The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society won the John Dalley Memorial Award for the society’s display case at the gems, minerals, and jewelry exhibit at the San Diego County Fair.
“We feel very privileged, very honored to have got the award,” said Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society president Gail Kerry.
The case was titled “California Dreamin'”. “Basically it told the story of three of the main big stories about gems and minerals in California,” said Michael Evans, the assistant curator of the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society and the designer of the exhibit.
Those three stories were the gold rush of the mid-19th century, the state gemstone (benitoite), and the local crystals. “The idea was to educate the public about what we’ve got in the state,” Evans said of the minerals and the heritage portrayed in the exhibit.
The exhibit also won the Anne Schafer Award for best showmanship; that award was given to Evans. “I guess they thought I did a good job,” Evans said. “She wanted to make sure it was given under my name.”
“We’ve received educational awards in the past, but I don’t believe we’ve ever received these two,” Kerry said. “That was very incredible.”
A stibiotantalite stone in the case received the Cal Neva Mineral Company award for best mineral. A tourmaline crystal in the exhibit won the Jan Wittenberg Award for the best worldwide pegmatite mineral.
“We’re just very honored that we were able to receive so many awards this year,” Kerry said.
The case had approximately 30 items. All of the minerals were from San Diego County other than gold from Placer County and the benitoite from San Benito County.
The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society was founded in 1957. Individual members have won the John Dalley Award, but the society itself has no record of having previously received that honor. “As far as I’m aware it is the first time we’ve won it,” Evans said.
“I feel like it’s an award that the people of the Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society would be very proud that we won it,” Evans said. “We had really fine examples to show, so we’re just really pleased that all the people who run the fair were that excited about it.”
Dalley was a professional educator as well as a gem and mineral collector. Schafer, who has been the exhibit assistant coordinator for the past 14 years, provided Evans with information about who Dalley was. “What she had to say about him made me feel even prouder that we won the trophy named after him,” Evans said.
“That’s our goal. Our whole mission in life is to be educational,” Kerry said. “So for us as a club it’s quite an honor.”
The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society does not charge admission to its museum on West Alvarado Street. “Everything we do to make money is to pay for our building so we can have our free museum and be able to share,” Kerry said.
Some of the museum’s funding is from grants, membership dues, and donations. The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society also has a booth at the fair’s gem and mineral exhibit which allows the society to sell jewelry and gemstones. “The booth is the way we’re able to pay for our building,” Kerry said. “There is no paid staff; everybody is a volunteer.”
That includes Evans, who determined the specimens to be used in the exhibit, designed the case, and arranged the items after bringing the case and the individual minerals to the fair. That work led to the Anne Schafer Award being given in Evans’ name. “I’m glad they gave it directly to him,” Kerry said.
“I was really pleased to get that,” Evans said.
Evans had sought the best showmanship award in the past but had never previously received it.
“I think everything fell into place,” Evans said.
“That was very special,” Kerry said. “I know how remarkable it is, and the club is very honored.”
An earlier version was shown in February at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, which is the world’s largest gem and mineral exhibit. Evans changed some items between Tucson and Del Mar and added a narrative. “It was a new version but it was still on the same theme,” he said.
“The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society was just extremely pleased that the exhibit we put in was that well accepted,” Evans said.
“Mike, he’s helped us with these cases for many years and we just were very fortunate to have a wonderful selection of minerals,” Kerry said.
The stibiotantalite specimen was obtained from the Himalaya Mine in Mesa Grande, which has been an active mine since the late 19th century.
“It’s rare. It’s unique. We’re very proud to have it in our museum,” Evans said.
Stibiotantalite tends to be recognized more by collectors and other mineral experts than by the general public. “I put it in the display in the hopes that people who really know minerals would appreciate it,” Evans said. “The one we had in the case is one of the nicest ones known.”
The Cal Neva award judges concurred about the quality of the stibiotantalite specimen. “I’m really proud of having been given that,” Evans said. “There were a lot of great things on display that otherwise could have been picked.”
“We’re pretty proud of it. We feel we have some of the best in the world and obviously we’ve been proven right. We’re proud to show them,” Kerry said.
“Our goal is to have the best minerals from San Diego County and we’ve worked very hard to make that happen,” Kerry said. “We’re proud to be able to share them with the world.”
The pegmatite crystal which won the Jan Wittenberg Award was extracted from the Cryogenie Mine in Warner Springs. “It could have been from anywhere. It just happened to be from San Diego County, which made it extra sweet,” Evans said.
The crystal was mostly pink with green ends.
“What it represents is there’s still untapped crystals and gems in the county,” Evans said.
The Fallbrook Gem and Mineral Society obtained the pegmatite approximately 10 years ago. Dr. Peter Bancroft provided much of the funding for the stone with proceeds from the museum accounting for the rest of the purchase cost.
“That was very special. We’re pretty proud of it,” Kerry said of the Jan Wittenberg Award.