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Panning for Gold The Searchers' Way

Hundreds of people at the show

By Michael Buss, 2012-05-05
It’s jacaranda time in Brookhurst Park, and inside the Community Center The Searchers have their annual Gem and Mineral Show. Everywhere, a blaze of color. And hundreds of people from old time prospectors who look for all the world like they just took the weekend out from the mine, to boys and girls excitedly panning for gold or making jewelry. It was a great family event with something for everyone.

Your reporter is just a greenhorn, who had no idea that rockhounding - looking for interesting rocks out in the wild, and lapidary – cutting, shaping and polishing to make works of art, was so enormously popular. Of course, we carried an article about The Searchers in the Arts Council’s latest newsletter, so he should have known better! Jay Erb is their new representative.

In the exhibition hall were vendors of every conceivable specialty: agates, crystals, semi-precious stones, gems, scrimshaw, beads, jewelry. Demonstrations ran throughout the day in carving, cabochon cutting, wire wrap, silversmithing and intarsia – a form of marquetry which, instead of using different slivers of wood to build a pattern, uses colored gemstones to form a picture. Enthusiasts watched and admired as the experts worked their magic.

Two women were rapidly sorting through minute stones set in small plastic boxes. “What are you doing?” I asked. “Well I’m looking for stones to make jewelry, and she just collects them.”

I stopped by at another stand and soon learned there were classes available in many parts of the county for every conceivable gem related interest. At the gold panning sluices I discovered that every bag of sand genuinely contained carefully counted out pieces of gold which, if you could find them, were worth more that you would pay for the packet of grit. Really, I wanted to push the kids aside and have at it – but some sense of propriety demanded I let them have their fun while I just watch.

The Searchers were pretty smart at fund-raising. The silent auction contained no hotels offers or Angels tickets, but rocks. Big ugly rocks. And if you knew what you were looking at you could gauge the value when you cut them up. They were not ugly at all. What a fun auction.

An older lady summed it all up for me just before I left. She was fishing around for rough brown rocks in a tray of water and I asked her what she would do when she got them home. “Well you just grind ‘em up and see if there’s anything fun in there.”

Enjoy the slides. They tell the story better. And we are delighted that The Searchers told their own story in our April Newsletter - HERE. Open the link and scroll to page 4.

The Searchers Gem and Mineral Show, May 2012

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