BETHEL, Maine — Tables of glittering treasure — watermelon tourmalines, blood red garnets and deep purple amethysts — will fill the Crescent Park Elementary School for the 52nd “Annual Western Maine Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show,” Saturday-Sunday, July 13-14, in Bethel.
The show is sponsored by the Oxford County Mineral and Gem Association, established 1948. Today, the organization has about 60 active members that meet regularly to embark on mineral collecting expeditions throughout Maine.
The show will run 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. Admission for adults is $3; children, $2.
In addition to booths of gems, fossils, jewelry and books, the event will feature a gold panning demonstration by a member of the Gold Prospectors Association of America and demonstrations on cabbing (grinding and polishing stones for jewelry).
Another highlight will be a special display about the Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, which is being constructed in Bethel, and museum representatives will be present to talk about the project.
“That should be an exceptional display,” said Dennis Gross, show organizer and treasurer for the Oxford County Mineral and Gem Association. “These people have purchased a phenomenal amount of minerals.”
Throughout the show, door prizes will be announced hourly, and the grand door prize — a 28-inch-long selenite crystal from New Mexico valued at $1,200 — will be drawn at the end of the show. The stunning prize was donated by Duane Leavitt, secretary to the Oxford County association and a dealer at the show.
“The winner doesn’t have to be there when their name is drawn, but they do have to pick it up,” Gross said. “That baby is heavy.”
On both days of the show, visitors will have the opportunity to sign up for a mineral collecting trip at a discounted rate, led by Maine Mineral Adventures of Woodstock.
The Saturday trip is to a surprise tourmaline location and the Sunday trip will be to Mount Mica. Gross suggests people interested in going on a trip be at the show when it opens to sign up. Space is limited.
Gross, who has been collecting minerals for more than 40 years, runs the small shop “Mineral Collector” at his home off Route 26 in Bryant Pond, and he is a longtime member of the Oxford County Mineral and Gem Association.
“Basically, we collect minerals — that’s what everyone in the club likes to do,” he said. “We try to do field trips two or three times a month, and some months we have them every weekend — mostly to local quarries.”
The association was formed in 1948 when a group of mineral collectors met at the home of Dana Putnam in Rumford Corner.
Today, 75-year-old Norman Davis is the association’s last original member. He joined the group when he was just 9 years old.
“At the time, there was a lot of mica and feldspar mining going on in this area,” said Davis. “We’d go on field trips to the mines. That was the general purpose of the club, and it still is.”
Encouraged by his father, Davis began collecting minerals when he was 6 years old, during the end of WWII, and stuck with it. Today, he runs the small shop “Mountain Minerals” out of the basement of his home off Route 26 in Newry. In 1991, he lost his personal collection to a fire, but since then, he’s built it back up to about 1,500 specimens.
“I just enjoy collecting the minerals, you know, and at my age and the situation I’m in now, I’m more apt to collect them,” he said. “I like to go out to the quarries and try to find them, but it’s hard for me to find some things that are worthwhile for my collection. So if I get an opportunity, I’ll buy from dealers some, and I buy old collections if I can afford them.”
With a few exceptions, the association holds meetings the first Friday of every month, during which members typically bring in specimens of the “mineral of the month” to share.
“There’s a door prize every meeting,” Davis said, “and someone wins a specimen.”
For information about the Oxford County Mineral and Gem Association and the upcoming show, visit oxfordcountymineralandgemassociation.blogspot.com, call Dennis Gross at 665-2759 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.