Originally Published: July 30, 2011 9:58 p.m.
PRESCOTT - Jack Messersmith of Prescott Valley has been rock-hounding since the early 1980s in San Diego, and, as long as collecting stays fun for him, he's going to keep doing it for the long haul.
Messersmith and his wife, Kathy, were among more than two dozen vendors who shared their various rocks and jewelry with the public Saturday during the eighth annual Prescott Gem and Mineral Show at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.
"I've gone from Washington (state) back to Arkansas and anywhere in between collecting and buying (rocks and stones)," said Messersmith, a retired sailor, from his booth in the early afternoon. "I enjoy getting in the backcountry."
But one of Messersmith's primary pursuits is hunting for gold.
"For 15 summers, we'd take two or three weeks and go dredging," he said, adding that most rock hounds such as himself are hard-working, down-to-earth people who aren't afraid of getting dirty. "I've found gold with a metal detector, a dry washer and dredges in the streams. I've even found it walking and looking down."
The Prescott Gem and Mineral Club once again sponsored this year's show. Club member Judy Sullins, the event's co-chairperson, said vendors from across Arizona set up booths inside ERAU's Activity Center.
"This is one of the only shows in this area for just gems and minerals," Sullins said.
Several vendors sold their own handmade high- and low-end stone-inlaid jewelry and multi-colored gemstones that they displayed in cases.
Abdul Gardezy, a jeweler who has attended the Prescott show since its inception, brought gemstones that he purchased from 85 different countries. He makes a lot of his rings, earrings, charms and pendants with brightly colored stones in Los Angeles, even though he now lives in Gilbert.
"We design it, we make jewelry, and then we go to the gem shows and sell it," said Gardezy, 57, who learned his trade in Afghanistan before moving to the U.S. 33 years ago. "America's the best for the gem business."
Some of Gardezy's most popular pieces this year are fashioned from tourmaline, a semi-precious stone that comes in a variety of colors and is difficult to acquire.
"Many people are now investing in gemstones," he said.
Keith Horst, a part-time instructor of lapidary arts at Yavapai College in Prescott, has invested in gemstones for decades, buying many of his rocks wholesale at big trade shows. He has a business selling stones, such as agates, jasper and turquoise, to jewelers. But he also teaches people how to cut, grind, sand and polish rocks and minerals into gemstones.
"It's been popular here for a long time," said Horst, a founding member of the Prescott Gem and Mineral Club, of rock collecting. "Based upon my classes and the gem and mineral club, we've really grown to make this area kind of a hotbed for lapidary and minerals and rocks."
The Prescott Gem and Mineral Club has 250 members who encourage developing amateur lapidary and jewelry craftsmen as well as mineral collecting. It also sponsors field trips where folks can collect rocks and minerals at spots around Arizona.
For more information about the club, log on to www.prescottgemmineral.org or call club president Ronnie Whorton at 925-8911.
This weekend's show continues from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. today in the ERAU Activity Center off 3700 Willow Creek Road.