Saturday, August 1, 2009

Gemboree Time in Franklin, NC

On my previous visit to Franklin, North Carolina, in early May, while at the Franklin Gem and Mineral Museum, John and Mary convinced me to return the last weekend of July for the 43rd Annual Macon County Gemboree sponsored by the Franklin Gem and Mineral Society and the Franklin Chamber of Commerce. John had even mentioned the possibility of an excursion to a little known off the beaten track digging site, but I've since become resigned to the fact that my right hip will need to be replaced before attempting such activities. Regardless, my schedule permitted but one day in the Franklin area. I wasn't aware until arriving that the 43rd Annual Macon County Gemboree was just one of three shows happening simultaneously on the last weekend of July in Franklin. A bigger surprise was that two of the three shows featured gems, jewelry, beads, and lapidary to the point that minerals seemed little more than an afterthought.

Though billed as "one of the largest and oldest gem & mineral shows in the southeast," I spotted only one dealer selling mineral specimens at the Franklin Gem and Mineral Society event at the Macon County Community Building. My only recollection of them was that many of the labels pitched metaphysical properties. A much larger extravaganza was the Gem and Lapidary Wholesalers Show at the Watauga Festival Center. It featured approximately 175 wholesalers of gems, jewelry, beads, and lapidary in a large tent. Nearby in smaller individual tents, a couple dozen dealers were selling more diverse merchandise that included a lot of rough material.

The only one of these three shows with enough minerals sufficient to attract my interest was the Highlands Road Gem Show on the Highway 441 Bypass at Highlands Road. Here, at least several dozen dealers, some of them selling minerals, were set up in tents. Most of the minerals bore neither labels nor price tags. I observed a preponderance of Arkansas quartz crystals and quite a few individual specimens of Indian zeolites of the sort that go for $15 a flat in Tucson. Prices were all over the map. Only a couple of dealers had any of the kind of material that prompts Franklin, North Carolina to bill itself as "the gem mining capital of the world." From one of these dealers, I purchased the two corundum pieces pictured at left for $20. They were collected at the Proctor Farm in Lincoln County, North Carolina.

The highlight for me was a tent where several young Mexican men were selling minerals from the Ojuela Mine in Mapimi, Durango, Mexico. What most grabbed my attention were several flats of adamite, a few pieces of which showed a curious visual resemblance to legrandite. In fact, had they been so labeled and displayed elsewhere in the tent, I could easily have ended up paying handsomely. When I asked the sellers if any of this really could be legrandite, they insisted that if so, I could "get rich." My gamble on two pieces, one of them pictured at right, cost another $20. Later, on the way back to Asheville, I stopped at a rock shop displaying similar flats of Ojuela Mine adamite and spotted a couple of more pieces of the same genre. All the proprietor could tell me was that he'd purchased his material as adamite from an Arkansas dealer with whom he'd been doing business for 40 years. Under the circumstances, the odds would seem to suggest that that my Ojuela Mine suite now has two additional adamite specimens, but I'm not yet finished checking the two pieces out.


  1. Jake,

    Nice article, as always.

    My wife and I have noticed the same thing at mineral shows in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut areas; namely, more bead and jewelry dealers and less mineral dealers at the local shows. The only ones that we've been to recently that were exceptions were the ones at Franklin & Sterling Hill in Ogdensburg, New Jersey. They had a good number of mineral dealers, especially with local material.

    How does the show at the Howard County Fairgrounds usually go? Do they also suffer from a lack of mineral dealers? I'm in the process of moving from Long Island to Maryland, so I'm interested in how shows are here.


  2. The show at Howard County Fairgrounds, namely the Atlantic Coast Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show in September by the Gem Cutters Guild of Baltimore always has a few good mineral dealers. Other shows in that area, such as the Chesapeake Gem and Mineral Society's show Memorial Day Weekend in Towson is loaded with good mineral dealers. The Gem Lapidary and Mineral Society of Montgomery County, MD also has a show in Gaithersburg in March, which attracts some good dealers.

  3. I think the "Proctor Farm" corundum is actually from the Propst farm.