Friday, February 11, 2011

Fax Pas

     Last night Mike Hoffman, a shipping executive, visited our showroom and told us this tale.
 He had worked all day providing solutions to the many shipping problem of the Tucson Show and collapsed into bed at 12:30am. At 2:30am his cellphone rang. When he answered, he heard the buzzing and beeping of a fax machine at the other end. Such is life at the Tucson Show.

Breakfast Guests

    Finally a day with nothing planned for the morning. I got up and sleepily looked outside at about 7:30am to see if the gate was still locked -- I usually open the gate just before 8:00am. I turned away from the window to go make some coffee and eat breakfast. Something was wrong. As my brain percolated, I realized something did not look right as I had peered out. I went back to the window. Outside the gate was a truck with a container waiting to be loaded! We had a container scheduled for Friday morning -- it was Thursday.
    "Well, I have 30 minutes," I thought. We usually don't accept containers before 8:00am or after 7:00pm. But just as I was thinking this, I saw Martin running to open the gate. Much to my surprise, the container was a 40 footer. We did not have our customer packing list ready, and were not yet prepared to load a container. Normally a company is allowed two hours to load a container without extra charges. Two hours later, with Martin's help, 44,000 lbs. of rock was loaded, and I looked desperately for a cup of coffee.

The Chaos of Tucson

Two snow drifts at the end of a driveway.
     Well, I arrived home late Saturday evening and drove home through the frigid Wisconsin wind. The next morning I woke early; my Lady and I rented a truck to move all of our possessions to an apartment one town over. With all of our hefty friends out of town, she and I moved -- lifted, pushed, tugged, and rolled -- everything ourselves.
The tire of my car parked beside a snow drift.
     We returned the truck that evening after several frustrating but successful trips. She drove me back to retrieve my car which she had graciously dug out of the 20 inch blizzard Wisconsin had just days before. I hopped in, fired up the engine, and burned my tires on the thick patches of ice underneath them -- hidden by drifting snow. We tried salt, sand, dirt, grass, and cardboard -- nothing gave the tires an edge over the stubborn ice.  We dug half a path to pull the car forward over the lawn: our neighbor's gigantic propane tank was frozen to the ground eight inches from the front bumper on the driver's side. It looked like the car was stuck.
One of the menacing patches of ice.
     But I had to work in the morning. I couldn't wait for the ice to thaw. I had no safe means to melt it. A tow -- or any other sized -- truck wouldn't fit in our back lot to pull me out.
     We decided to push it.
     I threw the beast in neutral; my Queen and I began to rock the vehicle back and forth moving the tires just to the upper fourth of the Cheshire Cat smile crescent of ice which held them. She pulled back -- worried that if we succeeded, my car would  crash into the fence 10 feet away. I saw no other option. With the momentum left from our rocking, I continued to rock the car: now aiming for the fence. Closer, closer, FREE?! I shoved the car over the final teeth of the icy smile -- exhausted -- then lept over the two feet of iced over snow on the driver's side to stop the car before it decimated the wooden fence -- now just feet behind it. I managed to stop the car about four feet from the fence: greatful it was free, from both the ice and the fence. 
     We ordered Chinese and spent the rest of the night unpacking. My apartment, still in shambles, now holds most of my belongings. My car is parked out side. My shoulders are sore. But wow is it a relief to be free from the chaos of Tucson.
The rock yard remains under siege from the snow.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tabasco Geodes

     The Gem Shop received a large batch of Tabasco Geodes from Zacatecas, Mexico. These baby geodes, formally known as Illianites are the world's smallest geode formation. Most of the geodes have a small rind of agate with tiny quartz crystals in the center. They sparkle in the light, and some are very colorful and have tube formations. These tiny pieces of druzy are perfect for jewelers to prong set or drill or for collectors to display. 
      They are also the exceptional pieces of their kind. Only one in ten are hollow when they come out of the mine. The batch we received are all hollow with druzy quartz. New small, medium, and large sizes will be available on our website soon!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Janos Agate (Rainbow Agate)

     While in Quartzite this year, I saw a barrel of Janos Agate at, of all places, and Australian Dealer's booth. Janos Agate, also sold as Rainbow Agate, is found west of the town of Janos in Chihuahua, Mexico. This agate has not been mined for 30 years and somehow found its way to the Australian dealer's booth from an old collection of rock.
     The man who mines the Birdseye Rhyolite for us lives near the Janos area, and I made a mental note to ask him about it. On Sunday, this same man drove into the Tucson Showplace with a trailer containing 10 barrels of rock consisting of Birdseye Rhyolite, Saginite Agate, and two barrels of Janos Agate. I did not know he was coming, nor had I talked with him for months. This unbelievable true story could only happen at the Tucson Show.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Unloading New Ruby in Fuschite

I always wondered how Gene got the barrels he drives back from Quartzite in his truck. I had the pleasure of dropping into one such occasion a few days ago, as Veronica forklifted them out of his truck. The photos below tell the tale in chronological order.

Monday, January 31, 2011


Polyhedroids were discovered in Bahia, Brazil. in the early 70's. They were first mined for an Australian company called Soklich Trading Company. The first agates ever to enter the United States were imported from Soklich in Australia by The Gem Shop, Inc. in 1974.  Before anyone in the U.S. even saw a Polyhedroid, they literally traveled around the world: Brazil to Australia to the U.S.

           Veronica, my daughter, manages the Tucson Showplace and persuaded Martin Soklich to tenancy at the Showplace, not knowing that I had done business with Martin's father over 30 years ago. Last year she offhandedly asked Martin if he had any Polyhedroids. He showed up this year with about 200 lbs. of small perfectly shaped, exquisite, rough Polyhedroids. It's amazing how history tends to repeat itself.

Porcelain Jasper Arrives at Dusk

Few things happen in Tucson on schedule -- or at least as you plan them. This year our ten tons of Porcelain Jasper arrived on time: the Tuesday before the show started. The semi truck that brought the rock was the fourth truck to arrive that day. The parking lot cannot hold more than one semi at a time, and each truck had to wait its turn to pull in and be unloaded. Not only that, the first two semis carried goods for other companies who were nowhere to be found -- so we unloaded them. By the time the truck with the Porcelain arrived, we had already moved over 60 tons of rock. Now it was getting dark.
     In the morning we inspected the rock. The pattern is very good and varied. The size ranges from smaller cabbing rock to large slabbing rock. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011


We just received new jewelry carvings! They are carved out of various materials from agate and jasper to onyx and serpentine. Whether it’s the elegant blossoming flowers, lilting leaves, butterfly wings, or floating druzy [type of flowers], these pieces lend a graceful touch to any jewelry design.

New Escape pendants have also arrived! We have a new stock of our stylish pendants and some new editions: the picturesque Rocky Butte and Australian Chrysoprase. The bail designs on the two new rock types include some which are redesigned, and reevaluate the wares of elegance.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New Birdseye Rhyolite

This mammoth piece weighs over 200 lbs.
We arrived in Tucson late Wednesday night January 12th. Early Thursday morning we received our first shipment: 10 tons of Birdseye Rhyolite, stacked high in wire baskets in the back of a 53' semi truck.

The pallet-ed baskets relax in the shade
Seven of the pallets came off easily, but one pallet was busted to pieces. Luckily, we were able to strap a rope around one corner of the pallet and tug it out with the forklift. We dragged the basket slowly to the back of the truck where we could get the forks in it. Our first shipment had arrived! The rock looks consistent and good. The rock has many very colorful orbs and varied backgrounds which give it an exotic flair. It is mostly larger pieces, ranging from 2 to 60 lbs each.

The rock looks very good this year.