Few items are able to occupy multiple generations for hours, don’t need to be recharged, and are durable enough to survive childhood. But as common as they are, rocks are all of these and more.
Stones aren’t anything new, and neither are the people who love them. This year’s Hells Canyon Gem Club Show is in its 46th year of celebrating all things geologic.
The gem show is part science, part art. From educational geology displays to handcrafted jewelry, the event covers the full range of rock hounding, from finding and identifying, to finishing and displaying.
The naturally buried treasure draws young fans. Kids usually don’t need parental prodding when it comes to interest in rocks, and the gem show makes it an easy interest to indulge, especially given the family friendly admission pricing.
The Kids Corner is a regular feature, giving kids hands-on experience sifting for stones. Also, there is the rock wheel where, for a quarter, kids spin a wheel and keep the rock the wheel selects. Bulk and polished rock is also for sale from dealers.
“It’s just amazing how the kids are always interested in the rocks,” Giard said.
Last year her grandkids’ rock of choice was obsidian, the sleek black volcanic rock often used in arrowheads. Her dollars kept disappearing with them to the silent auction floor where obsidian specimens gathered bids.
But rock hounding often outlasts childhood, and after the thrill of playing in the dirt wears off, adults find ways to display their finds. Gem show attendees are privy to a variety of demonstrations by club members who make arrowheads, stone carvings and knife stone inlays.
Also, the local club boasts five certified masters of intarsia. Intarsia is a stone-inlay technique that creates a design or scene from pieces of polished stone. What results is a small, seamless stone mosaic. The design, shaping and gluing necessary for a single work can take around a month to complete. Finished work is displayed or sometimes wire-wrapped and worn as jewelry.
Club members also demonstrate the art of stone finishing, including making a well faceted gem or a cabochon. Faceting is the cutting process used to turn diamonds from rocks to something that sparkles. A cabochon is a gemstone that has been shaped and polished. Such stones are often wire-wrapped, a technique that uses metal wire to create a jewelry setting for the finished stone.
The Hells Canyon Gem Club is the only club of its kind within 50 miles of the Lewiston-Clarkston
valley. Members meet once a month to share their love and knowledge of rock-hounding, from rock collection to displaying their finds. Also, the club owns a crystal claim in Clarkia and gets access and makes trips to other geological sites.
It’s a hobby that opens up a knowledge of everyday geology.
“When you fish, you look down,” said Giard, noting that until visiting the gem show four years ago all she saw was common river rock.
Today, she sees identifiable water-polished stones.
if you go:
What: 46th Annual Hells Canyon Gem Show
When: Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: Nez Perce County Fair Pavilion, 1229 Burrell Ave., Lewiston
Cost: $2 general admission, children under 12 with an adult are free, students with an ID card are free.
By Michelle Schmidt for inland360.com