There is a new store on Main Street in Placerville, but it’s only new to Main Street, not new to El Dorado County. In July, Eureka Gems & Minerals relocated from Enterprise Drive in Diamond Springs to 436 Main St. There’s room for growth in the new store, plenty of room for monster crystals and, best of all, foot traffic.
Eureka’s owners, Dolly and Fred Fassio, have been serious gem and mineral collectors for the past 12 years. “We started buying old lapidary estates — people who had collected rocks all their lives and worked the stones,” said Dolly. “After a while we had more machinery and rocks than we knew what to do with and so we opened a store.”
Due to the Fassios own collections and the wide variety of Dolly’s interests, the exhibits in the store are constantly changing. Two monster crystals from El Dorado County, a 25 pound quartz crystal and a 251 pound quartz crystal, have already been replaced by a basket of petrified wood and a goregous segment of a petrified log, still with bark intact.
“My insurance didn’t want to cover the crystals, so they had to go,” said Dolly. “But we’re bringing in a 4-foot-wide suiseke as soon as we can.”
Suiseke is the Japanese art of stone appreciation, using naturally formed stones to suggest mountain ranges, waterfalls, islands, villages or animals. The unaltered stones can be found anywhere and have the capacity to represent, on a small scale, whole scenes of nature. Small suisekes are like having a story in your pocket. The large one that the Fassios are building a special display box for is extremely rare.
“It’s a whole mountain range in one rock,” said Fred Fassio. One suiseke from Italy, currently on display at Eureka, looks like a tiny village complete with temples, nestling at the foot of mighty mountains.
In additon to the variety of rocks on display and for sale at Eureka, the Fassios also carry lapidary equipment, handmade jewelry by local artists, beads and findings, mining equipment, metalsmithing tools, rock tools, fossils and cut rock slabs of all kinds.
“Fred cuts the rock slabs into cabochons for people to use in jewelry making,” said Dolly. “We offer jewelry making and beading classes, metalsmithing classes, wire wrapping classes and stone setting classes.”
“Most people who buy the slabs do their own lapidary work, ” said Fred, “but I can draw cabochons of any shape and cut them out of a slab with a saw.”
Slabs of turritella, fossilized sea snails, both large and small, faceted fluorites, California’s state gemstone, Benitoite in hues from sky blue to deep sapphire, “chrysanthemum flowers” of amethyst from cave walls, rose colored stone apples from Mexico and a host of other gemstones and minerals entice collectors large and small.
“Everyone loves rocks,” said Dolly. “We have little kids who come in every week to buy a different rock and grown-up collectors searching for particular stones, like azurite.” The store also carries a lot of books about rocks, minerals, lapidary and even, the healing properties associated with stones. “We carry a lot of children’s books too,” said Dolly, who expects to replenish her stock of rock books in the next month. Dolly also lays in kits for junior geologists and will create a kit for children to reveal trilobites out of the rock they are fossilized in.
Both Fassios are members of the El Dorado County Gem and Mineral Society and very knowledgable about their products and the origins of the rocks.
“It’s getting harder and harder to collect because the Bureau of Land Management keeps closing off areas. You have to be part of an organization to even get into some of the mines,” said Dolly. One of her favorite collecting trips was to a copper mine in Yerington, Nev. “We went with the Gem and Mineral Society and found huge veins and a gigantic boulder filled with the turquoise of the azurite, deep green of malachite and the blue-green chrysocolla.” The collectors were able to move the boulder and break it up so they could each have large pieces of the beautiful material.
Whether you’re a rock hound, a lapidarist or just like to look at unique and interesting things, Eureka Gem & Minerals is sure to have something to catch your eye.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.