Why are people fascinated by rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils? Why do they love them, collect them, seek them out?

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On a personal level, I’ve admired these natural wonders all my life. As a storyteller, a fictional ‘Vitality stone’ plays a huge role in my Crossing Realms paranormal romance series. For both reasons, I sought to deepen my understanding when I recently spoke with Leslie Metarko, co-owner with her husband Tom, of the Appalachian Rock Shop and Jewelry Emporium in Harmony, Pennsylvania.

Both Leslie and Tom are degreed geologists with backgrounds in the oil and gas industry. Since 1996, when the couple purchased the shop, they’ve followed their passion and utilized their knowledge to transform the one time hobby shop into a premier destination.

“We wanted to do something different with their lives,” Leslie said of buying the shop. And so they have. Each year, they travel to mega events such as the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. There, they meet with people and families from all over the world who own the mines, and handpick their vast and assorted inventory.

Leslie and Tom’s passion for the business also extends to their customers. “I’m proud to say we’ve known many of them for years,” Leslie said. “Many are local, but others travel miles to visit the shop. We’ve even had people from as far away as Germany and Australia who are visiting the area stop in. I’m honored by that. Because for many of our customers a visit to the shop is not a quick one, we’ve gotten to know a lot of them very well.”

img_0050Appalachian Rock Shop customers are as varied as the stones the shop carries. “They’re young and old, casual enthusiasts, metaphysical practitioners, novice and serious collectors,” Leslie said. “While we’re very knowledgeable about the stones we carry, and love to share that knowledge, often, we also learn a lot from our customers. While they peruse the selection we have, they have questions, and stories to share. I love to hear about their experiences with the stones.”

I felt privileged to hear one such story, about Pat Mauro, a dear friend of both Leslie’s and Jolan Nalappa’s, long time shop employee and teacher. “Over fifty years ago, Pat had a life changing experience,” Jolan said. “She’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, but hadn’t told anyone. At the time, she was in her thirties. While at a picnic, she tells of a woman appearing behind her, wearing a flowy peasant dress. The woman said she had breast cancer, and to keep Sugulite with her always. Pat did as the woman said, and has been fine ever since. As well, she’s been on a mission of healing ever since, working as a chiropractor and reflexologist. She’s a beautiful woman in every way,” Jolan said. (Sugilite, also known as lavulite, is a relatively rare pink to purple cyclosilicate mineral.)

Jolan explained that many other customers have also shared with her and the shop staff about how stones have affected them in positive ways. “They’ve told us about how their health has improved, or how they’ve been able to ease their headaches through use of the stones. Some of them, I believe are really intuitively in touch with the energies of stones. And those who are have been very generous with their talents when they visit us.”

Leslie explained that people often ask how she’s able to be around the many different energies of the stones all day. “I feel blessed,” she said. “Other questions we hear frequently from customers include ‘Do you cut the stones?’, ‘Are these real?’ and questions of a healing nature, such as ‘what can I give someone for depression?’, as the healing nature of stones has become more mainstream.”

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To be sure, people are drawn to the rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils for many different reasons. “However, as we’ve talked with people over the years, we’ve found time and again the customers are drawn to the energies and beauty of the Earth they embody. As are we.” Leslie said. She explained that fossils are her favorite. “I’m visually drawn to them, and their organic, natural appeal.” Jolan agreed. “I have an intuitive connection with fossils,” she said.

“The very nature of our inventory is a tactile one,” Leslie explained. “People are instantly and intuitively drawn to pick up the rocks, touch them, and feel them in their hands. That’s all part of their beauty, and the joy and fascination they bring.”

mine-img_1416Of the many stones available, Jolan explained that “everyone loves quartz and amethyst.” Why? “It’s widely available in many forms, and ranges from cheap to expensive. Plus, its color, sparkle and shape are pretty. (Amethyst is a well-known mineral and gemstone, and is the purple variety of the mineral Quartz.)

Both Jo and Leslie love the merchandise they handle, but for different reasons. Jolan, who also handcrafts jewelry and teaches classes at the shop, told me how over a decade ago she was commissioned to make a ring in grey moonstone. “I’ve been in love with stones ever since.”

“From the start, I fell in love with the natural, geological process of how the different stones are created,” Leslie explained. “Both I and my staff have actually cried tears when people have bought certain rocks and fossils that we love so much, and couldn’t afford to buy. We’re attached to them, just like we’re attached to the customers.”

And perhaps that sentiment—one of connection—is the common thread throughout the many reasons why so many different people love rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils. As well, the stories these natural wonders tell, and the people who share those stories, are perhaps the biggest fascination of all.

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Left to right: Leslie Metarko and longtime employee, Jolan Nalappa

Visit the Appalachian Rock Shop and Jewelry Emporium at 508A Perry Highway in Harmony, PA, or visit them online at www.appalachianrockshop.com. The shop features a wide variety of rocks, minerals, crystals and fossils, as well as a wide selection of jewelry and jewelry making supplies, books, gifts, beads, educational materials.

Rebecca E. Neely is an author of romance, the paranormal and suspenseful kind. 🙂 Visit www.rebeccaneely.com

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