Club Corner: The Knoxville Gem & Mineral Society

By David Liles – President, The Knoxville Gem & Mineral Society

I wish to introduce The Knoxville Gem & Mineral society (KGMS).  We are a family oriented, nonprofit (501c3), educational and scientific interest group to promote interest and education in the Earth Sciences, including rocks, minerals, gems, and fossils, the lapidary arts, and related research.  We offer monthly programs (speakers), field trips, lapidary workshops, the annual Gem Show, and a Facebook page.  We also provide scholarships each year to graduate and undergraduate college students.

KGMS is not alone, rather we are one of about 80 similar clubs represented in the Southeast Federation of Mineral Societies (SFMS – the Southeastern USA), which in turn is a member of the American Federation of Mineral Societies (AFMS – includes all USA Regions).

Our organization includes geologists, bead and stone artists, professors, gemologists, students, hobbyists, and those curious about the earth sciences.  Leadership roles in the club come from of all of these categories – the only requirement being a willingness to serve. We have our own clubhouse.  We made modifications to allow the seating of 40 or so people for a program, and to provide for the club library.  We use the clubhouse for monthly programs, business meetings, and picnics.  Also, a lapidary shop is being developed in the garage and we will eventually have classes and work sessions.

The KGMS clubhouse

Spring potluck picnic in the clubhouse.

Meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month at 7:30 P.M. Exceptions include picnics in May and September, the October Gem Show, and a Holiday Banquet in December. Fellowship and fun are a priority!  Meeting speakers are from industry, academia, and our own membership.  Topics vary widely but are in the Earth Sciences realm.  In the last year, half of our programs have been on fossils and related research.

Field trips are organized for our own membership, and KGMS also serves as either host or invitee on SFMS field trips.  The KGMS only trips tend to be in the Knoxville area, and the SFMS shared trips tend to be further afield.  Most field trips include collection of fossils – either as the primary focus, or in addition to the collection of rock and mineral specimens – or examination of rock formations.  There is plenty here in both monthly programs and field trips to interest those studying paleontology.  A few examples of recent Field trips include:

Dale Hollow lake, TN:

This location provides three separate collecting sites and is scheduled when the water is at winter pool.  Found here are Mississippian aged materials such as: coral heads, chert nodules, crinoid stems, geodes, and horn coral. This is top notch trip, but a long day!

Image includes several types of corals, many types of crinoid stems, and fossils and rock geodes.

Crinoid stem with a root structure of another animal, probably a crinoid, stuck onto its stem!

Coon Creek McNairy County, TN:

This involves a visit to the Coon Creek Science Center, and specimens are collected in the creek and surrounding acreage. Fossils include numerous types of Upper Cretaceous marine shells and vertebrate remains – about 73 million years old.  The official Tennessee State fossil, the bivalve Pterotrigonia (Scabrotrigonia) thoracica is found here.  The best collecting is in the stream bed, in the blue layer.

The Tennessee state fossil, Pterotrigonia (Scabrotrigonia) thoracica a clam from the Cretaceous period.

Douglass Lake / Dam, TN:

This is a winter field trip, when the water is at winter pool.  Specimens include double terminated quartz crystals, hematite, quartzite, and fossils in limestone – brachiopods, snails, and trilobites.

Water is low in the local lakes and ponds so collecting specimens is much easier!

Large Ordovician snail shell mold stuck in a rock.

Dalton, GA Trilobites:

This location is on a riverbank under a bridge.  Trilobite fossils are found here in a Conasagua shale deposit. The shale is soft, and splits apart in layers, revealing the positive and negative image of the trilobite fossils.

Daniel dutifully splitting shales to uncover trilobite treasures.

A close up of the trilobite fossil Daniel found.

Lapidary workshops at Wildacres and William Holland are available to SFMS Member clubs each summer. Both are located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and are surrounded by the beauty of that area.  I attended a Gem Identification class at Wildacres in 2016, and then a Silver Casting Class in 2018.  Most of the classes are “hands on”, allowing one to explore one’s creativity while working with metals, stones, beads, and natural fibers and objects.  Most really enjoy the experience.  For example, I have heard of Wildacres humorously described as “Summer Craft Camp for Adults”, where those of all skill levels feel creative and artistic.

Our Monthly Newsletter, Facebook Page, and Webpage have been great outreach tools.  As President, I try to participate in as many functions as possible.  I write a newsletter introduction each month and I produce a Facebook Album on most KGMS functions in which I am involved – especially field trips.  These are posted to our club’s page (Knoxville Gem and Mineral Society) to generate interest in field trips and to attract potential members to our club.  The page currently has a membership of over 250.  Visitors are welcome!

Our largest fundraiser is our annual fall show. The three day 28th Annual Gem, Mineral & Jewelry Show opens October 19th at 10 am at the Rothchild Conference Center at 8807 Kingston Pike, Knoxville, TN 37923. Show times are from 10:00 am to 6 pm October 19th – 20th, Friday and Saturday; from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sunday, October 21th. The Gem Show is open to the public and has an admission fee of $6 a day for adults or $10 for the whole show; children under 12 are admitted free. The Gem and Mineral Show will have many vendors that offer great products including a wide variety of jewelry, rare fossil and mineral specimens, meteorites, gems of all colors, shapes & sizes, lapidary & jewelry equipment, and much more.

We also collect annual dues, and as a 501c3 organization, we get contributions of cash and lapidary supplies.  Scholarships are provided each year, in keeping with our mission to promote the study of Geology and the Earth Sciences. This is where we spend the bulk of the money each year beyond operating expenses.  Scholarships allow us to acknowledge and reward superior talent and scholastic achievement.  In 2018, we funded 12 scholarships for Graduate and Undergraduate Geology students from both The University of Tennessee and East Tennessee State University.  In addition, KGMS contributes to, and recommends up to 3 students for scholarships from The MAYO Foundation – established by the late Frank Mayo, the first President of the SFMS.

Well, I hope my introduction has bettered the understanding of our club, and of similar clubs in the AFMS.  It is my hope to increase awareness and participation.

Brachiopod assemblage from the Ordovician rocks near Nashville, Tennessee – Sumner Co, TN (Near Gallatin)

This fossil brachiopod assemblage is special because it is a geode!

To make this fossil even cooler – there are beautiful purple fluorite crystals within the geode.


To learn more:

Knoxville Gem & Mineral Society Web Page

Southeast Federation of Mineral Societies

American Federation of Mineral Societies

2018 Southeast Federation of Mineral Society Workshops (William Holland & Wildacres)

William Holland School of Lapidary Arts

Coon Creek Science Center

The Knoxville Gem and Mineral Society Facebook page includes detailed albums on the Wildacres and KGMS field trips.



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