Holding Earth's Beauty In Your Hand

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To see the beauty of the earth in your hand doesn't take any special skill -- just look at a gemstone or piece of metal jewelry. However, it does take a special skill to see that beauty in the rocks on the ground.

The Rim Country is blessed with more than 100 people with such a skill -- the members of the Payson Rimstones Rock Club.

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Russ and Jimi Stewart are organizing the Payson Rimstones Rock Club's Eighth Annual Gem and Mineral Show. The event is Oct. 8 and 9 at the Tonto Apache Recreation Center. Doors open at 9 a.m., admission is $3, with those under 12 admitted free.

"Payson Rimstones Rock Club is a group of people bound together by their love of rock collecting," said Jason Arant, vice president of the group. "If one walks along looking down, rocks can be found in abundance. Rockhounds ... look for ones that inspire us with their beauty and rarity."

For eight years, the club has been sharing its love of rocks at its annual Gem and Mineral Show. This year, the show is Oct. 8 and 9 at the Tonto Apache Recreation Center. Saturday, the show is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, the hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $3, with those under 12 admitted free.

Coordinating the show this year are Russ and Jimi Stewart of Payson. The couple has been with the club for seven years, joining even before they became full-time residents of the community.

"I've been interested in rocks for about 15 years," Russ said. "I had a collection when I was a boy, but that's long gone. I also have a complete lapidary shop in the garage."

Jimi was introduced to rock collecting by her mother, who was a teacher in California. She followed in her mother's footsteps in both the classroom and in collecting rocks and introduced her own children to the hobby as well.

"We want to show people what can be done with stones," Russ said, explaining the reason for the annual show.

The event will feature 16 vendors with collectible rocks for purchase, plus displays from club members as well as vendors.

The most noted participant in the show this year is Neil R. Bearce, author of "Minerals of Arizona -- A field guide for collectors," Russ said. Bearce will have his books for sale, along with a fantastic display.

Russ, who sells rock collecting books, said Bearce's guide is probably the top publication and he always recommends it.

In addition to the vendors and displays, the show will have a spinning wheel game for kids of all ages, Jimi said. Participants buy a chance to spin the wheel and win collectible rocks or other items. There will be a silent auction for some very special contributions from vendors, plus hourly door prizes.

At least half the vendors will have jewelry, Russ said.

Refreshments will be available, including homemade pies.

About the club

The Payson Rimstones Rock Club first organized in 1996 and held meetings at the Payson Woman's Club on Main Street. When the new library opened, the group moved its gathering to the Rumsey Park facility. It meets in the library's community room at 3:30 p.m., the second Wednesday of every month, except June, when the members have a picnic.

A field trip is planned each month to surrounding areas where quartz crystals, petrified wood, agates, marble, onyx, fossils and the famous Payson geodes may be collected.

This year the group is going to present a science scholarship to a Payson High School graduate. Members also work with youth groups to help them earn badges or similar credit for geology.

The club is a member of the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Rocky Mountain Federation of Gem and Mineral Clubs, which includes groups from all over Arizona, New Mexico, west Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah and Nevada. This organization also sponsors rock hunting field trips.

The Payson group has donated a number of books on geology and rock collecting to the Payson Public Library and gives $100 to the Payson Elks for the annual Kids' Christmas Shopping Spree.

To find out more about the Oct. 8 and 9 show, the club, or books on rock collecting, call Russ Stewart at (928) 474-9712.

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