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By Joe Naiman
Village News Correspondent 

FGMS wins two major awards at fair


Last updated 7/20/2018 at 3:18pm

Elizabeth Cheathem photos

The Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society's award-winning display case called "Himalaya Mine" includes maps, three photos, a list of minerals from the mine, and a historical events chart as well as 34 pieces obtained from the mine.

The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society lost several specimens, including five large pieces of tourmaline, when the museum was robbed Sept. 10, 2017, but it still won two major awards for its case at the San Diego County Fair's Gems, Minerals, and Jewelry exhibition.

"It was really good for us, really meaningful for us," said Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society curator Michael Evans, who designed and put together the display case.

The case was called "Himalaya Mine", which is the name of a mine in Santa Ysabel. The case included maps, three photos, a list of minerals from the mine, and a historical events chart as well as 34 pieces obtained from the mine.

"It indicates some really fine examples of minerals and gemstones that have come from the mine," Evans said.

The case was given the Ken Cilch Award for the exhibit's best educational display, and a microclime with elbaite tourmaline stone received the Josephine Scripps Cup for the best mineral from San Diego County.

The first claim for the Himalaya Mine was filed in 1898.

"The mine's well over 100 years in existence and it may have produced more tourmaline than any one single mine in history and it's still producing even today," Evans said. "This mine just kept producing pocket after pocket after pocket."

San Diego County was the world's leading tourmaline producer in the early 20th century. "A lot of people in the county have no idea how important that was," Evans said.

Six of the 34 pieces in the exhibit are carved gemstones. "For a lot of people to know these crystals can be made into gemstones is important," Evans said.

In the early years of the mine's operations much of the pink tourmaline was shipped to China, but the fall of the Ch'ing Dynasty in 1912 curtailed that demand.

"It had eras of intermittent production," Evans said.

Increased expense due to the need for deeper excavation has caused periods of inactivity. "There's still tourmaline down there," Evans said.

Because the demand in the early 20th century was for pink tourmaline, other stones are still present in dump piles.

The photos and historical events chart show information the stones themselves could not.

"In the museum we want to incorporate more visual images, not just the specimens," Evans said. "We want to tell the human side of mining."

The Ken Cilch Award was the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society's first honor for the best educational display to the knowledge of Evans, who succeeded original curator Garth Bricker in 2014.

"I'm gratified about that because we're trying to make the public, especially here in this county, aware of how famous a mine this is," Evans said. "A lot of people aren't aware of what wonderful gems and pieces like these have been found in the county."

Josephine Scripps owned the Hi-Hope Ranch in San Luis Rey and is considered one of the most influential mineral and gem collectors of her time. She was once the curator of gems and minerals at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.

Scripps is believed to have initiated the concept of grab bag sales, which at the time were sold for 50 cents apiece, and she not only purchased fine minerals and gems but was also involved in mining ventures, including as a partner. Scripps was active with several gem and mineral clubs including the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society. Scripps was also one of the forces behind the establishment of the fair's Gems, Minerals, and Jewelry exhibition.

"Josephine Scripps as one of the most famous collectors of minerals and gems ever from San Diego County," Evans said.

The FGMS case also won the Josephine Scripps Cup in 2015 and 2016, so this year's award was the third in the four years Evans has been the museum's curator.

"That means a lot to us because of our mission to preserve the gem and mineral heritage of the county," Evans said.

(Fallbrook collector Erik Rose was the winner of last year's Josephine Scripps Cup.)

The exhibit judges give educational cases numerical scores with 100 points constituting a perfect score. A case which scores at least 85 points receives an Educational Award of Merit, and the FGMS case also received one of those ribbons. Place ribbons are given for a mixed display case but not for an educational exhibit.

Some of the crystals in the FGMS exhibit were from Scripps' collection and were donated to the museum by Scripps. Bill Larson also once had some of the pieces before donating them to the museum, and Jeffrey and Lindsey Kent donated a crystal which was used in the display.

"Some of the fine tourmalines in the display have recently been donated to the museum," Evans said.

The exhibit included notations of those who donated items shown in the display.

"We just wanted to show gratitude to our generous donors," Evans said. "Many of the great pieces have come from donors who wanted to help the museum."

Part of the Himalaya Mine display, this microclime with elbaite tourmaline stone is the winner of the Josephine Scripps Cup for the best mineral from San Diego County.

The gem and mineral collector community responded to the robbery with donations to the museum from their personal collections, and two of the tourmaline specimens in the exhibit were donated to the museum by Stewart McClure. "They're very nice pieces," Evans said.

Two of the five stolen pieces of tourmaline were recovered intact, one other was recovered with significant damage, and all but two of the other items stolen from the museum have been recovered. However, they will be used as evidence in the trial of the suspected burglar and have not been returned to the museum.

The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society isn't the only museum with items from the Himalaya Mine.

"Major museums throughout the world have tourmaline and other minerals from it," Evans said. "It's one of our famous mines."

Evans was at the mine in 1998 for a 100th anniversary celebration. "It's just a unique and remarkable mine," he said.


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