Not everyone who hunts for rocks and gem stones has his own mining claim. Much like the miners on the television show "Prospectors," Larry and Joyce Wright have been mining their 20-acre surface claim in central Utah for the past five years.
The site was discovered quite by accident while crossing the area known to rock hounds looking for opals. They were covering ground that had been previously burned and more recently been bulldozed. Glancing down, they saw an interesting stone. They picked up several, then went on to their planned destination.
When they got home, cleaned and examined what they had found, they couldn't identify the stones. These weren't of gem quality, though interesting enough to return to the site three times that same year and find quality marketable pieces.
They had only been rock hounds for about a year and a half and had been lucky enough to discover an unknown rock formation formed in seams only three to five feet underground. Since they were believed to be the very first to discover the unusual formation, the Wrights were able to name what they had found. They chose Utah Lace Opal because of the wavy lacy appearance of the colored layers in a geothermal formation.
About 1900 years ago a geyser erupted causing water containing acids and minerals to form the various patterns as they solidified. These stones are still wet at thetime they are mined, so it is easy to see the lacy patterns on the surface. They are found in seams from about one-half-inch to a foot wide. As they mine, they choose only the best pieces to carry to a nearby trailer to bring home.
Larry cuts the rocks into shapes saying, "That's exciting as I see new patterns and colors with each cut. Next comes polishing ... not so much fun!"
Joyce makes many of the smaller pieces into one-of-a-kind jewelry: earrings, pendants, broaches and more. She has learned wire wrapping using two, three and four gold or sterling silver wires. The color of the wires and wrapping styles are chosen especially to compliment the coloring and size of each stone.
Their home is a place to display many of their favorite lace opals and other rocks and gemstones. Each piece has a special place on shelves, divider walls, cases and tables.
Larger examples are kept for display, sold or traded at rock and gem shows. The Wrights attend many of these shows each year. Among them was the Rock and Gem show held at Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta on June 1 this year. Some of the others where they show their lace opals are held in Tuscan and Albuquerque, New Mexico, Buena Vista, Woodland Park, Colorado Springs, the Coliseum in Denver, and more.
They have chosen the name Aspen Rock and Gem and at times have some items on display at their business, Wright Distributing Inc., located at the south end of Cedaredge on Highway 65. They also have a web site at
They have a new trailer that they keep ready to go at any time, whether to their mine or to a show. It has a larger living space than their previous one, giving space for their display items, a larger cooking area and a bed that doesn't require climbing up into an overhead bunk.
Larry and Joyce have been lucky in finding their mine. More than that they discovered an interest that they both are enthusiastic about and can share together.blog comments powered by Disqus