It was partly cloudy today on Monday, January 24th, with a high of 72 degrees. I hadn't planned to begin my tours for several more days when the first of the annual shows officially opened, but it was just too nice a day to resist the call any longer.
So I dropped in for an early bird visit at V-Rock Shop, which is located at 933 North Main Avenue, between the shows at the Executive Inn and the InnSuites Hotels. Up until four years ago V-Rock Shop used to travel annually from North Canton, Ohio to attend the Show, but they have since expanded to Tucson with a permanent, year round wholesale facility. V-Rock shop is owned by Gerald Vukmanovich and their Tucson facility is managed and operated by his brother Dave, a fellow Old Pueblo Lapidary Club member. V-Rock Shop is wholesale only and not open to the public for retail traffic. While a dealer's resale license for a gem and mineral related business is required to buy here, their minimum purchase is very modest at $50.
V-Rock Shop imports large quantities of specimens and lapidaried items from Brazil, Peru, Madagascar, China, Mexico and other countries. Of course the Tucson Show is their busiest time of year at their facility here and they have topped off their inventory with 1000 barrels of material for the millennium Show. While they are buried in barrels now, Gerald Vukmanovich said they would easily sell something in the neighborhood of 75 percent of this material during the next 3 weeks. Of course, buying 1000 barrels and *unpacking* them are two different things... The crew here has been running hard for weeks opening barrels and filling up their warehouse and display tables and bins with many tons of rocks.
Above left is a view just inside the entrance to V-Rock Shop's yard outside their warehouse where numerous tables and shelves of material are on display. One area along their fence is set up with shelves loaded with A and B grade agate bookends, both natural and dyed. The As are differentiated from the Bs on the basis of size, condition, and general cool factor. These bookends wanted 75¢ to $1.25 per pound, depending on what you were buying and how much. The most favorable prices to be had here are by the barrel, of course!
Several of the tables were covered with large cut Brazilian pots (geodes). You can see from their general shape and size why these are called 'pots'. At right is a close up of the interior of one them. Pretty rock! These wanted $5 to $8 per pound, depending on quantity. The larger pots averaged about 10-15 pounds each. You could cherry pick some very nice pots for well under $100.
Well, click on the image to download and play a short (~117 KB) MPEG movie of this rock. Cool, huh? ;) It is a two-phase enhydro with an excellent bubble with an extended range of travel within the water filled chamber just beneath the polished surface. V-Rock Shop had an entire table covered with these enhydrous agate geodes from Rio Grande do Sul, the southern most state in Brazil. I found some other nice ones during the course of a 10 or so minute inspection, but this was about the third one I picked up and it proved to be the crème de le crème.
You know what they say about early birds getting the rocks. However, in spite of some rather strong leanings to the contrary I've decided not to keep this treasure for myself. This enhydro has already provided me with a good deal of enjoyment showing it off and making the MPEG movie of it, so I'm going to pass this specimen along as the next digital door prize to be given away during my Tucson 2000 report. So sign up before the enhydro drawing to be held Wednesday, January 26th and maybe you'll be the lucky rockhound to win this cool rock!
Many other Brazilian agate geodes, slices and sections are displayed and available at V-Rock Shop and most would cost you less per pound than a good steak. I do need some more bookends...
V-Rock Shop's specialty is amethyst geodes from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. Dave estimated that approximately 300-400 of the 1000 barrels on the premises in were filled with smaller pieces like the one shown above being whisked off after being unpacked from its sawdust filled drum. These amethyst geodes can get quite large and the big ones are of course individually crated for their journey from Brazil to Tucson. V-Rock Shop has a special piece over two meters tall on the way in that was tardy, so I'll stop by again later to try and get a picture of it before it sells and leaves the Show.
The aesthetic pair in still in the crate in the picture above right wanted $3000. The large section to the right of it was offered at $1200. Stacked up like firewood in the lower left of the picture are parts which were sectioned from a single piece that was originally about 3 meters in length. These sections were priced at $3 per pound. I imagine the big piece must have been catastrophically broken at some point which is how it came to get sliced up.
At right is a display of intermediate size amethyst geodes, ranging in size up to about a meter tall. You could take your pick here for $3 to $4 per pound and I'd guestimate that the intermediate sized pieces pictured here average 30 to 50 pounds.
V-Rock Shop also sells a lot of Peruvian pyrite. The smaller and more massive pieces shown above cost $1.25 per pound by the barrel, or $3.00 per pound to cherry pick from the bins.
There also were numerous collectable hand size and larger specimens available with larger crystals and better aesthetics which ran $6.00 per pound by the barrel or $8 per pound to cherry pick pieces like the ones shown in hand above.
Here's some bins filled with different varieties of quartz. The Brazilian amethyst and citrine points ran $7.00 per pound by the barrel to $9.00 per pound for lesser quantities. The clear points were from Madagascar and they were going for $4.00 per pound by the barrel to $6.00 per pound for less. The Brazilian smoky wanted $8.00 to $12.00 per pound and the rose quartz cost $1.50 to $3.50 per pound, depending on quantity. There were facetable cutters here and there in the smoky and some of the pieces I checked out would have yielded some nice faceted stones. There was was also a little facetable material in some of the citrine points if you had time to inspect and pick through a bunch of them.
Shown above left is the contents of a barrel of tumbled beach agate from the Oregon coast. This material was colorful and cost $1.50 per pound by the barrel to $4.00 per pound for smaller quantities. Shown above right is a table piled high with chunks of petrified wood from Madagascar. It was going for $4.00 per pound by the barrel to $6.00 per pound for less.
At left is a table covered with plates of Uruguayan amethyst. This material is lighter colored than the dark geodes and plates from Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil. These plates wanted $3.25 per pound by the barrel up to $5.00 per pound for less.
There was lots to browse inside V-Rock Shop's warehouse too. They also wholesale and distribute large quantities of imported carved and lapidaried items. This rack full was heavily loaded with onyx carvings of various sizes of unicorns, elephants, dogs, turtles, donkeys, winged horses, triceratops... Depending on size, the cost varied from 50¢ to about $95.00 for some large horse heads and other carvings. V-Rock Shop also supplies assorted onyx chess sets ranging in price from $9.25 to $125.00 per set.
I'm a pretty fair chess player and if I ever see an affordable rock set that's carved in the traditional Staunton style I'll probably have to acquire one. The problem with most of the affordable carved sets is it is hard to discriminate the pieces from each other. 'What piece is that?' is about the last thing I want to be thinking while I'm playing. If I ever win the lottery and can quit working for a living, perhaps I'll take up carving and have the time to do it right myself...
Above right is a table top covered with a potpourri of spheres lapidaried from a variety of materials including clear, rose, amethyst and smoky quartz, lapis, petrified wood, blue calcite, jasper, apatite, hematite, emerald in matrix, rhodonite and other materials. These spheres ranged in cost from $4.50 for a 1 inch apatite to $300 for a clear quartz that was about 4 inches diameter.
Above left is a rutilated smoky quartz sphere. Rutile is titanium oxide and an important commercial ore of the metal titanium. Brazil is well known as a source of rutile included quartz and you'll see quite quite a bit of it fashioned into lapidaried 'points', spheres and other objects at the Show. V-Rock Shop had these rutilated smoky spheres by the flat and they wanted $120 to $240 per pound depending on the quantity. Above right is a marble sized rutilated clear quartz that I thought particularly cool. These were also available by the flat and ran $70 to $140 per pound. I estimated the weight of this marble at roughly 20 grams, which translates to about 24 similar sized ones per pound - an each cost of about $3 a pop when purchased at the most favorable rate.
Also displayed inside V-Rock Shop's warehouse are literally thousands of agate slices and slabs in a variety of grades and sizes. Above are a few of the top pieces, which are classified as "ExQ-ExS", which stands for 'exceptional quality - exceptional size'. They ran from under 2 pounds to about 6 pounds in weight. The ExQ-ExS slabs were going for $40 per pound and Mike told me these are also selling out "ExF" - 'exceptionally fast'. ;)
I'm not too keen on dyed rocks in general but I had to admit these blue dyed slices were rather striking, especially when properly presented and backlighted. They showed an entire 'family' of these, all cut from the same rock. This particular slice was easily pushing two feet across.
Shown at left along a wall in the warehouse are yet more Rio Grande do Sul amethyst geodes and cathedrals ranging from small to intermediate in size and from mediocre to exceptional in quality. They were marked with color coded tags that corresponded to costs ranging from a low of $1.50 per pound to a high of $14.00 per pound, depending on the particular piece's combination of size, quality and condition. These amethysts are ubiquitous at the Tucson show and there are strong perennial markets for them as decorator pieces.
V-Rock Shop also wholesales beads and has a show room with walls and cases full of beads and carvings. I won't get into the beads, but I will show you a couple of the carvings that caught my eye. Above right is a 140 mm fish carved from fluorite, bearing a marked resemblance to a discus, which is a Brazilian cichlid popular with advanced aquarium hobbyists. At $76 this carving costs about the same as an exotic color variety of discus, but you can't get live ones in purple and you don't have to feed this one either.
Several other carvings that caught my eye were the dolphins at left and the pharaoh shown center and right. These pieces are carved from clear quartz and both were made in China. The dolphin piece was about 3 inches in overall height and is a combination of both 'positive' and 'negative' carving. It wanted $170. The pharaoh piece was about 2.5" high and it is a 'negative' or relief style carving. It wanted $200. At center it is shown from the front, where you view the pharaoh's image through a polished flat. At right is the back side where you can see how the image is carved into the piece of quartz by removing all the material that looks like a pharaoh. As I learn more through experience about lapidary and lapidary processes I am developing an increasing appreciation for finer rock carvings as well as the technical skills and talent of those who make them.
At right is a nice little cluster of clear quartz crystals from Brazil. V-Rock Shop had these in large quantities and the price ranged from $30 to $50 per pound depending on the quantity, and clear quartz DTs (doubly terminated crystals) ranging in price from $12 to $50 per pound depending on quantity.
Hey, now here's some really hard to do without items targeted at the healie-feelie and decorator markets. V-Rock Shop moves quite a few of these amethyst candle holders which run from $8.00 to $15.00 each. They are no doubt ideal for meditations opening the doorway to contact with your inner self, not to mention n-dimensional beings from other galaxies.
If the amethyst candle holders don't do the trick, perhaps some of the top-of-the-line dyed agate wind chimes shown above right will soothe the soul and improve your dream awareness and channeling abilities. From $3.50 to $11.00 each...
If I needed a night light, I'd seriously have to consider the approximately foot high, lighted Brazilian quartz crystal cluster shown at left. It included a wooden base that you can't see in the dark and was actually a pretty nice looking specimen. It had been core drilled from the base to hold a lamp but the inclusions in the crystal concealed the hole by daylight. At $39 for the crystal and base plus and additional $2.50 for the optional lamp and power cord, the price was right too.
V-Rock Shop, 933 North Main Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705 Phone: 520:882.8886 Fax 520.882.2971