Gerry Galarneau cut his first stones -- a turquoise and agate cabochon -- in 1972.
He was studying science in college, but had an unsatisfied penchant for creativity. Discovering gemology allowed him to be part scientist, part artist.
"I was taking so many science classes, I was burned out," Galarneau said.
Galarneau taught himself how to cut stones. He was a natural because of his years working with farm machinery.
Galarneau grew up in an upstate New York farming community, 10 miles away from the Canadian border.
"I worked on a farm and I knew how to use grinding and cutting tools," he said.
Six months ago, Galarneau and his wife Marty moved to Payson and now own the House of Amethyst in the Western Village on the southern end of town.
He cuts all manner of stone, but his passion is Four Peaks amethyst, mined about 40 miles south of Payson on the edge of the Sonoran desert.
"People love colored stones," Galarneau said. "(Four Peaks amethyst) is probably the most layered in the world. We call it zones. You have to cut off layers to show the zoning. It's what gives the amethyst its uniqueness."
Galarneau sells everything from semi-precious tourmaline to rubies and sapphires.
He fashions his own cabochons, or rounded stones placed in simple settings, and uses a self-styled technique, called the laser cut, on the faceted stones.
"It gives the stone a unique dimension," he said. "Only a few gem cutters in the world can do it because you need special equipment."
Galarneau said the original House of Amethyst opened in the 1950s in Scottsdale
The original owners commercialized Four Peaks amethyst.
Galarneau knew the owner's daughter through the jewelry industry, and eventually started cutting stones for her.
A few years later, she offered Galarneau and his wife, Marty, a chance to buy her family's business, but the Galarneaus were busy on the gem show circuit.
"We retired and asked if the offer was still open and we bought the business from her," he said.
The Galarneaus moved to Payson six months ago and opened their shop.
In addition to gemstones, the couple sells minerals, fossils and beads culled from local and international sources.
"I'm not a jeweler. I'm lapidary," he said. "I can do custom stone cutting and simple mountings."
For original pieces, Galarneau works with an independent jeweler.
He also sells vintage Indian jewelry and carries a limited supply of lapidary products.
"Our goal is not to sell the lower end stuff," Galarneau said. "We want to sell gems that are well done."
"I have a passion for the differences of each rock," Marty added.
"You can take an ugly looking rock and once you start cutting it and polishing it, you can bring out an inner beauty."
House of Amethyst can be reached by calling (928) 472-4677.