Tullahoma News

Follow Us On:

To Gem & Mineral Society, rocks are more than pretty stones

Posted on Saturday, July 15, 2017 at 1:00 pm


Kali Bradford

Dawn Belew sands down a piece of stone. The local chapter of the Mid-Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society welcomes students of all levels and meets each Tuesday and Thursday.
-Staff Photos by Kali Bradford


The Tullahoma Parks and Recreation Department will welcome the local chapter of the Mid-Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society at the monthly Lunch and Learn series from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday at D.W. Wilson Community Center.


The Lunch and Learn series kicked off over six months ago thanks to the leadership of Lyle Russell, parks and rec program manager.

Russell said he presented the idea as a way to utilize the center and also to give people a chance to learn something new.

John Ray looks over a stone to decide the best spot to make a piece of jewelry.

“I pitched the idea when I came on in the fall of last year,” he said.  “We wanted a program that got people back in the café. I personally always like to learn stuff. So we put together the idea of having a luncheon and then having someone (speak). We chose a public interest topic that would be of interest to anybody and anyone could learn something from.”

Lunch and Learn speakers have included News Channel 4 meteorologist Lisa Spencer, Tullahoma Mayor Lane Curlee, local author Trevor Cooley and Russell himself.

Russell said the response from the public has been positive.

“We’ve have maxed capacity so far for almost everyone. We welcome all genres and topics and anything of interest. We welcome the public to make suggestions or recommend speakers,” he said.

Curlee added that the Lunch and Learn offers a learning opportunity for all ages.

“I appreciate parks and rec’s initiative on hosting and organizing the monthly Lunch and Learns,” he said.  “I believe everyone attending has benefitted from and learned from these events.  Parks and rec has offered everything from local history to birds of prey.  Its little things like these lunches that set a community apart and make it unique.”


Rock Talk

For July’s Lunch and Learn, Ken Swann with the local chapter of the Mid-Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society will be on-hand to discuss what, to many, are just fancy stones.

However, according to Swann, there is much more to these stones.

“Many may not know it, but Tennessee is home to one of the most beautiful agates in the world. Known as Paint Rock, it can be found in counties located on the east side of Southern Middle Tennessee. Counties such as Franklin, Marian, Grundy and Coffee,” he said.

The Paint Rock agate is the most popular variety of agate in the state. It is found in a wide spectrum of colors and has varied patterns. Some common varieties are clear or milky agate, yellowish brown agate and agate with bands or swirls of red hue.

One of the most appealing varieties is a transparent agate, which has a red-colored, bead-like scattered hue floating within the stone. The locations where the Paint Rock agate can be found in Tennessee are the Greasy Cove, Mokay, Dripping Stone and Greenhaw, located in Franklin County, and the Saw Mill, Heartbreak and Strawberry areas of Grundy County.

The other popular and rare kind of agate found in Tennessee is the Iris agate. The Iris agate has very thin bands of various colors and almost appears transparent. The stone displays rainbow-like color patterns when subjected to light from a particular direction. These agates can be found at Horse Mountains in Wartrace.

There are a number of gems and minerals that can also be found in the state that include barite, bentonite, calcite, calcopytie, celestite and many more.

Swann will be on hand to discuss what rocks be found in the Volunteer State, and how to become a member of the gem and mineral society.

Swann has been a member since 2003, helping to found the mineral society in Tullahoma.

“I belonged to the Mid-Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society,” he said.  “Will Smith was in Nashville as president of the state club. He told me they wanted to begin a class in Tullahoma. He also informed me that I was to teach down here and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

The Mid-Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) educational society dedicated to the study and enjoyment of the earth sciences. The society is a member of the Southeast Federation of Mineralogical Societies, which is a member of the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies.  The Mid-Tennessee Gem and Mineral Society is open to the public for the education of all who wish to attend.

Since its small beginnings in a storage building behind the Coffee County Senior Center in Tullahoma, the society has grown to now house 10 machines with a growing membership.

“How many people are here really depends on the season. Somedays, there is a roomful of students and sometimes there are only two. It also depends on the season; there is more in here in the wintertime than in the summer. What’s impressive is that we’ve been here 15 years and there are only two senior centers in Tennessee that help to house societies such as these.”

Jerry Lashlee cuts through a piece of stone in preparation to make a piece of jewelry. Lashlee has made a variety of pieces of ornate jewelry, knives and other items over the years.

Swann added that the society holds a number of classes each week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, along with a monthly meeting at 3 p.m. on the second Sunday of the month.

“We have silver smiting classes, wire-wrapping classes, bracelet-making classes,” he said. “We have grooving classes where we groove the stone, put silver wire around it and hang it. We also have faceting class, where you make emerald and diamond cuts on stone.”

Swann said all levels and individuals over 15 are welcome to join.

“All they need do is come in and tell me they want to learn and then I sign them up. I’ve met all sorts of people and that’s been a real joy,” he said.

Classes and meetings are held at the lapidary building behind the Coffee County Senior Center, located at 410 North Collins Street in Tullahoma.

For information, visit online at www.mtgms.org or email at infomtgms.org.

Kali Bradford may be reached by email at tnlifest@lcs.net.