This is a continuation - a follow up to my Part One blog - about My Experience of The Alchemy of Stones workshop, which I attended in June of 2016.
THE FRENCH SAYING - "A REFAIRE" - SOMETHING TO BE DONE AGAIN Somebody said this might be Robert Simmons' last workshop - given his age (I think he's just turned 65) - but I doubt it. You should have seen him tack sentence upon sentence, as he was wrapping up the weekend. He didn't want this ecstatic succession of collective Crystal community moments to come to a close. In fact, he'd had so much fun up there, that I would be astounded if he waited another 6 years to do it again. I'll expect the next event sooner than that! Plus - and this is a big plus (for him and his team) - the shop had to have grossed well over a hundred grand over the course of the long weekend. That's a mighty big incentive to come back for more! I'll show you some of the treasures I acquired later, but I wanted to broaden your sense of the logistics first - not to distract or overanalyze - but so you can understand how such an event is put together. BASIC OVERHEAD JUST AN ENTRY FEE (TO THE BIGGER PARTY) We'd paid a reasonable workshop fee (under $400 for 3.5 days). Then there was a meal plan (of $360) - and it covered 11 meals - unless you wanted to go fend for yourself in town (which some people did). Lastly, there was the hotel/lodging (which worked out to be over $800) at the group rate, included parking (at $15/day). It all totalled around $1500 bucks - but yet every single attendee - spent some time and as able -some serious money in the shop (which was sprawling and brilliant). CROSS REFERENCE THE ABOVE WITH PAGES
THE SHOP (AND MY SHOPPING) Let me paint the picture of this retail bonanza with words (and the intermingled photos). Although sprawling beyond and outside of it, there was a good sized, long, and main 'shop' room. A stand-behind counter ran down one side, housing the jewelry and more valuable specimens. Glass modular panes on table tops created a glass display case experience (quite genius, really). The other 3 walls had tables against them, with taller glass shelving (for display pieces), as did the island running down the center of the room, which housed bins of tumblers by the gram.
Loose stones were generally at a $1/gr minimum, which adds up.A palm sized piece can be 50 to a hundred grams easily. The gram price went up to $4 and $5+ per gram. Even the "cheapest" items ran $15 to $25, and I'm pretty sure that more than half the entire selection was $150 to $350 per unit (with a few $1800 items sprinkled in, for good measure - and perspective).
I didn't spend time looking too closely at the pendants and rings - they were beautiful, as were the custom crafted multi-stone necklaces - but I couldn't resist an Amber/Jet combination necklace for myself. Maybe I'll sell it later, but it's sure nice to have around. Robert himself told me it was Baltic, and that he prefers that particular pairing of materials.
I brought home a "Creation Stone Agate" (Robert's name for the New Zealand variety). I chose it for my wife, because it looks like a pomegranate, and symbolizes fertility and abundance (which made sense, it having been Fathers Day weekend). Funny story around it - I'd asked for it to be set aside - and it disappeared. The next day, I was fortunate to find it back on the shelf. It's also featured in a cameo, on the pages of the latest Heaven and Earth print catalog. THE PIECE OVER THE PRICE
The team worked with me on pricing (given my status as a legitimate reseller) - which eased my spending - and as with any selection of Crystals, I'm quickly able to identify the best bang for the buck (at any price point). That doesn't mean I'm looking for cheapo bargains, per se. While I appreciate a good price-to-value ratio - as anyone would - I never think twice about plunking down a few hundred dollars for a quality piece. Ideally - and sometimes only in theory - the piece has to be resellable for at least as much (down the line) to someone else. And then there are the personal pieces, which I get just for me (almost regardless of price). They end up often being used for my group & individual sessions. That is part of a responsibility I feel - to collect outstanding Power Stones - for the community to enjoy (without them having to buy them for themselves).
I brought a bunch of people over to see the Ametrine selection - which was the largest (and best) I've seen (on or offline) - but somehow I resisted the temptation to buy any of them myself. They, along with the Rhodochrosite and a few other items, felt like they were very much in line with "the market," price wise (ie. well worth the listed retail prices). It was so interesting to see Robert's lapidary priorities manifest on the sales floor - and to realize the ways in which they differ from mine - but more on that soon...let me move on with my description.
IT WENT ON AND ON In the substantially sized foyer, or hallway between the sales room and the main meeting hall, were unsupervised volumes of flats and boulders; chip necklace strands and tumblers by the bag (still largely for sale by the gram)...and even some pretty decent clear Quartz points...a bit ding'ed, but still carrying The Force.
There were books & incense; even a pair of biomats (heated bed pads you could lie on, filled with chips of Amethyst (for $1700), or Azeztulite (for $6500!). I'll get into the "Azeztulite" conversation later, but suffice it to say, it's a variety of Quartz. I snuck in some time on the Azeztulite mat ('cause the other one had been sold from right off the floor) - it was nice, to be sure. I wonder if an actual heating pad gridded with smaller (or even larger) stones might not produce a similar effect, for much less money. But does it really matter?
ESTABLISHING VALUE BY SETTING THE PRICE Price and value are all in the eye of the beholder - as I always say - but the power of the seller is to set the price and declare an item's value...which in some ways, is half the battle won. You see, people are very susceptible to the printed word - if they see a $360 price tag on something - a large part of them accepts: that must be what it's worth. Sometimes, the buyer may think the emperor is wearing no clothes, and will shy back from accepting that number. Still, over all - if you ask for a lot - you're most likely to get it (rather than undervaluing your inventory and giving it away). I respect that about Heaven and Earth...they certainly value their product (which sets the example for us to do the same)! A UNIQUE AND SUCCESSFUL VENTURE I was witness that weekend to what is truly an empire - created modestly a year after the first store's opening (and Robert & Kathy's marriage) in 1986 - and built up until now, exactly 30 years on, to be what it is now.
More than a handful of books have been penned by Robert; he apparently sets up this type of shop & display in Tucson annually (which I was told is much more impressive than what's generally thrown together for a display there); and a robust online business was built by Heaven & Earth right from the inception of the whole online selling phenomenon (giving them a tremendous head start on Johnny-come-latelies like me, who only began selling online a few years ago). On top of that - with the generation and trademarking of custom New Age names onto previously unknown rocks & Crystals - Robert has created a market (where there was none) for arguably pedestrian materials that have now been imbued with (or revealed to have) metaphysical import.
WALK BEFORE YOU RUN By giving us a few dozen small bits of these various stones to use in our meditations and experiences during the Intensive, folks were able to personally experience - "get them" - and become invested in continuing the magic by purchasing these stones for relatively less than they would have to (from the H&E shop) at full retail. As I recall, if you bought your specially selected batch, you'd spend just under a thousand dollars. And if you bought it all pieced out - from them, cause I don't know who else sells this material - it would cost you over 3 grand. It's all quite brilliant - and as an entrepreneur myself - I stand in awe at this impressive edifice of a business. SHINING EXAMPLE Robert's influence and impact on the world far surpasses mine, which is humbling to say the least. I shall have to find my sense of self worth in other ways (lol). I'm certainly jealous, in the sense that I could only dream of being so established (and lucrative). My successes may be more modest - but I stand behind them - and I ultimately have to be satisfied with the path G8D has chosen for me (or that I have chosen, from the many options presented to me).
UNCONVINCED All the while though, I did not "buy" or personally "get" the awesomeness of the various Azeztulites, and other special stones presented. I think I'll reserve my sharing of Robert's definition of what they are - or what they're said to be (you can certainly check his sources) - till Part Three of this Blog series.
PARTIALLY CONVINCED To be fair, I did have three favorites that did resonate for me. They weren't strictly of the Azeztulite varieties. But they had been renamed (and trademarked) by Simmons. The first of these was the pale blue Azumar (Quartz & Kaolinite) - which I think has a steadier, more powerful (and uniform) energy than Larimar. It's also stronger, but not necessarily "better" than Turquoise.
I also fell in love with the Satyaloka Rose Azeztulite. It's truly healing, in my experience (though my own Mango Quartz is equal to, or superior to it, by my own reading). I don't have a photo of it to share with you in the moment, but if you email me, I can see about sharing an image.
Also not an Azeztulite, I'm a huge fan of "Healerite" - a soft light green Serpentine, I believe from Southern Africa. Oddly I never saw countries or localities of origin stated(!). This material - a relatively new find, geologically (I haven't seen it till recent years) - is something I've loved from before learning of its new, special name. DIFFERENT STROKES I was attracted to these few of many "special" stones. That's to be expected - that I would like some - and others like others. With so many to choose from, I suppose there was bound to be something for everyone. Ultimately, my idiosyncratic tastes didn't matter - in the grand scheme of things - except to me. So the fact that I didn't buy a single Azeztulite, and was unmoved by the majority of freshly named geology, cannot be seen as damning or criticising the big picture of what was being done here.
WHAT I THINK IS GOING ON Basically, it seems, Heaven & Earth sources tonnage of specific stones - added to their pantheon of super power stones before or after they can be secured in such quantity - and then great lengths are gone to, to cut, polish, and make them available in every form imaginable. That includes beads, balls, chips, tumblers, pendants...you name it. And then those items - made out of these materials - become the mainstay of what is sold through their retail (and wholesale) machinery. It's really quite genius a business model. Of course, all this theorizing is "the world according to me" - someone who's been self employed for 30 years - being in, and watching any number of businesses rise and fall. So I could be wrong. Or I could be right. Either way, I'm just trying to understand - appreciate - and share what I think I see. I'm not putting words into anyone's mouth, I'm being honest about the subjectivity of my perspective. And ultimately, that's all I can speak on, authoritatively.
MISSING LINKS A consequence of all the focus on the previously mentioned "brand-name" stones we see - primarily in the workshop itself, but also somewhat, in the shop - is the virtual absence of MANY stones I find key (indeed essential) to the Mineral Universe... Where were these 13 Giants of the Crystal World!?
- Lapis (I don't think I saw any!)
- Malachite (maybe a few lesser pieces in the shop, but none for the workshop)
- Jade (there were some lesser tumblers, and I bought a Nephrite out of the display case)
- Apophyllite (absent, though I bought a very cool sub-variety: "Super Apophyllite," which they had some of)
- Amethyst (of the more garden varieties, once you get past the Ametrine and Bolivian cathedrals, gone!)
- Turquoise (I saw just a few, small, rough pieces...who needs it, once you have Azumar?)
- Kyanite (small bin of shards...again, while I found some of these in the shop, we worked with none of them)
- Smoky Quartz (I bought a few tumblers, but otherwise, this one of my favorites was sadly neglected)
- quality clear Quartz specimens (though there were some B-grade Arkansas points in bulk - and a very, solid collection of vintage Nirvana Quartzes - there were no serious clear Quartz "tools")
- red Quartz laser points & Red Dragon clusters (both of which I really like, and sell, I found none of)
- Pyrite (hello...nobody home here)
- Calcite (green, blue, orange, clear, terminated...not on the roster)
- Fluorite (green, purple, clear, blue and indigo were nowhere to be found...and Fluorite is another one of my favorites!).
This list (above) has to be partial - but it's still a pretty major grouping - and I'm pretty sure it's accurately portrayed (as having been neglected). I noticed as well, that there were no graven images: carvings, animals, deities, or statues (except freeform & flame cut pieces). There must have been reasons for all this - I don't think it's by chance - so I can only imagine that the larger marketing vision for the new and special stones is why the selection has taken the shape and form that it has. I HAVE WHAT THEY LACK - THEY HAVE WHAT I LACK I have all the above-nixed (or underrepresented) stones For Sale, myself. But I have none of the specially branded Heaven & Earth varieties. I certainly could have bought those types for resale, but because I don't have a context for representing them - and I can't fully stand behind them, myself - I wouldn't feel right trying to do so.
CONCLUSION All in all, to summarize this Part Two of my Experience of The Alchemy of Stones, I've approached the workshop from the perspective of the Shop and Market(ing) of Crystals (in this unique context). The event does stand out - not just because of the stones chosen for special attention - but also because of the high quality method (and sheer square footage!) in which they're displayed. Since Sales probably dwarfed Registration Fees, it's safe to say that Sales were a primary purpose and goal of both the presenters and the attendees. Breaks were extended and the store opened Wednesday night, before the workshop even began (the next morning). Also, people could - and did - buy 3 hours past the end of the proceedings (on Sunday). It's all good - part of the process - and I think the weekend satisfied everyone's needs and interests. I appreciate your reading. I hope I made some sense and shed some light not only on my own experience, but everybody else's experience of the event (too). By describing everything in reference to my own take (and selection), I trust you've gotten to know me better, as well. END OF PART TWO (to be continued, with PART THREE: THE MESSAGE) ******************************************** ABOUT THE AUTHOR Kyle Russell has been working with Crystals since 1987, when a transformative experience left him suddenly knowledgeable about the energetic qualities of Power Stones. Since then, he's honed his understanding through experience, working with individuals and groups, teaching Meditation and developing paradigms for understanding The Language of Crystals. You can learn more by contacting him directly: Kyle@CrystalConcentrics.com.