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Obituary: Rock Currier 1940-2015

Last Updated: 28th Sep 2015

By Tony Nikischer

My good friend, Rock Currier, passed away earlier today, September 25. As many readers know, Rock was the owner of Jewel Tunnel Imports in California, arguably the largest wholesaler of mineral-related items in the United States. Rock was an avid collector, a world traveler, a great story teller, a prolific writer, and of course, a remarkable guy whose depth of knowledge of minerals and mineral localities was without equal among his contemporaries.

Rock (yes, his real name) started his business a couple of years before I became a mineral dealer in the early 1970s, and he had already established a presence at trade shows when I first ventured to Tucson in 1974. Because he had a serious interest in rare minerals and systematic collecting, he was an occasional customer of mine for such things, as I was a customer of his for specimens he brought back from trips to India, Africa, South America and elsewhere. I called him MOB, short for “my ol’ buddy”, and it was because of our dealings in rare minerals that he first dubbed me “the Infidel”, as he believed I displayed a near-religious fervor and skill in extracting “rare species dollars” from him. Many years later, his large systematic collection would eventually go to the University of Arizona in support of their RRUFF project, testament to his ever-present generosity.

His early collecting days began at Boron, California, while he worked a short-lived job adjacent to the giant open pit in the chemical control laboratory there. He was smitten with borates and the well-crystallized forms he saw in the Boron specimens, and an early moniker “the Boron Moron”, stuck with him for some time as a result. He subsequently moved to New York and haunted all of the great mineral museums of the east, slowly building a photographic library of great specimens, all the while building his personal knowledge of minerals and localities. Unforeseen unemployment, coupled with collecting trips to Asbestos, Quebec and elsewhere. led to the sale of excess specimens, and suddenly, a mineral tycoon was born!

Rock made his first trip to India in 1972, and his Jewel Tunnel Imports business began in earnest. Indian zeolites had not really infiltrated the U.S. mineral market yet, and Rock, along with a handful of dealers like Rusty Kothavala, began to bring in significant quantities of these “new” minerals. Always prone to humor, the “Poona Pimp” became another name for Rock in those early years of the zeolite business.

In the first few years of the business, Rock worked out of his mother’s house, leaving frequently for world-wide trips to such places as Australia, Fiji, Peru, and Tsumeb, where he met Clive Queit and began to bring in thousands of small dioptase specimens to supplement his inventory. But it was his eventual trip to Brazil that really opened his eyes to the true potential of stretching beyond just specimens for collectors. The New Age movement was afoot, and Rock’s dealing in Brazilian quartz crystals, amethyst geodes and agates was a perfect fit to feed the crowds of new aficionados. Rock was also among the first to bring out Uruguay amethyst slices from the now-famous Artigas locality.

Always wickedly humorous, Rock developed a line of pewter figures to place on lower grade amethyst specimens, hoping that they would sell to non-collectors. There were miners, dinosaurs and others, but his favorite line among the various figure collections was the “Inner City” group that depicted purse snatchers, peeing drunks, hookers and pimps, and bag ladies as well. A financial failure, the Inner City line was still the one he loved the best. I wish I still had one today, politically incorrect as it might be.

Rock would later travel to the Congo, Bolivia, Chile, Mali, Russia, China, Ethiopia and countless other places, always looking for something he could bring back for the mineral trade. Along the way, he collected many specimens to grace his private collection. The quality of his personal stash was astounding, and when he displayed a mere 50+ cases at the Springfield show one year, it was clear that he presided not only over a successful mass-market mineral business, but that he was also curator of an exceptional array of world-class specimens. Among those many treasures, I recall the largest hauerite crystals I had ever seen, just a hint of the remarkable examples of both common and uncommon minerals he held. To this day, I believe Rock’s exhibit, along with that of Herb Obodda, were the finest private collections ever displayed there, as each showed a deep appreciation for classics and unusual specimens that one could not simply buy on the retail floor of any given mineral show. While Rock collected many things (some of which are humorously unmentionable), his minerals were his life focus.

As he traveled less, Rock became fascinated with the idea of developing a world-class collection software program to not only provided inventory control, but one that added images, descriptions, reporting capability, chemistry, crystallography and other features, plus a wide range of label printing routines to serve any collection need, from micromount box-sized tags to museum specimen display labels. We often joked that he was just throwing money at Ukrainian programmers to see if he could stump them with yet another feature to add. I still have the beta-version disk he gave me in 2004 as one of his early “guinea pigs”, and I confess that it had so many options and features as to be overkill for any but the most demanding, anal collector.

Rock wrote extensively, and his articles in Mineralogical Record, Mineral News and elsewhere were always well received. His blog, as well as his launching of and contributions to the “Best of Species” discussions on Mindat.org were testament to his extensive knowledge and appreciation of good minerals. His talks at symposia were always entertaining, and his mineral stories were typically humorous, irreverent and yet full of knowledge and appreciation of the mineral kingdom. Starting out as a “purist” mineral dealer, he was pragmatic, however, recognizing that “color sells”, and his business inventory evolved over time well-beyond minerals to include lapidary, jewelry and assorted paraphernalia that stretched the definition of “mineral dealer”.

Rock’s dedication to mineralogy was certainly evidenced by his support of Mindat.org. It was immensely satisfying for him to have an outlet for his remarkable depth of knowledge of mineral specimens, localities and the mineral trade in general. As a manager of Mindat, and later as a Director of Mindat’s parent not-for-profit organization, The Hudson Institute of Mineralogy, Rock wholeheartedly believed in the mission of educating and enlightening the world about his beloved avocation and profession. He gave freely of his time, expertise, ideas and even finances to keep Mindat.org viable. When we met in Tucson this year to resolve some of the hurdles facing Mindat’s longevity, little did I realize that my dinner with him would be our last face to face meeting. I am crushed by his loss, deeply sorrowed, and firmly believe his friendship and acumen are rarities today, likely never to be replaced. The mineral community has lost one of its greatest members, Rock Henry Currier. Rest in peace, my friend.




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Comments

Tony,
Thank you for sharing this wonderful tribute.
-Frank

Frank Ruehlicke
27th Sep 2015 1:12am
Hi Tony,

I had a good time with Rock in Denver. We looked at the new phosphates from the Yukon - Rock encouraged me to go back and learn more about the region - Rock has always been keen on the phosphates! I miss him terribly. Thanks for the Obit.

Rod

Rod Tyson
28th Sep 2015 11:04pm
Thanks Tony,
Rock was a great man in many ways. It's hard to make money selling rocks to collectors one at a time and so I figured that Rock had carefully and cleverly thought out his business plan to become a wholesaler. When I asked him, he said. "Oh no, not all, I just inched along pragmatically doing what worked and it just turned out this way"

I really miss him!

Rob Woodside
29th Sep 2015 8:26pm
I first met Rock on Garret Mountain Park, Paterson, New Jersey in the early 1970 (give or take a couple of years). That was during the time Interstate 80 was being built. We subsequently met quite a few times at shows, swaps and his apartment when he was selling minerals. He was a great guy to hang around because of his knowledge and sense of humor. We still have the Phoenixville Pyromorphite we bought from him during a visit to Neal Yedlin's home. Lorraine and I still talk about the time he came to our tiny apartment in Bay Ridge Brooklyn for dinner with his friend Francis Paul. He kindly photographed some of our humble specimens and later sent us the slides. Home cooked meals were rare for Rock ( he told us so) so we got a kick out of how much he appreciated our simple meal of Shake and Bake chicken. When he moved back west I didn't see much of him but I greatly appreciated the articles he wrote for the Mineralogical Record which made me feel as if I had been to the place with him. RIP, Rock!

Joseph Polityka
1st Oct 2015 7:03pm

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