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Gem & Mineral Collecting: Do You Just Look At Them?

by Clay Hecocks 0 Comments

What is it that draws people to gem and mineral collecting? I’m convinced every kid has had a rock collection. Purely aesthetics – it sparkles, has a neat shape, interesting color, it’s “pretty.” It’s undeniably a universal draw. Then kids begin to throw rocks. And then by accident, a rock breaks and the inside is fresh, clean and lustrous – one’s first discovery of contrast in a rock. Then you go on a science class field trip and see some nicer rocks. Then to a museum and see really nice rocks. And if you’re lucky, for your birthday or Christmas, someone gets you a kid’s rocks & minerals kit with lots of cool rocks annoyingly glued to a piece of cardboard so you can’t even hold them, let alone throw them at someone. Your collection most likely ends up in a box in the garage or attic, and then life takes over. But somewhere along the line you see a Geode somewhere, a fossil, a Quartz crystal, and it all comes back to you. But now you’re older and have some money (or generous parents) and you pick the hobby back up. And now you’re hooked. You go to local shows and/or online to find some pieces that catch your eye. You may enjoy this hobby for a season or you may pursue it for the rest of your life. Your collection just might end up in a nice display case for you to enjoy and your friends and family to be impressed by. 

The appeal is hard to define or even describe. But it’s true for every collector, whether it be cars, antiques, coins, stamps, knives, or fill-in-the-blank. There’s an appeal, a draw, and the thrill of the hunt. For gem and mineral collectors it’s no different. We’re looking (hunting) for that piece or pieces that simply grab our attention and that have the all important “wow” factor. It’s different and unique for every collector, and the collection is your trophy case. It’s there to enjoy, to look at, to recall the various circumstances that led you to that particular piece.  

The Question

Many years ago, when my collection was growing - more like doubling every few months - my daughter, upon gazing at all the minerals I had displayed everywhere, asked a fair question: “What do you do with your collection of rocks - do you just look at them?” “Well, yes.” I went on to explain that they’re minerals, not rocks, and that I do look at them and I study the individual pieces. I look at crystals under magnification, I compare them to similar pieces online (to see if I had gotten just a fair or a truly great deal), I grade them (quality, clarity, etc.), and I consistently marvel at the creator’s hand! All in all, I thoroughly enjoy my collection, and after concluding a reasonable inventory, I, of course, consider what pieces I need to acquire next!

Time To Sell

Many years have elapsed since my daughter’s question, and now I not only look at them, but I also sell them. My hobby became a business. I can’t pinpoint the day that particular revelation revealed itself, but I just came to the realization that I wanted to share all of these pieces with others. I enjoyed when friends and family would visit and eventually the conversation about my collecting hobby would come up along with a request to see what I was talking about. I enjoyed collecting, but I really enjoyed sharing as well. So, the idea of selling began to grow. As my collection began to fill display cases, drawer cases, mineral boxes, shelves, and various other depositories, the drive to begin selling took on an urgency! So, I made the decision, and I dove in headfirst.

First there was finding a name. Then a URL. Then a website. Then selling at shows. And then I needed more “inventory.” (Inventory is code for needing to go to the big Tucson and Denver shows in the winter and fall – I’m not going to these shows to buy gems and minerals, I go to expand my inventory!) After many months of photography, mineral specimen descriptions, measurements, the never-ending challenge of pricing, and loading up inventory onto the website, it was time to “go live.” I’ll never forget my first sale – a large, uniquely shaped Amethyst Geode from Uruguay. I think I packed and repacked it two or three times to make sure it was as safe as could be. And yes, it arrived safely, and I couldn’t have been more relieved and excited. Thus, UnderGround Treasures began. 

It's Personal

At a recent show someone asked me, as she stood in front of my case of high-end specimens, “How can you sell these pieces, they’re so beautiful – if they were mine, I’d never let them go.” Yet that’s the beauty of collecting – it’s personal, almost possessive, and for good reason. Each piece is unique, each collector is unique, and when that collector finds a unique piece that catches their eye, then they should get it, hold on to it, and enjoy it.

I remember the wonder in my grandkid’s eyes when I would give them a small piece of Rose Quartz, or a polished slice of Agate, or a small Amethyst Geode, a Rocks & Minerals kit, or especially the carved soapstone dinosaurs. It made my day. And when I sell pieces and subsequently see the faces (at shows) and read the comments (online) of those who have just made their own amazing discovery, it’s really no different than my grandkids’ reactions. It makes my day. I collect for the purpose of sharing.

Something For EveryOne

I’ve been to the stunning Gems & Minerals display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC a couple of times and I’ve yet to see a bored face in the place. Now, most people don’t stay for three or more hours as I do, but there’s just an inherent awe when you see the variety, the colors, the luster, the size, the crystals - it’s hard to believe it’s natural, no artificial colors, and they come from under the ground! Whether it’s a striking piece of Rogerley Fluorite, an Aquamarine with Schorl Tourmaline, or a polished free-form of BumbleBee Jasper, there’s something for anyone and everyone. That’s literally the beauty of the gem and mineral world - you can spend a lifetime studying gems and minerals and continue to be fascinated with their unique crystallography, inclusions, colors and locations, or just look at a colorful piece without any knowledge whatsoever of what it is, where it’s from, or its mineral makeup and yet be drawn to it. You can’t wait to display your new acquisition on a mantle, or bookcase or in your office for all to see. Since it doesn’t decay, fall apart with age, or go out of style, it then becomes something to be treasured and passed on to subsequent generations.

So, I find great pleasure in helping others to find that certain piece or pieces that make them marvel at creation. And yes, I still like to just look at them!

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