Gem-O-Rama Pink Halite Hanksite and More!!

gemoramaIt’s been 4 years since our first outing to one of the best gem and mineral shows/events in the world. Most people will think of Tuscon, Denver, Munich etc. when they think of the best shows in the world, but can you go out and dig for some very rare, location specific minerals in large quantities at any of those shows? Well Gem-o-Rama you can! Pink halite and blue halite, hanksite, sulphohalite, thenardite and more are all for the taking after you pay your $15 fee. You just have to get ridiculously dirty and world class specimens are at your fingertips.

Let me explain. For 75 years the Trona Gem & Mineral society has been putting on their annual show in Trona, Ca, about 25 miles east of Ridgecrest, Ca. I don’t know exactly when they started, but during the 2 day event you can going of field trips on the lake bed to collect the above mentioned minerals pink halite, hank site, etc. You can view more information about the weekend event at their site

Searles LakeTrona is known for Searles Lake, technically a dry lake but there is a lake there, which produces sodium and potassium and other minerals in large quantities. It is a natural sink surrounded by mountains and desert hills. Over the millennia the runoff from those mountain ranges pooled into the area accumulating the sodium and potassium minerals. It’s really a one of a kinda place with wonderful history of the 20 Mule Teams, San Pedro port, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Here is a great read from Desert Magazine circa 1942  on the then history of Searles Lake .

Even as I write this blog i’m getting butterflies thinking of the fantastic specimens we’ve collected there over the years, the great deals on minerals from the show vendors and the memories with my wife and kids getting dirty, miserable and ecstatic all at the same time. My only regret this year they won’t make it because they are still in Japan.


Almost forgot, the goods… pink halite, hanksite and sulphohalite!

Pink HalitePink Halite 2HanksiteHanksite 2

See ya there!


Hori Mineralogy Minerals Shop In Tokyo

After getting settled in back in Tokyo there are still many things on my bucket list. One at the top was finding a good gem & mineral shop to get my fix. When it’s freezing cold, raining or snowing, going out and collecting minerals in the local riverbed or the mountains just isn’t in the cards. Last Friday the rain did me a favour though, when it’s raining we can’t work and so I had a day off. The rain just gave me the opportunity to go find some minerals.

I’d been following a Tokyo mineral dealer, Hori Mineralogy, on Twitter while living back in the States and knew he had a shop in Tokyo. So I turned on my keitai (mobile phone) navi, google maps, 1 1/2 hours to get there! It ended up taking over 2 hours though to go 40 kilometres though because I didn’t take the expressway. It wasn’t so bad though as I got to learn some new highways and backroads into the city.

IMG_0764Upon arriving I ran into a bit of a problem, parking. The owners had warned me on the phone that parking might be a challenge as the road was very narrow. I told them no problem as I’ve driven in Japan plenty of times and was use to it. That pole pictured above proved me wrong though as I backed into it while trying to park! Oops.

After my parking ordeal I walked upstairs to the shop お店. I was actually impressed when I opened the door and saw that the shop was a decent size, well organised, and full of treasures!

IMG_0769Before getting started I introduced myself to the staff, Mr. Inoe and after breaking the ice hey really became a wealth of information. Alerting me, even drawing a map, to a newly discovered benitoite occurrence just a few miles from my house, letting me know of several upcoming mineral shows and just educating me on the state of collecting and spots around Tokyo. I was under the impression there we no collecting areas around Tokyo.

After the niceties he showed me the flats & drawers containing Japanese specific minerals. Lots of quartz, schorl, beryl, topaz, nice specimens I wasn’t expecting to find at reasonable prices in Japan. There were also tons of tourmalines from Pakistan & Brazil, quartz sceptres from Japan and even a table full of meteorites. An excellent and diverse collection for the buyer to browse. They didn’t have any Japanese benitoite specimens unfortunately, but plenty from the Dallas Gem Mine in Cali. Their red beryl specimens were impressive too and I even found some hiding away deep in one of the flats that are now part of our collection! I ended up picking up a nice natrolite specimen and a quartz on hematite too.


Many thanks to Hori Mineralogy for their hospitality and the opportunity to visit their shop and pick up some specimens. If you are in the Tokyo area Hori Mineralogy is located in Nerima-Ku.

Toyotamanaka 4-13-18, Nerima, Tokyo 176-0013 Japan. 03-3993-1418

Also, we are opening our shop back up on Etsy, Rt395minerals so check us out.

Topaz Mountain, Utah Collecting Gem Topaz & Red Beryl

Topaz MountainWe made the trek all serious rockhounds make at least once in their life, to Topaz Mountain in the middle of the Utah desert in search of topaz and one of the world’s rarest gems, red beryl aka bixbite.

Topaz Mountain is know for producing sherry topaz, bixbyite, pseudobrookite & poorer quality red beryl. The red beryl is usually a lot more included with rhyolite and other impurities than the Wah Wah Mountains red beryl. I’m sure that matters little to most of us though, because the opportunity to find your own red beryl, regardless of the quality, is a bragging right.

pseudobrookiteSherry Topaz

It was a long journey to Topaz Mountain though because we have kids and we had to make lots of food & bathroom stops. To make things worse, all the hotels were booked in Delta, Ut, the closest city to the mountain, so we had to stay in Fillmore, Ut, the old capital of the state. It’s about 1 hour from Topaz Mountain. I have to say though, the Best Western we stayed at was nice. The beds were soft, the breakfast was free, and the staff were great.

Topaz SignGetting to the mountain from either Delta or the Hwy6/174 junction takes about 30min. We made it in about 20 though. There is a sign on the road telling you to turn onto the dirt road that leads to the amphitheater. Our 2WD car had no problem navigating the dirt road in, however once deep in the amphitheater, the road becomes impassible without a 4WD. Don’t fret though, at this point you are at the base of the mountain and it’s only about a 5-10min hike to the gem bearing zones.

topaz on groundAside from actually digging into the mountain, topaz can be found all over the ground. These are smaller pieces and almost always clear due to the sun bleaching them, but they are fantastic non the less. The tributaries are a good place to look and scoop up material to bring home and sift through. Keep an eye on large chunks of rhyolite with gas bubbles on them. We also found several topaz in these and brought a few home to crack open later. I may be posting a video of that later.

I had my best hit in a previously explored gas pocket. It had been picked long ago and was quite weathered, but I decided to poke around. Sure enough, the floor had a soft spot. So I started to clean it out and it went down about 4 inches and there was the first, over 1″, terminated, sherry topaz. While I was digging around that crystal another, larger one appeared opposite of it. Unfortunately as I was trying to get the larger one out the tip broke off. I kept it though to repair it later. After digging those two out I decided to move on hoping I would find even better pockets. I later, foolishly realized that I should have dug that area out as much as I could because it seemed the further I went up the mountain I went, the less the yield was. Granted I only got about 1/3 the way up the mountain.

It seemed that the gas bubble pockets were on the surface and once you got down a bit the rhyolite became more solid. Can someone confirm this?

We are definitely making another trip up there this year. It was too fantastic an experience and your first trip is usually your worst because you really don’t know the material, what to look for, etc. I would recommend bringing the following:
1. Rock pick hammer
2. Flat head screw driver – this is essential when digging the crystals out.
3. Rock chisel
4. Small container for specimens
5. The chopstick for more delicate extractions.
6. Water – it’s pretty far from any services.

West Desert CollectorsAlso, don’t forget to visit West Desert Collectors in Delta. They have a wealth of specimens for sale and knowledge of the area.

Happy rockhounding.

Holy Green Tourmaline & Smoky Quartz Batman!

GT on SmokyAttending the local VVGMS show recently a patron showed up at the booth across from ours with a stunning elbaite, green tourmaline & smoky quartz specimen. It was a museum grade piece and we were all shocked to actually see someone walking around trying to peddle it at the show. Red flags went off for all of us when we saw it and heard the story about it, but we listened to what they had to say.

We gave the owners contact information for some of the top tourmaline collectors in the world and suggested they contact them to find out which locality it originated from and if it could be brokered to a private party. Of course this information was in exchange for the opportunity to hold it and photograph it. Rarely do you get to handle such a specimen. Holding it made me slightly nervous as you can imagine, but at the same time was exhilarating!

GT on Smoky2GT on Smoky3Several people thought that the specimen had originated from Brazil, but no one was sure. If you’ve seen this specimen before let us know.

Buyer Beware!

Last weekend we attended and displayed at our first gem show. It was quite a learning experience, but great fun. We met a lot of very hospitable vendors and customers with the occasional shall we say, eccentric individual. It is the middle of the desert.

On the last day of the event we did what many vendors do, we went shopping. I stumbled upon a dealer who was selling some aquamarine at a fantastic price. So I started digging in looking for some good material. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a beautiful terminated schorl, asked how much it was, and added to my stack. The price was fantastic. I paid for it all and headed back to our booth to pack up. When I got home that evening I started unpacking the treasure I had purchased. I pulled out the schorl and noticed a crack around the perimeter. Upon closer inspection I saw the crack ran around the circumference. Yup, it had been repaired. In my haste for the aquamarine I hadn’t inspected the tourmaline. Honest dealers will tell you when something has been repaired. This guy knew and sold it to me without mentioning it. The display box wasn’t labeled either. Buyers beware!

It’s unfortunate, but it seems nowadays with so much material coming from abroad you have to ask vendors if the gem or mineral you are buying has been altered or repaired in any way. It will definitely be on my list of questions when I purchase from vendors I’m not familiar with from now on though. How about you?

Oregon Sunstones and Tourmaline

Took a trip out to the Himalaya Mine down in San Diego County yesterday and we weren’t disappointed. Actually, we always come away very satisfied with what we bring home from the mine and they are one of the few places we would actually recommend.

Faceted SunstonesThe tourmalines we found were across the spectrum with some deep green watermelons, to gemmy apple green to pink bi-colors. We also picked up some fantastic peach colored faceted sunstones. All of which we will be putting up on our etsy shop.

The Himalaya Mine Dig is located at Lake Henshaw off of Hwy. 76 in San Diego County. It’s near some other worthwhile attractions, Mt. Palomar Observatory and Pala & Harrah’s casinos. I’d recommend trying your luck at the Himalaya rather than the casino’s though.

Welcome to

Feb. – March 2015 – Victor Valley Gem & Mineral Club’s Tailgate Show!


VVGMC 2014 Courtesy of Jim Fosse.

Victorville, CA – The good rockhounds at Victor Valley Gem and Mineral Club are ramping up for their annual gem show March 13, 14, & 15th located at the base of the Verde Antique Marble Quarry, I like to call “Black Jade Mountain” off Stoddard Wells Rd.  Read more…

2015 Sedona Treasure, Snow, Red Beryl, Boulder Opal & More!

Jan 2015 – Sedona & Quartzite Treasures Red Beryl, Boulder Opal, Aquamarine & More

IMG_0453Quartzsite, AZ – I’m sure most of you have heard of Quartzite, whether gold prospecting or mineral collecting, it’s the annual mecca for rockhounds that occurs in January and lasts through February. I had often heard members of my various clubs talk about it, but I had never been, that is until 2 weeks ago. Read more…


Happy New Year everyone! We are just back from a trip to Prescott, Sedona and Quartzsite Arizona and it was fantastic!! After visiting friends in Prescott and having some luck at Bucky’s Casino we made our way to Sedona on NYE. Read more…

Boulder Opal Red Beryl

We’re glad you found us! We specialize in minerals along or near California’s old HWY 395. Some of the minerals we love are Tourmaline, Silver Lace Onyx, Quartz, Pink Halite, Hanksite, Neptune and Benitoite. While the latter may be a bit away from HWY 395 it’s the California state gem and without a doubt one of the most beautiful gems out there. Most of our gems and minerals are dug up, polished and shaped by us, however there is just too much material out there to be had so we pick up some wholesale and pass that along to you through our Etsy shop.

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