Lazulite, topaz and beryl -- oh my! Fossil fanatics and gem geeks alike can celebrate the return of the 17th annual Valley Gem, Mineral, and Jewelry Show at Rockingham County Fairgrounds this weekend.
Previously the Shenandoah Valley Gem Show, the exposition of stones was created 16 years ago by a local organization called Treasures of the Earth. When the founders decided to retire last year, Horizon Gifts decided to step in and keep the tradition alive.
Rich Ruozzi, co-owner of Horizon Gifts, was a vendor at the event for the previous three years and said participating helped spread awareness of the newly opened store. When the original founder said it was time to throw in the rag, Ruozzi knew someone had to step in.
“I told one vendor last year in February, and the word spread like wildfire that I was going to do the show, and we had like five or six people on the waiting list, waiting to get in. We have a full house,” Ruozzi said.
Over 20 vendors participating from across the country are filling nearly 120 tables this weekend. Ruozzi said half the vendors are veterans of the event, such as Canton Collectibles, Unique Gems & Lapidary Art and Rock My Soul, but some new faces will also bring different minerals and crafts to the Valley.
Melanie Lebel Schaefer, creator of Designs by Melanie, wire-wraps sterling silver jewelry by hand and travels to various gem expos in the area so she can carefully select the precise style and quality of stones to use for her projects.
“I'm very picky. ... I like the gem shows because I need to pick out my stuff. I need to see it. I'm a visual artist,” Schaefer said. “You can order a lot of stuff online, but this is not the same. When you're a visual designer, it's not the same as having it in your hands and looking at it and seeing the quality.”
Ruozzi said the event is a celebration of a unique market that attracts people interested in stones for any reason -- aesthetic, geological, metaphysical or otherwise.
Autumn Botkin, a Harriston resident, decided to attend the exposition after receiving a discounted ticket at Horizon Gifts’ booth at the Rockingham County Fair. She said she grew up admiring stones but has not attended the event since she was a child.
“I have been into stones since I was young. My mom introduced them to me when I was little. They really can help your health mentally and physically,” Botkin said.
The Valley Gem, Mineral, and Jewelry Show will have various raffles each day for $10 vouchers to spend at the event. Two will be given away Friday and four on Saturday and Sunday.
Ben Nelson, employee at Horizon Gifts and coordinator of the gem show, said the shop communicated with participating vendors in advance to resolve any requests and issues. As a previous participant of the gem show, Nelson said Horizon Gifts sympathizes and respects the trouble traveling vendors endure, but he is excited for the array of styles.
“The different flavor with each vendor that comes through, they each kind of add their own style. It's usually a small business, and they’re really interesting because they're really into stones,” Nelson said.
Horizon Gifts sells an eclectic mix of rocks, art and board games. The store first opened at the Valley Mall 30 years ago and moved to its downtown location in 2016. Nelson said the Ruozzi family has sold wholesale gems, minerals, jewelry and art in the Shenandoah Valley since 1979.
The three-day show is from noon to 6 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $4 at the door for the weekend. Vendors will also be selling food. The fairgrounds are located at 4808 S. Valley Pike off U.S. 11 south of Harrisonburg.