NORTH ADAMS -- Collecting gems and minerals isn’t just a hobby for 10-year-old Austin Street -- it’s a way of life.
The soon-to-be fifth-grader, who began mining gems and minerals with his family at the age of three, has amassed such a collection that his parents turned a spare room into a display area for it.
"I just think it’s really fun to do," Austin said Monday during an interview at the North Adams Public Library. "I’m very good at finding them."
A part of his collection is on display at the library as a promotion for the 49th annual Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show, hosted by the Northern Berkshire Mineral Club, which will take place Sept. 8 and 9 at the Eagles Hall on Curran Highway. Austin is the youngest member of the club.
"We took Austin on his first trip at the Herkimer diamond mine when he was about three. He has a very good eye," Jennifer Street, his mother, said. "We’ve found that it’s one of the only things that can keep his attention for a long period of time. He can mine and look for gems for hours. He really enjoys it."
Collecting gems and minerals may come naturally for Austin. His grandmother, Darlene Bruzzi, of Hinsdale, who serves as the mineral club’s treasurer, also took her children mining.
"Jennifer and her brother were about 7- and 8-years when we took them on their first mining trip in Richfield Springs, N.Y.," Bruzzi said Monday as she helped
Last year, the family, along with the mineral club, went to the Sterling Hill Zinc Mine in New Jersey and brought back a collection of fluorescent rocks that glow under fluorescent light bulbs. They also traveled to Roxbury, Conn., to mine garnets.
"Austin really likes to dig in the dirt," Bruzzi said.
Among Austin’s prized possessions is a Herkimer diamond he found last year on a birthday trip to the Herkimer diamond mine in New York. The diamond, which is as big as his fist, is referred to as a football diamond because of its size.
"I saw this tiny crystal point and began digging. It’s the biggest one I’ve ever found and one of my favorites," he said. "I was so excited when I found it. I almost passed out. A lot of people don’t believe me when I tell them about it."
He added, "My dream is to mine my own opal. I like opals because they are my birthstone."
Jennifer Street said the family hopes to one day be able to rent an RV and take a trip cross country to visit mines in the western part of the country.
"We want to take Austin so he can mine for things like rubies and opals, which you can’t get around here," she said.
Bruzzi said the mineral club is always looking for new members, individuals and families. Individual membership is $10 a year, while a family membership is $12. The club meets October through June, on the third Thursday of the month, at the library from 6 to 8 p.m. From June to October, field trips take the place of meetings.
"We go on a lot of field trips, not only to mines but to rock cuts in the woods as well. The only way you can go with us is to be a member," she said.
Those interested in joining can call Bruzzi at 413-655-2193 or Larry Michone at 513-446-1893.