‘Meteor geeks’ to talk minerals, gems at annual GCC show


GREENFIELD — It took the inquisitiveness of his 7-year-old son, who found a rock dotted with crystals, to rekindle the interest Eric Greene had known as a boy enthralled by minerals.

More than 30 years later, Greene, who built a home-based global business buying and selling minerals from around the world, remains fascinated with minerals and crystals, though some people, he admits, are baffled by what’s so special about rocks.

Greene, whose interest in minerals was piqued by the same love of art that led him to study sculpture at Wesleyan University, will be among presenters at Saturday’s 21st annual Gem Mineral and Fossil Show at Greenfield Community College, sponsored by GCC’s Pioneer Valley Institute.

The free event, from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., will include displays and sale of rocks, minerals, gemstones, fossils and fine art, as well as demonstrations, activities for children and talks at 11 a.m. by Greene and 1 p.m. by self-described “meteorite geek” Peter Scherff. A 3 p.m. guided tour of GCC’s new “geo path” will be led by GCC geology professor emeritus Richard Little.

Greene, a former Channing L. Bete Co. art director, created Treasure Mountain Mining in 2001 with his wife, Jeanne, packing on the dining-room table of their Log Plain Road home minerals and crystals for sale on their website and eBay. They moved the following year to a Church Street home where they now sell 5,000 specimens a year from Morocco, Madagascar, China, Mexico and elsewhere.


Customers are from as far away as Mongolia, India and Indonesia.

Originally, Greene was drawn by “the awe and wonder: the bright colors, shiny surfaces,” he said. “I’m still fascinated with the crystal forms, the sculptural qualities, the bright colors, the way that light plays off of them. That’s always been fascinating to me, and never stops.”

The Greenes continue to make a dozen or more trips a year to find minerals, although most are ones he buys at the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. A visit last September to topaz and emerald mines in Brazil’s Minas Gerais region will be the subject of his talk at Saturday’s show — an event that attracts hundreds of collectors and mineral enthusiasts each year.

The Greenes’ shop is also open to the public by appointment, where a visitor will see a constellation of geologic wonders, from blue aragonite to porcupine quartz and dinosaur prints to a nearly 30-pound nickel-iron meteorite.

Minerals remain for Greene “a source of incredible wonder and awe, to see and hold a treasure created by mother nature herself,” he says.

“When you look at one of these mineral specimens and you know it was something that wasn’t manmade, it wasn’t created in a laboratory, that the right circumstances in nature created an opportunity for these crystals to grow and achieve the best form they possibly could, there’s a spiritual component, a scientific component to it and just the visual beauty of these things combine to make for a really powerful experience.”


Meanwhile, Scherff, an “amateur meteoriticist” who became interested in meteorites while taking a jewelry-making class in middle school in Springfield, says he spent a couple of decades trying to find them in New England before traveling to the Arizona desert, where he found his first specimen after a couple of hours.

Now a collector who does meteorite analysis and sales from his Haydenville home, he calls this region “a horrible place to look for meteorites, in part because winter’s freeze-thaw cycles rust their metal content and they fall apart and the rocks “vanish” under other debris, including fallen leaves.

The 100 pounds of meteorites found each day around the world are just a fragment of the 100 tons a day that fall from space, he says, and most look like “very boring rocks … (like) a piece of tar-covered concrete.

And unfortunately, you find tar-covered concrete when looking for meteorites.
” So despite being sent a dozen photos a day and having people bring him specimens for years, he’s yet to be brought anything other than what “meteor geeks” like himself call “meteor-wrongs.”


Yet Scherff, who gives away free samples to children who attend his talks, says these “chunks of space” have fascinated people since time began, and they still dazzle him.

“I can hold in my hand something that’s actually been in outer space,” says Scherff, who has scoured the Sahara, Europe and this country for meteorites and slept more than a dozen times in meteorite craters with his wife.

“I have several meteorites on my desk right now that contain sugars and amino acids from space. The building blocks of life could have easily been delivered to earth on a rock just like this … I find so much inspiration in the world we live in.”

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