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Rock show rumbles into seniors' club

Glittering gemstones and interplanetary missiles will take over the St. Albert seniors' club this weekend as part of a show put on by local rock fans. The Edmonton Tumblewood Lapidary Club will hold its annual show and sale at the St.

Glittering gemstones and interplanetary missiles will take over the St. Albert seniors' club this weekend as part of a show put on by local rock fans.

The Edmonton Tumblewood Lapidary Club will hold its annual show and sale at the St. Albert Senior Citizens' Club this weekend, says show organizer Pauline Zeschuk. Club members will be on hand to demonstrate gem cutting and jewelry making, as well as to sell and identify rocks. This year's show also features a collection of meteorites provided by local astronomer Murray Paulson, as well as some fluorescent rocks.

Club member Wito Jakielaszek hopes the show will get more people interested in the lapidary arts — the art of cutting stones into gems. The Morinville man makes knives out of polished stone and has been cutting and collecting rocks for 30 years. "I'm finding treasure buried in my garage I didn't even know I had!"

Beauties underfoot

There are about 3,000 known natural minerals in the world, says Luc Guillemette, club member and owner of St. Albert's Gemport, many of which can become gems. Some form crystals when they precipitate out of hot magma or supersaturated water.

Most jewelry-makers work with materials that are hard, rare and colourful, he says. "It's the unusual stuff that's most appealing to people."

But some stones are beautiful enough to stand on their own. Jakielaszek holds up an example: a small piece of petrified wood that has a tiki-like opal face on it. "That's the way it was found," he says. "That's Mother Nature at her best."

Some of the best spots to look for rare rocks are near rivers or road-cuts, Jakielaszek says, as they expose stone to the surface. "B.C. is a rock-hunter's paradise," he adds as its mountains have pushed rock up from deep within the Earth. Construction sites often have many eye-catching minerals shoved aside during excavation.

Some stones are easy to find if you know where to look for them. "We've found some rather nice selenite crystals at the [St. Albert] baseball diamonds," Guillemette notes as an example. These spiky oblongs are known as St. Albert Pickles, he says, and are often spotted along the Sturgeon River.

Once you've found a rock, you break out your pick and chisel to collect it. Anything you collect should be carefully packed, Guillemette adds — many crystals have fine features that break with ease.

Sometimes you have to really work at a rock to uncover its beauty, Jakielaszek says. He once worked on a chunk of white dolomite for hours to uncover the strange cubic galena crystals within it, for example. "This is what they make lead out of," he says. "It looks like a Borg cube from Star Trek."

Collectors usually choose a specialty after they've hauled in a few rocks, Guillemette says. His is quality. He holds up a yellow calcite crystal the size of his fist as an example. The crystal is all edges and ledges, he notes, yet seems smooth to the touch. "It's atomic perfection."

Fossils are Jakielaszek's passion, he says. "When you uncover something that's been buried for 200 million years … you sure get a rush."

Rock-hunting is a great way to enjoy the landscape, Jakielaszek says, adding that his wife jokes how he could always go hunt in his garage instead. "It's more the getting out than anything else."

The show runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $4 for adults, $3 for seniors or students and $10 for families. For details, call Zeschuk at 780-430-6694.


Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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