Producers' Perspectives


From Bruce Reichert, host and writer/producer for OUTDOOR IDAHO:

I live up near Idaho City, where in 1862, gold was discovered on Grimes Creek. Some of the residents of "the ghost town that refused to die" still consider themselves miners.

But these days in Idaho the rockhounds who search for gemstones probably outnumber the gold miners.

My fascination with gems is in trying to imagine the powerful geologic forces that created these special minerals.

Idaho is "The Gem State" because of what happened over 100 million years ago. That's when the North American continental plate and the Pacific oceanic plate were colliding with each other under what is now Idaho. Talk about an immovable object meeting an irresistible force!

My first experience with the connection between gems and Idaho's geologic past occurred with the production of an OUTDOOR IDAHO show I helped produce back in 1991.

At that time Dr. Mickey Gunter of the University of Idaho explained gems this way: "We have a whole series of minerals made of silicon, oxygen, aluminum and iron and many other things that occur at different pressures and temperatures. Pick your pressure and temperature and I'll give you a mineral. As you change the pressures and temperatures, you change the minerals that are present."

Dr. Gunter is back -- by popular demand -- in "The Gem State," this time showing us what things look like under a microscope.

Gems were among mankind's first permanent possessions\; and they are still among our most treasured objects. For some, gems are nothing more than beautiful jewelry. But for others, they are a magical way of peering into the distant past. For the story of our planet is written on those minerals beautiful enough to be called gemstones.


From Marcia Franklin, writer/producer for OUTDOOR IDAHO:

It's not that difficult to go rockhounding, provided you know where you're going and you're prepared. We went along with veteran rockhounds Chris and Peggy Blickfeldt, as they visited their favorite sites in southwestern Idaho.

Peggy has some "tips" for rockhounds. Number One, Don't Go Alone!

Take two cars, extra food and water, a first aid kit, good shoes, baggies for small specimens, a rock pick, sunscreen and a hat, a long-sleeved shirt, and a bucket or cloth sack for gathering.

Also, remember to ask permission on private land\; leave some gems for others\; fill in your holes\; and take out your trash.

For field trip information, see "Idaho Opal, Jasper, and Fossil Wood," by Chris and Peggy Blickfeldt, Rock & Gem Magazine, August, 1995, pp. 36-37.


From Joan Cartan-Hansen, writer/producer of OUTDOOR IDAHO:

Crystal Therapy might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about gems and geology. In fact, when I was first given this assignment, it was outlined in a much broader statement. I think it went something like, "What's this crystal stuff all about?"

I am pretty skeptical about this kind of stuff. But almost every rock hound I talked with agreed that there is something unique about rocks, gems and crystals.

Rockhounds are pretty obsessive about their subject. What is it that inspires such devotion? What kind of connection is there between people and the bits of minerals we classify as gems or crystals?

Humans have always had an affinity for jewels. Ancient peoples used them for decoration and as a connection to a higher power. In Roman times, gems were thought to protect the wearer from disease. Even as late as the 1800's, powdered gems were still being used as medicine.

And there has always been a spiritual relationship with these sparkling stones. The Bible describes Aaron's breastplate as set with twelve gems, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. Each of the twelve apostles became associated with a gem. Saint Peter's stone was jasper.

We continue to attach certain powers, real or not, to certain stones today. The classic example is the diamond in the wedding ring. It signifies love. And Eastern philosophies still recognize the metaphysical uses of various crystals and gems.

So off I went to learn more about "this crystal stuff." And along this journey of exploration, I've run into some very nice people. I have read a lot too. "The Crystal Handbook" by Kevin Sullivan provides some good background. And the three book series by Katrina Raphaell, "Crystal Enlightenment," "Crystal Healing" and "The Crystalline Transmission" gives readers a thorough look at many aspects of the healing side of the subject. Check out the some of the web sites in this area too. There is lots of information there.

So what is the result of my learning experience besides the segment you see in the show? I now keep a piece of amethyst quartz above my computer. Believers say amethyst helps the user focus his or her mind. It is also supposed to soak up any negative rays coming from my screen. If it is true, I'll be a better writer. If it isn't, I still have a beautiful example of the Earth to inspire me.

And what was the best piece of advice I received doing this story? I asked what stone to use to help in any particular part of your life. The answer: if you feel a strong attraction to a gem or crystal, it was meant to be. Listen to your own feelings. Listen and feel. Taking time to do just that is a nice experience. Give it a try.


From Alberto Moreno, segment writer/producer for OUTDOOR IDAHO:

Opals are my favorite gem. Years ago there was an "old wives tale" about opals being unlucky. I think just the opposite is true. I consider someone unlucky if he doesn't own an opal!

Native Americans believed the beautiful colors inside opal stones were the souls of small animals trapped inside the rock. To this day, no one really understands what makes the kaleidoscope of colors change so dramatically with the opal.

We profiled gem cutter Ross Smith for OUTDOOR IDAHO.

Ross makes a living out of carefully cutting a brilliant rainbow out of the stone\; he then creates triplets, to preserve the opal for posterity. (When opals are exposed to the air, they sometimes crack, since they are filled with water, which eventually evaporates.)

Ross and his father Charlie Smith were coming out of a mine they had been working, getting ready to go home. Charlie was walking along the trail left by one of the bulldozers working the mine, when he spotted something in the ground. He bent down to pick it up and had in his hand a rock the size of a softball. Apparently the dozer had run over it and cracked it open. Inside were some of the most beautiful pieces of opal he had ever seen. Together they turned the precious opal into a fantastic pendant and fashioned other family jewels.

That day Ross and Charlie considered themselves quite lucky!


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