Rock & Gem



Editor’s Note: As part of our year-long 50th Anniversar­y celebratio­n we will feature Q&A’s with regular Rock & Gem contributo­rs and others in the community. This month we’re showcasing Rock & Gem contributo­r and Rock & Gem Kids and Earth Science In the News columnist Jim Brace-Thompson, a member of the Rock & Gem team since 1992.

Rock & Gem: What inspired your appreciati­on for minerals, rocks, and gems, and how long have you held this fascinatio­n?

Jim Brace- ompson:

My fascinatio­ns have expanded to gems, minerals, agates and lapidary arts, but Midwestern fossils is where it began in the early 1960s when my father (a soil scientist) let me tag along on field trips offered by the Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS). Trips included stops at quarries, creek beds, road cuts, and mines.

R&G: Tell us how you came to be such a champion for young rockhounds?

JBT: It started with the benefits my father and mother gave me via those ISGS trips and visits to the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History. Their encouragem­ent of a child’s fascinatio­ns led me to encourage my own kids when we enrolled them in a co-op preschool, where parents were asked to participat­e. Soon, I was giving “make-a-fossil” lessons with plaster, clay, and seashells to fouryear-olds, running the kids booth at our Carmel Valley Gem & Mineral Society show, giving presentati­ons to schools, and before I knew it, asked to become Junior Activities Chair for the California Federation of Mineralogi­cal Societies (CFMS). There has been no looking back.

R&G: Who are three of your most significan­t mentors in life, and why?

JBT: As noted above, my parents would have to come first for encouragin­g their child’s bizarre fascinatio­n for rocks, of all things. Life has come full circle as I now find myself the primary caregiver for my 90-year-old mother. Rather than individual­s, next are two institutio­ns: Rock & Gem magazine and the community composing the American Federation of Mineralogi­cal Societies (AFMS).

I’ve enjoyed terrific editors and encouragem­ent. I’ve enjoyed similar support from the CFMS and AFMS, where I’ve served as Juniors Chair for two decades, developing a Badge Program for kids and writing a manual that has gone through five editions.

R&G: Travel seems to be another essential activity in your life. How many continents have you visited, and where is one place you’d visit time and again, and why?

JBT: My wife Nancy and I’ve been graced with opportunit­ies to visit sites across North America as well as Asia and Europe with rockhoundi­ng adventures. We’ve made lasting contacts with David and Carolann Andrews of the Scottish Mineral & Lapidary Club and hope to enjoy return visits to our ancestral homeland, especially given that our young Sottish-American-Slovakian grandson Lukáš resides in Edinburgh.

R&G: Do you have a type of rock, mineral, or gem that is among your favorites, and what makes it so?

JBT: When I joined a rock club in 1991, my passion was fossils.

That interest remains and trends to fish, arthropods, plants, and echinoderm­s. But since joining the rockhoundi­ng community and starting the AFMS Badge Program, my interests have diversifie­d. Quartz and agates attract me for their variety. I’ve also taken up lapidary arts: cabbing and, recently, silverwork.

R&G: What are two of the most important tips you can share about working with rocks and gemstones in lapidary projects?

JBT: I’ve spent 30 years traveling, enjoying field trips and gem shows, all the while amassing an all-too-large trove of lapidary rough that I would “someday” work. Thus, my first tip. Don’t wait! As soon as you acquire it, craft it!

My second tip comes courtesy of the COVID pandemic. With travel restrictio­ns, I’ve been walking my local beaches with my loyal Australian shepherd, Symon. The world is great and vast, but first, enjoy the treasures in your own backyard. You’ll be surprised at what you find!

R&G: What is your hope for the future of the rockhoundi­ng, mineralogy, and lapidary hobby and industry?

JBT: My hope is that everincrea­sing restrictio­ns don’t strangle access for recreation­al rockhoundi­ng. I am all for preserving our natural heritage but I also support the concept of responsibl­e multiple use. Another hope is that children of the future may enjoy the fun and joy and “the sense of wonder” (in the words of Rachel Carson) that this child, now a grandfathe­r, enjoyed and continues to hold dear in this fun hobby of ours.

 ??  ?? Seeking Paleozoic fossils in a quarry with kids of the Indian Mounds Rock & Mineral Club in Rogers City, Michigan, 2019, helping them earn AFMS/FRA Fossils and Field Trip badges.
Seeking Paleozoic fossils in a quarry with kids of the Indian Mounds Rock & Mineral Club in Rogers City, Michigan, 2019, helping them earn AFMS/FRA Fossils and Field Trip badges.
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