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Treasure Hunting at the Atlantic Coast Gem & Mineral Show

For years at 9 a.m. on the last Saturday of September, Bernie Emery has taken a long, slow walk through the exhibit hall at the Howard County Fairgrounds.

Vendors and volunteers bustle around him doing last minute set up and getting ready for the crowd that will descend upon them at the stroke of 10. “I’ve been doing this for a long time” Emery admits, “but it never fails to amaze me. There’s literally a treasure on every table.”

Emery is the Show Chairman for the Atlantic Coast Gem, Mineral Jewelry & Fossil Show, sponsored by the nonprofit Gem Cutters Guild of Baltimore, and the tables around him are filled with cut gemstones, spectacular mineral specimens, fossils and one-of a kind handcrafted jewelry from all over the world.

The more than 100 members of the Guild are first and foremost, gem and mineral enthusiasts. Most are also involved in turning natural stones, or “rough” into jewels and jewelry, and the show is a way of sharing their interests with the general public.

Many of the Guild members got their first introduction to this glittering natural world as children at a similar show and all will tell you that one of the main purposes of the annual show is spark the interest of the kids who attend with their families.

Rock hounding can be a great hobby for bringing a family together. Even a simple outing to the park can become a treasure hunt. “Every person who’s ever done laundry for a family knows that most kids have an affinity for picking up interesting rocks.” A longtime Guild member notes. “I tell parents to encourage that. It’s an inexpensive, healthy hobby that will truly make them appreciate all the wonder and beauty of nature.”Rock Show 013

In addition to rocks, showcases prepared by members feature their best gem specimens, and in the demonstration area club members show how they turn
rocks into jewels. A skilled gem cutter has to have a steady hand, mathematical precision and a working knowledge of each stone’s particular qualities, but most of the demonstrators will let you try your own hand at roughly shaping and polishing a stone.

If you want pre-shaped gems, ready-made jewelry or specimens of natural stones, the vendor section features over 35 vendors from around the world selling everything from 60 pound plates of amethyst crystals to petrified dinosaur dung and tiny facetted gems. Purchase a geode and one vendor will crack it open for you on the spot, revealing for the first time crystals that formed thousand of years ago.

At the Gem Mine, visitors comb through plates of gravel containing numerous tiny shards of real gemstones. Adults and kids alike create their own unique jewelry by filling small necklace bottles with their colorful finds. Other family-friendly activities include displays by natural history groups, dancing dinosaurs, and a free kid’s scavenger hunt where the prize is a souvenir grab bag of assorted crystals, fossils and polished stones, courtesy of the Gem Cutters Guild.

This year’s 55th Annual Gem Show takes place Saturday September 28 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday September 29, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Howard County Fairgrounds in West Friendship, Md. Admission is $6; kids 12 and under are free with an adult. gemcuttersguild.com

—Anita M. Meyers

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