraviolet fluoresce to neon greens, pinks, purples and blues, simply stunning to behold!

“We have gold-panning, geode-splitting, demonstrations on cutting cabochons, wire-wrapping and tool displays. We have three thousand pounds of geodes, and you can split your own and take it with you!” says Maggi Lieber of PGMC. “With paid admission you get a raffle ticket, and raffle items include mineral specimens, handmade jewelry and many donations from our generous vendors.”

There’s a section for kids, where budding rockhounds can hold a 350-million-year-old dinosaur bone or coprolite (fossilized dinosaur poop), and learn how a living animal turned to stone.

“It’s so important to us that kids get to experience all this, because they’re our future,” says Lieber.

Dedicated volunteers do much more than put on a great show. The PGMC offers a plethora of educational opportunities for every age group. For a nominal annual membership fee of $12 ($15 for the whole family), members can access a fully equipped lapidary shop with slab saws, polishing machines, a flat-lap machine and much more, as well as expert instructors to guide them in use of the equipment. The enthusiasm for rocks is never more apparent than during the monthly field trips to remote and interesting terrain around the Southwest to collect specimens and fossils and learn about environmental stewardship and conservation.

Monthly meetings welcome visitors and feature expert speakers.

Dedication to education is central to the mission of the PGMC. Every semester it sponsors three full scholarships at Yavapai College in Lapidary, Jewelry and Geology. This is an extraordinary opportunity for students interested in exploring these subjects, and applications are available for download at the club website.

So whether you’re interested in buying jewelry or simply collecting rocks, the Prescott Gem and Mineral Show provides all that and much more. The club encourages you to stop by, join as a member, sign up for field trips, and split a geode. Beware, attending can lead to symptoms that include an inability to resist anything sparkly, stooped posture, owning more pieces of quartz than underwear, and finding yourself compelled to examine every rock in your driveway.

What to Know

Aug. 2-3, 9-5pm, Aug 4, 9-4pm

Prescott Event Center, 3201 Main St., Prescott Valley

Admission: Adults $5, seniors and vets $4, kids under 12 free

More info: prescottgemmineral.org

Lesley Aine McKeown has been making jewelry for over 38 years, and is admittedly obsessed with stones. She lives and works in Prescott, and sells her jewelry nationwide.

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