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Gem Mavericks

Lyle Sopel -

Dear Collector Friend,

As I prepare for my yearly gemstone-buying trip to Arizona, people often ask me, “What on earth is there in Arizona?” My reply, accompanied by a smile, is to explain that the intrigue of this place doesn’t lie so much in what is there, but in who is there.

This is a welcoming place to return to year after year, and what keeps it interesting is that there always seems to be a certain surprise, delightful or otherwise, in the characters that cross my path. This year, my lust for finding the perfect cut of lapis lazuli brought me to one of the highlights of the trip.

Finding a lapis dealer who was new on the scene and trying to acquire new clients, I embarked on a long chat with him, convincing him that he should be willing to give me his best price. Discovering that he was from Afghanistan, I was fascinated to learn that he worked with his 3 brothers in the gem business. With 1 brother living in India, 1 in Hong Kong, and 1 in Sweden, this fellow had some truly intriguing insights and stories. Our meeting reaffirmed that which draws me to the south year after year: the international crossroads ambiance of the mountain belted cities where I procure so many of my gemstones.

Lyle with Quartz

While often time-consuming, the process of developing relationships with purveyors builds a web of mutual interest, respect, and appreciation that reaches forward into future years. Due to the complex and dynamic personalities that miners and purveyors of fine gemstones often express, just one purchase transaction alone can often take a number of hours. While obtaining the best price is certainly a driving factor in every interaction, the meeting of minds is what brings each one to life, sending me home with vivid stories and infusing each stone with multiple layers of interest.

Gemstone purveyors are people who do what they do because they love it. Of course they may come across some rare minerals and get rich as a sideline perk, but this is not what initially draws them to such a rugged and unpredictable industry. They are there for the very same reason that I am involved with gems: a captivation by the endless variation offered within each gemstone. Just when we think we’ve seen it all, phenomenal surprises leap out along the way.

The realm of gemstone acquisition is not a place for the timid. It takes a certain amount of moxy to invest financial resources into a mine that offers promise based on a few scientific facts, or sometimes merely a hunch. These committed individuals devote many of their days and years to the endeavour of discovering the most perfect and sought-after minerals the planet has to offer.

500 g's Termalien

This kind of steadfastness and dedication are instantly recognizable to me. These are the same qualities that I muster up each time I put my studio gear on. It is this devotion to the potential beauty of a stone that drives us. Whether motivated by the wonder that exists beyond the ordinary surface of a stone or the possibilities of transforming a rough gem into a magnificent work of art, we are pulled by the undeniable magnetism that arises from these exquisite gifts of the earth.


Art, Nature, and Beauty Always,


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