Honoring Mr. Jones
Our Senior Editor Gets What He Deserves
by Dorothy Stripp

Rock & Gem's own senior editor, Bob Jones, is a humble, unassuming guy--very kind and easygoing, even when he's giving talks or narrating videos. I don't know a soul who doesn't think so. He is quick to make sure others get credit when they should, and doesn't have a self-important bone in his body. So, when it was announced that the 1998 Carnegie Mineralogical Award winner was none other than Bob Jones, somebody had to blow his horn for R&G readers. He never would.

This prestigious honor is given for "outstanding contributions in mineralogical conservation and education that match ideals advanced in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems." Thanks to the generosity of the Hillman Foundation Inc., the award consists of a bronze medallion, a certificate of recognition and a $2,500 cash prize.

He is a prolific writer on the subjects of mineralogy and crystallography (often from the standpoint of his countless personal experiences and other times from a historical perspective); an avid and expert photographer; a collector par excellence; a video scriptwriter, producer and narrator; and a terrific, extremely popular speaker, whose affable, tongue-in-cheek style makes his audiences laugh while they are learning. His casual manner and humorous anecdotes are legendary, and serve not only to amuse those in attendance but to cleverly offer them easy memory joggers to help them remember afterwards the information they learned. Undoubtedly, this clever technique was honed during his many years as an effective schoolteacher.

In addition to his always-whimsical "On The Rocks" column in every issue of Rock & Gem, he never fails to contribute numerous scholarly, fascinating, yet humorous articles in a style that is, at the same time, knowledgeable and self-effacing. But that's Bob.

Above - Bob on a rockhound's dream visit to Colombian emerald digs in 1994. Grinning from ear to dirty ear, Bob climbs out of the the El Returno mine, Muzo, Colombia.

At right, Bob chats with a fellow rockhound during Wildacres 1998.

I first saw him in the early 1970s, at the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical and Lapidary societies' convention in Massachusetts. He impressed me right away. (I now realize what a good judge of people I am!)

On that same trip I had occasion to visit the Harvard Mineralogical Museum. And whom should I find there, busily photographing specimens, but Bob Jones. Since I knew he was the author of an impressive book entitled Nature's Hidden Rainbows (of Franklin, New Jersey), I wanted to take his picture, and was very pleased that he had no objection. While I already knew he was "somebody," little did I realize the distinguished stature this now world-renowned personage would achieve in years to come.

My next encounter with Bob was in 1978, at the annual show held by the New Jersey Earth Science Association. As a featured speaker at that event, Bob regaled one and all with tales of "Crystallized Gold from Breckenridge, Colorado." As the years passed, and his speaking engagements became more and more frequent, he became one of the most popular speakers in the entire international mineralogical community, let alone in the United States.

Above - Bob with Brian Lees in 1993 at the Sweet Home mine, Alma Colorado, and during a later interview at the mine office.

He earned his Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in education at New Haven Teachers College in his home state of Connecticut. His postgraduate work was done at Columbia, Yale, Danbury State, Arizona State and Brigham Young University. No wonder his knowledge and interests are so eclectic! And guess what the subject of his Master's thesis was: "The Luminescent Minerals of Connecticut." Bob Jones was finding his niche.

After serving his country in the Air Force, in the same unit that, before his enlistment, had dropped the atomic bombs on Japan, he considered himself fortunate to be present during the Bikini Atoll A-bomb test.

After his otherwise rather uneventful military service came to a close, he furthered his college education only briefly. Then, in the gutsy, lust-for-life style that has come to define Bob's personality, he tried his hand at being a mailman, steel rigger, fireman and auto mechanic. Just to keep things interesting, he even raced motorcycles in his spare time.

After marrying in 1953, he taught school in his home state for three years. Once the Joneses had moved to Arizona in '59, he worked as a classroom teacher for another 29 years--most of it in eighth-grade science. He "retired"--if you can call it that--in 1988, but not before being named Teacher of the Year in 1978 and 1980, as well as being elected Educator of the Year by Phi Delta Kappa in Scottsdale in 1984. Oh, those people skills!

It should come as no surprise that such a bundle of energy and enthusiasm also taught adult-education classes and was a trainer for the Substance Abuse Program at the Center for Educational Development in San Antonio, as well as a trainer in Reality Therapy for the Scottsdale school system.

Above left - Bob working some chrysoprase obtained during his 1993 visit to an Australian chrysoprase mine. Center - Photographing at the chrysoprase mine. Right - Bob socializing with some miners in a pub in Kookynie, Australia.

At right, Bob with Casey Jones at the Flambeau mine, Ladysmith, Wisconsin.

One day he wrote a letter to the editor of Rocks & Minerals, asking why the magazine didn't have a column on fluorescent minerals (his special passion). The reply was ". . . because you haven't written it yet." So he did, for an amazing 12 years! Luckily for our hobby, his body of work now includes, in addition to books, over 600 freelance articles--many of which have appeared in Arizona Highways, Lapidary Journal, Rocks & Minerals, The Mineralogical Record and, of course, Rock & Gem.

Having discussed his career with me many times now that we have become very good friends, he once told me something that would have sounded surprising coming from anyone else. He said that one of his most satisfying accomplishments was not any of the special things he had written, himself, but, rather, having had the opportunity to act as associate editor of the book, The F. John Barlow Mineral Collection, a 400-page tome with over 400 color plates of various specimens in one of America's fine private gem and mineral collections. He feels strongly that this same type of venture would give a historical perspective on other superb collections of this type.

Bob is past president of the Mineralogical Society of Arizona and the Scottsdale Education Association, as well as past chairman of the Joint Scottsdale Teacher/Board Negotiations Team.

He is an honorary member of the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society, the Scottsdale Gem and Mineral Society and the New Haven Mineral Society, in addition to being a member for life of the Mineralogical Society of Arizona, the Maricopa Lapidary Society and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. In addition, he belongs to Friends of Mineralogy and the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society. Bob is also a retired research associate and trustee of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. To top it all off, he was elected to the Rockhound Hall of Fame in 1991.

Also during his so-called retirement, he acted as a scriptwriter and technical adviser for the Creative Vision/Smithsonian sponsors of a six-hour TV series called Nature's Originals. And his one-hour video, Gemstones of America, was broadcast on the United Kingdom's BBC network in 1991, receiving the Silver Telly Award--the highest honor in its industry category. The same video was also voted Educational Award of the Year in 1991 by the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies--making it the first commercial work ever to be honored in this category.

He has also worked on many other videos, including Treasures of Tucson, and was both scriptwriter and on-camera host of Collecting Earth's Natural Treasures, a one-hour video introducing newcomers to the world of rockhounding. One of the most outstanding of his videos that I have seen is the 45-minute Gems of Russia, for which he was co-writer (together with a Russian mineralogist) and narrator, both on and off the screen. His complete list of accomplishments and awards would literally fill this magazine, so let's move on.

Above left - Bob braces against the bitter March cold in Moscow during a 1996 visit while in Russia working on a world-class video about Russia's gems. Right - Bob with Benny and Elva Finn and a miner at the Red Garnet mine in December, 1998.

Writing has taken him to almost every continent at one time or another. And no one travels around the world without getting into some pretty dicey situations, which he also enjoys sharing with everyone who reads his prodigious volume of writings, sees his videos or hears him speak.

During his jam-packed life, Bob has taken coronary bypass surgery in stride and, unfortunately, lost his wife to a long, lingering illness. But he takes very great pride in his three children. (Whenever did he find the time to have a family, I wonder.) Son Evan is now both a mineral dealer and a jazz guitarist; son Bill is an assayer and will be at the Tucson show, promoting his new mine tour and watching Dad accept the Carnegie Mineralogical Award, which is always presented there. At press time it was hoped that daughter Sue and granddaughter Kiera would also be able to witness the presentation.

I was planning to end this tribute with a few of my favorites of Bob's stories of his many mineral-collecting misadventures, all of which he never tires of sharing. But apparently, they are his favorites, too, because I learned in the nick of time that he had stolen my thunder by mentioning those same anecdotes himself, in some detail, in his "On The Rocks" column in this same issue. . . . Which just goes to emphasize what a truly nice guy Bob is. He never takes things too seriously, even when someone sets fire to his butt, and he is always just as ready to laugh at himself as we are to enjoy the special brand of humor that he weaves so well into his books, articles, talks and videos.

Hats off to Bob Jones, without whom Rock & Gem would not be nearly as much fun to read. Congratulations, Bob. It couldn't have happened to a nicer, more deserving fellow.

Past History of the Carnegie Mineralogical Award

The recipients of this prestigious award consist of mineral enthusiasts and collectors, mineral clubs and societies, universities and publications. Send nominations to Marc L. Wilson, Section of Minerals, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, 440 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15213-4080, tel (412) 622-3391, fax (412) 622-8837. The deadline for submitting nominations is always Dec. 31 of the year before the honor is awarded.

Saturday evening of the TGMS show is a time of congratulations to competitive award-winners. There are many highlights of the evening, but the Carnegie Award presentation tops all the rest. To be acknowledged by one's peers has to be one of life's greatest satisfactions. The message rings out loud and clear that all those efforts have really been appreciated.

Winners in Past Years

  • 1987 Tucson Gem & Mineral Society
  • 1988 John Sinkankas
  • 1989 Frederick H. Pough
  • 1990 The late Paul E. Desautels
  • 1991 The late Miguel Romero Sanchez
  • 1992 Carl A. Francis
  • 1993 Cornelius Hurlbut, Jr.
  • 1994 The Mineralogical Record
  • 1995 Marie Huizing
  • 1996 Cornelius Klein
  • 1997 Bryan Lees
  • 1998 Robert W. Jones

As the premier mineral show in the United States--and, very likely, the world--the TGMS show deserved recognition for all its efforts. And to whom does everyone turn for the answer to a tricky mineralogical question? Notable authorities and renowned authors Dr. John Sinkankas and Dr. Frederick Pough come immediately to mind. Many of us own various books by Dr. Sinkankas, and the famous Sinkankas library, now in its permanent home at the Gemological Institute of America, can furnish valuable and trustworthy information. And have you ever met a collector worth his or her salt who does not tote around Pough's A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals?

The charisma and beaming smile of the late Paul Desautels, former curator of gems and minerals of the National Museum of Natural History (in the Smithsonian Institution) can never be forgotten. And neither will the quiet charm and dignity of the late Dr. Miguel Romero Sanchez--no doubt, the finest representative of Mexico that his country could ever have wished to represent it, albeit unofficially. Through the years before his passing, Dr. Sanchez had acquired the most complete collection of Mexican minerals ever assembled. This collection now reposes at the University of Arizona. With the theme of the 1999 TGMS show being the minerals of Mexico, we shall again have the pleasure of enjoying them . . . and our memories of Miguel, as well.

Harvard's Dr. Carl A. Francis, mineralogist and curator, and Dr. Cornelius Hurlbut, Jr., noted academician, teacher and author (Minerals and Man being one fine example) have preserved priceless information for posterity. And as the designated speaker at the 100th-anniversary celebration of the New York Mineralogical Society, Dr. Hurlbut held his audience spellbound.

The Mineralogical Record furnishes us with current information and a historical perspective on mining, collecting and the instrumentation that has affected mineralogical and mining research over the centuries. It is one of the world's foremost specimen mineralogical magazines, and has given us the added joy in recent years of reprinting the efforts of many noted past authorities.

No one could resist the charm and affability of Marie Huizing, managing editor of Rocks & Minerals magazine. Through that venue we are kept apprised of what has been, and is, going on in the mining and collecting communities.

Dr. Cornelius Klein is the noted academic mineralogist who co-authored, and later took on the monumental task of updating, Dana's original Manual of Mineralogy, creating the 19th edition, which is widely used as a college textbook today.

We should all be grateful to Bryan Lees, who brought new meaning to the world of mining because he mines for specimens, inventing new techniques and conducting research that fall within the guidelines of environmental preservation. We only have to hear the name "Bryan Lees" to have our mind's eye conjure up the image of glowing "rhodochrosite rose."


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Bob Keller