Smoky amethyst at Gypsum Moon Mine

We’re busy getting ready for our first dig, tentatively planned for this fall, and we’ve been working a new vein recently.

This is three of our team – Kay (sifting through recently excavated red clay for smaller points), and me (in the hole), and Marcy (doing the fishbelly flop in the recently excavated red clay, apparently a vitally important part of mining, just in case you haven’t read the Piggy Rockhound Handbook) – shortly before finding our first pieces of smoky amethyst yesterday.

We’ve been pulling out gorgeous clear and milky and smoky quartz points, but the purple had eluded us till then.

Pics of some of the smoky amethyst coming shortly, along with more details about this fall’s dig – leave us a comment if you want more info about that. We currently have an active list of participants, and plan to limit the number to 50 for the first dig.

1959 and the slippers that started it all

This is me, at my grandma’s house, in 1959, and you may be wondering whether I’m laughing hysterically, or crying hysterically. The answer would be, well, yes.

Those fabulous slippers were a gift to me from my paternal grandma and grandpa on my first birthday. Do they kinda look like baby Goofy or baby Pluto, just a little bit? I don’t remember whether or not they were supposed to be any particular character, or just cute little puppy slippers, but they were crazy awesome. From the moment I first saw them, apparently, I couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry, and so I would do both. Loudly, dramatically, and with gusto, alternating rapidly between the two extremes.

And thus, I believe, my lifelong love affair with footwear was born. The shoes! The boots, the booties, the sandals, the heels, the flats, the *cute* sneakers, I love them all.

Me, with every pair of L’Artiste boots ever made, and don’t even get me started on their booties…

1962: peas and consequences

Yeah, yeah, the little red-headed kid’s super cute and all, and I know you remember having a stacking rings toy just like that one, but before you trip too far down your own memory lane, let me tell you the story of that end table there on the right.

My little brother, 1962

Our kitchen table, where we ate all of our meals, was just around the corner from that part of the living room, you see, and once a week my mother served peas at supper. She not only served them, she actually expected me to eat them, never mind that I hated peas like nobody’s business. Despised the little smushy grayish-green soggy balls of ick – I mean, these were canned peas, early 1960s commercially canned peas, and they were gross. My mother would have none of my pea-hating ways, though, and there were always threats of forcing me to sit at the kitchen table all night until I ate them. I’d eventually gag my way dramatically through a spoonful, sobbing, and end up getting sent to bed in disgrace, but at least I’d gotten away from those damn peas… until next time. And I always knew there’d be a next time.

I don’t know how the plan came to me, but it was so simple and brilliant and beautiful, and it quickly became my routine when faced with the dreaded legumes. I’d be left sitting at the table by myself, pouting, with those nasty peas. Momma would take baby brother over to the sink for a wipe-down, and, with her back turned to me while she was attempting to clean a flailing toddler, would lecture me on the health benefits of all vegetables, especially green ones, peas in particular.

And that’s when I’d make my move. I’d grab my bowl of untouched peas, leap lightly from my chair and around the corner, lift the lid of the end table, dump the offending contents of the bowl, and be back in my chair before Momma was halfway done getting my little brother’s face clean. See? Brilliant. I felt mildly guilty while receiving praise for being a good girl and eating my peas, but the relief at having avoided having to taste those peas always outweighed the guilt – a little bit, anyway.

Did I ever look in at the old peas while I was dumping subsequent bowls? Heavens, no, no time for that, and I honestly can’t say if it even crossed my mind, but I doubt it. I don’t think I gave a single thought to the fate of those peas once they left my possession.

I’m not sure how much time actually went by – linear time has never been one of my strong suits – but at some point my mother began sniffing at the air strangely when she’d walk through the living room, and it wasn’t too long after that that she found them. I was playing in the back yard when I heard the screams, and I knew instantly what had happened, although at that point I was unaware that quantities of margarine-soaked cooked peas, when placed in a covered warmish area and left to their own devices, will, over time, grow huge amounts of hairy mold resembling nothing more than a huge dead rodent, with an accompanying dead rodent smell.

I was headed at full speed towards our big forsythia bush that was in glorious yellow bloom and that I knew made a terrific hiding place when my mother hit the back porch, yelling my full name at the top of her lungs. To say that my blood ran cold in that moment is one of the great understatements of all time.

Of course I did the only logical thing: I blamed my little brother. The fact that he was just learning to walk seemed completely inconsequential – perhaps I was channeling the spirit of Kellyanne Conway-Future and her alternative facts, I do not know – and I went with my story hard.

Sadly, and much to my astonishment, my story did not fly with my mother – not even embellished with much waving of arms, eyewitness accounts of the many times I’d seen my baby brother do superhuman and evil things, ugly sobbing, tears, and big puppy eyes. I do remember my mother’s face and mouth shaking strangely after she spanked me, though, as she was sending me to my room, and her voice sounding funny, like she was choking or something. It wasn’t until many years later, when I had kids of my own, that I realized she was doing her absolute best not to give in to hysterical laughter.

Me, not thinking about peas.

February Birthstone Info: Carved Amethyst

February’s birthstone, amethyst, is purple quartz, 7 on the MOHS scale, which means it’s perfect for carving.

The word “amethyst” comes from a Greek phrase that means “not drunk.” The ancient Greeks named it that because they believed that amethyst prevented people from getting drunk no matter how much alcohol they consumed. They also believed amethyst prevented, or at the very least lessened the effects of, hangovers. So those canny ancient Greeks carved cups and bowls and goblets out of the stuff as drinking vessels for alcohol.

This is a carved amethyst bowl that I found in Amazon Crystals on etsy, and you can see more of it with details by clicking here.

Gorgeous carved amethyst bowl

The ancient Egyptians used it for jewelry, too, before the Romans.

Upper left: ancient Egyptian carved amethyst fish amulet. Lower left: ancient Egyptian carved amethyst beads. Right: ancient Roman carved amethyst intaglio.
This is a necklace made of stunning antique carved amethyst beads from Pansari Gems on etsy.

This is another particularly lovely vintage piece, carved amethyst beads in a 14 karat gold lavalier necklace, listed at Belmar Jewelers on etsy.

This is a necklace in our shop, multi strands of freshwater pearls with beautiful vintage carved amethyst beads from the 1960s – click here to see it up close and personal.

Kay’s pretty sure we’re going to find amethysts on our property eventually, because we certainly have plenty of quartz, and we have found the other minerals, like manganese and iron oxide, necessary to produce amethyst and smoky amethyst.  So we’ll keep digging, y’all.

Honoring my female ancestors: Pearl Brite

This is my maternal great-grandmother, Pearl Brite. What I know about her are simple facts, learned through internet research. She was born in Lawrence, Missouri, in 1884, and she died in 1939, probably in Oregon. She gave birth to my maternal grandfather in 1906, when she was 22, and they were living in Kansas in 1910, not too long before this photograph was taken. By 1920, they had moved to Portland, Oregon.

I love this photo a ridiculous amount, given that all I know about her are those basic facts – I didn’t know her, or my grandfather who was her son, and barely knew my mother. Pearl looks like an intelligent woman, a compassionate woman, a strong woman, a woman with a sense of humor in spite of, well, life, and someone I would’ve liked to have called friend.

She looks like a woman who would’ve marched with us yesterday.

Real life, after all

Born of broken people
She inevitably arrived broken too.
No visible signs of damage, but
that really only made things worse, not better.

A white chenille bedspread,
blood stains on the pale pink
roses turned to shadow rust,
faded like the memories of the day
it happened, the stains and scars and rips and tears
nearly blending in now, so many years gone by,
just another part of the pattern.

Understanding remains elusive,
always just out of her grasp, it seems.

She thought it would arrive when her own children did,
that she would suddenly get it, suddenly know,
but of course it didn’t happen that way – this is
real life, after all.


I wrote this many years ago, and have published it online a couple of times since then. I feel absolutely naked every time I do it, but I also hear from people who feel it, and that makes me feel like it’s worth the nakediditty anxiety. Well, almost.

Bright blessings,

List: Six Kinds of Garnets

There are six different kinds or species of January’s birthstone, the garnet, each stunningly lovely in its own right. Here’s a list of all six, along with a bit of info about each and pictures of them in their rough forms.

(1) almandine – most common form of garnet; deep red to reddish orange, purple red to red purple, usually dark, transparent; found in metamorphic rock, like mica schists; also called “carbuncle”; ground up and used as an abrasive; sometimes confused with pyrope, but most almandine is much more opaque; found in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Australia, Switzerland, East Africa, and the US

(2) pyrope – the only garnet species that’s always red, and the red can be so dark it looks black or purple; can be confused with almandine, but has fewer flaws and inclusions; found in Bohemia, Czech Republic, Switzerland, Scotland, Tanzania, Kenya, Canada, and the US

(3) grossular – light to dark green, light to dark yellow to reddish brown, occasionally translucent to opaque pink, rarely colorless; some examples of grossular garnets are Hessonite or cinnamon stone; also tsavorite, a rare green grossular garnet found in India; grossular garnets are also found in Tanzania, Sibera, Sri Lanka, Brazil, and the US

(4) uvarovite – emerald green; the rarest of the garnet species, and seldom found in crystals large enough to be faceted, because the mineral that causes the lovely green color also stunts crystal growth, so it’s usually seen as drusy in jewelry; found in Canada, Spain, Finland, Norway, South Africa, and Russia


(5) spessartine – bright orange, orange-red, yellow to red; also known as spessartite; named for the area of Bavaria, Germany, where it was discovered in the 1990s; second rarest garnet; also found in Brazil, Madagascar, Australia, Myanmar, India, Afghanistan, Israel, Tanzania, the US and Bulgaria

(6) andradite – most commonly golden to brown; much less commonly found in a green form known as demantoid, an orange-yellow form known as topazolite, and a black opaque form known as melanite; found in Norway, Brazil, Italy, Russia, Ukraine, and the US

Auld Lang Syne Sale – Up to 50% Off

Happy 2017! To help celebrate the new year and usher it in properly, we’re clearing out space to make room for new listings in our etsy shops by having a 50% off sale on over 150 selected items in both Gypsum Moon Vintage and Gypsum Moon Rocks, and a 30% off everything sale (why yes, I said everything!) in Gypsum Moon Style, for one full week, beginning today.

We’ll be adding items to the sales daily, so check back often. If you see something in one of the shops that isn’t on sale, and you’d like it added to the sale, drop us a note or leave a comment here, and we’ll see what we can do to make that happen for you.

As always, we combine shipping charges, and we do our best to charge you our cost for shipping. Always feel free to send us your zip code or country ahead of time to be sure you’re getting the best price on shipping at checkout, or to ask us after the sale if you’re due a shipping overage refund. More money to spend on stuff, yay!

Little Christmas Tree in the Cemetery

They got married in 1953, when she was a sweet 16, and he was a brash 20. She had loved Christmas her whole life, and when it came to decorating for it, she had a dream in her mind to do it up grand, there in their first little house together. He thought that it was all a bit silly, what with them just starting out and all, but he indulged her anyway, because he loved her, and even though times were terribly tight, they had a little tree that first year, with a few small ornaments that she made by hand, and a bright red bow that she lovingly tied to the top of the little tree.


Their first son was born the following year, and their Christmas tree was bigger. A second son arrived two years after that, and Christmas that year was spent in a new, bigger house, with a big Christmas tree embellished with all kinds of ornaments and tinsel, and Christmassy knick-knacks here and there as well, quite a few of them store-bought.

By the time their third and last son made his appearance in their lives, four years later, Christmas in their home was quite a grand affair, and with every year that followed, it got a little bigger and noisier and brighter and better. Whatever differences they may have had in their family, at Christmas time those differences were set aside for Mom, because she so loved Christmas. Interestingly enough, by the time the New Year rolled around, quite often those differences seemed smaller and far less important.

Their middle son died in 1999, and Christmas dimmed near to dark that year. It never did regain its full lustre and brightness, and ten years after her boy went, she died too. Christmas that year was hard, and sad, and made mostly bearable by the brilliant thought of her only daughter-in-law: Let’s take a tree to Mom, she said to the menfolk, ignoring the initial looks of confusion and impatience and pain on their faces, and after a few days of discussion, the decision was made: Mom would not miss her Christmas tree.


Seven years have passed now. Dad loves visiting her, especially at Christmas, loves thinking of her enjoying the tree and watching the grandkids frolic around it, and feels in his heart that he’ll see her again soon, before next Christmas for sure.