You might not be the first person to see the inside of an Oreo or a Tootsie Roll Pop, but there’s a possibility you could be first to see inside some geological wonders. For 16 years, Foster Thompson has helped lapidary enthusiasts discover the hobby by wire wrapping and silversmithing some of the finest rocks and minerals around.
“It’s something that I get very excited about in seeing other people like it,” Thompson said.
Retired from the Los Angeles transit system, Thompson waggled his finger in front of a rock on a table.
“I’m the first person to see inside that rock,” he said. “With a little education you can find something that you might otherwise overlook. You could look at a rock and see if it’s good or not.”
A spirit of sharing is evident with club members of the Clallam County Gem & Mineral Association. They host their free annual show Friday-Sunday, Oct.7-9, at the Boys & Girls Club, 400 W. Fir St., Sequim.
Show chairman Terry Stockman said attendance ranges upward of 100 people at a time with elementary school classes visiting the first day. He said students are fascinated and ask a lot of questions.
“How are crystals formed? Where do you get the stuff? What can you do with it?” Stockman said. “They pick up a rock and are amazed at what they can do with it.”
Collectors’ interests range from turquoise to fire agates to shaping spheres to crafting “cabs,” shaped cabochons. There’s something for everyone and the club is open to all tastes, members say.
Pamela Rademacher of Diamond Point paints rocks such as her popular sand rock ice cream cone. She added some fake holiday snow as icing that looks good enough to lick — but not bite. Rademacher said her style is well accepted and members get a kick out of what she paints.
Thompson said painting rocks is one of the first steps to introducing the hobby to students. At the Boys & Girls Club, he spoke to students on a rainy day about looking at their rocks and seeing what their rocks are telling them.
After some convincing, students began to open up and said their rocks looked like pizza, apple pie, a cookie and other items.
“It was their first experience of a rock talking to them and that’s what excites me,” Thompson said.
Married couple Marti and Eugene Zeigler of Diamond Point joined the club recently after moving from Nevada, where lapidary is a huge hobby.
“We like the challenge of getting rocks with the right wrapping,” Marti said.
The full-time RVers said the hobby is good for being on the go, too. This year they will display a variety of wrapped rocks at the show.
Marti said she finds satisfaction in creating ways to show rocks and searching for them outdoors.
“We’re always looking for rocks. Sometimes I look in gravel driveways,” she said.
Stockman, a retiree from the Coast Guard and Peninsula College as a maintenance mechanic, said he’s been a rockhound as long as he can remember.
“I’ve hunted rocks wherever I go,” he said.
For local rock hunters, Stockman said, the North Olympic Peninsula is better for fossils than stones or minerals. One local treasure is “poppy jasper,” or orbicular jasper, which some collect. It can be found on beaches in pebble form. Stockman said some of the local jasper comes from Lake Crescent.
“It’s not something you just pick up easily. You have to go search for it,” he said.
Hot spots for precious gems and minerals are in geothermal and volcanic areas because stones are being unearthed, Stockman said.
The club makes periodic field trips to search for rocks, with more information provided at monthly meetings. Stockman said the closest place to search is Ellensburg and both Eastern Oregon and Washington are great.
“A person doesn’t have to go far,” he said.
An easy answer for finding rare and beautiful gems is to attend the show where club members exhibit, artisans give demonstrations and vendors sell and appraise items.
Stockman said it’s not uncommon for people to bring in gems to determine value. One woman brought in what she thought was an emerald. Stockman said she was beaming but he felt bad because it was glass. “That’s my least favorite part,” he said.
Kathy Bachman, club treasurer, said many people do holiday shopping at the event.
Attendees can learn more about ongoing classes in lapidary, silversmithing, wire wrapping, casting, faceting, bead making and more.
For more information on the Clallam County Gem & Mineral Association, the show or classes, go to www.sequimrocks.com. Monthly meetings are at 7 p.m. the third Tuesday of each month at The Fifth Avenue Retirement Center, 500 W. Hendrickson Road, Sequim. Call 681-7981.
The club’s lapidary shop, 81 Hooker Road, Space 5, Carlsborg, is open 9 a.m.-noon Mondays; noon-9 p.m. Wednesdays; and 6-9 p.m. Thursdays. Call 683-6321.
For more information on the show, call Terry Stockman at 457-4764 or Foster Thompson at 681-7981.
Reach Matthew Nash at email@example.com.