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Showing why Idaho’s the Gem State

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Posted: Monday, April 12, 2010 12:53 am

    POCATELLO — If you live in Idaho, then collecting gems and mineral deposits can become a hobby; even a business. After all, Idaho is not known as the Gem State for nothing.

    Some of the hundreds of different types of gems and minerals that can be found all over Idaho were featured here Saturday and Sunday during the 53rd annual Southeast Idaho Gem and Mineral Show. More than 1,000 people came by the Bannock County Fairgrounds to catch a glimpse of thousands of gems and mineral deposits in varying forms.

    “We were really impressed with the turnout,” said Martin Rakatansky, chairman of the Southeast Idaho Gem and Mineral Society, which sponsors the event.

    About a dozen dealers showed off their gems and minerals at the show, which also included demonstrations on polishing rocks, silversmithing and how to make knives, arrow heads and spear heads.

    Some of the dealers said that collecting gems is something they would do anyway, even if they didn’t make money off it.

    “My business gets me out of the house to go chase gems,” said Jim Duchscher, who owns Duchscher’s Rock Shop in Blackfoot. “I just do this work part so I have an excuse to go do that. Basically, this is my hobby.”

    Idaho offers collectors of precious stones a bountiful field to choose from.

    “I think we have a larger variety of gems than any other state,” said SEIGMS President Frank Christensen. “There are all kinds of gems here.”

    For starters, there are the famous Spencer opal deposits near the tiny town of Spencer, which is north of Dubois and known as the Opal Capital of America.

    “I think the Spencer opals are probably Idaho’s most famous gem because they sell them all over the world,” said Sam Netuschil, owner of the Purple Moon stores in Pocatello and Lava Hot Springs.

    You want more opals? Boundary, Gem, Gooding, Latah and Lincoln counties have abundant stores of them.

    If jasper tickles your fancy, you need go no further than Scout Mountain or the Mink Creek area. Owyhee County is famous for fields that yield red, yellow, green and mossy jasper of the highest quality. The most famous jasper in Idaho is Bruneau jasper, which is found near Bruneau in Owyhee.

    If you’re into rubies or pink garnets, take a trip to Adams County, which has also given up some diamonds, as well as sapphires and corundum crystals. Corundum, second only to diamonds in hardness, occurs in a variety of colors.

    Amethyst? Try Blaine County.

    In Shoshone and Lemhi counties, copper, silver, lead and zinc minerals are abundant.

    Washington county abounds with agates of many colors.

    Christensen said the local group has about 40 members and many of them, including himself, are enamored with gems.

    “They’re amazing is what they are,” he said. “Every one is different. No two are the same, kind of like people. There are different things about different stones that are interesting.”

    The local gem and mineral group next meets May 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Quail Ridge Assisted Living Center, 797 Hospital Way.

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