Rock On: Collectors Prepare For Local Gem And Mineral Show



The fossils of ancient horn corals can be found today a few miles outside of Payson, so can hillsides of geodes or ‘brain rocks.'

Break open the rocks and the crystal inside is revealed.


Lee Norman stands at the grinder, shaping stones. With a little time spent at yard sales, anyone can collect everything needed to cut and polish stones.

Local rockhounds will be revealing their passion for rocks at the 9th Annual Gem and Mineral Show, Oct. 14 and 15.

Arizona was once covered by ancient seas. Two hundred million years ago Payson was at the equator. The literal earth we're walking on now is a good 65 million years old.

Lee Norman, a member of the Rimstones Rock Club (RRC), holds up a red-brown rock that looks like it has little Cheerios embedded in it.

"This was once an animal that looked like a plant," she said. "It had tall stalks on it, and a flower on the top that would wave around and gather up food. Isn't it beautiful?"

The uninitiated need wonder no longer how someone living in Arizona might collect shark's teeth.

When the Rodeo-Chediski Fire burned the forests it revealed petrified wood created during a fire millions of years ago.

You can tell the chunks of wood were once tree trunks because you can see parts of the concentric circles that once formed the rings.

"There is more petrified wood to be found under what we call wait-a-minute bushes," Bob Norman said. "they look like tumbleweeds but have barbed ends, that catch your clothing.

As part of the multiple-use concept, so the amateur collector can have rocks to display, the National Forest Service allows an individual to collect one piece of any size, plus 25 more pounds, Patty Urch, another member of RRC said.

However, the Petrified Forest is a special preserve where the public is not allowed to remove rocks.

Sunlight can play tricks and what was once a brightly-hued rock can lose color or gain it.

For instance rose crystal, like the deposit found near Sycamore Creek eventually leaches white in the sun while jasper gets redder.

"Occasionally something that was covered up and so retained its color, when exposed to the elements oxidizes and loses its color," Patty Urch said.

Tarps along with long and short wave black lights are a necessity for certain rockhounds.

"At night you come out and hit these rocks with a black light and a lot of these minerals fluoresce into beautiful colors," RRC member Bob Norman said. "The rock may look grey in the sun, but hit it in the dark with a black light and it might be bright green."

Collectors often take a water bottle to spray rocks because water has the same effect of polishing the rock.

Others club members have found their niche in making jewelry -- either wire wrapping an uncut stone or cutting the stones into cabachons for mounting as brooches, pendants or earrings.

Others look for the odd-shaped stones that represent different things entirely.

The Norman garden is home to three peculiarly shaped rocks -- a fried egg, the chicken that laid it and the spatula for turning the egg over in the pan.

One of their prize pieces is a cool blue-green rock called a chrysacolla. It formed from soft minerals of copper and as it got harder it metamorphosed into turquoise.

Beautiful and at this stage, relatively easy to carve, the Native Americans used it to carve and created sacred jewelry.

Chrysacolla is the final stage.

The personal collections of Rimstones Rock Club members are showcased at Gila Community College, the Payson Public Library and the Museum of Rim Country Archaeology.

But the big show that includes the "truly antique" collections of many rockhounds plus the jewelry created by other gem and mineral hobbyists and professionals happens next weekend, Oct. 14 and 15.

There are rock raffles for the both adults and children.

Indeed, "kids love dinosaurs first, and rocks next," retired earth science teacher and RRC member Roy Urch said. "They just don't all follow the passion into adulthood," he continued with a smile.

Admission to the event is $3 for adults and dollar-off coupons are available from the chamber, the library and local businesses. Ticket money goes to the club's education fund. The club recently gave a set of three books on rocks and minerals to the eight area public schools and provided a $500 scholarship to local graduate Johnny Malloy, who is pursuing an earth science major.

Children under 12 are free.

"We rockhounds like to encourage the pebble puppies," Norman said.

Club notes

Rimstones Rock Club meets at 3:30 p.m. the second Wednesday of each month in the Payson Public Library meeting room.

The public is always welcome.

There are always rocks on the display and their owners are happy to explain what they are, how they formed and where they found them.

The members of the club goes on monthly rockhounding outings and share information with other rock clubs.

Ninth Annual Gem and Mineral Show

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 15

Where: Tonto Apache Recreation Hall (near the Mazatzal Casino)

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