Originally Published: August 5, 2017 5:50 a.m.
When he was only 15 years old, Mel Stairs said he went to a rock show and saw some wulfenite cyrstals that were beautiful thin orange blades.
The guy who had them explained it was the chemistry and how the crystals were formed that made them that color and shape, Stairs said. However, two booths down, there was another person with wulfenite crystals that had a totally different color and shape.
“I asked him how it could be that way. That’s what started me on a 50-year career of rock hounding, because I couldn’t believe something could disobey the laws of nature,” Stairs said. “If this material is supposed to be this color and shape, why is it a different color and shape? Come to find out it’s about how deep it’s formed, how long it’s formed. That started my whole science career.”
Stairs, who is from Albuquerque, was at the Prescott Gem & Mineral Club Show & Sale on Friday, Aug. 4. Held at the Prescott Valley Event Center, 3201 N. Main St., the show continues Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 5-6.
It’s the science of the rocks that keeps him going, Stairs said, commenting he loves rocks that do tricks such as the TV Rock that started fiber optics. If a scientist hadn’t been given a piece of that and shown the trick that it does, fiber optics would never have come about, he said.
There’s also rare earths, which is what gives color to television screens and cell phones, Stairs said, mentioning he has 1,600 acres of mining claims in northern New Mexico for rare earths.
“There’s an awful lot of use now in rocks and minerals,” he said.
Also present were Bill and Lisa Gagne of Antero Minerals. From Colorado, the two of them have been doing shows for 30 years, Bill said, stating he grew up in a mining town playing in the mines.
The two of them met when Lisa was working in a fine jewelry and mineral store, Bill said. They just jumped right into it, working all day and selling all night before starting their business.
Wayne Scott got into rocks and gems more recently, remarking he started upon moving to Flagstaff in 2005 and discovered petrified wood – finding a stone that was once a tree – remarkable. The fossilization process and how it mineralizes into different colors is amazing, he said.
“That just fascinated me and it just got out of hand,” Scott said, noting his enjoyment at sharing his hobby with others and how there are a lot of the same vendors out on the rock and gem show circuit.
“There’s a gem and mineral show almost every weekend in Arizona, there’s a lot of vendors that are full time.
“It’s just a self-sustaining hobby.”