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14th Sinkankis Symposium

What Can I Do On a Spring Saturday in Carlsbad, California?

By Paul S. Harter

The answer to this question is really quit simple: attend the Fourteenth Sinkankis Symposium at the Gemological Institute of America. Marilyn and I have been married for 43 years. She hails from beautiful San Diego. So, over the years we have had many trips to visit parents, friends, to take kids to the beach and so on. We have made this drive well over 200 times since being married and never tire of the drive for many reasons: 350 miles gives you plenty of time to talk (sometimes I think this is becoming a lost art), you get to see a great agricultural belt and what farmers are growing and there is always a stop in Yuma for rolled tacos at Mr. G's. For those who have not made the stop this shop has been a favorite Yuma haunt for over 60 years.

Friday, April 7 dawned bright and cool in Phoenix. Unlike other trips there was no pressure to leave early. Instead, just a leisurely drive. Arrived at Mr. G's in time to beat the lunch rush. A dozen rolled tacos and two drinks make a perfect meal for two. Of course there was an extra Yz dozen for the road. Being familiar with the highways around San Diego allowed us to avoid going all the way west to the 805 (the heart of Mission Valley) and then North. Instead, take the hypotenuse and miss heavy traffic. We got to Carlsbad at about 3:00, checked into the hotel and immediately headed to the Carlsbad Flower Fields. For those who have never visited and have an interest in flowers, this is a must. An entire hillside, 50 acres, planted in ranunculus. Splendid color. In addition to other displays, there was a sweet pea maze. The smell of this flower from Sicily is intoxicating.  To finish the day we had scallops and crab cakes for dinner.

Saturday morning was a bit overcast, not fog, but rather a light mist. No mineral collector I know is deterred by a little rain. So we pull into the secure parking lot at 8:00 and checked in. The Carlsbad facility is a beautiful building with grounds to match. Once inside, OJ and coffee, along with assorted pastries were being served. This gives you time to mingle and say good morning to friends and acquaintances. Then upstairs for the talks. Although this was only my 4th Symposium, it was different this year. Roger Merk, a longtime TGMS Show dealer, was not the host, having passed early last year. But, Robert Weldon, who has lectured at TGMS Shows, took up the responsibility.

The Sinkankis Symposium differs from others in that it chooses one gem and all of the talks are focused on the selected gem. This year's theme was “sapphire.” Remember - ruby is red, sapphire is blue and all the other colors are "fancy pink, fancy yellow,” etc. My gosh, the beauty of sapphire is stunning. The keynote speaker was Richard Hughes who has spent a lifetime in the study of corundum: ruby and sapphire. Even though ruby had been the theme few years back, there was still a small amount of crossover this year and we saw both red and blue. We were treated to a brilliant lecture and many photographs from his trips to sapphire locales around the world. People and places, most of us will never see. Richard has been a prolific author on his specialty.  The last book, a mere ten (10) pound tome, was available.

As mentioned earlier, the Sinkankis format focuses solely on one gem. There were several talks about the science of corundum, origin, crystal structure, color, etc. While all the presenters are exceptional, one reason I enjoy this symposium is having the opportunity to hear George

Rossman, a Cal Tech professor, talks about color. This year was no exception. He helped all of us learn more about the color of sapphire. If you have the chance to attend a Dr. Rossman lecture, do not miss same. You will not be disappointed. For those interested in history and its interaction with sapphire there were two superb talks, Alan Hart and Lisbet Thoresen. Of course there were talks for those interested in preparation of rough sapphire to finished gemstones. This talk featured re-cutting in order to better show the qualities and attributes of a given sapphire. Photography was not to be forgotten. While all presentations displayed images, there was a fascinating talk about photography and micro-inclusions. Finally, no symposium would be complete without the support of the Larson family. A full size exhibit case was chock full of specimens, gemstones and jewelry from various members of the Larson family. Carl Larson exhibited a magnificent corundum crystal from Riverside, CA and had a "to die for" star sapphire as his "pocket rock.”  Carl, in Bill's absence, shared stories and photographs of many sapphire crystals, gemstones and pieces of jewelry from the family collection.

But wait, there are additional opportunities during the day. Two other enjoyable aspects of the day at the GIA are a chance to enjoy the various exhibits throughout the building and Dona Dirlam opens the GIA library for "browsing" during lunch. A great library for research. Then, sadly at 5:15 the symposium ended. But, there was one more event of the day: a great seafood feast with friends Dona, Lois, Gloria, Wayne and Dave.

We all came away secure in the knowledge there will be another Symposium in 2018. While the theme has not been chosen, or at least shared, Marilyn and I plan on attending and having another memorable day in Carlsbad. So you see, this is what you can do on a spring Saturday in Carlsbad.