From attending, volunteering for, and being members of gem and mineral clubs in New York, Texas, Pennsylvania, and attending camps, seminars and intra-club retreats with people from all over the United States, we consider ourselves gem, mineral, and fossil club aficionados. So whether you are considering joining a gem and mineral show for the first time that perhaps you found on an events page, or you are a veteran of gem and mineral clubs, this primer on clubs will prove to be a valuable resource on what to expect from a gem and mineral club and how to have more fun.
First, consider what you are seeking from a club. Is it the academics and education of gemology, geology, paleontology, or archaeology? Are you seeking rockhound partners and buddies? Are you seeking to use a work-shop for cabochon or lapidary arts? Are you seeking fellowship with a group that meets outside of their monthly meetings? These are questions to ask as you search for the club that is right for you.
The answer may be to join more than one club…
Each club does have a different style, and you can tell what that is from their homepage, or if they do not maintain a homepage, then ask someone from the club. Some clubs have access to facilities offering a complete workshop; saws to cut giant geodes in half, cabochon machines, polishing wheels, lapidary tools, faceting machines, and kilns to heat your wire-wrapping or jewelry projects are for member use! Some clubs maintain all that equipment in their own private clubhouse! Is a workshop something you seek to pursue and hone your hobby? If so, then find the club that offers that equipment.
Now the clubs like this may not always have a special monthly speaker, but the clubs who meet in a rental space, hotel banquet hall or college facility do very likely provide different speakers each month. The clubs in big cities, where a workshop or clubhouse would be impractical, or impossible to acquire and maintain rely on other facilities for monthly meetings and shows, so to keep membership growing, those kinds of clubs keep a lively roster of speakers on their calendars.
Is your goal to get out and rockhound? Do you seek to explore old abandoned mines? A question to ask a club is do they throw and organize field trips? You can often times find out the answer on their homepage. There is often a “field trip” section, much like this Rockhound page. If you can’t tell, then ask the club. Sometime being in a big city can make field trips a challenge. Most people in New York City or Chicago do not have cars for instance. A field trip would require permission and arrangement to visit a site, a bus or fleet of vans, and if it rains, the field trip is canceled. So big city clubs may not offer rockhounding field trips. The age range of the club can also set the tone for interest in rockhounding and field trips. For a club whose members’ days of getting out into the field are past, you may not find these opportunities.
So what is the best approach to becoming involved with gem, mineral, and fossil clubs? The answer is to join more than one. The dues are annual and range from $15 per year to about $50 per year on the very high side. You may live in New York but find the newsletter from a club in Texas is chock full of so many good tips about polishing gems and minerals, cleaning rocks from the field, and other anecdotes that you belong despite the geographical distance.
So join more than one club, to have access to a workshop when you need it, field trips in the spring and fall, the chance to hear academic and scholarly discussions in geology and paleontology, and make new friends during the whole gem and mineral club experience!