All in the geometry: Aaron Robin’s passion as a boy morphed into gem, mineral business
Address: 101 Argall Way, Nevada City
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 6 p.m.
Aaron Robin was barely 6 years old when he discovered Dave’s Rock Shop in his Chicago neighborhood. At the time, it was the biggest gem and mineral store in the city and Robin found it endlessly fascinating. His early collection of tumbled stones quickly evolved along with his knowledge of fossils, minerals and rocks.
At age 19, Robin launched his own online jewelry wire-wrapping company, and began buying materials at gem shows and from friends who were also collectors. Jewelers were impressed by his work and began carrying his pieces in their stores. A lover of The Grateful Dead, Robin spent much of his youth following the band, it was through music that Robin began to build his most significant business connections. In 2013, Robin invested all the money he had — $5,000 — to buy a claim in a mine in Hallelujah Junction, located in Washoe County, Nevada.
“The uncle of a friend I’d met through music was one of the original claim owners,” said Robin. “I did a lot of research on the area and knew it would be prolific. We found amethysts every day. We pulled six tractor trailers full of crystals out that first year.”
Robin spent a year traveling to gem shows and selling pieces from his collection wholesale. Through his travels — and yet more Grateful Dead connections — he was then able to form partnerships with dealers in Namibia.
“I was able to make good connections in Africa,” said Robin. “In 2016 I started importing large pallets of aquamarine, black tourmaline and amethyst. This put me in a good position to sell to museums and high end galleries. Namibian amethyst is considered to be highly spiritual and metaphysical. This was what brought me into the upper echelon of the gem and mineral industry.”
CONNECTION TO THE STONES
The profit made from the Namibian pieces were also what eventually enabled Robin to consider opening his own store.
“I got tired of setting up and taking down displays,” he said. “I had established clients who traveled from the Bay Area, Oregon, Southern California, the Midwest and the East Coast. Sometimes I would have a showing in my garage.”
In the summer of 2016, after extensive renovation, Robin opened his store, Crystal Junction, in the Seven Hills business district of Nevada City. A year later, when a fabric store next door vacated, Robin began collaborating with curator and art dealer Brian Chambers, who owns the Chambers Project, a continually evolving art space that showcases contemporary paintings and sculpture.
Crystal Junction boasts an impressive collection of rocks, minerals, gems and more, with prices that accommodate the youngest collectors to high end clients. There is also a selection of sterling silver single-stone jewelry for sale. But the bulk of Robin’s sales, he says, is mid to high end cabinet-sized fine mineral specimens. Every stone is hand-picked for its perfection, color and clarity. He is sometimes known to personally drive pieces to shows or specific customers. Today, at the age of 34, integrity and honesty in all business dealings, he said, has been the recipe for his remarkable success.
“When I was a kid I had a spiritual connection to stones,” said Robin. “But as I grew older, I became more aware of the reasons why people are attracted to them. For me, it’s not super ‘woo woo’ — there is a lot of power in geometry, in how molecules are ordered. It’s not something you normally see in organic materials. It’s a novel experience for the human brain to experience. It can have a profound effect on someone’s psyche and unlock things in your ancestral DNA that can heal you. They’re not magical, but they do contain information.”
Several years ago Robin experienced a full-circle moment when, at a Houston gem show, he ran into the owner of the rock shop he had loved so much as a boy.
“I told him I was the 6 year old who used to come in,” said Robin. “It was amazing — I’ve seen him at other shows since.”
Going forward, Robin, who is now married with children, says he is happy with the way his life and business has panned out. He said doesn’t have any big plans to expand, other than cultivating a broader sense of community around the art in the shared space on Argall Way.
“When I sell someone a rock, you never know what they’re going to go through in their life when they buy it,” said Robin, who regularly wears a Tanzanian star garnet around his neck. “You never know why they’re buying it. But I see them go off on their journey. Sometimes I’ll see a person years down the road and they’ll pull a rock out of their pocket and tell me stories about how it helped them. You can see the medicine and energetic exchange that can manifest years later, and the effect it’s had on someone’s personal life.”
Contact Cory Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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