I knew it was probably a lie the moment the words left his lips.
Still, I didn’t really intend to buy anything, I just wanted to go to the local mineralogical society’s mineral and gem show for kicks. We didn’t have any other plans, it was close by, and tickets were like six bucks. Why not?
I’ve also wanted to learn more about our local geology. Maryland has an interesting state mineral called Patuxent River stone, which is a form of agate that I think is a lovely, almost luminous color. I really want to find some in the wild, but the minerals I’m most likely to encounter where I am are white quartz, mica, beryl, and serpentine.
With all of this in mind, spending an hour or so at a local rock show seemed like a nice way to pass some of the afternoon. Also, sometimes there are interesting bony boys to look at.
This was before my partner saw the big geode cracking machine. I also think they’re very cool — I was used to getting tiny geodes as a kid and cracking them open with hammers like a tiny caveman, but all I’d get from that is a lot of small, shattered pieces. These machines use a large metal chain, shaped like a bike chain, that applies even pressure to a small area around the geode. They’re similar to soil pipe cutters but have a wheel that allows you to tighten the chain a bit more easily. The end result is a geode that cracks much more cleanly, usually in two halves that follow the natural features of the stone, so you preserve a lot more of that beautiful internal structure.
We talked to the owners of the machine for a bit, asking about the origins of their geodes (remember, always know where your crystals come from) and their mineral composition. That’s the nice thing about shows like this: The people there are super stoked to talk about crystals.
In the end, we decided on two geodes — one large one that was filled with tiny, sparkly, sugary-looking white quartz crystals (and a few double-terminated ones, too!) and a smaller one that seemed to be smoky quartz and blades of either calcite or selenite. They’re gorgeous!
The show also had some fascinating displays of fluorescent minerals, insects, fossils, and really nice specimens of minerals that had been collected locally (or semi-locally, within a few states or so). Upstairs, where the dealer’s tables were, there were beads, handmade jewelry, carvings, and several gorgeous and very high-end specimens for sale.
In addition to the two geodes, we came away with a trilobite from Ohio. I have named him Tobie.
If you’re into geology, like fossils or minerals, or are even into crystal healing, I can’t recommend local gem shows enough. In Michael Gienger’s book Crystal Power, Crystal Healing, he talks about the role that your local geology can play. For example, the effect that living in areas with specific minerals can have. If you’re not learning about what’s around you, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
It’s also just really nice to talk rocks with people who are super into it. Even if you’re not necessarily so, it’s just cool to listen to someone who’s both knowledgeable and passionate about something.
If you’re a collector or crystal enthusiast who’s concerned about the environmental and ethical considerations of your hobby, then local shows are also a huge help. Most of the specimens we saw were clearly labeled with their place of origin. A lot of them were domestically collected, usually by the people selling them. There was a transparency that’s hard to get in a lot of (though certainly not all) conventional crystal shops. Some of the people there have brick-and-mortar stores, too.
These events also often support local hobbyist groups, and are a great way to meet other people in your community. Now that we’re actually setting down some roots here, it just feels good to be involved in stuff like this, even if it’s just as a spectator.
So yes. Support your local mineral people. They rock.