Kingsport Times-News: Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show helps fund scholarships
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Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show helps fund scholarships

Greg Peters • Nov 9, 2017 at 10:58 AM

You couldn't see it, but from a short phone conversation with Robert Morgan you can tell there is definitely a smile on the other end of the phone line when he talks about rocks and other types of minerals.

A rock and gem hobbyist, educator and dealer, Morgan will be one of 12 dealers on hand for the Fifth Annual Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show, Nov. 10-12, at the Appalachian Fairgrounds in Gray, Tennessee.

"I started collecting when I was 8 or 9 years old," said Morgan. "I would go out into the driveway almost every day and pick up rocks to study, never noticing that most of those had been put back by my mother."

Morgan is one of the driving forces behind the Kingsport Gems and Minerals Society which sponsors the annual event. Currently, he serves as treasurer but has spent time in each of the board positions from secretary to president.

The Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show serves as the main fundraiser for the club's scholarship fund. The club started years ago as one of Eastman Chemical Company's employee programs. Though it has since broken away from Eastman, the club still meets monthly at the Eastman Recreation Center.

"We currently are funding two scholarships with students at King College and East Tennessee State University," Morgan explained. "We have also started a kids program that takes place during Fun Fest at Bays Mountain Park. It has drawn a lot of interest and been well-received."

The three-day event will include different mineral specimens, wire wrapping and an array of lapidary arts. Also on hand will be ETSU professor Dr. Mick Whitelaw who will be doing fossil casting. Using dental plaster, attendees will be able to make casts of fossils, paint them and take them home.

And if you think you might have found a gem that could be valuable, there will also be several dealers, as well as a geologist from Knoxville, that can grade or tell you its value. You never know what might be buried in your backyard. A few years ago, just outside Charlotte, North Carolina, two diggers unearthed a 310-carat emerald.

"There really is no popular or 'in' stone that people are looking for but recently at the National Gem Show the hot topic was grape chalcedony - a new type of agate that looks like a bunch of grapes," Morgan said.

And, if you're unfamiliar with the term lapidary artist, a quick Google search will tell you that they form stones, minerals and gems into decorative items. One of those artists who'll be present at the show is Morgan's wife, Rowan, who serves on the faculty of the William Holland School of Lapidary Arts in Young Harris, Georgia. Robert will tell you they went rock hunting on their first date.

While membership in the Kingsport Gems & Mineral Society has waned in the past few years, the club is always welcoming new members.

"We are always trying to build our membership and welcome members of any age," said Morgan. "We meet monthly at the Recreation Center and have a special teaching program or speaker tailored toward geology."

The Gem, Mineral and Jewelry Show will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Nov. 10-11, and from noon to 5 p.m., Nov. 12, in Building No. 1 at the Appalachian Fairgrounds.

Admission is $3 for adults and $1 for students with children 6 and under admitted free. Proceeds from the event help fund the Kingsport Gems and Minerals Society scholarship fund. For more information on the event or the Kingsport Gems and Minerals Society, contact Robert Morgan at 423-956-9486 or e-mail at [email protected] Or like them on Facebook.

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