This past weekend, May 21-23, a merchant crew from all over the globe came to Earl Warren Showgrounds to conduct business that was anything but the usual. It was a melee of New Age spirituality, science, exoticism, gypsy banter, and treasure hunters. On the whole, the merchants said that business was rough in the shadow of the recession, but that they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The Showgrounds were packed with stands and stalls manned by people from all walks the world over. The man powering Dreaming Down Under was an aeronautical engineer for 18 years before, he said, he had to walk away and pursue what truly inspired him — stones. He says there is nothing more exciting than cutting open a stone because you never know what you’re going to find. His collection of world-acclaimed opals ranges from $10 to upwards in the thousands. One stone — called “The Creation” by an Australian gem society — is a magnificent pulse and punch of iridescent light caught in a crystal, which he himself had found in a mine. He and his wife are on the road eleven months out of the year, driving around a caravan full of treasures. They say it’s hard, but they prefer this kind of life. He works on the road with a portable stone cutter and tumbler.
Sahara Treasures is from Morocco originally. The vendor said he was a merchant in another lifetime. He spoke at length about the difficulties of work in these times, and especially of the difficulties of being self-employed. “When you run your own business, you’re on the clock 24 hours, 7 days a week…Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it isn’t…Still, nothing beats being your own boss,” he said.
Stones are used in a variety of ways, ranging from aesthetics to healing. There were piles of beads to make jewelry, crystals, agates, fossils, rugs, and pearls from the Southern Sea. There were jewelry-making workshops where one could learn to make rings and necklaces. According to the owner of a shop called Eye of the Buddha, located in San Diego, certain stones are corresponded with subtle energetic systems contained within the body and are used to treat maladies, including headaches.