San Diego County Fair – "How the West was Fun!"

by Anne Schafer, Coordinator




Prospecting exhibit on the Gold Rush era.


Jamie Frazier and daughter Lily came all the way from Joshua Tree to visit the Gems, Minerals & Jewelry Department at the Fair this year. Here, Lily is sifting sand in search of a buried mineral treasure.


Danielle Polley's "Under Big Sky" is a Southwest themed jewelry pendant of stamped sterling silver with a turquoise cabochon from the Sleeping Beauty Mine; her entry took second place.


“We are so lucky to have a strong core group of exhibitors who are dedicated to showing their best, educating the public, etc. That includes mineral dealers and collectors; fossil collectors; faceting, lapidary and jewelry instructors and students from local gem and mineral clubs; and professional jewelers who are willing to enter their work, as well.”
— Anne Schafer,
Coordinator, Gems, Minerals & Jewelry Dept.


One of Meg Berry's entries was an exhibit showing all the steps in carving precious gems. Her exhibit featured many examples of her freeform compositions with material originating from the historical gem localities in North San Diego County.


Irv Brown's case featuring fine mineral specimens from his personal collection included a beautiful example of California's state mineral benitoite.





The "How the West was Fun" theme of the 2017 San Diego County Fair was an inspired choice that exhibitors and visitors alike took to heart. This year there were 352 competitive entries and more than 75 display cases on view in the Gems, Minerals & Jewelry Dept. A lot of folks got into the spirit of the theme and came dressed up in western attire or Steampunk costumes, or their own costume creations inspired by the Wild West of yesteryear. Attendance was high – in the top five of Fair history – with 1.565 million visitors.

Demonstrations varied daily and included faceting, chain-making, fossil preparation, wax carving, wire-wrapping, bead-stringing, and more. Free gem identification was provided by the Gemological Society of San Diego (GSSD), and our knowledgeable staff provided daily docent tours of the exhibits, with kids making a beeline to sift for treasures in the sand pile.


Examples of the special jewelry categories based on the "How the West was Fun" theme. Left: Diane Scholfield's "Travel is the Key to Life" choker necklace won second place in the Steampunk jewelry category. Middle: Denny Turner produced a "Lady's Bola Tie" in stamped silver adorned with rhodochrosite cabochons. Right: Melinda Layden's "Top to Toe" necklace is a composition of cowboy hat and boot charms framing a western shirt. It was fashioned using the seed beading technique; her entry took third place in the Fair theme jewelry category.


The Mineral of the Year for 2017 was Lead. The committee couldn't settle on a single Fossil of the Year, so there were two in 2017: Trilobites and Marine Fossils. There were two new jewelry categories based on the Fair theme: How the West was Fun and Handmade Bola Tie. Steampunk was a jewelry theme carried over from last year. The entries showed off an impressive range of technical and artistic skills, with some humorous interpretations of the show theme.

Exhibits this year included the ever popular fluorescent mineral room, several stellar cases of spheres; full cases of geodes and petrified wood; several cases of fossils, including petrified fossil bones; petrified wood; themed mineral exhibits, including a whole case of pyrite specimens in its myriad forms; museum quality minerals, thanks especially to Irv Brown and the Malmquists. There were educational exhibits about how to carve a rock; faceting, courtesy of Bob Hancock on behalf of his faceting class; casting techniques with a native American and western emphasis, courtesy of Donna Beers and Dave Smith featuring work produced by the SDMG casting class students and instructors; Chinese jade, an 1880s diorama from the SDMG museum, a case courtesy of GIA Library showcased Gems of the West with a selection of guidebooks about where to find them; and Agates & Jaspers from the Mojave Trails National Monument, courtesy of Lisbet Thoresen, Bill Depue, Danny and Vivian Watts and John Pickett.


GIA's Richard T. Liddicoat Gemological Library took a top award in the educational category for an exhibit on "Gemstones of the West," which featured guide books on collecting areas where some of the gems on display will have originated.


A small selection of the many fine examples of faceted gems on display courtesy of Meg Berry, Tim Sandiford, Charles Shupe and David Sullivan. Bill Brisebois was a spoiler who took first place in almost every class in which he had an entry.

The exhibits were really wonderful this year, with SDMG members submitting 120 competitive entries among 352 in all. There were many winning entries represented in virtually every category courtesy of SDMG members. Among the stellar exhibits, we were wowed by SDMG instructor Bill Brisebois sweeping seven of ten first place awards for his entries in the faceting categories. Meg Berry took several awards in faceting and carving categories, as usual, but notable especially was the heartwarming expression of affection and appreciation shown by her students who entered an exhibit case honoring Meg's incredible career. The Cannons always delight with their entries, with Garry taking awards for minerals and fossils exhibits and Angie putting together another impressive case and winning the A. Leo Hortensky Memorial Award for best single mineral worldwide. See the complete list of winning entries (by class/division) at: (short url). SDMG winners are listed below. Congratulations to one and all!


Thanks to our Volunteers and Vendors!

Coordinator Anne Schafer had a great team to make the Gems, Minerals & Jewelry Dept. a resoundingly successful attraction at the Fair. Thanks to Wayne Moorhead, Rich Yarbrough, Peggy Leibitzke and Jennifer Stapp. A big round of thanks also to key SDMG volunteers, including Mike Harlow, Tim Bickford and Wayne Leibitzke. Both Navy and Marine volunteers helped with set-up for three days: they did the heavy lifting, literally, by hauling, cleaning and painting. Two 18-year old high school students joined the Gems & Minerals Dept. staff this year to help out during the Fair: Conner Tisdale and Roen Hickok.

It is no secret that to make the Gems, Minerals & Jewelry Department a destination not to be missed at the Fair, it takes a lot of dedicated Staff and Volunteers to explain to an interested public what makes all the displays so very remarkable. They kept the Hall safe and secure, the exhibits were kept sparkling clean, and the whole hall was lit to show off the displays to best effect. As ever, the Vendors attracted lots of traffic to their booths, offering people the chance to buy some special mementos at great prices. Their participation is always an enhancement to our venue, and we are grateful for their the participation! Thanks to one and all for all you have done.


~ Competitive Entries – Results (SDMG members) ~

Minerals (10 entries, including single items, sets of five, and a full case exhibit):

Garry Cannon; Angie Cannon (full case, Master); Rhonda Epstein; Doug Peeler


Fossils (5 entries, including single pieces and full cases):

Garry Cannon (petrified wood, full case & single piece); Hugh Lawrence (full case, petrified ferns; single piece, cycadioid – 1st)


Mixed Display (3 full case exhibits):

Meg Berry (also member of FGMS) – Mixed Display, work done by exhibitor – carvings, faceted gems, works in progress, rough
David Lipson – collection of purchased spheres, jewelry & carved frog
Paul Williams – full case of fluorescent spheres that he made himself


Faceting (approx. 18 entries, including single items and sets of 3 cut gems):

LuAnn Benton; Meg Berry (also member of FGMS); Bill Brisebois is an SDMG faceting instructor and he won seven First Place ribbons; Tim Sandiford; Charles Shupe (also member of Palomar G&MS); Dee Smith; David Smith; David Sullivan


Lapidary (approx. 20 entries, including single items and 3 full cases of spheres):

Meg Berry (carvings)(also member of FGMS); Tim Bickford (stone bracelets); Jan Kunsa (carvings);
John Kruzel (spheres and cabs) – Best Single Lapidary Work for hollow
carnelian sphere, in his full case exhibit
David Lipson (full case, spheres) – 1st Place & Best Case of Lapidary
Doug Peeler (cabs); Sherry Trochta (single spheres); Denny Turner (cabs); Dolores Wheeler (carvings);
Paul Williams (full case, spheres)


Jewelry (approx. 54 items):

Jeanne Abriel ( also in Enamel Guild); Lee Bennett; Rocio Bergum; Donna Casey; Debbie Clough; Shannon Dempsey; Kathe Dunn; Diane Hall (also in Palomar GMS); Heather Hochrein; Jackie Leverone; Tom KcKelvey; Lloyd Steven PekitPekit; Danielle Polley; Al Puente (two no shows, alas); Denny Turner; Dolores Wheeler; Jill Williamson.


Educational (6 full cases) – all won Award of Merit ribbons & $50:

Donna Beers and Dave Smith – Educational exhibit on casting techniques featuring the work of the SDMG Casting Class Students and Teachers in a western themed exhibit
LuAnn Benton – Steps for Carving a Rock, lots of images and materials, excellent "how to" exposition
SDMG – 1880s diorama, from the SDMG Museum
Bob Hancock – display of work done by SDMG faceting students
Lisbet Thoresen (specimens courtesy of Bill Depue, Vivian and Danny Watts, and John Pickett) – Agates & Jaspers from Mojave Trails Nat'l Monument – Anne Schafer Best Showmanship Award; Greg Anderson Memorial Trophy for Best Educational Exhibit







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