Rock at Kolwezi, D. R. Congo
Jewel Tunnel Imports was founded in 1972 by Rock Currier, that’s me, and I ran the business out of my mother’s house in San Marino, California for about five years. I was not home all that much since most of my time I was traveling in foreign countries buying mineral specimens or on the road trying to sell them at minerals shows or to rockshops.
During this time it was a rare occasion for someone to come to the house to buy things. After about five years, customers did start to come and finally it became clear that I needed to find a place to run the business from rather than my mothers house. The neighbors had started to complain.
The first place I went to buy minerals for my business was India. A friend of the family became one of the first two mineral dealers in Bombay he took me around to some of the quarries that produced abundant specimens and my life changed forever. In those days, most if not all of the specimens that were produced from the basalt quarries around Poona, Bombay and Nasik were broken into road fill, but I managed to save some of them and brought them back to the US. Selling these specimens and returning to India for more was what got my business started.
I called my company Jewel Tunnel Imports after a tunnel that the British built on the railway that connected Bombay with Pune (formerly Poona) during their colonial period in India. This particular tunnel, one of many was called the Jewel Tunnel, because when workers were drilling and blasting the tunnel they broke into pockets of zeolites that would sparkle and shine when illuminated by the lights of the workers. The news papers reported that gemstones and jewels had been discovered in this tunnel, and many city people came out to see if they could get some. No gems and jewels were found, only pretty specimens of Stilbite and Apophyllite.
In 1977 I bought a propery in Arcadia, California that had 2 houses and 4 garages on it and what I thought was plenty of room, and ran my growing business from there. I went to many other countries to buy things for my business. One of the main places, besides India that supplied me with specimens were the base metal and tungsten mines of Peru. I traveled around some of the remote and very high mining areas in Peru and made contacts that were to last me for many years. One mine in particular at Huanzala, Peru produced huge quantities of pyrite and other specimens that I imported by the ton and this also helped grow the business. Soon I visited other countries in South America and Africa and they too added a harvest of good specimens for my customers. Dioptase and other specimens from the famous locality of Tsumeb and amethyst, quartz and other specimens from Brazil come particularly to mind.
Eventually the business got too large for my home and garages in Arcadia and the neighbors again started to complain. So in about 1987 we moved into some little "incubator" units in Monrovia and that lasted for a while. Then the amazing crystal new age movement took off and we had people coming out of the wood work wanting to buy quartz crystals for "healing" and other "metaphysical" purposes. Because of my travels in Brazil, I knew where to get quartz crystals, so I went to Minas Gerais and got a bunch. At the same time I went to the southern most state in Brazil, Rio Grande do Sul and bought a bunch of amethyst and agate specimens. It was not all together clear to me at that time that I could make any money with agate and amethyst, because one of the largest dealers in that field had just gone out of business and I was worried that if he could not make a go of it, that my chances might not be very good. But, I had customers asking for these items and I thought I should take a crack at trying to sell them some.
Along the way we got into making pewter figurines that we would glue on low grade mineral specimen which we called critters on crystals, but though that lasted for a few years, we eventually pulled the plug on that business. We also started selling pendants and earrings made from various kinds of crystals and we still do. During this time I was still traveling to new countries and importing minerals and related items when I could. I have written about many of my travels in the Mineralogical Record and other magazines and various news letters to my customers.
In the early 90s we moved to our current location in Baldwin Park, California, a 10,000 sq foot concrete tilt up, and for the first time were blessed with having everything under one roof. More travels to Russia, China, Ethiopia and Mali followed and hardly a week goes by that does not bring some new shipment of something from somewhere. We have so much stuff that we often have trouble finding the things we know we have. You should come and visit us if you are in the area. I don't think there is any place in the world where you will be able to find so many differed mineral related items under one roof.
I still continue to write about things mineralogical, give the occasional lecture, do appraisals and help run Jewel Tunnel.
Yours truly, Rock Currier
Rock at Chapair, Bolivia