Club History

In 1957, members of the Gemmologist Association, keenly interested in rocks, decided to form a lapidary club and convened a meeting at the Steamship Building, St Georges Terrace, Perth, on 5th September, 1957. Nineteen individuals attended the meeting and The W.A. Lapidary and Rock Hunting Club was formed. The founding president was Albert Geary.

Meetings were held at various venues around Perth until 1964 when the Club purchased an old church, built of stone in East Fremantle.

The first proper course in lapidary commenced in May, 1964. Instructors appointed were Nan Clarke and Shirley Metcalfe (Nee McLauchlan). The first newsletter "The Rockhunter" was published in 1964.

The Club was desperate for money and even charged 10c for sitting on a chair at meetings unless members had purchased a chair outright for $4.00. Members worked hard to raise funds and to carry out many improvements to the building. However, by 1971 it became abundantly clear that the premises simply were not big enough.

A wide search was made for new premises before the current property in which the Club is now situated, was found. The new premises again an old church, was purchased in 1972. To pay for the new premises and to undertake the necessary additions and alterations, members were asked to take out debentures, interest free, for 8 years. The old wooden church building was pulled down in March 1980 and building of new workshops commenced. 


From the notice board, written in 1968




In September, 1957 nineteen members of the Gemmologist Association not satisfied with the limited scope of that organisation and being keenly interested in rocks, decided to form the Lapidary Club of W.A.  It was envisaged that at a later date the two bodies could amalgamate and so cater for the tastes of all.


With no mechanical appliances of any description, nor any rocks to polish, and certainly no funds for the purchase of these items, the members contented themselves sitting round in groups, in an old shed totally void of any facilities, and talking about … guess what?


Then wonders of wonders, through the kindness of one member, along came a diamond cutter and some rocks, and the members were introduced to the excitement of the beauty and variety of pattern of Mother Earth.


Then the inventor of the Club produced a hand-made machine, and many ere the weeks spent in gazing at and patting the new baby … ’twas all they could do for there was no power to operate it.


From this humble start has evolved the Club as we know it today.  Bursting at the seams with members, exploding to the skies with enthusiasm, and with accumulated assets that any Club could be proud of.


And so to those original nineteen members, with their unlimited enthusiasm, their vision and no

lack of intestinal fortitude, is this work dedicated.


Inaugural Meeting


Inaugural meeting on Thursday, 5th September, 1957 at 8:00pm in Steamship Buildings, St . George's Terrace, Perth.


A meeting of interested people was held to form the above Club.  With Mr Levenson, Chairman, Mr Mitchell, Minute Secretary and seventeen other folks present, with apologies received from nine others.  A copy of the proposed Constitution outlining the aims of the Club was read and accepted as the basis of the Constitution to be formulated in the appropriate manner.


Nominations for the Office Bearers were then called, and the results were:

            President:                                               Mr A Geary

            Vice President:                            Mr R Levenson

            Secretary/Treasurer:                      Miss G Tompsett

            Publicity Officer:                         Mr Scott Properjohn

            Curator and Equipment Officer:      Mr J Smith

            Councillors:                               Miss Williams, Mrs Crowe and Mr Hughes


The Chairman then handed over the proceedings to the newly elected President.  It was decided that:


1.The title of the Club should be “The West Australian Lapidary and Rock Hunting Club.”

2.Fees should be 10s.  Nomination fee: £1.10.0  Annual Subscription.

3.Banking: An account to be opened on behalf of the Club at the William Street Branch of the Bank of New South Wales.

4.Mr Perry and Mr Smith to inspect ad decide upon a suitable room in the central city area, if possible, or if not, in the East or West Perth Areas.

5.Officers and Councillors to meet at 8:00pm on Wednesday, 11th September, at 704 Hay Street, Perth to frame the Constitution.


The rest of the evening was devoted to the examination of specimens of stones cut and polished by Mr Geary, and to five Chatham cultured emeralds kindly donated by Mr Kneebush and Co of Melbourne. 


The Meeting closed at 10:55pm.


The second meeting was held in the Perth Boy's School on Monday, 16th September.  The Chairman and twenty-five members attended. The following rock hunts were arranged.


            Saturday            12th October, to York, lead by Dr A Wilson

            Sunday              27th October, to Toodyay, lead by Mr P McNamara

            Sunday              9th November, to Katanning, lead  by Mr P McNamara


A drive for members was suggested by advertising in the “The Countryman”, “Dalgety's Weekly”, “Elder's Weekly”, “The Goldsbrough Mort Weekly”, “The South West Times”, and “University Pelican”.


The first article printed about the Club was in the “The Record”, in about September, 1957, and although it contained several errors, was voted good publicity.  And it was about this time that circulars to members advising of monthly meetings began to appear.  The first circular sent to members on 11th September, 1957; 35 were despatched at 3½d. Each – total cost 10s.2½d.  Also circulars were printed to hand out to prospective members telling them of the Club activities.


It was decided that the Teachers' Room at the Perth Boy's High School should be permanently booked for the meetings, and all members were asked to join in the search for a suitable workroom.  A garage in Murray Street and a warehouse in Hay Street, also a garage in Beaufort Street were inspected as to Club or workrooms, but none were found suitable.  Notice was given that after the New Year the Perth Boy's School would not be available, so the Club was having teething troubles trying to find premises in which to grow.


The next meeting, January 6th 1958, was held in J.C. Taylor's, 704 Hay Street, Perth, with sixteen members present.  The Treasurer's report was: Receipts £56.16.6; Expenditure £13.5.0: Balance £43.11.6d. Not really too bad when one considers the Club to be only five months old.


A Mr John Slee, an ABC Reporter, sat in at the this meeting to further his knowledge of lapidary and it was hoped he would compose lapidary articles to be heard over the radio. Wonder what happened to him?


Mr Geary gave Club members their first glimpse into the art of dopping; this was January 6th, 1958.


Mr hries offered the use of his garage in Claremont as a meeting place and it was decided to place an advertisement in the “West Australian” for suitable premises.


It was about this period that the word 'machinery' began to appear n the minutes; up until then the Club and members had exactly none.  Bairds offered machines at 10% discount to the Club.


Mr Allen was approached to design machinery for the Club and it was suggested that the Club procure one mobile unit to begin with.


Mr Dick Perry had on view a cutting and polishing machine he had set up and it was decided to procure one of these machines for £15, plus freight and Motor (£15 extra).


The next meeting place was arranged to be at Mr and Mrs Hunphries’ home, where the use of their garage as a workroom was also offered.  Both offers were accepted and a fee agreed for the use of the garage workroom.


Mr Geary then gave the first demonstration of cutting and polishing on material given by Mr and Mrs McNamara (visitors at this time) on machinery supplied by Mr Perry.


The University Summer School had been contacted to help with recruiting members, but advised reluctance to help, so it was decided to distribute a circular the Club had had printed to prospective members, and as a rule of this our first country member was recruited, Mr A. C. Morton of Kulin, who has since moved nearer the City and is now a member of the Kalamunda Club.


Two replies from the “West Australian” advertisement for a workroom were received, but both were rejected as unsuitable.  Mr Hawksly then advised an excellent workroom had been made available, rent free, by Mr Owen Garde, 146 Victoria Avenue, Claremont, to be shared with a Ladies' Pottery Club, on payment of one-third of the cost of installation of power and light.


The first raffle held by the Club seems to have been about April 1958 with tourmalines donated by McNamara as the prize.  The £3.16.6d. raised by this raffle was given to Mr Levenson as a down payment on machinery.


So the first machine for cutting and polishing was purchased, and the first meeting in the new Clubroom was held on the 12th May, 1958, our first really true home.


A second raffle soon followed: Mr Geary donating two laminex pot stands, and the result – 10/6d in kitty.  One winner donated prize back and a further 10s. was made in the re-raffle, making £1.06d. in all.  Donations for raffles seemed to roll in: Mrs Squibb giving one of her now famous hand painted dishes, and Mr Norris gave a cut opal, which Mr Perry mounted for £5.12.6d. making its  total value £15.  This opal raffle was drawn on 25th August, 1958, in the presence of Mr Dodd, Mr R Perry and Miss G Tompsett, the winner being Mr J O Mahony of 96 St Georges Terrace.  845 tickets at 1s. each were sold and a profit of £32.2.6d. was made.


Members used to spend an hour or so after each meeting had ended lining the Clubroom and building benches for machinery. 


Annual General Meeting


The first Annual General Meeting was held on September 8th, 1958 with the President and eleven members and one visitor (Mrs Geary) present.


The new Committee comprised:


            President:                                   Mr A Geary

            Vice Presidents:              Mr R Levenson

                                                            Mr Humphries

            Treasurer:                                   Mr Allen

            Secretary:                                   Miss G Tompsett

            Equipment Officers:                      Mr Geary

                                                            Mr Lindsay

            Social Committee:                       Mr Hawksley

                                                            Mrs Properjohn


The President reported that the Club owned assets to the value of £75.6.5, a very creditable achievement as we started from nothing.  Lack of funds had been eased to a certain extent by Entrance Fees, subscription collections, auctions, cash donations and raffles; in fact by any hook or by crook method.


A permanent meeting place had been found, the Club room had been lined, three rock hunts had been run and a big thank you was extended to Secretary-Treasurer, Miss Tompsett for a hard job well done.


The President referred to the first year as a big hurdle, but this had been mounted successfully.  Mention was made of the Club being one big happy family, something I am sure we all agree we have to this day.


An Overseas visitor to the Club was Mr Smith of Ohio who kindly presented to the Club a comprehensive “Manual on Gem Culturing and Polishing”.  Would anyone know the whereabouts of this book?


At the December Meeting a “West Australian” newspaper photographer visited the Clubroom to obtain a suitable feature to be published for the purpose of showing the ambitions and activities of the Club.


The second Annual General Meeting was held on the 14th September, 1959 and it was then decided to change the meeting night from the second Monday to the second Tuesday night in each month and this has stood to this present day.


A new President was elected, Mr A Longdon.


A presentation to the value of £5.5.0 was decided to be given to Mr Garde for his kindness in giving the premises rent-free for the year.


In an effort to reduce postage Mr Geary moved that only members not present at meetings be notified of rock hunts, and so the attendance book came into being on 10th November, 1959.


The first Club Christmas break-up was held on Saturday, 12th December, 1959 in the form of a barbecue.  A Christmas cake donated by Mrs McLachlan was raffled and £4. raised.


Things were looking up.  Early in 1960, a suitable letterhead was designed to be used for all future correspondence.  Ten folding seats were purchased from Anzac House during demolition.  Mr McLachlan offered to make a housing for a 10" saw, blade to cost £12.  This machine was installed in Club rooms in June, and a letter of thanks sent to Mr McLachlan who donated his labour, the Club paying for material.  A big step forward.


A Club Constitution was at this time discussed, but main discussion carried over to subsequent meetings.


The numbers attending meetings ranged from 14 to 20 with 2 or 3 visitors each night.


In September 1960, we exhibited for the first time in the Wild Life Show and continued to do so up to and including 1966, after which it was decided to discontinue as calls on the Club were beginning to become too great.


Around November 1960 a move was begun to look as new Club premises and the next meeting on Tuesday, 1th February, 1961 was held at 931 Hay Street owing to the fact that Mrs Garde has given the Club notice to vacate the Club  rooms before 1st February, 1961.  A large room in the premises of the West Australian Bridge Association at 55 Kings Park Road for £1.5.0 per night was agreed upon for the club's next meeting venue.


The Lapidary Club put on their first Exhibit in the Gemological Exhibition on 17th March, 1961 from 10am to 10pm.  A great success by all accounts.


The sale of tumbled stones at Club's meetings to raise funds first commenced in April, 1961.


A new workroom had been opened in the basement of a building in Leederville and was run by the Club until our move to East Fremantle in 1964; it was then taken over by Mr Pritchard and run as a private concern, until 2½ years later, when he moved lock stock and barrel to a workroom built at the bottom of his garden and this was closed towards the end of 1967 when Mr Pritchard moved to the Hills.


At the end of 1961 a new meeting room had to be found and the meeting for February, 1962 was held in the Lesser Town Hall, Leederville. 


Talk of the first long rock hunt was discussed, venue, possibly to the Goldfields during the Easter break.


March 1962 found the Club meeting in the Maimed and Limbless Hall, Colin Street, West Perth, where we stayed until our permanent home in East Fremantle was purchased in August, 1964.


About twenty people attended a meeting held at Mr and Mrs Nankivell's house in connection with the trip to Kalgoorlie.  Mr Dixon (Vice-President) was elected trip leader, and a very enjoyable   time was had by all. This was the first recorded account of a long rock hunt; the first of many.


At the Annual General Meeting in September 1962 when 60 members attended, a display of members’ work was on show.  This appears to be the first exhibition on our own and a great amount of interest was shown.


President reported that the membership had increased to 134 and meetings were being well attended.  It was with regret that we heard the President, Mr Longdon, did not wish to stand again.  The new main Officers elected were:


            President:                                               Mr Dixon

            Vice Presidents:                                      Mr Francis

                                                                        Mrs Clark

            Treasurer:                                               Miss Carter

            Secretary:                                               Mrs Waters

            Assistant Secretary:                                  Mr Sinclair


Unfortunately in December 1962 Mr Dixon found it necessary to resign from the Presidency; when Mr Noel Francis was elected to fill the vacancy.


Since late 1962 the Club has been responsible for a Show Case in the Perth Museum.


The 1962 Christmas break-up was a barbecue at the residence of Mr and Mrs Stokoe.


From the Club's commencement Committee Meetings had been held prior to the General Meeting.  In March 1963 a suggestion was made to have Committee Meetings on another night.  The first was held in May 1963 and in that month also we became an Incorporated Body.  Mr Nankivell kindly offered to prepare necessary documents.


It was decided that members purchase a name badge, at the cost of 5s.6d. each, while the President suggested that the Club have a badge, members to submit designs.  Eighteen designs, all of high standard were submitted, Mrs Daw winning the competition.


September 1963 saw Mr Francis elected again as President after an excellent nine months previous service.


The Club became an incorporated Body in December, 1963, and in this month once again the Christmas break-up was held at the home of Mr and Mrs Stokoe, thirty-five to forty members attending.


The second long rock hunt was to Ravensthorpe at Easter 1964;  Thirty-eight members and visitors attending.  At least twenty-five minerals were found, despite the fact the weather was not the best, with plenty of rain.


A geological hammer was purchased and given to the guide for services rendered; members contributing 10c. each.


From experience gained on this trip evolved improvements for future extended rock hunts, namely that a Group Leader should be appointed, responsible for the whole party; secondly a barbecue could be held on one evening as an added attraction and centre for conversation; thirdly, safety precautions should include a lone lne, a tow rope and a light lifting tackle to be owned by the Club and carried by the Group Leader.




At an earlier meeting Mr Nankivell had moved a Motion that a Newsheet be registered as a periodical.  This was discussed and various titles were proposed, some being “Rockhound”, “Rockhunter”; “Lapidary news”.  Mr Knight, the Secretary, was asked to reward the motion to suit P.M.G. Regulations.  Finally it was decided that the name of the Bulletin should be the “West Australian Rockhunter”, and the first Editor appointed was Miss D Kimber.


At this meeting, April 1964, a complaint was lodged re the late start of meetings – seems we are good talkers and late starters from way back.


During April – May 1964 an inspection of workshop was carried out and all machines found to be in a bad state resulting from misuse, and as a result Mr Ball offered to be maintenance officer for the workshop and the proper course of instruction under approved paid teachers was to commence at a cost of £3.3.0 per person for a course of six lessons, each lesson to last two hours.  This was approved.  Mrs Clarke and McLaughlan agreed to act as instructors.


A letter was received in June, 1964 from Wongan Hills; this town was hoping to start a Lapidary Club.


The first copy of the “West Australian Rockhunter” was issued in July, 1964, and the Editor was congratulated on a job well done.  Our effort coincided with the first edition of “The Australian Lapidary Magazine” which is published in the Eastern States.


Permanent Headquarters


For some time serious thought had been given to funding our own Headquarters, a sum of £2,500 being about the most we could pay.  Mr Stokoe spoke enthusiastically of a church which was for sale in Sewell Street, East Fremantle.  Several of the Committee had viewed the building, and the main fault appeared to be its distant location.  However, on an almost unanimous approval Mr Stokoe was directed to open negotiations for purchase on the Club's behalf.


Mr Nankivell proposed a new savings fund be opened at once for the purpose of subscribing towards the cost.  This was seconded and carried.


The Club then purchased the property around the middle of July, to be used as the Club Headquarters.


An appeal for donations drew a good response from the members, £105 being promised.


A Social Committee was selected to help at the new Clubrooms and Mr Stokoe was thanked for his efforts in obtaining the new premises.


It was suggested that members buy a chair each, and this idea was carried. 


The first Committee meeting held in the new premises was on August 5th, 1964.


The total in the building fund was £260, and Mr Nankivell pointed out that it would be necessary to raise about £500 towards paying off the bank loan of £1,390. his recommendation was that subscriptions would have to be raised to £2.10.0 per single member and £4 for married couples, and from £10.0.0 to £15.0.0 for life membership.


Money making schemes began to roll in.  The Club asked for permission for a stall outside the main hall at the Wild Life Show for the sale of goods.  There were two offers of loans of £50 each, interest free; film evenings; socials; a mile of pennies; raffles – these were some of the ideas talked about.


Arrangements were made for a working party at the weekend to clean inside and outside the Clubrooms.


On August 11th, 1964 the President, Mr Francis, opened the (Inaugural) meeting by welcoming the audience to the home of the Western Australian Lapidary and Rockhunting Club Incorporated.  This provoked spontaneous applause.


A letter was received from Mr Pritchard stating his intention to maintain the Leederville Workshop by installing his own machinery and hiring it to Club Members who thought Fremantle too far.  A vote of thanks was given to Mr Pritchard.


Chairs were hired for the first few meetings, until quite a few members had paid outright for their own, then the Club bought enough for meetings, and a hire charge of 1s. per night operated.


At the Annual General Meeting, September, 1964, there were one hundred and twelve members and visitors present.


The President, Mr Francis, reported it had been a very successful year for the Club.  An increase in membership – (almost double the previous year) had shown the need for larger premises, and the present building had been bought for £1,800.


Other items completed during the year had been the Incorporation of the Club badges; car transfers; the publication of the “West Australian Rockhunter”; and the introduction of classes for cutting and polishing.  New machinery had been installed in the workroom.


Mr Francis was elected President (unanimously) for a further year.


Our first large scale fund raising effort in the new hall was a Fete, held on the 7th November, 1964. Working machines were demonstrated and members work was displayed – in any sort of display unit we could lay our hands on; shirt boxes and tea trays with a glass cover were two favourites – stalls of jumble, white elephants, cakes, pot plants, morning an afternoon teas, cool drinks, rough and polished material (either donated or sold on commission); you name it, we had it, even to a magician.  We invited the Mayor of Fremantle to open the fete, an invitation he accepted with pleasure.


We were aiming high here, as we asked Sir Douglas Ken drew to be our Patron, but he declined.


The profit on our Fete was approximately £125, a lot of money to us in those days.  Good attendances and a bevy of new members resulted.


The formation of sub-committees, Social, Lapidary and Publicity were some suggested and effected.  A trip leader and recorder were to be nominated for each trip.


A long weekend in November was spent in Paine’s Find area, and Easter of 1965 was pent in Bulong. Talk of two week's trip in August School holidays to Wittenoom was discussed.  Twelve cars  attended this long run, which was enjoyed by all.


Inspired by our first fund raising fete, an exhibition was proposed for June 25th, Mr Court to be asked to open it, but in his absence Mrs Court officiated. Marvellous success - £209.9.7 being raised, but a few complaints voiced; cases too crowded, hall far too small, workers given no relief and the toilets were frightful.  The complaints led to talk in terms of the Town Hall for the next year.  The hall was jammed packed and it poured with rain all day and night.  Committee discussed possibility of new plumbing and sink in kitchen.


Volunteers were called to paint premises and a vote of thanks to Mr Ralph Smith for making the museum case and Mr Jefferies for donating varnish.  Also thanks to Mr Hyde who helped with preparation and painting of hall and still does a good job today with his working parties.


During May, 1965 we were approached by Jehovah's Witness with a view to hiring hall on Friday and Sunday evenings for £2.2.0, which proposition was approved and monies helping to pay our loan interest.


A Floral Art morning tea was held by two members and netted £8 to Club.  To swell funds 2s.  night was charged per member for tea and biscuits after lecture.


The trip to Kalgoorlie at Easter 1965 was a good one, ninety to one hundred people in thirty cars attending.  Mr Francis was thanked for the leadership.


Two things became clear:


1.The need for more leaders of small groups; and

2.We were rapidly running out of places to hunt.


Volunteers were called for a Prospecting Committee.


A suggestion from a member to collect a large piece of stone on each rock hunt to build a feature wall at Club entrance.  This has since been completed and greatly improves the approach to the Club.


Two new clubs in the country came into being this time – Northam and Wongan Hills.


In July, 1965 we exhibited in an Arts and Craft Exhibition at the Methodist Church Hall, Willis Street, Mosman Park.  We were so impressed with the accommodation, two adjoining halls, one very new and modern the other older, with a ice kitchen that we decided – here was the place for our next Club Exhibition – our display having outgrown our own premises; so we have had these halls for the last three years.


Our first Gem Auction was held in July 1965, £28 being the profit.  This is a regular annual feature now and these auction nights are a lot of fun with the chance to purchase really bargain gems.


Cost of repairs and renovations to toilets were quoted, and it was decided to go ahead with the work.