Rock stars show off their wares at Dover event
Dover's Veterans Hall was filled with rocks that sparkled, shimmered and glowed on Sunday at the Southeastern New Hampshire Mineral Club Show.
Rock hounds, crystal fans and geo-savvy residents packed the small hall where dealers displayed all types of natural specimens, polished stones and rock sculptures from New England and mineral- and rock-rich areas around the world.
"There's an interest in rocks and minerals and that's kept the hobby healthy," said Southestern New Hampshire Mineral Club president Ken Creed, who was outside working a special diamond-fortified circular saw to slice geodes, the size of tennis balls, in half.
Creed, who majored on geology in college, has been collecting rocks since he was a kid.
"I think most collectors have a fascination with Mother Nature and what she's able to do," he said.
Launched in 1956, the Southeastern New Hampshire Mineral Club has about 50 regular members who meet once a month to talk rocks, swap hunting stories and attend lectures on mineralogy, mining and other topics. Members also speak at schools, offer public displays and arrange field trips to active mines and rock hot spots that are on private land.
"New England, in general, is very mineral rich," said Creed.
Dealers and collectors at the show agreed there's a lot of interesting stuff to find once you know where and how to look.
"That's the benefit of joining a rock club," said Groveland, Mass., resident Queenie Clevesy who hunts, collects and sells rocks and minerals with her husband, John. "Mineral clubs try to educate the public about rocks," she said, adding they also emphasize safety and respect for the environment.
But the biggest benefit is the camaraderie.
"A lot of club members are very knowledgeable, and new members can gain a lot of information from them," said Clevesy.
Most club members seem happy to share their stories and latest finds. Pelham resident Kristin Hoffman became interested in rocks and minerals about a year ago after acquiring a small sea-green specimen about the size of a nickel that is a slice of meteorite from the Czech Republic. That led to a curiosity about crystals and other minerals.
"I became more in tune with rocks and minerals," she said. "They speak to me in a good way."
So Hoffman convinced her boyfriend, Vernon Bush, to drive more than an hour to Dover so they could attend the show.
Other collectors came from Maine and Massachusetts to shop for rocks for collections that have been growing slowly over decades.
Some seasoned collectors like Creed bring academic or professional backgrounds to the hobby. But others, like dealer and collector Patrick Bigos, from York, Maine, collected rocks as kids and returned to the hobby later in life with their own children.
Bigos specializes in fluorescent minerals such as willemite and calcite that become neon orange, green and yellow nuggets and chunks when exposed to ultra-violet light.
"Most rock hounds hunt for rocks during the day, but we go out at night," said Bigos with a laugh.
Wakefield has been good for Bigos' collection of glow minerals as well as New Jersey, another rich area for fluorescents. Bigos sells UV lamps and smaller fluorescent-mineral hunting lights that range from about $100 to $1,000.
"The fluorescent stuff is like Easter egg hunting for adults," he said.
Neil Santerre, owner of Stones 'N Stuff in Exeter, collects and sells minerals, sculptures and beads. He also teaches people the art of cutting or faceting stones and gems.
He describes himself as a regular rock hound and adds the fun is in the hunting.
"The cool part about digging for rocks and minerals is that you're the first person to see a piece," he said.
For club member Glen Johnson, a longtime collector, hunting for rocks and minerals opens the door to science and history in a unique, hands-on way.
"You are out there in nature's treasure trove," he said. "You never know what you're going to find."