Category Archives: Other VGMS Activities and Programs


E.P. Foster Library Display

February-April 9, 2023: A New Display in the E.P. Foster Library Thank you to Dick and Phyllis White, Troy Schmidt, Robert Seaton, Celia and Valerie Churchill, and Nancy Brace-Thompson, who joined me on January 14th to install a new display at the E.P. Foster Library in downtown Ventura. The display highlights all aspects of our hobby and club, from mineral, gemstone, and fossil collecting to the lapidary and jewelry arts, field trips, our annual show, educational outreach and our scholarship program, our Pebble Pups program, and more.

2023FosterLibraryThe display should be in place for at least a couple more months. Check it out–then thank those who helped in providing wonderful material to share and spread our passion within our community!

-Jim Brace-Thompson

What Our Members Did During Lockdown

What have you been up to since the covid-19 restrictions shut down our activities? Send me text and photos!

Beauty from the Ashes

MariaBeadsBy Maria Flores & Raul Barraza

As most of you know we lost our home to the Thomas Fire Dragon a few years ago. A few days after the fire we went back and sifted thru the ashes. My wife who enjoyed making jewelry found these beads among the rubble, most melted in her hands or cracked, but the few that had survived were still warm, and as you can see a lot have burnt marks and cracks, the chemical composition was altered due to the high heat and discolored most of them.

She’s kept them in a taped box in her closet for the last few years, and to keep busy during these trying times she pulled the box out and between her tears made these beautiful works of art that you see.

Wire Wrapping

by Gary Leberknight
wirewrapThese pictures are of small stones and a crystal that I’ve made into pendants using wirewrap. They are typical of the things I’ve been making from stones that were used as filler for the tumbler. I’m mostly interested in tumbling flat items, but need a variety of other sizes to complete a load, which is needed to keep the process going. My plan is to offer these to the Pebble Pup program, as possible raffle prizes, etc.

Cabbing and Knapping

by Ron Wise
cabs2 cabs1knappingReturning home from Brenda, Arizona, I have been working on the yard a lot, trimming bushes and pulling weeds. My gardener must have fertilized the weeds. After the show, I started transplanting succulents and cactuses for our next show, if we have one.

While being stuck at home, I have been finishing up old projects that I had given up on and were gathering up dust. These items will be used in the next silent auction.

Also on the time-killing schedule, I have been polishing small rocks for Ways and Means or the Kids’ Booth. I think of them as 15-minute projects.

It’s hard to believe, but I have a few good slabs that need to be converted into cabs. Lately, I have been interested in sagenite and flame agates. I was trying to make up a case of double-sided cabs for the 2021 Fair.

I try to keep up my knapping skills by making a few arrowheads and knives. Bicycling takes a lot of time and takes me tired enough not to think about other small jobs I need to finish.

Resurrecting My Antique Flat Lap

by Jim Brace-Thompson

No longer a boat anchor, my vintage vibratory flat-lap sets to work!

No longer a boat anchor, my vintage vibratory flat-lap sets to work!

One of my flat-lapping results: a large Brazilian agate. (Dog provided for scale.)

One of my flat-lapping results: a large Brazilian agate. (Dog provided for scale.)

Years and years ago, old-time VGMS member Ray Mesienheimer sold me a boat anchor. Well, it wasn’t really a boat anchor, but it may as well have been! It was a “vintage” vibratory flat lap. Supposedly, you set your rocks with some grit and water in the 20-inch pan, then forget about it while the vibratory action produces a beautiful, smooth polish. Well. The first time I flicked the “on” switch, I heard a little “pop” accompanied by a puff of blue smoke. So, a boat anchor sat in my garage for years. Eventually, John Cook helped me get the motor fixed, but still it sat. Since home quarantine, I’ve decided: Enough sitting! Big rocks that have been decorating the edges of my backyard are now getting polished to go on the Touch Table at next year’s Show Kids’ Booth, and some may well end up on Silent Auction tables. That is, until the day when I again hear a little “pop” with another puff of blue smoke…

A Few Field Trip Spheres

By David Springer
Social distancing and stay at home orders are not a problem with a nicely outfitted garage, some spare time, and a stockpile of rocks representing many popular collecting areas that our club and other sister clubs routinely visit. Full disclaimer, some of these materials I did not self-collect, but rather identified them in fellow rockhound yards and confirmed their provenance before acquiring them and thereafter turning them into polished spheres.

Rose QuartzSphere 1: Greenhorn Mountain rose quartz – collected from this popular field trip location in CA. I procured a 30-lb chunk from fellow rockhound Rob Sankovich’s yard, and I thank him for making the backbreaking hike back from the collecting area to the vehicles. Finished diameter is at 6.0-inches, showing the characteristic white streaks that in some pieces yields an asterism or star pattern. In this piece, I just got the streaks, and some orange hematite staining, but also some nice rosy coloration. I prefer when I can to keep the sphere material as unadulterated as possible (i.e. limited stabilization only, no bleaching, etc.) allowing nature to speak for itself.

LepidoliteSphere 2: A massive chunk of Lepidolite with clear and smoky quartz and blue beryl (aquamarine). This material came from the Oceanview mine, in Pala, CA. Our club has headed down to this area regularly in late summer to sift through the dirt pile looking for tourmalines and such. Finished diameter is 4.2 inches. This one is fun one to hold and rotate to see the changes – the aquamarine was a surprise as I only saw it after making a few cuts into the rough.

LaceOnyxSphere 3: Silver lace onyx sourced from the Calico Mountains near Barstow, CA. This piece was fun to work with as it contains the classic onyx on matrix with some nice vugs; finished up at a nice 5.5-inch diameter. I am showing the obverse side as well to see the contrast between onyx and matrix. The Barstow field trip is typically scheduled in late spring before it gets too hot. Check with field trip leaders Chuck Borchard or myself to coordinate a potential trip Saturday AM 30 May 2020.

Making Jewelry!

by Nancy Brace-Thompson
sodaliteI made a sodalite and crystal necklace during lockdown! I’ve wanted to do some beading for quite awhile (since I keep buying beads and putting them in a drawer) and when the lockdown came around, even though I’m still working Monday through Friday, I had time on a weekend to put this necklace together. It was so much creative fun that I’m hoping to do it again and use some more of the beads that are sitting in my drawer.

Pebble Pups

We have an active Pebble Pup program for youth from 5 to 13, which meets on the 3rd Saturday of the month from 10 am to noon. Read more about it and see the calendar on the Pebble Pups page.

77th CFMS Show & Convention was Fun!

Several VGMS members trekked up to Placerville for this year’s CFMS show and we all had a great time. Look for an article by Jim Brace-Thompson in the October newsletter. Meanwhile, here are a few pics and notes from the trip – a good time was had by all!

Clockwise from left: Terry Wilson, Nancy Bird, Nancy Brace-Thompson, John Cook, and Susan & David Walblom.

Clockwise around the table from lower left: Terry Wilson, Nancy Bird, Nancy Brace-Thompson, John Cook, and Susan & David Walblom.

VGMS participated with 5 exhibits. Diane Cook got the first place trophy in Education (and a perfect score!) on her “Shades of Pink” case, and John Cook took a first place trophy for his “Stone Canyon” case. Terry Wilson took a first level on her jewelry case. Jim and Nancy Brace-Thompson exhibited non-competitively for their “Sea Star Fossils” and “Ocean Jasper” cases, respectively. In the publications arena, Diane got first place for her member handbook, Terry took fifth place (at 98 points – they use half-points!) for her article on her Nevada and Utah trip last year. She also got second place for our website.

We got to see the world gold panning championships, and on Sunday we tried it for ourselves:

John Cook panning for gold in the American River.

John Cook panning for gold in the American River.