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Rockhounding Greedheads

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Suggestions for Lapidary
Rockhounding went through it's hey day in the 70's and has been
gradually declining ever since. But it's not because "the best
collecting areas have been raped and depleted", it's because
public lands are being re-evaluated and area's are being closed due
to wilderness designation. 

I couldn’t disagree more strongly.

I do rockhound some of my material. While there is some land which
will be made National Monument here in Arizona directly, it will not
affect any areas in which I rockhound. Additionally, while there
have been some sites which are now protected as BLM land, etc, there
are arguably just as many sites which are now inaccessible because
they are buried underneath subdivisions.

I have, OTOH, witnessed what Ron Mills has spoken of on numerous
occasions- sites with plenty of beautiful material being descended
on and picked clean, generally by hobbyists, both individuals and
rock and gem clubs who descend on a site like a plague of locusts
and walk away with way more than they will ever cut in life. There
are also enterprising “small businessmen” who will go to a known
collecting site with a few day laborers and some 55 gallon drums and
clean it out.

The only comfort is the fact that Arizona is so rich in cuttable
material that the greedheads will never get it all. I have met a few
of the real “old timers” who know where much of the best rock is and
rarely share the knowledge. I used to think less of them for that,
but I have come to appreciate their wisdom- better that the rock
sits there, unmolested, so that there is something for their
grandkids to find…

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

Dear Jed,

I’m afraid that I will have to stick to what I said…that
collecting areas have been depleted and that there is much less
inducement to collecting. I base my observations and conclusions on
having been a collector and lapidary over the past sixty years. I
have collected over most of the western states and I have seen many
traditional prolific collecting areas get cleaned out of anything
even remotely resembling collectible material. True, many areas have
been declared off limits , but many others have been paved over with
urban sprawl. Rock collecting in California is similar to the demise
of our fishing industry. We are down to about ten percent of our
original fishery simply because we have fished it out. Then there is
also the fact that real estate has become so valuable that lands
that were formerly accessible to the public have been taken over by
large ranching , mining and farming interests. Sheer population
pressure accounts for much of this inaccessibility. Those of us who
derive incomes from lapidary production now rely mostly on the
residue of the collectors who preceded us. We go to rock shows and
buy slabs and rough that may have been collected seventy five years
ago ! When this residue is gone there will be no more…or, at
least, very little that compares with the best of the old material.

I live in an apartment that overlooks Morro Bay. My view of the Bay
is due to the fact that the lot across the street is undeveloped.
That lot is worth around two million dollars in today’s real estate
market. Local real estate affordability is based on having to pay at
least half a million dollars for a median priced home. The income
required to amortize that price hovers above one hundred thousand
dollars per annum. Twenty five years ago the lot across the street
might have sold for $4,000.! The moral of the story is that change
seems now to accrue exponentially…the past is gone and the
future is upon us and change will affect our lives at an ever
accelerating pace.

Ron Mills , Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca

Dear Lee,

Your comments are much appreciated and I especilly liked your last
paragraph in which you stated that many collecting sites are not
known to the general public. I long ago stopped giving out
about good collecting areas because once they become
common knowledge they are doomed to extinction. The rapists will
turn out like locusts and pick the bones clean. The will come with
trucks and skip loaders and cheap labor. Some of the stuff will be
sold to foreign cutters at dirt cheap prices.

One of the supreme ironies is that perhaps no other entity has
contributed more to the depredation of our gemstone resources than
the rockhounding media. Articles about collecting areas are nothing
more than hit lists for the rapists. I don’t blame them for their
contributions to resource depletion…after all, they are giving
people what they demand.

I remember the road signs in Brazil…“O homen esta a ultima
deprador !” ( Man is the ultimate destroyer )

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co.
Los Osos, Ca.

        no other entity has contributed more to the depredation of
our gemstone resources than the rockhounding media. Articles about
collecting areas are nothing more than hit lists for the rapists.
I don't blame them for their contributions to resource
depletion......after all, they are giving people what they demand.

Let’s see, you and many others here and in the industry, who have
been putting out jewelry to give “people what they demand” for
decades, as you buy from the rapists to fill your pockets. From
"small buisnessmen", filling pickups and bucketloaders to giant
corporations(de beers), Of course you don’t blame them or anyone
else for their “contributions to resource depletion” because your
contribution is just as great, you walk hand in hand with the
rapists, built a life and family on it, and continue, all the
while speaking as though you are on some other side of the coin, as
you directly condone it in your post, so what are you saying about
it anyway?? You would prefer if only you could get the local raped
stone?? dp


I wasn’t going to respond to your post about “Greedhead Rockhounds"
but as a “Rockhound” /Bench jeweler I feel obligated. I am not sure
if you are protesting “Rockhounds, Greed, Rockhounding Media or man
the ultimate destroyer.” As for Rockhounds I would feel safe in
saying most Rockhounds are members of gem and mineral clubs. These
clubs benefit many of “man the destroyers” community’s. Helping in
community events and raising money for charity. They promote
responsible collecting in all sites and have field trips to locals
where permission is given to collect. They promote Gem and Mineral
shows. Almost all the Gem and mineral shows were started by Gem and
Mineral clubs including Tucson. There is still a gem and mineral club
show hidden amongst the fevered selling in Tucson. I don’t know the
"Rockhounding media” you have read but I have Lapidary journals from
the 1960’s that promote responsible collecting. Rock and Gem if it
still exists also promoted responsible collecting. These magazines
promote the jewelry trade and are the reason for many jewelers
getting into the business. Now as for “man the destroyer” well that
is a touchy topic. I would blame the depletion of major gem stone
resources on poverty. In my opinion, poverty is the child of greed.
Greedy Leaders that come into power rape pillage and plunder their
countries resources. Subjugating their own citizens keeping them in
abject poverty forcing them into the bush or caves or mines making
barely enough to feed their families. While in South America you did
not happen to protest the mining conditions? I am sure while in
Brazil you happened to purchase Gemstones making you part and parcel
to the depletion of the Gemstone supply!

J Morley/ In unashamedly human Colorado


The question is not one of condeming all that went before us for
their acts. Nor is the question one of continuing down the same
pathways. The question is - How do we as human beings interact with
the rest of the living and non-living earth? For me the answer is to
use the resources of the Earth as we go, wisely. First we should act
to control the activities of the one thing we can control - That is
the results and consequences of human activity. Human control is
gained by politics or war. Gold, silver, platinum, and gemstones are
the valuaeable to all humans on Earth. Humans think indivually or in
small groups and tend to forget that we are all humans. All the
problems I see in humanity are rooted in our inability to put the
past aside in both our current actions and our institutions of
learning. Children are taught at home and in schools the age old
prejudices of one group of humans against another group of humans.
Greed whether for land, water, natural resources, of rocks is still
greed and it is a human trait that we all nned to train ourselves
away from. Rockhounds teach rockhounds. This is not the forum to
discuss how to save humanity. We can discuss how to save rocks.

I just spent most of the day “googling” Child Labor and Gemstones.
What I found was a worldwide story of greed. From the acquisition of
the rough to the final finished piece of jewelry, Children under the
age of 10 are used like slaves. I am talking about children being
removed from their families and used to mine, cut and make
jewelry. This is a story even reported of sweat shops in the USA
using children smuggled into the country to make jewelry.

Only by those of us on this forum acting independently and as a
group can we start to make changes. Start asking questions of your
suppliers of where the rough stones were mined and where they were
cut. There will be compromises to make. You do not want to shut
down all rockhounding, but at the same time you do not want any one
person or group cleaning out all the free material, neither do you
want to lock up the areas forever from any rockhounding. By the way
rockhounding in the USA has counterparts in Mexico, Brazil,
Australia, Madagascar, Africa, Canada, and any other place on Earth
that humans collect rocks without a legal mining permit. They are
rockhounds. Many of us are going to the Quartzite Show this year.
Already supliers from all over the world are bring piles of rocks to
our desert. Ask them if the rocks were obtained through legal mining
claims. Buyers of these rocks fuel the fire that makes the

For many years I have bought rocks directly from mine owners in the
USA. Most of these miners have gone out of business because of
government regulation. Greedheads will be on those old claims
harvesting all the material they can get. At Quartzite you may see
some of the material obtained by the Greedheads. Will you buy it?
Will you ask where they obtained the material?

If we do not police our own actions then the politicians, driven by
humans with interests different from ours, will make laws to police
it for us. Ask questiions.

Gerry Galarneau

Dear Wooden Soul,

I think you have your anologies jumbled. The issue of the resource
rapists is the one in which people abuse the public lands on which
amateur collecting is dependent. There is no realistic analolgy with
De Beers diamond mining. Amateur collecters could never effectively
utlize the sparse resources of a kimberlite pipe. Diamond mining is
a capital intensive mining effort which requires hundreds of
millions of dollars to realize. The basic issue here is that when a
free society enables people to do whatever they want with the
resources that rightfully belong to the nation ,very often it
results in devastation of the resource because there is no
restriction placed on utilization. It is kind of like placing a
limit of fishing or hunting…you don’t go to a lake and dynamite
it and you don’t use machineguns to stalk a deer.

Now if you want to get into a debate about whether our nineteenth
century mining laws are fair and in our best interests I would have
to agree that justice has not been served. There are giant
multinational corporations that are stealing our natural resources
and we are sitting blithely by looking the other way…could it be
that someone is lobbying congress to maintain the outdated status
quo ?

Ron MIlls, Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca