I went to my first “Rock-Swap” and had such a wonderful time that I wanted to share the experience.
Imagine a group of kids, giddy with anticipation at a chance to show their treasures at show and tell. Now picture that the kids are all ages with a family-friendly camaraderie, and that the treasures are diverse works of art. Some of them are very basic and rough while others are finely crafted and displayed as such.
That is how it is at the Senior Center in Forest Grove on the 4th Thursday of each month at 7:30 pm, when the Tualatin Valley Rock and Gem Club holds a meeting and rock-swap. It was great fun to see all the amazing treasures at the meeting that I attended.
There were several first hand reports about the recent field trip to Eastern Oregon and the perilous weather that interrupted the digging at Hampton Butte. I could just hear the rain pelting down on the tents as the wind whipped at the exposed flaps. The stories were vivid, describing the rain turning to hail, with lightning and smoking trees! The weather didn’t seem to dampen the spirits of the rock hounds and the stories of their finds were fabulous. Some of the artifacts they found are still getting sorted and cleaned up to be shown at future meetings.
I brought two rocks from my pile at home that I was curious about. One was found on a logging road during hunting season, it is an interesting crystal with purple hues. The other one I had just recently found by the Nehalem River, it is an unusual green agate. I really didn’t want to part with either of them, and that was just fine with the group; the meeting was the perfect venue for finding out what they were.
At the meeting, I saw pockets full, tables full, displays full and buckets full of beautiful and interesting wonders.
I was awed by a display box filled with highly polished gems that looked ready for competition. I saw a special piece of cut and polished black obsidian that glowed with blue and chartreuse highlights.
Under a hand held microscope, a piece of midnight lace obsidian lit up like a star-filled sky. Another member had a raw crystal that at first glance appeared to be a hunk of bark from a fir tree, I had to hold the piece close and rub my hand over it in order to realize the texture had fooled me; tiny crystals dotted the end that had been broken off. One club member had brought hand-carved elk horns bejeweled with fossilized dinosaur bone medallions.
I sat at a table and at my right I saw an old sampler candy box loaded with thinly cut and polished rocks. The owner knew they were from the Oregon Coast area and collected around the 1930’s, but had no other information. Debate regarding identifying the specimens drew a flurry of activity from the room of experts, each piece was examined and many were classified and named as they were passed around; jade, carnelian, agate, and one piece that could not readily be identified but temporarily labeled as petrified wood from a bog.
One amazing rock must have weighed about thirty five pounds! It was a Flourite/Flouorspar that looked like it belonged inside a museum. It was white crystal with purple cube shaped gems sitting on top. It looked like a cake decorator and a master gem cutter had joined their efforts to create a masterpiece. I found out that it is the crystal variety of what is in Crest toothpaste and that it came from the Huanan Province of China.
There was a notice for anyone who has a Purple Amethyst Geode, or a Red Conch Pearl, there is a member on a quest for the acquisition. I was intrigued with the idea that collectors are specifically trying to locate a special gem to add to their collection, now I want to investigate these more. When I mentioned this, I found that the gem club has their own lending library to do that very thing!
Stories were shared about where and how the treasures were found, purchased or tripped over. The colors and patterns captured my attention as I was drawn to each group. I wandered from table to table meeting the rocks and their owners. Each stop was a new discovery, I found that questions were expected and the answers were warm and genuine. The meeting was a wonderful way to spend an evening and I am looking forward to the next rock-swap.
I heard about the Portland Regional Gem and Mineral Show to be held at the Washington County Fairplex in Hillsboro, October 11th,12th, and 13th.. Sounds like it will be enjoyable days for kids of all ages with over forty vendors, exhibits, door prizes and more. I think I am going to have to take my camera just so I can remember all the displays.
The meeting was fun for a novice like me and it seemed that the long time rock hounds were having just as much fun. It was a pleasurable and social evening, but at the end of the night I realized that I didn’t see a whole lot of swapping, selling or buying going on. It was more like show and tell with items from a national treasure archive! I’m going to be at the Forest Grove Senior Center for more rock-swaps and I hope to see you there with your own treasures.