Tailgater Allen Campbell, of Brisbane, poses for a portrait, holding a chunk of iron pyrite, ahead of the  21st annual Lismore Gemfest at the Lismore Showgrounds.
Tailgater Allen Campbell, of Brisbane, poses for a portrait, holding a chunk of iron pyrite, ahead of the 21st annual Lismore Gemfest at the Lismore Showgrounds. JERAD WILLIAMS

Rock up to Gemfest 2011

JEWELS, gems, crystals, pearls – the very words bring up ideas of sparkling colour, beauty and light.

They are words we might use to describe people we love: “He’s a gem”; “She’s a jewel”; “My little pearl”.

So imagine Gemfest, the largest specialised lapidary* show in Australia, held annually at the Lismore Showground.

Tailgaters and dealers come from all over Australia to display their wares in all stages of development, from the gritty rawness of a dull-looking rock to the polished splendour of a valuable gemstone; and beyond that, to handcrafted jewellery featuring those stones.

Fossickers are fascinated by all sorts of rocks and among the gems they bring will be metaphysical and healing crystals, opals, meteorites, rare fossils and thunder eggs.

It’s on today from 9am to 5pm, and tomorrow from 9am to 3pm and in this its 21st year, promises to be bigger and more sparkly than ever.

Bruce Copper is the president of the Lismore Gem and Lapidary Club, founded in 1964 and now with about 100 members. The club provides year-round tuition in treating raw stones, and holds specialist workshops, occasional fossicking outings, lectures and social events.

More than 125 ‘tailgaters’ will be displaying their wares at around the Showground. Tailgaters may be amateur or professional collectors and retailers of gems.

Twenty professional wholesalers and retailers will fill the Showground pavilion.

Allen and Joyce Campbell have come down from Brisbane with a collection of gems, fossils, finished jewellery creations and even a few rare coins.

Mrs Campbell said they had been coming to Gemfest for the past five years.

“We love it,” she said.

“We always get a great crowd, and we enjoy looking at all the other tailgaters’ and dealers’ gems, and they come and look at ours.”

“We buy and sell between ourselves as well as to the public.”