From The Bristol Press – Oct 16, 2016 by Erica Schmitt
BRISTOL — Rock hounds, gem enthusiasts, students and space buffs flocked to the Beals Community Center this weekend to share in a common passion.
The Bristol Gem & Mineral Club’s 44th annual Gem and Mineral Show saw a record turnout Saturday and Sunday, according to local club members. Dealers and visitors were welcomed from several different states.
“We’re anticipating breaking our record of attendance,” Mike Zagielski said Sunday afternoon. “We’ve had a banner turnout.”
Over 1,000 people made their way through the facility Saturday alone, where dealers sold and traded rock, gem and mineral specimens of all varieties and values. With such a large crowd, several dealers reported incidences of theft.
A family from New York said they were robbed of a $4,000 four-kilogram meteorite around 10:15 a.m. Saturday.
“We’re trying to get the word out about it,” said Melli Rose, helping out at her father’s booth, where the sample was taken. “We’re hoping anybody with information will report it to Bristol Police.”
Despite the theft, Rose said she and her family always enjoy coming to Bristol’s show.
“We love the club. We love the show and we appreciate the camaraderie between dealers.”
Middletown residents Alyssa Matterazzo and Michael Robertson came seeking out specific minerals Sunday. Among them were sodalite and sugalite.
“We’ve been trying to make jewelry,” Matterazzo explained. “There are some awesome things here.”
For the first time, geology students from Central Connecticut State University had a booth.
Student Sara Poppa, 20, showed visitors how to use a microscope hooked up to a computer. As she moved the instrument closer to a specimen, it came alive on the screen in a kaleidoscope of colors.
An earth science major with a focus on geology and a minor in astronomy, Poppa plans to pursue a master’s degree after graduating.
“It’s a lot of fun,” she said of the show. “There are a lot of beautiful samples here I wish I had the money to buy.”
Bristol’s group is one of the largest gem and mineral clubs in New England, with over 300 members. They meet on the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of the community center. There, they share recently-found specimens, plan activities and hear lectures on rock hunting.
In addition to these regular meetings, groups make trips to the club’s land claim in Fonda, New York, to mine for Herkimer diamonds. They also operate a lapidary center in Bristol’s Barnes Nature Center, where members are free to use saws, grinders and drills to hone their cultivations and those the club has available.
Membership ranges from hobbyists to businesspeople who make a living selling minerals. Board member Dan Record noted that each person has their own specialty or niche.
“His is meteorites,” chimed in member Bob Schuster, who pointed out that Record has worked closely with NASA and some of the top experts in the field.
The annual show is an opportunity for him and fellow members to network with dealers. It also allows them to educate others, shining a light into the world of minerals and gems.
“This is our bloodline,” Record said. “Our heart.”