EXCITED: Lismore Gem and Lapidary Club president Bruce Copper expects this year’s display to light every gem lover’s heart.
EXCITED: Lismore Gem and Lapidary Club president Bruce Copper expects this year’s display to light every gem lover’s heart. Marc Stapelberg

Lapidary lovers romancing the stones for 25th annual Gemfest

LISMORE Gem and Lapidary Club's 25th annual Gemfest, the largest festival of its kind in the country, coincides with the club's 50th anniversary this year.

It's no wonder president Bruce Copper is counting down the days until Saturday's and Sunday's festivities fill Lismore Showground.

"It started as a fairly small show run by a regional club and it's now the biggest show of it's kind in the country," he proudly explained.

"I'd say this is because we've followed a policy of keeping it strictly lapidary - gemstones, minerals, cutting materials, cutting equipment, silverwork - all the stuff related to cutting stones, mounting stones, collecting minerals and that sort of thing. We've made sure it doesn't just become another market and as a result it's become big."

Formerly working in the chemical industry as a emergency respondent, the president of seven years first became interested in lapidary arts while studying chemistry at university.

An ancillary course in geology saw him develop a fascination with stones, minerals and other elements of the trade.

"Gem cutting was always a black art in the old days. It was done by people who kept their secrets very much to themselves," he said.

"Around the 1950s, Australia cottoned on to lapidary arts and amateurs began to make grinding wheel sets and faceting materials and began hobby cutting.

"Because Australia's got such a wealth of mineral and gemstone materials around, most of the stuff we want to cut we have," he said.

Gemfest will be held at the Lismore showground on Saturday and Sunday, May 16 and 17, from 9am to 5pm. Entry is $5 for adults and $1 for children. The day features gemstones, minerals, equipment, finished jewellery and demonstrations.