By Cari Hachmann
Staff Writer 

Brickers' Wulfenite specimens are among top displays at Tucson gem show

Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society members return home inspired by world famous event


Last updated 3/4/2019 at 1:27pm

Members of the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society were still giddy and beaming with excitement after returning home from the world’s largest mineral show in Tucson, Arizona.

The local nonprofit organization met Thursday night, Feb. 22, to swap and share stories after their guest speaker, Alfredo Petrov, a worldwide traveler and specialist in rare minerals, unexpectedly fell ill.

Popcorn and snacks were passed around as the group settled in to watch a Mineral Explorers episode that covered the Tucson gem show, followed by a striking photography presentation by FGMS’s secretary Michelle Shearer.

Shearer was one of more than 30 local members who traveled 430 miles to participate in the nearly two-week long extravaganza leading up to Tucson’s famed Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase.

FGMS was invited to enter a special display at the main show that was hosted by the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society at the Convention Center, Feb. 14-17.

Running with the exhibit’s theme, “Wulfenite is Loved,” museum curator Mike Evans said the group couldn’t resist featuring a selection of Wulfenite specimens mined by Fallbrook’s Garth Bricker from the Red Cloud Mine in La Paz County in Arizona.

Evans said it took a committee of four to transport and carefully set up the fragile display, which he said stood out among the six best cases at the entire show.

“We really did ourselves proud for a small town gem and mineral society,” Evans said.

At Thursday’s meeting, FGMS ambassadors, members of the purchasing committee and other members who were vendors at the Tucson show talked about their experiences.

It was the first time 22-year-old Shearer attended the worldwide event.

Shearer had been making jewelry for about eight years before she wandered into the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society, 123 W. Alvarado St., and found herself amongst a friendly group of like-minded rock hounds.

“I didn’t know this whole world existed,” she said. “They kind of roped me in and now I’m secretary.”

Shearer joined an 11-person team who were flown out to Arizona to work at the IKON Mining and Exploration booth, owned by FGMS President Mary Fong/Walker. The retail booth featured gems and mineral specimens, jewelry, fossils and a giant Megalodon tooth.

Meanwhile, members of the local purchasing committee were milling about the show buying items to fill their Fallbrook museum gift shop.

Shearer, who stayed in Tucson for 20 days, said the amount of gems and minerals was overwhelming.

“There was way too much to see – crystals bigger than you and bathtubs made of amethyst. I had to take a lot of breathers outside,” she said.

Thousands of tons of merchandise were shipped by air, land and sea to source 48 separate shows happening at once in Tucson.

Among the amazing finds, Shearer said, were fossils from Morocco, faceted gems from Japan, copper-rich minerals from Congo, lapis from Afghanistan and Australian opals.

Nearly 50,000 people visit the annual show in Arizona, a mineral mecca and a playground for gem and mineral enthusiasts since the show started in 1955.

“It was a lot of fun, and Tucson was so inspiring,” Shearer said, who spent her free time at the show working on her own jewelry.

Shearer said there was always a crowd looking at Bricker’s Wulfenite display. Garth and Janice Bricker loaned their collection to Fallbrook Gem & Mineral Society for the special occasion.

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