rock collecting

Hans Gamma – Master of the World of Jaspers: Author, Collector and Artist

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I first met Hans Gamma when I was hanging out with Gene Mueller and Jake Jacobitz in the mid 1980’s at the desert rockshow in Quartzsite, Arizona. Han’s wife Esther took off to go rock snooping around the show with Jake’s lifelong partner Beverly Hardin and Hans joined us to talk jaspers.

Hans would often prospect with Jake and was building an amazing collection, one of the finest in the world, which he documented as only a Swiss gentleman would. The catalogue of his collection has photos of every important piece with the date he got it and the exact location of its origin and its number in the catalog is finely written in black ink on each piece.

Hans and Esther became interested in Jaspers when they began visiting from Switzerland in the 1950’s. They got a pickup truck and traveled around the western US collecting jaspers. In 1985 Hans retired from the family printing business and settled with Esther in the hills outside Phoenix where they raised their three daughters. Esther passed away in 2015 is sadly missed, she was a true lady. She was from an area in Switzerland not far from Hans birthplace and was working as a translator in Philadelphia when they met.

owyhee-jakeHans Gamma has always made his knowledge and collection available to the rest of us, a very great kindness. Many of the photos in Agates II and III in the section on Jaspers that he wrote at the request of Johann Zenz are from his personal collection. In 2011 Hans published his first book: Picture Jaspers, treasures of the Owyhee Area, Oregon. This book features over 75 recognizable varieties of picture jaspers from the Owyhee caldera and many of them were discovered by Hans’ close friend Jake Jacobitz. This book presents the many varieties and is also a tribute to Jake, they collected together in this area on numerous occasions. The specimens are all from Hans’ collection and the book shows Hans’ artistic eye.

In 2015 Hans published a second book with a wider scope: Picture Jaspers from the Northwest. This volume includes the jaspers from the areas of McDermitt, Blue Mountain, Bruneau Canyon and Willow Creek and has new locations added to the Owyhee area. Hans collection is so vast that none of the specimens in the first book were needed for his second! These books can be ordered from his website.

nwest-jaspersHan’s website, World of Jaspers, features jaspers from all over the world and is an introduction to the vast artistic resource of jasper. His website is an almost psychedelic experience on a par with the worlds great museums. His daughter Corinna participated in the design and implementation, they are a great team. In addition to being a museum of his visions in jasper it is also an orderly tour of the most beautiful jaspers from around the world, focusing of course on those from the western United States.

As a painter I enjoyed cutting Morrisonite more than any other lapidary material but when I saw Hans’ cabochons I realized I was in the company of a true artist.

He recently allowed me to acquire many of his morrisonite cabochons (above) and very fine collector slabs (below). Each one is a painting in stone. These pieces will be appearing in The Cabochon Shop and The Slab Shop. Having these historic pieces available to purchase is a unique opportunity.

I will always be grateful for the kindness of this gentle gentleman for the hours we have spent together, the education he has offered me and the beautiful specimens from him that are among my finest treasures.

How I Began Collecting Plume Agates

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When I was a cabochon cutter in the late 1900’s I felt that plume agates were ideal for jewelry because most jewelers prefer to work on a smaller scale. Their frequent transparency and delicacy of pattern makes plume agates ideal for earrings, rings for the finger and so on. Here are some rings from my selection of antique agate jewelry in The Jewelry Shop that show how well suited plume agates are for fine jewelry.

I began to search for plume agates to cut but the ones I found seemed very rare and special to me and soon I decided I’d rather collect them than cut them.  I was living near Boston in those years and the market there was more interested in precious opal, tourmaline and other boring stuff like that… it was frustrating because I preferred to cut cabs with pictures in them.  As a result I still have my plume agate collection which after many years is now for sale.

I hope you will enjoy the talk I gave at The Celebration of Agates in Minnesota in 2012, it shows fine examples of plume agates from six different states in the western US.