Mineral Collectors & Lapidary Artists

Blurring the Line Between the Two

A lovely combination of calcite and fluorite from Tennessee.

Mineral collectors and lapidary artists were two different camps within the rock hobbies.  Crystallized minerals in their natural form were always separated from lapidary pieces which are shaped, cut and treated to bring out their most attractive features. Few dealers have catered to both hobbies. That is no longer the common practice.

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Combining Minerals & Lapidary

More and more dealers are combining collecting natural minerals and the lapidary hobby to some degree. Until very recently, the two mineral-collecting hobbies and businesses have been treated separately and gone in completely different directions.

Mineral dealers seldom handled the hard stones sought by the lapidary artist. The lapidary artists had little use for crystallized minerals except for gem crystals that could be faceted, a process frowned upon by crystallized mineral collectors.

At mineral shows, dealers in both mineral arts were present but their stocks reflected only the subject of their choice. Special displays were almost never a mixture of the two disciplines. That is changing.

The geometric forms of minerals like this fluorite are one reason crystal collecting is so popular.

Narrowing the Gap

I’m sure there have always been collectors and mineral dealers who enjoy both these mineral arts. But by and large, a dealer would always emphasize one discipline over the other. The same is true of collectors.

The gap between the two disciplines has narrowed as the acquisition of fine minerals for resale has become more difficult. Dealers have had to turn to other sources of income and the lapidary arts are an obvious choice.

I realized this combining of the two mineral disciplines when one of my favorite mineral dealers suddenly showed up at a major show selling his usual choice of natural minerals and gold specimens and a large selection of Mexican agates.

This was not just a few agates casually displayed but a major showing of gem agates by a dealer who had not displayed any lapidary art in the over 50 years I’d known him.

The large agate display was prominently shown, and the dealer was eager to talk about their sales and public interest. That was three years ago, and he has been offering fine agate along with his gold and mineral specimens. It did not take other dealers long to recognize that offering fine agates and other hard stones along with natural minerals was good for business.

An Accidental Combination

The combination of a large but limited number of lapidary arts and their usual mineral crystal selection happened accidentally. When I visited my dealer friend, he told me he acquired a large mineral collection that also contained a large selection of very fine-cut and polished agates.

Normally the mineral dealer would have planned to sell the agates as a unit to a lapidary dealer. Recognizing the high quality of the agates in the collection, he decided to offer them for sale just as he would if they were crystallized minerals. To his surprise, the agates caused a lot of interest and readily sold for very respectable prices. He has been in the combined lapidary-mineral business since.

Other mineral dealers immediately picked up on the idea and the two hobbies, lapidary arts and crystallized mineral collecting, have become one in the marketplace. Whether the two disciplines fully merge remains to be seen but it makes a lot of sense to me.

This story about mineral collectors appeared in Rock & Gem magazine. Click here to subscribe. Story by Bob Jones.


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