Four Corners Gem Club Celebrates 75 Years
By Jama Crawford
A hidden gem in Brookside Park in Durango, the Four Corners Gem and Mineral Club celebrates its 70th birthday this year.
Back in 1947, the fledgling club was among thousands popping up after World War II. Americans headed into mountains, deserts, and streams in search of colorful stones. It was a fun and relaxing way to recover from years of war, but also an ancient and deeply human pursuit. Humans have traded and worn stones for over 100,000 years. Our fascination with shiny stones continues today, even though most hunting occurs in well-lit jewelry displays.
The nonprofit Club has seen a surge in membership, fueled in part by do-it-yourselfers and fashion trends that favor wearable art. The Internet and “buy local” movements also spawned a new generation of art entrepreneurs, a talented group the Club supports with business and vocational skills.
At a recent open shop, the Club rocks with activity. Members wield torches, rock saws, grinders and drills. Shop manager Jama Crawford observes the chaos with pleasure.
“This is a community of novice and advanced artists. We learn from each other.” She points out Millie, whose complex project features a cascade of irregularly-shaped pink stones. “Millie’s piece will be an heirloom for her daughter,” Crawford says. Next to Millie, a young man fashions a ring for his fiancé using a turquoise stone from his grandfather’s collection, while a woman bends over a torch to solder a tricky piece. A visitor walks in. He confesses he cannot help but collect rocks. Crawford steers him into the lapidary room, where members Randy and Shari slice into geodes found on a recent rockhounding trip.
The Club will celebrate its 70th year by offering more fieldtrips and classes, including programs for school groups with help from a City of Durango Arts & Culture Block Grant. It will also expand its signature event, the annual Gem Show to be held on July 7, 8 and 9 at the La Plata County Fairgrounds. The 2017 Show will be the largest ever, with over 60 dealers from across the U.S.
Over the rumble of saws, motors, hammers, and laughter, Crawford sums it up, “This is an exciting, creative space.”
To join the Club and find public hours and directions, visit the Club’s website at www.durangorocks.org.