Gem and Mineral Society members share workshop and social timeadmin
Every Tuesday, the din of buzzing and grinding, mixed with conversation and laughter can be heard in the lapidary workshop inside the Hartland Educational Support Service Center. That’s where the Livingston Gem and Mineral Society meets from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“This club is for anybody who likes rocks,” says long-time member and former President David Riggs. “We have the best shop in the state of Michigan, and it’s a social thing, too.”
“Lunch is one of the most fun parts,” says Chuck Amberger, the current club president. “People can link up with like-minded people and work at grinding, cutting and polishing stations, do silversmithing, and we go on field trips to quarries and river beds.”
There are 70 members in the Livingston club, which is a nonprofit organization and a member of the Midwest Federation of Mineralogical Societies and the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies. The club’s purpose is to promote, through education, interest in the fields of mineralogy, archeology, paleontology and the lapidary arts.
The Livingston club was established in 1970 by John Johnson and Nelson Short and first met in Howell. The club moved to its current location in 2004, and has a workshop equipped for cutting, faceting and polishing. It also has a reference library, a tool room, a silversmithing room, a saw room, and a kitchen. Many of the members are new to lapidary work.
“This is a very friendly club,” says member Chet Chapman of Deerfield Township. “You come in and people show you how to do things. When something needs to be done, people are generally cooperative.”
Members collect many of the rocks that are used.
“You accumulate a lot of rocks, and your wife gets mad at you so you give them away,” Riggs says with a chuckle. “You want to use your imagination and artistry, and you know it’s a one-of-a-kind thing that you’re making.”
Member Isla Mitchell from Milford likes socializing with club members and making jewelry.
“I’ve learned that there is a lot to learn here,” she says. “I make cabochons, which are domed or rounded unset stones and put them in silver. My relatives know that every Christmas and birthday they’ll be getting a necklace, bracelet or earrings that I’ve made.”
Member Bob Hansor of Stockbridge has been collecting rocks for 40 years.
“I used to get all my agates at Lake Superior,” says Hansor, who has been in the club for 15 years. “I lost my wife five years ago, and this club has kept me going.”
Classes are taught for all ages on such topics as an introduction to geology, and members do a lot with Girl Scout and Boy Scout troops. Member Bob Krautheim of Howell Township is a silversmith, who is always teaching members his craft.
“I used to sell my work,” says Krautheim. “Now it’s just a hobby. I do it to help the club.”
Member Sue McEwen has a passion for Petoskey stones.
“I find my own Petoskey stones on the shores of Lake Michigan,” says McEwen, who sells some of her work at her shop in Linden. “I like the camaraderie of this club. It’s a good therapy, too.”
Riggs says, “For our members, the thrill is just making things and teaching someone else to do it. There’s a lot of self-satisfaction.”
Once a year, on the third weekend in September, there is a gem and mineral show, where dealers and demonstrators, including many club members, have displays and auctions in the Hartland Center’s gymnasium.