Story and photos by Stacy Fisher
Terry Gaumer manages Gaumer’s Jewelry in Red Bluff with husband John. Their son, Bill Gaumer, is proprietor of the family operation. Beginning in 1967, the Gaumer family turned a hobby into a full time business when John and Terry decided to open a retail store utilizing the family’s extensive rock collection and John’s jewelry making skills. For four generations, the family’s passion in gems and minerals has been actively pursued in a lifelong quest prospecting the western United States. “My family has always been interested in rock and mineral collecting,” Terry says.
When the retail store was remodeled in 1997, an 800-square-foot mineral and mining museum annex was added, which features numerous fascinating objects. Starting in the late 1940s, “the family has acquired some truly amazing samples for the museum,” Terry lightly boasts. The museum highlights over fifty years of rare gem and mineral specimens collected from around the world. It was a way for the Gaumers to share many of the exceptional finds they’ve gathered over the years with the community at large, she says.
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A special exhibit in the museum includes a detailed replica of an old mine tunnel complete with ore car, tracks and mining equipment. The authentic mining car is the actual one used by John’s grandfather, John Owen Gaumer, who mined for gold in an active mine near the town of Chico for over 25 years during the 40s and into the 1960s.
Another popular exhibit is a black light display that illuminates minerals to cause them to fluoresce in a variety of colors under UV light. “Children who visit on school tours especially love it,” Terry says. “It’s a perfect opportunity for them to learn about mineralogy from throughout the world.”
Also contained in the museum are meteorites, Native American artifacts including woven baskets, samples of gold nuggets, a dinosaur egg from the Late Cretaceous and dinosaur bones, woolly mammoth fossils, stone carvings, geodes, figurines, plus collections of colorful, carved glass pieces, to name a few of the articles available for viewing. With the collection continuing to enlarge, the museum is in the process of expanding to make room for additional displays.
“We invite people to come in and check out the museum” as well as the retail section, Terry says, where they’ll find a huge selection of fine gold and silver handcrafted jewelry, semiprecious and precious stones, lapidary equipment and jewelry-making supplies. The store carries a giftware section, too, and offers books, coasters, vases, unique decorative items and handcrafted jewelry boxes.
Gaumer’s Mineral and Mining Museum is not to be missed. Visitors can expect to spend at least an hour exploring the many facets of the gallery. It is both an educational and jaw dropping experience.
The free museum is open to the public during normal business hours, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with occasional Saturday hours. Group tours are available for schools and special interest groups.
Gaumer’s Jewelry is located at 78 Belle Mill Road in the town of Red Bluff, CA., 96080. Phone: 527-6166. Website: www.gaumers.com.