Mineral show highlights unique talents

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Dinosaur head fossil

The skull of a Nile Crocodile, which was alive at one time in NE Africa. The Nile Crocodile was 16 feet in length when living. Photo by Jordyn Timpson

By Jordyn Timpson
Mason Times staff writer

Minerals, fossils, stones, gems and meteorites were just some of the hundreds of items on display at Central Michigan’s 46th Annual Gem, Mineral, Fossil Lapidary and Jewelry Show this past weekend.

Sponsored by the Central Michigan Lapidary and Mineral Society, the expo was held at Ingham County Fairgrounds, 700 E. Ash St., and was open to the public Friday through Sunday.

Twelve dealers from all over the country displayed their talents at individual booths, with each station offering something a little different than the others. Handcrafted jewelry with unique gems, stones, pearls and diamonds, gigantic shark teeth, and fossils were popular items among many of the booths. On the other hand, a showcase of soapstone carvings stuck out against the others.

Soapstone carver John Hoskin first became interested in carving 14 years ago when he met carver Sandy Cline for the first time. Cline encouraged Hoskin to take a class, which he did, and the rest is history, he says.

“I took a week-long class in Ontario in 1997, and I’ve been carving ever since,” Hoskin said.

Most of the soapstone Hoskin uses comes from the Thetford Mine area in Quebec, but he’s also gets it from Texas, Montana and West Virginia. Once Hoskin picks up the soapstone, he sells to other carvers, and creates his own carvings designs, which are usually of wildlife. Carved soapstone can take hours to form, and can be used as decoration, as well as for counter tops and sinks.

This was Hoskin’s fifth year holding a booth at this show.

“There’s always a good turnout, but I don’t carve to sell them,” Hoskin said, “I’ve never cared yet to sell them. People think this is a hobby, but it’s way past that; it’s a passion.”

Dave Lacko also has a passion, but for something else. Long-time rock lover and amateur astronomer, Lacko got interested in meteorites after he bought a book about them for a friend.

“I ended up buying two books: one for my friend and one for me. It became my passion—once I got it, it was so cool,” Lacko said, “I bought and read more, and it became an addiction.”

Like most dealers at the show, Lacko travels all over the United States to keep his passion going. The best areas to find meteorites are in high points, deserts and places without a lot of vegetation or trees. Lacko said the worst thing for meteorites is water, so it’s better to search in desert areas.

Lacko said he gives his space dust, the excess remains of meteorite shavings, to Michigan State University professor Dr. Michael Velbel to use in research because he has no need for the dust. Lacko’s favorite part about his passion for meteorites is when he sees how excited kids get when they learn about space.

“When you tell a kid that what they’re holding in their hands is from outer space, their eyes get as big as a pizza,” Lacko said. “Museums have everything behind glass, so I didn’t want to be like that. You don’t often get a chance to hold things from outer space, and everybody wants to hold a little bit.”

For Larraine Demerly, seeing the excitement in people is also her favorite part of the rock and artwork business she runs with her husband.

“We have a lot of fun with grab bags, both with kids and adults,” Demerly said. “It’s just leftover stuff we have, but they’re great to hand out at parties.”

A cracked-open geode from Kentucky and a piece of a petrified wood stone from Arizona.

The show had a booth set up exclusively for children, along with a swap table, demonstrations, “touch and feel” table, a raffle, silent auctions and polishing. Some of the proceeds raised from admission fees went towards scholarship funds at MSU. For those interested in the show, a special auction of mineral and lapidary materials will be held March 3 through 4 at Schoolcraft College.

One thought on “Mineral show highlights unique talents

  1. Very thorough on your reporting. I appreciated the many different perspectives and interviews you brought to it. The quotes were well-chosen and added to the composition. The photos are a great touch as well. Just double check some spelling and grammatical errors before posting.