Arts & Entertainment

56th Annual Franklin-Sterling Gem & Mineral Show Draws People To Sussex County

The Gem Show, inside the Franklin Elementary School Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Cousins Lexi DuBose and Juliana Wells travelled from Easton, PA to see the show Credits: Jennifer Murphy
The gym is transformed into part museum, part jewelry store Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Joe Williams, a miner at Sterling Hill 39 years ago holds his contract Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Matthew Tedford, Bear Cub Scout, from Orange, NY, recently started his gem collection Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Rear view of the Mine Office at Sterling Hill Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Beautiful specimen of Prehnite, collected at Prospect Park, NJ Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Collectors had the opportunity to search through many extraordinary specimens Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Local residents from West Milford and Vernon enjoyed their visit Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Collaboration to find beautiful specimens Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Dr. Earl Verbeek, Curator of the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, was asked to identify this specimen Credits: Jennifer Murphy


FRANKLIN & OGDENSBURG, NJ – The 56th annual Franklin-Sterling Gem and Mineral Show is taking place this weekend, drawing people from various walks of life to the area. Geologists by trade mingle with collectors, hobbyists, cub scouts, and jewelry makers, to study, search, and enjoy the unique specimens of rock and crystals native to these towns.  

The show is a fund raising event for two organizations, the Franklin Mineral Museum and the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. 

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The Franklin Mineral Museum Show took place at the Franklin Elementary School today, and will take place on Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Two gyms are transformed into a cross between a museum and a jewelry store, while outside, vendors show from tents.  Rough and polished crystals and minerals are available for sale from $1.00 to hundreds of dollars. 

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum holds its annual gem and mineral sale this same weekend. This show is located under the Paul Christiansen Pavilion at the mine, 30 Plant Street, Ogdensburg. They offer rare and unusual mineral specimens, world famous fluorescents, as well as books, mining, and lapidary equipment. Show hours for Sunday are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m..

“Bring lots of money,” sang out Chris Laskowich. “There’s so much you’re going to want.”

Laskowich is a copyrighted and published collector of fossils and minerals from West Paterson, N.J. 

“I found my first fossil when I was ten years old, outside the quarry that was 15 minutes walking distance from my house. I was hooked,” Laskowich continued. “The importance of these shows cannot be overstated. The grade school kids who see these shows a couple of times before high school are the ones who get it. The outdoor shows, where the kids can pick up the specimens, read the labels, see the scientific names, the fossils, the meteorites, are so much better than any classroom experience, or even the Museum of Natural History. They can’t touch a dinosaur there.  But when they see all this stuff here, the kids get an education standing there.” 

Laskowich is a member of the North Jersey Mineralogical Society, which meets on the second Thursday of the month at 7 p.m., at the Paterson Museum, where children are also welcome.

Heather Saburova is a student at George Mason College of Virginia. She visited Sussex Countywith her mineralogy class on a field trip. She is geology major.

One of the vendors at the Franklin show, Arpad Szabo, dug and collected his specimens himself in his homeland of Hungary. He is also showing some rare, black crystals that he purchased in Transylvania, a section of Rumania, which were from deep underground mines. These mines have since been filled in.

Lapidary Specialist, Alfred Lombardi, Jr., explained that his specialty is faceting, cutting and polishing rocks and gems. Many beautiful are available at his table.

Richard Keller, the President of the Franklin-Ogdensburg Mineralogical Society, explained that a $20 membership fee yields two issues a year of their publication, “The Picking Table,” as well as a discount at the Franklin Mineral Museum gift shop, and an invitation to attend several digs per year at local quarries, with expert mineralogists. 

They are looking to expand their organization by inviting young students to get involved. 

 “This is my 20th year here,” said Mrs. White, who travelled with her husband from Williamstown, WV, just to see the shows.

“It’s a good place to see some amazing minerals, and the Haucks (owners of Sterling Hill Mining Museum) have made it more so," she said. "They’ve made it worth coming.” 

Although West Virginia has a lot of mining, “the only rock we have is coal, but this here is the fluorescent capital of the world. It’s a nice diversion to see something beautiful and different and special and to renew old acquaintances.” 

Mark Pospisil and his four children, from the Fort Worth area of Texas were in Lyndhurst, N.J. for a wedding this weekend. 

“I’m a geologist. I wanted to show my kids the mine tour, Pospisil said. "I’ve known Dick Hauck for a long time. I’m a big fluorescent collector. This is 'the' place if you’re a collector, to see how everything was done. It’s a unique opportunity to see it. There are not many places in the US where you can walk around in a mine like this.”

Newcomer Ian Canich came with a friend from South Jersey, by looking up 50 Top Things to do in New Jersey. They marveled at the magnificence of the mine tour, they said, and the beauty of the ride up to Sussex County.

For Joe Williams and his wife Stella, of Phoenix, AZ, the trip had sentimental value. They have been planning for three years to return to the Sterling Hill Mine, where he worked as a miner 39 years ago. 

“I used to work here. I ran the 1570 east stoke," Williams said. "I was a miner. We drilled, blasted, and mucked.”  

Williams produced a copy of his contract.

“I ran a jumbo drill for a while, he said. "We did everything.” 

Williams marveled at the changes that have taken place. 

“It’s a little bit different,” he smiled. “That used to be the mine office.”  

His first summer job during high school was working at the Franklin Mineral Museum. He received his degree in geophysical engineering and electrical engineering. His advice to kids is to, “Study hard, work hard.”

Professional development for teachers is available at the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. A complete list of course topics can be found at their website  Call Dr. Verbeek to make an appointment, a class as small as five participants can be accommodated.   Both organizations offer an extensive list of field trip experiences for students.

Upcoming local mineral shows:

Sat & Sun 10/13 & 14, 9 – 5, The Historic Glenburn Estate, 211 Paterson-Hamburg Tpk, Riverdale, N.J.

Sat & Sun 3/9 & 10, 10-5pm, Pope John Paul II Center, 775 Valley Road, Clifton, N.J.

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