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Beacon Senior News

Gem and Mineral Club devoted to Earth’s treasures

Sep 03, 2019 11:54AM ● By Debra Dobbins

The Grand Junction Gem and Mineral Club is one of the oldest clubs in the Grand Valley. It’s existence dates back to the Great Depression and, in the case of some locals, it’s a club that spans family generations.

Grand Valley grounded

Why create a gem and mineral club in Grand Junction? Actually, the Grand Valley town proved to be a central location for the club.

“One could go west to find bone and agate, north for fossils, east to the marble quarry or south for minerals,” wrote Virdie Savage in her memoirs of the club. “With all this so near, it was the ideal place to organize a rock club—the Grand Junction Mineralogical Society.”

Grand Junction Mineralogical Society formed in the 1930s, but World War II put a damper on its activities when many of its members signed up for the military. Attendance was so small that the club disbanded until the end of the war.

In 1947, the club launched its first gem and mineral show in Grand Junction, a tradition that has lasted for 72 years. In 1958, members voted to change the club’s name to The Grand Junction Gem and Mineral Club.

A decade later, club members bought a plot of land on Monument Road where they could have their own building for club activities. The building remains the club’s current headquarters and is one of only a few clubs that has its own shop and clubhouse.

Club members hope to expand the building and make part of it a museum that would be open to the public. Jim Schultz, the club’s current president, said the museum would contain fossils that have been found in this state but have not yet been displayed here.

Keeping it in the family

For Pam Bersch, membership in the club is a family affair, one that dates back to the 1940s when her grandfather, Warren C. Bush, became one of the club’s first presidents.

Bersch’s father eventually became president in 1950 and her uncle was a founding member. Bersch joked that maybe, nearly 70 years later, it’s time to carry on the family tradition and become president.

Her participation with the nonprofit club increased when she married Mel Bersch, an avid rock hound who has collected thousands of specimens over the years. One of his biggest finds was a 50-million-year-old fossilized alligator gar from the Green River Formation in Kemmerer, Wyoming, and is now on display at Eureka! McConnell Science Museum in Grand Junction.

Get involved

Today, the club sponsors field trips throughout the year, giving members a chance to become better acquainted with the geology of the area and learn how, what and where to collect.

Additionally, it offers classes focusing on the study, collection, display and interest in gems, minerals, fossils and other earth science subjects. These hands-on classes are open to club members as well as the general public. Class topics include chain making, faceting, filigree, lapidary, mineral identification, paleontology, silversmithing and wire wrapping.

A ground-breaking show

This year’s Gem and Mineral show will be held on September 21 and 22 at the Mesa County Fairgrounds. Entry fee is $5 for adults and $4 for seniors and military personnel. Kids 12 and under get in free.

Members make a special effort every year to make the annual gem and mineral show more appealing to the general public to attract more quality rock dealers. At the show, one can find gem and mineral specimens, jewelry, fossils, hobby crafts and lapidary equipment. There are items available from all over the world and for people of all ages.

The club meets at 6:30 p.m. one to two times a month at 2328 Monument Road. For more information, visit www.grandjunctionrockclub.org/new-website.