Insider's Guide - Chris Hackett
A jeweller since the age of 14, he joined the Mineral Club of Hutt Valley a couple of years ago to learn where to fossick around Wellington and how to cut stone. He now runs workshops at the club and has some of his artfully cut cabochons on display in his jewellery shop, Paragon Studios. Wellington region’s only mineral club has about 100 members, meets several times each month, hosts workshops, as well as a Geokids group and regular field trips around New Zealand. They’re inviting the public to visit the club and see their displays of minerals from around the world.
How did you get interested in rocks and minerals? Is it a hobby or part of your work?
This is only a hobby. It takes me too long to cut stone to make money from it, but I like doing it. You never quite know what you’re going to get. Sometimes it’s amazing. Most jewellers tend to be interested in the crystal side of things and that is another part of the club.
Why’d you join the club?
I joined to learn. I’m not overly experienced and I wanted to meet people and learn where to find rocks around here. There’s a lot of experience among the club members and they’re very generous with their knowledge. That’s the whole point of the club – to share enthusiasm and knowledge.
Do you need any special tools?
You need a good rock hammer. I use an American Estwing hammer. Sometimes you need something bigger, like a sledgehammer. If you’re hunting for agates you usually need a spade to dig. To cut stone you use a diamond saw. There’s one at the club and people can take a workshop to learn how to use it. Cutting stone is easy to do, but hard to do well.
Do you show or display your rocks? Can they win awards?
I entered a few stones, the first I’d ever cut, in a show last year. I won awards in some categories, but not many people had entered.
Have you found anything really rare or unusual?
I haven’t, but there are certain things to be found here, like goodletite. It’s basically a ruby and it’s quite rare and unique to New Zealand, as far as I know. New Zealand greenstone isn’t particularly rare – it can be found all over the world, from Siberia to Canada – but there are quite a few different types here.
Where do you like to go look for rocks around New Zealand?
There are all sorts of things in the Wairarapa. Serpentines, occasionally agates, calcites. There’s petrified wood. Greenstone on the West Coast, of course. The best is Coromandel. Canterbury has green colored agates. You can find a lot of fossils in Hawke’s Bay. There’s everything here, really, just not as abundant as in Australia or the United States.
Is there anything distinct or unique about Wellington geology that sets it apart from the rest of New Zealand?
Not particularly, but I’m not the expert. That’s why I joined the club. There’s a lot of English flint in Balaena Bay. It was ballast in the ships that sailed here.
Is there a rock star in your collection?
There are two. One is a piece of petrified wood, a sequoia from Hell’s Canyon in the US, a place you can’t get to anymore because there’s a dam there now. The other is a Biggs jasper.
If you could go anywhere in the world to hunt for rocks, where would you go?
Idaho or Oregon because I know people there, some who are second and third generation rockhounds with mining claims.
What’s so appealing about rocks?
Everyone picks up stones and shells, puts them in their pockets. Some people take it a lot further. What I like about them is that unlike gems, they aren’t particularly valuable, but they are still special and unique.
Open Day, Mineral Club of Hutt Valley, Halford Place, Petone, 10am-4pm, June 3.