Originally published in Hard Rock Newsletter, May 2018:
Nevada City, California, March, 2018. We make the trek in my little rental car from the seemingly sleepy town of Oroville and head East on the scenic routes, driving through the farmlands and pointing out the cows and horses to my daughter in the backseat. Quickly the scenery changes and we are climbing the foothills out of the oak trees and into the pine forests of California. We arrive in Nevada City and park the car at the curb. We are in luck and there are no meter fees as it’s a Sunday morning. We are on a cute street in the crisp air of spring.
We browse 20 minutes in this shop, and 30 minutes in that one, spending more money than we meant to, when we come across an antique looking jewelry store with a tall old fashioned door, the kind with brass handles and old wood. There are unique and beautiful stones in the windows. We step inside out of the cold and we are greeted with exquisite amethyst specimens and huge gold nuggets and jewelry like I’ve never seen before. We are in Utopian Stone, a custom designer jewelers shop.
My daughter Ava, 9 years old, marches up to the counter and asks in a clear voice, “Excuse me, but do you have any coprolite?” I stifle a laugh. The man behind the counter (who we later find out is the owner) pauses for a moment, dumbfounded. He looks over his glasses and remarks, “I don’t believe anyone has ever asked me that before in my life…” he giggles. Ava, quite pleased with herself, smiles and looks up at him with big shining brown eyes peering over the counter. A woman emerges from the back, his wife. She has heard the conversation and has come out to see this little person asking such a question. The man invites her back behind the counter for a look at all of his sophisticated equipment, still chuckling as they go. There are faceting machines and precision laser welders and equipment I couldn’t even begin to identify. He opens a dusty drawer and pulls out 5 or 6 pieces of his coprolite collection. Ava is grinning from ear to ear.
My friend Joan and I peruse the store, careful not to touch anything unless offered. The jewelry is magnificent. I spot some deep green drusy necklaces and I ask what it is. “That’s green garnet drusy,” the owner says, “It’s called Uvarovite.” There are carved moons out of grey quartz drusy that are to die for… made in Germany, with a price tag to go with, and beautiful gem quality dinosaur bone set in white gold. I’m all but drooling now. We head back to the counter and the owner lets Ava choose a coprolite piece and we chit chat about stones and adventures. He shows us crystalline gold formations and lets us hold the gold nuggets in our hands to feel how heavy they are. He has beautiful cabochons of quartz with gold seams and gold nugget earrings - we are in gold rush country after all. When we have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and looked at every beautiful display case he tells Ava, “You come back now and work for me. I’ll give you a job when you’re old enough.” Ava grins again and nods, the coprolite in a small mesh bag with ribbon draw string in her hands. We say our good-byes and head back out to the street.
The air is cold now, and it snowed briefly while we were inside. We bundle up again and head up the streets in a different direction. We stop for food and beer sampling. I’m not usually one for beer, but it’s some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The olive and cheese plates are devoured by all. We head back out again and my friend says, “Oh, now I remember, this is what I wanted to show you, there it is!” Right down the street from us is the tiniest little rock shop I’ve ever seen in my life. We are at Crystal Rainbow Rock Shop. We step inside and I suddenly realize there are tumbled river pebbles beneath my feet! The entire floor of the store is covered in pebbles and the shop is jammed full of the most variety of stones I’ve seen in a long time. How did she fit all this in here? I think to myself. I laugh out loud at the floor and comment how fun it is while I bend down and run my hands through the stones for a moment. The owner is a sweet looking lady with long wavy salt and pepper hair. She says, “Well you’ve got to have a surprise once in a while, right? What’s life without a little surprise?”
We are crammed in the tiny shop but delighted at all the treasures. I’m in heaven once again. I find some moldovite and a celestite crystal I can’t live without. I buy a bloodstone sphere and a few other unique items like a shaman stone from the Grand Canyon (a round concretion) and a black stone that feels wonderful in my hand as I rub it through my fingers, it’s a carbon stone called Shungite. Joan buys a beautiful ammonite as a gift, and you can see the lovely sutures and agatized chambers.
I don’t want this trip to end. I’m having so much fun. Finally, it is time to leave and we head back down to the little car. The town is beginning to shut down. It’s now a fairly quiet place with the exception of a couple of restaurants. We drive back towards Oroville with one quick detour to the old bridge on the Yuba river. It’s a gorgeous spot with grey granite boulders. I pick up a few small pieces of granite for my pocket. I can’t leave this place without a few stones. The river water is a soft aqua green. A bat entertains us in the setting sun, catching any bugs that might be out as we stand on the old bridge from 1921. I breathe deep and take it all in one last time. This trip was full of unexpected adventures and delights, and my heart is brimming while my pockets and my luggage can’t possibly hold another rock.
http://www.utopianstone.com/index.htm - see the Utopian Stone jewelry
Google “crystal rainbow rock shop Nevada city CA” for more photos