by Ken Evans
For most Akronites, asking about cabochons would likely inspire confusion or a quick glance at google. However, for Courtney Cable, 2020 Vice-President of the Summit Lapidary Club and Guy Kotch, Gemboree Chair and President of Akron Mineral Society, “cabochon” is everyday terminology.
Guy describes a cabochon as “a [stone that is] domed to show off its best colors and shine.”
Learning how to create these domes is a critical skill to master for those interested in lapidary, or “the art of stone-cutting,” as Courtney defines it. The Summit Lapidary Club offers an environment to learn and develop those skills, or just stare at beautiful treasures.
Founded in 1946 as the Falls Gem Club, the Summit Lapidary Club took its current form in 1974. Operating out of a clubhouse in Cuyahoga Falls, the Lapidary club shares the space with The Akron Mineral Society, which focuses on specimens and collecting rather than on creating art. As Guy puts it, Mineral Society members believe that “you can’t improve on what God already did.”
Inside the clubhouse, visitors will find cut stones, mineral specimens and the tools needed to shape and polish gemstones. One of the goals of the club is to spread out the cost of doing lapidary. Much of the needed equipment is big, messy and expensive, so annual membership fees help members share that cost.
“There is always another tool you need for another process you want to learn how to do,” Courtney says.
Sharing information among members is an important aspect of the club. When you start as a member of the Lapidary Club, you are trained on the equipment, and once you can use the machine reliably, they give you a key so you can come into work on projects whenever you like.
Members also teach each other classes, including “beginning wire wrap, polymer clay, pearl stringing, [and] beaded cage,” Guy says.
In Courtney’s experience, help comes from more than just formal instruction. She can ask any member to help with a project or share their experience.
“It’s so much nicer for me to learn with the hands-on [help] as opposed to, ‘oh, you are going to make me read it somewhere, it’s going to take me years,’” Courtney says. “I think it’s really important also, me being one of the younger members, to learn from the people who have been doing this for so long. Because there really are a lot of different things you can learn, different styles of creating the same thing.”
The Lapidary Club organizes regular field trips to different areas to collect gemstones or just to explore. Members have traveled all around the world, but one of their favorite spots is right here in the Flint Ridge area of Ohio. Ohio flint is known for its high quality, and people have traveled to Flint Ridge for thousands of years to collect it. This unique resource prompted Ohio to make flint its official state gemstone in 1965. Courtney says the Nethers Farms Quarry in Flint Ridge has particularly beautiful flint.
“That mine is known for the reds, then lighting bolts [streaks of white or blue] going through their stones. And when the earth shifts and there is a crack in the stone, the earth heals itself with [quartz] crystals.”
But you don’t need gem-quality stones to do something nice, Courtney says. “There are actually a lot of great stones found in quarry pits, or in gravel pits, or in driveways. You really don’t recognize how old this stone is, or that it’s actually garnet, or it’s something that you can polish up!”
Both the Lapidary Club and Mineral Society love to collect, Courtney explains, and a common joke among members is how many tons of rock they have collected. “Whenever I first started, people were like, ‘we got one ton of rock in our basement…’ and then somebody else popped in, ‘I got three!’ They’re not joking, they really have a lot of rock they have collected.”
“I have half a ton in the back of my truck right now,” Guy chimes in.
Even with all their unbridled enthusiasm, both Guy and Courtney stress the friendly nature of the group. While there are a number of professionals in the club who make their living through lapidary, including one member that actually worked on Elizabeth Taylor’s diamonds, novices and hobbyists are welcome as well. The group even has a “geo-juniors” group for interested kids and teenagers.
To help raise money for both organizations, the Summit Lapidary Club and Akron Mineral society put on a biannual “Gemboree,” which Courtney proudly points out is a name trademarked in the state of Ohio. Guy says the event usually draws more than 1,500 visitors and features a number of educational and artistic displays including 30 plus vendors selling jewelry components, gemstones, collectible minerals and fossils.
Gemboree is also meant to appeal to children through a number of activities such as creating gem-trees and sifting for stones in a play gem mine. Adults too can enjoy the hunt for rare gems by purchasing a geode that the club will help break open in a vice.
The April Gemboree had to be canceled due to current restrictions on large gatherings. However, the next Gemboree is on track and scheduled for Oct. 24 and 25.
Courtney stressed that even though the clubs can not meet in person currently, members have not stopped being active, “there is still enthusiasm online via the Facebook page, where members and others with rock and gem appreciation exchange digital interactions. So the members are alive and well … and many of them enjoy posting what they are working on or post fun images of amazing rock and mineral finds around the globe.”
To learn more about the Summit Lapidary Club, search for the Summit Lapidary Club Facebook group.
Ken Evans finds himself leaping from life to life, putting things right that once went wrong and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.