WALLA WALLA -- Most people tend to associate gems with expensive jewelry, but for the 60 local members of the Marcus Whitman Gem & Mineral Society, gems are treasured as the product of laborious digging and a meticulous finishing process.
This weekend's Gem and Mineral Show marks the 40th anniversary of the exhibition. According to Warren Rood, chairman of the show, the event will feature cases of polished and unpolished rocks compiled by society members, in addition to displays to be shown by 14 dealers.
Some of the specialty items exhibited by dealers will include royal Sahara jasper, fossilized dinosaur bones, precious opals and one 6-foot-long dinosaur skull replica modeled after Sue, the largest and most complete Tyrannosaurus rex fossilized skeleton.
The annual exhibition offers a chance for Gem & Mineral Society members to show off their rock knowledge. The society holds monthly meetings that often feature educational lectures on topics ranging from the formation of petrified wood to the proper way to clean a fish fossil. Members put their skills to the test on field trips, where together they dig for minerals in locations as close as Roosevelt, Wash., and as far as southern Oregon. After returning home, many then cut and polish their finds into glistening gems.
There will be about 20 display cases at the show. Whether or not you are a rock-enthusiast, the range of colors and forms to be found in the diverse collections of gems (polished rocks) and minerals (natural rocks) should prove to be impressive.
The show's program features numerous activities that are especially fun for families, including a "mine dig" where kids can hunt for polished agates and jasper, a rock garden with large rocks attendees are invited to touch, and live demonstrations on gold-panning and flint-knapping. There will also be a silent auction, a raffle whose winner will receive an amethyst cathedral, and prizes given away every hour. Some of the items on display will also be for sale.
if you go
The Gem and Mineral Show will be held at the Community Center and the Walla Walla County Fairgrounds on Sept. 12 and 13 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets cost $2 for adults and children 12 and under are admitted for free.