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VGMS Showcase at the Foster Library in Ventura

VGMS once again has set up a display in the E. P. Foster Library through May. The display is pictured below, and below that, members Jim & Nancy Brace-Thompson,  John Cook, Angela and Luther Brown, and Jean and Ron Wise who brought specimens from their own collections and set up the display.



VGMS 2015 Rockhound of the Year

The California and American Federations of Mineralogical Societies sponsor a “Rockhound of the Year” program whereby local societies may recognize and honor an individual or couple who have provided exemplary service over the course of the year. Such individuals are awarded a certificate and pin from CFMS, and their good works are publicized in both the CFMS and AFMS newsletters.

Blake Hahn was named VGMS Rockhound of the Year at the 2015 holiday dinner. Soon after joining the VGMS in 2014, he jumped right in and volunteered to help wherever needed, especially with maintenance and improvements to our clubhouse. He has installed shelving and lighting, repaired the front door and installed new locks, and helps in repairing and maintaining our rock saws. In 2015, he joined our ranks of Shop Stewards and has made himself available for a second workshop day each month, overseeing and assisting members using our equipment.

Anyone who has had any interaction with Blake knows he’s great to work with and to be around—always cordial, upbeat, and ready to lend a hand. He sets a model for us all to follow!

VGMS Presents to the Kids Club

At the Pacific View Mall, kids rushed forward to see fluorescent minerals glow in the dark during our "Amazing Mineral Magic Show."

At the Pacific View Mall, kids rushed forward to see fluorescent minerals
glow in the dark during our “Amazing Mineral Magic Show.”

Our educational outreach program goes beyond schools and scouts. In the fall of 2015, VGMS members Jim & Nancy Brace-Thompson, John & Diane Cook, Kathryn Davis, & David Mautz wowed kids at the Pacific View Mall with two different programs for the Kids Club, a group sponsored by National Geographic Kids which comes to the mall once a month for a presentation related to science. In September our team focused on rocks and minerals in general, and volcanic rocks in particular. In October, they presented “The Amazing Mineral Magic Show”, focusing on rocks and minerals with special effects, such as floating, fluorescence, magnetism, cat eye and star effects, and fiber optic effects. They distributed specimens of magnetite with small magnets, ulexite (TV stone), tiger eye and pumice to each child to keep and play with at home.

Educational Outreach

Members from the VGMS regularly visit local schools for demonstrations and hands-on activities. A half dozen of our members are kept busy visiting schools and hosting museum visits at our clubhouse.

The Ray Meisenheimer Memorial Museum, located in our clubhouse, is home to the Bruno & Opal Benson Fossil Collection and our hands-on educational exhibits. Several exhibits and collections are geared to match California earth science curriculum standards for elementary and high school students as well as to help Boy and Girl Scouts earn badges related to geology. To arrange a field trip visit with your classroom or scouts, call (805) 312-VGMS (8467) or contact us here.

Rock Box Swap Project


We have exchanged rocks with several clubs, including clubs as far away as Australia and Scotland. It’s a great way to get to know other clubs, as well as see what kind of rocks, minerals and fossils they have in their area. Materials will end up enriching our clubhouse museum cases, and duplicates  of the same material will be used in our Silent Auctions or Ways & Means Raffle to generate funds for the many education programs we provide to the community, and for our yearly scholarships.


What’s In It: Generally, 15-18 rocks, minerals and/or fossils (depending on what is available to you in your area), with tags identifying common and scientific names, and location item is from (preferably what’s available in your area), in a small compartment tray box (like what’s used for tackle or hardware; I found some inexpensive ones at Harbor Freight). The size I usually aim for is ‘walnut size’, as it fits in those compartments.  Flat rate boxes from the Postal Service work great for mailing and aren’t too expensive. We have very generous members who donate some really nice pieces to the project out of their own collections; there are no ugly/scrap ‘leaverites’ in these boxes!

Clubs that are interesting in participating should contact the editor for more details. See Contact page.

Results from CFMS/AFMS Show in June 9-11th, 2017; the editor is proud to announce that the  display featuring the Rock Box Swap Project won First Place for a Society Education Case!  The Editor would like to thank the following clubs for their participation: Huntsville Gem & Mineral Society (Alabama), Spring River Gem & Mineral Club (Arkansas), Geelong Gem & Mineral Club (Victoria, Australia), Scottish Mineral & Lapidary Club (Leith, Scotland), New York Mineralogical Club (New York), Maine Mineralogical and Geological Society, and the No. Mississippi Gem & Mineral Club. 

Learn and Practice Lapidary in Our Workshop

Pursue individual lapidary and jewelry-making projects under the supervision of our shop stewards. The workshop space is divided between two buildings. Our garage holds slab saws and trim saws for cutting rocks to size for lapidary work. And within the clubhouse, the kitchen and laundry rooms have been converted to hold grinding and polishing units to craft cabs. The shop also has a flat lap equipped with an array of magnetic diamond discs for finishing and polishing larger flat items. Members must be certified by a shop steward in order to use the equipment. A request for certification can be found in the Member Area of the website.

VGMS and the Ventura County Fair

Held about five months after our own VGMS Gem Show and midway between the Oxnard and Conejo shows, the Ventura County Fair provides another opportunity for our members to show off their gems, minerals and jewelry, but this time with the additional excitement of competition. The Fair runs for 12 days and sees about 300,000 visitors. Our own Diane Cook is the Superintendent of the Gem and Mineral and Hobbies, Models, and Collectibles building. She relies on her staff and many volunteers before, during, and after the fair to make this a fulfilling event for all. But it wouldn’t be anything without the exhibitors. This year 26 VGMS members entered 232 items and cases into competition, with dozens of additional items exhibited non-competitively.

Here is a list of awards VGMS members won in Gems and Minerals. First are the ribbons (blue=1st, red=2nd, white=3rd, pink=4th), followed by additional awards.

Raul Barazza: 1 white
Ron Beck: 1 pink, Director’s Choice plaque
Aileen Beckers: 1 blue, 1 white
Russ Beckers: 1 red, 2 pink
Frank Boulch:1 blue, 1 white, Superintendent’s Favorite, Judge’s Choice, and Fair Theme ribbons
Jim Brace-Thompson: 13 blue, 9 red, 4 white, 3 pink, Best Single Fossil plaque, Staff Favorite, Judge’s Choice (2)
Nancy Brace-Thompson: 2 blue, 1 white, Judge’s Choice, Staff Favorite, 3rd Place People’s Choice
Angela Brown: 2 blue, 5 red, 2 white, 3rd Place People’s Choice
Luther Brown: 1 blue, Staff Favorite
Sandra Butchko: 1 blue, Judge’s Choice, 1st Place People’s Choice
Diane Cook: Unable to compete, but she supplied many, many non-competitive exhibits. 2nd Place People’s Choice
John Cook: 2 blue, 4 red, 5 white, Best Lapidary Case plaque, 2nd Place People’s Choice
Greg Davis: 1 blue
Laura Driskell: 1 red, 1 white
Maria Flores: 1 blue, 1 white
Marie Haake: 4 blue, 5 red, 2 white, 6 pink
Mike Havstad: 2 blue, 1 white, Judge’s Choice
Shirley Layton: 1 pink
David Mautz: 4 blue, 6 red, 5 white, 5 pink
Jeff Miller: 1 white
Rich Slyker: 5 blue, 4 red, 2 white, 3 pink, Single Jewelry Item plaque, Jewelry Case plaque
Miriam Tetreault: 4 blue, 2 red
VGMS: 2 blue, Best Club Case plaque
Dick White: 1 blue
Phyllis White: 1 pink
Terry Wilson: 9 blue, 2 red, 2 pink
Jean Wise: 1 red, 2 white
Ron Wise: 7 blue, 3 red, 2 white, 4 pink, Judge’s Choice

In addition to Gems and Minerals, the following VGMS members entered and won ribbons elsewhere at the fair. They all won ribbons but I didn’t track them; only additional awards are indicated here. If you entered elsewhere at the fair and aren’t mentioned here, please let Diane Cook or Terry Wilson know so we can add you to the list!

Hobbies, Models, and Collectibles:
Raul Barazza: Staff Favorite ribbon
Frank Boulch
Jim Brace-Thompson: Judge’s Choice ribbon
Luther Brown: Staff Favorite ribbon
Aileen Beckers: Judge’s Choice ribbon
Russ Beckers
John Cook
Maria Flores

Home Arts:
Aileen Beckers
Diane Cook
Dick White
Terry Wilson: Nominee for Baked Goods Best of Show

It takes a lot of people to pull off a county fair. VGMS members filled these important roles:

Kat Austin
Jim Brace-Thompson
Nancy Brace-Thompson
Angela Brown
John Cook

Nancy Bogart
Sandra Butchko
John Cook
Wendy Holder
David Mautz
Dick White
Ron Wise

Setup, Intake and Judging:
Andy Anderson
Raul Barazza
Angela Brown
Greg & Valli Davis
Bob & Laura Driskell
Jeff Geist
Shirley Layton
Heidi Mauer
Susan Slyker

Floor Walkers:
Aileen & Russ Beckers
Stuart Bloom
Nancy Bogart
Luther Brown
Kathryn Davis
Maria Flores
Richard Slyker
Miriam Tetreault
Dick & Phyllis White
Terry Wilson
Jean & Ron Wise

Alexandra Nicklin Earns the 2015 VGMS Scholarship Award

Rob Sankovich, Scholarship Chair, looks on as VGMS President Diane Cook awards Alexandra Nicklin the 2015 VGMS Scholarship.

Rob Sankovich, Scholarship Chair, looks on as VGMS President Diane Cook awards Alexandra Nicklin the 2015 VGMS Scholarship.

The members of the VGMS Board are pleased to announce Alexandra Nicklin has been awarded the 2015 VGMS Scholarship consisting of a $500 grant, a Scholarship Certificate, and one-year honorary membership. The award was made during our pre-show dinner on Friday, March 6, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds just prior to our 53rd Annual Show. Alexandra attended accompanied by professors from Santa Barbara City College including Dr. Robert Gray and Eiko Kitao.

In her essay submitted as part of the scholarship application, Alexandra noted that upon completing her Associates Degree in Earth Sciences at SBCC, she hopes to go on to the University of California at Santa Barbara to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in geosciences. She says, “I believe geology is the basic foundation for understanding our planet, with endless things to learn, discover and share. I am especially interested in the nexus between geology and biology and their place in nature as a cohesive whole. I want to be able to use my knowledge of geology and natural sciences to educate and inspire others to see our incredible planet in a new light, thus helping to protect and preserve it for future generations.”

The VGMS Library Online

Our library collection contains over 600 books covering the full spectrum of the earth sciences, mineral and fossil collecting, lapidary arts, petrified wood, meteorites, gold prospecting and more. Many of those books focus specifically on California – its mining history, field trip localities, minerals and fossils. The Field Guide section contains field guides to almost all of the states. The collection also holds hundreds of issues of such magazines as Rock & Gem, Lapidary Journal and Gems & Minerals. Many of these contain articles with field trip directions and step-by-step instructions for lapidary projects. The library room has a large reading table so you can use our monthly workshop hours to sit and browse.

Our book catalog is now online: VGMS Book Library.

Learn About California Minerals and Fossils at our Museum

VGMS Museum Flyer

Ventura Gem & Mineral Society established the Ray Meisenheimer Memorial Museum, home to the Bruno & Opal Benson Fossil Collection and varied educationally oriented exhibits. Located in buildings at Camp Comfort (Ventura County Parks system) in Ojai and open by advance appointment only, the facility also houses our club workshop and library. Several of our exhibits and hands-on collections have been set up specifically to match California earth science curriculum standards for elementary and high school students as well as to help Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts earn merit badges related to geology. To arrange a field trip visit with your classroom or scouts, call (805) 312-VGMS (8467) or email the society via our Contact page. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, education is our business, and, given sufficient advance notice, we’ll be happy to assist you and your students.


Mural Room – Pleistocene Fossils & Minerals

Proboscideans Case 2023

Proboscideans (Mammoth, Mastodon, Gomphothere)

Lapidary Arts

Lapidary Arts