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March 4, 2009 > Nature's razzle-dazzle on display

Nature's razzle-dazzle on display

By Justine Yan

The Mineral and Gem Show hosted by the Mineral and Gem Society of Castro Valley, will be held Friday, March 6 to Sunday, March 8 at Centennial Hall in Hayward.

"We're just a club of rock hounds," said Jerry Ham, show chairman and member of the Mineral and Gem Society of Castro Valley.

Established in 1948, the Mineral and Gem Society of Castro Valley has since become one of the most successful nonprofit organizations of its kind in Northern California. It runs a well-equipped lapidary shop in Hayward where it holds educational workshops on lapidary techniques and jewelry arts for members of all ages and walks of life. In addition, members have access to a library containing resources such as books, videotapes, and DVDs that illustrate lapidary techniques and give access to gem and mineral-related research.

Because the club is run entirely by volunteers, the annual Mineral and Gem Show was created 61 years ago to help fund its shop as well as to raise money to continue club activities and field trips.

The Mineral and Gem Show promises to be a family affair. "We're really an educational society," said Ham. This becomes apparent as visitors enjoy the many fun and engaging activities and exhibits included in the show each year.

Thanks to the Fluorescent Minerals Society, the show will include the largest display of billion-year-old fluorescent minerals in Northern California. In a special darkened viewing room, visitors will see rocks glow and radiate bright colors in striking patterns under ultraviolet lights.

"It's spectacular," said Ham. "You can't see it anywhere else."

In addition, the show will feature over 60 display cases filled with rare gems and minerals brought in by various collectors from all over the country.

Casual visitors are also encouraged to enter the Demonstration Room where experts will reveal their lapidary skills including enameling, beading, metalwork, intarsia, rock painting, faceting and carving.

A spinning wheel game will be available for children to win prizes of tumble stones and other items.

In addition, one of the most awe-inspiring aspects of each year's show is the special exhibit, which "really appeals to folks who just come to see the show," not necessarily to make purchases.

This year, the theme of the special exhibit will be "large aquatic fossils." At one corner of the lobby, visitors will be able to stand close to a 5-foot shark's jaw with 184 intact teeth. A large stingray fossil plate and fossils of similar fish will occupy the same area, along with four 6-foot cases filled by two collections of never-before-shown ammonites.

"These [fossils] are from private collections that you just don't get the chance to see very often," said Ham. "This special display is museum quality or beyond, because quite often, a museum can't afford some of the things that private collectors can, and these things end up never being seen by anybody until they are displayed like this."

On the other hand, for those interested in purchasing their own gem and minerals, over 60 dealers will be selling "just about everything gem and mineral," said Ham. There will be a wide selection of finished jewelry, jewelry-making equipment and supplies, mineral specimens, beads, fossils, rough rocks for lapidary cutting purposes, art stones, stones deemed to have certain metaphysical properties, and much more.

In addition, the money earned from the raffle of an opal pendant set in gold will go toward granting two scholarships to geology students of Cal State East Bay this year, to support their continued education in the field.

A live auction of handmade jewelry and other lapidary items made by members of the club will occur at 8 p.m. on Saturday.

Though the show promises to be big enough for everyone, even those just browsing, Ham says that people looking for specific items can easily find their way to the right display case.

"We [will] have lots of club members who are circulating...and would steer you in the right direction," he said. "If you're interested in a particular thing, it's not at all hard to find."

Meanwhile, the society continues to promote the show as a fun, family-oriented occasion rather than as purely commercial.

"In these [economically] tough times, this is a really nice affordable family event," said Ham. Indeed, the parking is free, admission is $6 dollars per adult for 3 days of complete access, and relatively inexpensive food will be sold at the cafeteria and snack bar in the lobby.

Most importantly, according to Ham, anybody can become a "rock hound" and enjoy finding and collecting rocks.

"It can be very expensive, if you're collecting expensive things...[and] it can be exactly the opposite," he said. "We have all walks of life, all types of people [in the society]. We're a melting pot here. But the only thing we have in common is that we like rocks."

Mineral and Gem Show
Friday, March 6 - Sunday, March 8
Fri-Sat: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.; Sun, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Centennial Hall
22292 Foothill Blvd, Hayward

Adults: $6 at the door, children under 13 free with adult admission
Visit for a $1 off coupon

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