Everybody loves rock candy — sugary crystals that delight children and swizzle sticks that sweeten grown-up drinks. But whoever heard of rock hamburgers, rock drumsticks or rock pie?
Not many, maybe. But a delicious-looking spread of rock food art is one of the intriguing exhibits on display this weekend at the Baton Rouge Gem & Mineral Society’s annual show.
Pointing to a dinner table loaded with rock appetizers, rock entrees and rock desserts, Lois Pattillo of the Gulf Coast Gem & Mineral Society in Corpus Christi, Texas, said, “Most of these rocks were discovered in their natural state, not cut or fashioned in any way.”
Married for 59 years to Bill, her rock-hounding partner, Lois first arranged the couple’s trademark display of food-shaped rocks onto dinner plates for a show in March 1983.
“It was a hit,” Lois said. “After that, the San Antonio club asked us to exhibit and then the Houston club wanted us. That’s how it works. We don’t advertise. They call us and we come.”
In addition to rock food art, 24 vendors were participating in this year’s show, offering a wide variety of colorful gemstone jewelry for viewing and purchase.
One of the vendors, silversmith Mary Ingram of the Cobb County Gem & Mineral Society in Georgia, got her start as a rock hobbyist 20 years ago at the North Carolina sluice mines.
“My husband and I would buy dirt at the mines and spend hours straining through buckets looking for gems,” said Ingram. “Of course the buckets were salted with semi-precious stones to keep us entertained. I got bored and wanted to find my own rocks.”
Eventually, the experienced Ingram moved on from collecting gemstones to hand-fashioning her finds into beautiful silver-wired pendants, rings, bracelets and earrings.
Ray Duplechain, president of the Baton Rouge club, also discovered his interest in rocks at the North Carolina sluice mines, while he worked out-of-state. He said North Carolina and Oregon have the most gemstones, but don’t discount Louisiana.
“People always tell me they collect rocks from their driveway or on the street,” he said. “They’re surprised because this is swampland, but we have good fossils here and there are a lot of banded agates in our local streams.”
Duplechain explained that as glaciers melted at the end of the Ice Age, the Mississippi River carried agates and fossils downstream to Baton Rouge.
Another vendor, Ralph Green, dives for fossils in Florida, along with collecting rocks and minerals. He frequently performs a process called “cabbing” on his finds, a procedure in which rocks are sliced up to make cabochons — gems or beads cut in convex form — used in jewelry making.
And by following her interest in jewelry beading, Diana Martin, chairwoman of this year’s show, discovered her love of earth sciences.
“Searching for beads brought me to rocks and stones. We went on field trips to mines in Arkansas and North Carolina,” Martin said. “But as our membership aged, the number of field trips slowly dwindled. Travel became more difficult.”
The drive for new members was on and the club roster now boasts more than 100 families.
“Some members find us through word-of-mouth, but we also use public forums like Earth Day, Astronomy Day and BREC’s Rockin’ at the Swamp,” Martin said. “Our purpose is to develop and encourage an interest in the earth sciences, so we provide hands-on activities for children.”
The Baton Rouge Gem & Mineral Society’s annual show, offering demonstrations in cabbing and a silent auction, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Baton Rouge Marriott Hotel, 5500 Hilton Ave. Admission is $4 per adult, $3 for children 12 and over, $2 for children 6-12, $1 off for Scouts in uniform and veterans get in free with a military ID.