Review - Wild Acres

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Hi, Suzanna,

I'm not wild about the lackluster polishing results I'm getting,
and would like some help

What with the work, the hubby and the offspring, you need to get
away-- to Wildacres or William Holland Lapidary Arts School. If you
join the Eastern Federation of Minerological blah blah-- look at you can take a class for a
week, including room and board, for so little you can’t afford not
to go! It’s a lot of fun, very friendly folks, pretty good food,
very good (volunteer) teachers. I was at Wild acres during hurricane
Ivan. I hope to go back some time soon.

Here’s a review I wrote for the CMAG newsletter after I was there.


By Noel Yovovich

This past month, I had the opportunity to spend a week at Wild Acres
Retreat, in North Carolina, and I think it was an experience others
might want to be aware of.

The retreat is run by a foundation, and an assortment of groups are
granted periods of time to hold programs for their members. You can
learn all about it at The point, for my purposes,
is that several weeks a year are booked by various member groups of
the American Mineralogical Foundation (AMF). The classes during
these times (as opposed to, say, the week that is taken by the
Revere Academy) are subsidized by the foundation, and a class plus
food and lodging can cost as little as $260. Really!

I went to take beginning faceting with Tom Wilke. Tom is patient,
unrufflable, and extremely knowledgeable. I am now very excited
about this discipline, though I don’t currently have access to the
necessary equipment. I came home with two finished stones, but this
is a little misleading, as I cut each of them more than once.
Faceting requires care and attention to minute details, patience,
and the right machinery. At first blush, it would seem that there is
little room for creativity, and no real opportunity for profit. The
latter may well be true, but I have a bunch of ideas for
unconventional cuts I’d like to try out.

I love going out of town to take intensive workshops, and have been
to the Revere Academy and the New Approach school. But this was a
very different experience. I had heard it described as “summer camp
for grown-ups”. Never having gone to summer camp, I figured it was
about time. I joined one of the member groups of the Southeastern
Federation of Mineralogical Societies (SFMS), chosen pretty much at
random, at a cost of $15 for the year-- the classes are only open to
AMF members. I chose a class, and sent off my application the day
they began accepting them. As it turned out, there was room in most
of the classes offered, maybe because I went to the less popular
fall session.

Most attendees drive their own cars to Wild Acres, as it is pretty
far from any real airport. Charlotte and Knoxville are the closest
if you want a non-stop flight on a jet. I flew (which was cheap) and
rented a car (which was not). Still, considering the low cost of the
time there, it still came out quite economical.

Now, here’s where things depart from anything I had ever experienced
before. The motel-style rooms are double occupancy, so I was
assigned a roommate. A large, central bell is rung at 7:30 to get
you out of bed. Breakfast is at 8:00 (bell again). Meals, which were
fresh, wholesome (mostlynot counting the hot dogs and Tater Tots one
night) and well-prepared, served family-style plus a salad bad.
Unfortunately, the desserts were excellent. Any table I sat at was
as welcoming as if I had known the people there all my life.
Everyone was amazingly open and friendly. They are mostly retirees,
so I was among the younger people there, but no notice seemed to be
taken of that, or my Northern accent (remember, this was the
Southeastern Federation, and most attendees were from the Carolinas,
Tennessee and Florida), or the unusual fact that I am a professional
jeweler. I was taken by surprise when each meal was proceeded by a
blessing, but there was no direct mention of God, let alone any
particular religion, and the blessings were well written and

Mornings were intense work in the classroom, then a bell again for
lunch, repeat until dinner. There were optional activities in the
evenings. I would have preferred more work time, but there were
auctions of donated items, and an activity called “tailgating” in
which anyone could open their car trunk and offer goods for sale. On
our one free afternoon, a local member of my class took me rock
hunting, which was a highlight of the week. The area is full of
(mostly now defunct) gem mines, and we climbed around in a pile of
“tailings” (leftover rocks thrown out in the mining process)
cracking rocks open in search of garnet and apatite. The countryside
is gorgeous and wild, with houses scattered and isolated in the

I had the misfortune to be there during hurricane Ivan, so wind,
rain, fog, and a 14-hour power outage inconvenienced us. But my
class was well-taught and great fun. If I go back, I would try to
get a room to myself, if that is possible, as I find 24-hour-a-day
company a bit wearing. But I enjoyed it very much, and it was
definitely a change of scenery!

I’m told that William Holland School of Lapidary Arts, in Georgia,
has much the same arrangement, except that the accommodations are
more rustic, and classes more focussed. I’d like to try that next


Hi everyone:

The review below, from an earlier posting by Noel Yovovich, is a
very good overview of the Jewelry and Lapidary workshops held at
Wildacres Retreat in North Carolina by the gem and mineral club

I am the Equipment Coordinator for the Wildacres Retreat and would
be pleased to provide any detailed that readers may

I might mention that the parent federation is the American
Federation of Mineralogical Societies and their web site is The sites of the two federations sponsoring workshops
are linked at PLEASE NOTE NEW ADDRESS. Both
federations have descriptions of their workshop and the fees

While many of the students and instructors are amateurs, there are
also a number of professional jewelers and GIA and FGA Gemologists
who volunteer to teach. Since the instructors are all volunteers, the
overall fees of $310 - $320 include room and board and the classroom
instruction. Of course, there will be modest additional lab fees and
supply costs but these are published ahead of time.

Let me know if I can be of any help.

Fred Sias