08 February 2013

Putting a Cover on a 55 Gallon Barrel in Tucson

Gene hammering the lid to make it fit.
If it is necessary to ship about 500 pounds of rock, it is most often shipped in a 55 gallon metal drum. These drums are used to ship rock all over the world and come in a variety of sizes; even though they all held 55 gallons of crude oil or juice concentrate originally. The top of the barrel is cut out, a cover made with some sort of metal ring to attach the cover to the barrel; usually with a bolt to hold it.
These rings and covers also come in a great variety of sizes and designs to match a particular barrel. The barrel rings may require a specific size bolt or a bolt of sufficient length. 

Veronica on the barrel holding the ring while Gene hammers.
Now, when a barrel arrives somewhere, the rock is taken out of the barrel, used or displayed or whatever and the barrel lid and ring are thrown into a pile of other barrel lids and rings. When a barrel is shipped the barrel is filled with rock and a lid and ring are selected from the pile of lids and rings to seal the barrel. They never fit properly; especially in Tucson. 
Almost done hammering.

In the picture accompanying this blog is a method commonly used to make a slightly too big barrel cover fit a slightly too small barrel. If someone stands on top of the lid while someone else beats on it with a big hammer; it can be made to fit the barrel. The ring has to be bolted on before the person gets off or the cover may pop off. The ring in this particular case was slightly small, requiring a longer bolt than usual. Such a bolt could not be found even though these various sized bolts are placed in a box for easy recovery when needed. When a nut was finally attached to the barely long enough bolt to secure the ring, the person on the barrel was allowed to get off and not required to travel with the shipment to its destination. 
Will it fit?

Success! Fitting the ring around the barrel.

23 January 2013

Cold Mountain Thundereggs

A sea of rock bags.
It is time again for the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show down in Tucson, Arizona. The Gem Shop has been a vendor at the show for over 35 years and it is one of our favorites. The atmosphere in Tucson is so much fun and you never know what is going to happen. Gene and Veronica headed down to Tucson January 20, 2013 to set up the Tucson Showplace. As stated earlier, you never know what will happen in Tucson and this year already is proving to be no different. After some shipping difficulties, The Gem Shop is happy to announce the arrival of Cold Mountain Thundereggs!
Rough Cold Mountain Thundereggs.
Veronica and worker unloading the truck.
The rock is here! Ready to unload the goodies.
The Gem Shop first debuted Cold Mountain Thundereggs at the Denver Coliseum Show in September 2012. These beautiful Thundereggs were sold out in only two days! Roughly translated from the Spanish, Sierra Fría, this thunderegg comes from the Sierra Mountains in Mexico between the cities of Aguascalientes and Zacatecas. Cold Mountain Thundereggs are similar to Butterfly Jasper but offer a brighter range of colors. Also the thundereggs can contain water banding and features red, mauve, or black “webbing.” While technically a rhyolite due to its thunderegg nature, Cold Mountain Thundereggs are highly silicate and filled brecciation. This material takes an exceptional polish which makes it ideal for both cabochons and specimens. The rough nodules usually have a bumpy exterior, but occasionally can be smooth. Nodule sizes can ran from 2 inches to 8 inches, with the average size ranging between 3-4 inches.The Gem Shop has several tons of this material available for purchase at the Tucson Showplace Show February 1-17, 2013, as well as on our website, thegemshop.com, and by phone at 866-377-4666.

The unloaded rock in the yard.

Veronica unloading a bin of rock.

Veronica with an empty bin on the forklift.
Close up photo of a Cold Mountain Thunderegg.

27 February 2012

An Authors' Event to Remember Summary

The six authors signing books
On January 31, 2012, The Gem Shop hosted an Authors’ Event to Remember at the Tucson Showplace in Tucson, Arizona. Six authors of different agates and jasper books were present and spoke about their books to a crowd of about 100 collectors and rock enthusiasts. Organizer and V.P. of The Gem Shop, Inc., Veronica Woods, welcomed everyone and then President of The Gem Shop, Inc., Eugene Mueller, introduced each author. A gathering of the six distinguished authors had never occurred before and according to Johann Zenz, “would be the talk of Tucson 2012.”
Gene introducing the authors.

The event was held from 3-7pm on January 31st, and preparation began early in the day. Workers at The Gem Shop began by clearing out 20 tons of rock from the showroom at the Tucson Showplace. Once that was done the air was already to begin to buzz with excitement about the authors’ event. Jesus and Anthony provided delicious food for the cocktail reception following the authors’ speaking.
Scott Wolter
The authors came in one by one and were able to mingle with each other before the event began. Another unique aspect of the event was that while some of the authors were old friends, not everyone knew each other and all were glad for the opportunity to meet their fellow authors.

Brad Cross
Quickly it was time for the event to begin. The authors’ event attracted many different people, including other authors like Bill Atkinson (Within the Stone) and Michael Carlson (Beauty of Banded Agates). Once everyone settled in, Veronica welcomed and thanked everyone for coming and the authors for participating. Then Eugene personally introduced each author with personalized antidotes pertaining to his relationship with each author. Once introduced each author spoke about their books and their love of stones.

Karen Brzys
Scott Wolter told some stories about finding agates and reviewed the latest developments of his book on Lake Superior Agates. He also spoke about his books on the Kensington Rune Stone and the hooked X.

Brad Cross spoke about his books and announced that an expanded version of his book, “Agates of Northern Mexico,” currently out of print with be published sometime in the next year.

Roger Clark
Karen Brzys spoke about how she became involved with the Gitche Gumee Agates and History Museum. She also reviewed the museum’s programs, which include agate collecting classes. Please click the link for more information on the Gitche Gumee Agates and History museum: http://www.agatelady.com/

Hans Gamma spoke about his love of jaspers originating back to when he lived in Switzerland and his fascination with the jasper from the Owyhee area in Oregon.

Hans Gamma
Roger Clark reviewed the process of the creation of his book on Fairburn agates, and joked with the Lake Superior Agate collectors about the relative merits of “Lakers” versus “Fairburns.”

Johann Zenz
Finally, Johann Zenz discussed how his monumental book, “Agates,” became three books. He also discussed the problems and rewards that come with working with the publisher and those who helped with the different parts of the books.

Following the presentation and question session the authors gathered in the agate showroom to sign books. All the participating authors’ books were available for purchase and signed with personal messages by each author. Rock enthusiasts and the authors socialized amongst each other until late in the evening. At the end of the night one of the authors’ event posters, signed by all six authors, was raffled off and won by Brent Stewart of Stewart’s Gem Shop in Boise, Idaho.

Following the presentation several announcements were made about the upcoming agate show, “A Celebration of Agates,” in Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 26-29, 2012. More information is available at http://www.minnesotamineralclub.org. It was also announced the theme for the Denver 2014 show will be agate.
The authors interacting with rock enthusiasts.

Please visit www.thegemshop.com for a more detail account of the event, and more pictures.

05 February 2012

The Forklift Episode

The forklift blocking the gate.
Another day at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show was winding down, and I decided to take advantage of the break in the chaos to grab a shower and prepare for a dinner meeting later that night. I stepped into the shower and had just started to enjoy the warm water run over my sore, tired shoulders when there was a knock on the door.
“Veronica, your customers are here.”
My nice, hot, relaxing shower quickly turned into the fastest possible shower.  After speaking with a customer from India for three hours it was time to leave for the dinner meeting (hair undone and clothes unchanged).

Later that evening after returning from the dinner meeting, it was time to close and lock the gates. I walked over to the gate and discovered the forklift was in my way of closing the gate. Earlier in the week our propane powered forklift ran out of propane, and the spare tank was put on the machine. At the time, however, our employees had not told us they had changed the tank. We tried to start the forklift with no success. After sever failed attempts we determined both propane tanks were empty and there was no way to close the gate with the forklift parked the way it was. We decided to try and move the forklift out of the way by pulling it with our even older gas powered forklift.
Veronica hooking up the logging chain to the forklift.

We found a logging chain; got the gas powered forklift running, hooked it up to the propane forklift, and started to pull. The forklift started to move, and then, with a sputter, the gas powered forklift ran out of gas. Now, there was one inoperable forklift blocking the gate, and chained to another inoperable forklift blocking the entrance to the property. At this point it was 11:30 at night, and we seriously considered just leaving it and going to bed, but we checked around to see, if maybe, we might have some gas.
The two forklifts chained together (propane forklift on the left).

A majority of the gas can had been emptied into the forklift earlier, but there was still about a half cup left. We poured the remaining gas into the gas tank, started it up, and pulled the powerless propane forklift away from the gate. Then, finally, we closed the gate, pushed the forklifts back to their places, and went to bed.

Gene gassing up the forklift.
The next morning as I was sliding my just made fried eggs and bacon on my plate, a delivery truck drove in with four pallets of rock requiring a forklift to unload them. Our two inoperable forklifts just sat there, and I swear, they were grinning at me and my problem. Since there was nowhere to get propane that early in the morning, I drove to get gas from the gas station, all while thinking about my hot delicious breakfast going cold. I returned back with a full gas can, put some in the forklift, started it up (the ancient gas powered forklift is not a fan of cold mornings), and unloaded the truck. I walked back into the kitchen just in time to settle down to a hot cup of coffee and a plate of cold eggs and bacon.

Just another day in Tucson!

24 January 2012

Fire Agate

Mined at Slaughter Mountain, AZ. The mine is located on San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation, and can only be mined using traditional Apache collecting methods. Only tribe members are permitted to mine, and no blasting or heavy machinery is allowed. Usually Fire Agate is found in rhyolite that makes it pretty easy to remove the agate, but at Slaughter Mountain the matrix is less yielding , which makes it more like trying to get the fire agate out like that of chipping a glass bottle out of cement.

Fire agate is a brown agate which has a botryoidal or grape-like growth form. What is special about fire agate is that it contains layers of plate-like crystals of iron oxide in various planes. The iridescent colors of red, gold, green and, occasionally, blue-violet, result from interference between diffracted light rays traveling through and reflecting from these thin layers.Cutting fire agate essentially reverses nature's process by grinding and polishing away layers, following natural contours, until only the fire is visible. It requires skilful work. Removing too much of the chalcedony reduces the iridescence, while removing too little results in a dull appearance. It is painstaking work and as a result is rarely found in large, mass-produced quantities. Fire Agate is a form of quartz and has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale, which make it a great stone for any type of jewelry including rings.

Fire Agate has been available for only the past 60 years.Fire agate is found in only a few locations in the world, mainly in the southwestern USA and Mexico. Deposits are found in the area between Kingman, Arizona and Needles, California, and around the Colorado River. Fire agate has also been found in quantity in some areas of Mexico. Mexican fire agate specimens come from the mines of Calvillo in the state of Aguascalientes. There are dozens of mines around the mountains of Calvillo. Fire agates are also found in San Luis Potosi and Chihuahua, Mexico. Because of the mineral mixture, fire agate from Potosi only have golden fire, rainbow colors are extremely rare.

Special Tucson Introductory Pricing:
Two different 5 gal "Bucket Lots"
1. Mine Run for $1,000 per bucket
2. Graded to have fire for $2,500 per bucket
75 Piece Lot for $300 (this is roughly 3-4 lbs)

23 January 2012

Authors' Event to Remember!

 Another year has gone by and it is time for us at The Gem Shop to pack our bags and to Tucson for the 2012 Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. While the Gem Shop isn’t new to the hubbub of Tucson, we all are quite excited about bringing a new event to Tucson this year. The Gem Shop, Inc and the Tucson Showplace are proud to host Johann Zenz, Brad Cross, Roger Clark, Karen Brzys, Scott Wolter, and Hans Gamma for an Authors’ Event to Remember! On January 31, 2012 at the Tucson Showplace, space A-1, each author will speak about their individual books as well as their love of agates and jaspers. There will also be a question and answer session followed by an authors’ cocktail reception.
                This is very exciting especially after the recent release of Agates III by Johann Zenz. This is Zenz’s first trip to Tucson in six years. He has not been to the Tucson show since his first publication of Agates. We at The Gem Shop, are very excited Johann Zenz agreed to participate in the book talk and signing at The Tucson Showplace. 
We are also exited to host newly published author Hans Gamma. Hans Gamma’s book, Picture Jaspers: Treasures of the Owyhee Area, Oregon, published in late January 2012, documents information on over 75 different sites in the canyons of Malheur County, Oregon. The book also contains over 230 pictures of beautiful specimen. Roger Clark author of South Dakota State Gemstone: Fairburn Agate, will also be at the event sharing his expertise on the Fairburn Agate most commonly found in and around the grasslands, badlands, and the Black Hills.
Also attending is director of the Gitche Gumee Agate & History Museum and author of Agates: Inside Out, Karen Brzys. Karen Brzys specializes in exploring and explaining the composition, formation of agates as well as popular locations to find agates. The fifth author featured at the Authors’ Event to Remember is Brad Cross. Brad Cross is well known for his book Agates of Northern Mexico, and his collaboration with June Culp Zeitner on the book Geodes: Nature’s Treasures. The final author, Scott Wolter is known for his extensive expertise on Lake Superior Agates. Scott Wolter is a veteran author whose many publications include, The Lake Superior Agate- Fourth Edition, The Lake Superior Agate- One Man’s Journey, The Hooked X: Key to the Secret History of North America, and The Kensington Rune Stone: Compelling New Evidence. This Authors’ Event to Remember is truly a unique once in a lifetime experience. All of the six authors have never presented at the same time.
          While Gene is in Quartzsite, The Gem Shop and the Tucson Showplace will be buzzing about preparing for this rare opportunity. Tickets are $10 in advance or m$15 at the door and are available from thegemshop.com or by calling 866-377-4666. We can’t wait to see you there!