James' interest in the world of gemstones began during his software analyst career when he was told by his boss that he had too many hours billed and needed to take time off. Not sure what to do with himself (the idea of a vacation was a foreign concept), he asked a colleague, who was also told to take time off, what should they do. His friend mentioned that his ex-wife was a gemologist and there was a show coming up in Tucson that had a lot of interesting rock and gem stuff to see. James thought it would be warmer to be there than it was in the Kansas City area at that time of the year, so why not. He was instantly hooked. It was so fascinating to him that he went back to Kansas City and looked up where he could join a gem club and learn how to cut cabochons. The lapidary teacher was very strict and insisted that the stones had to fit perfectly in a calibrated setting. James was more interested in doing more artistics cuts, like freeforms, which was not widely seen back then and wire wrapping had not caught on just yet. So the teacher sat him down and said that if he wanted to be successful in the lapidary business he had to do calibrated, more "conventional" stones. So when James got his own equipment and began cutting his own stones, he decided he was going to do the more artistic stones and from that his business The Unconventional Lapidarist was born. He found it to be such a creative and stress release that was so helpful from his software analyst day job.
Cindy was always into rocks even when she was knee high to a grasshopper. Her childhood home was in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where her dad took her pretty often to the shore of Lake Michigan and she liked to collect rocks there. At first it was the flashiness of the mica in granite that grabbed her attention, but when she discovered the translucentcy and the banding of agates she was really hooked on hunting for rocks. Of course life took over as she got older but still the occasional collecting of rocks would happen on backpacking trips and other outdoor adventures. She had moved to California when she was 12 but her dad still lived in Wisconsin so she traveled often to meet up with her dad. On one trip in her early 30's her and her dad went to Arkansas and discovered the fee digs for crystals and that became an annual place for them to meet and spend a week to dig crystals. She collected so many that she had to start doing something with them and began selling them to local rock shops. Her then mother-in-law encouraged her to join the Santa Cruz gem and mineral club, which she was a member of, and a few months later became vice president and soon after president of the club. Her participation in putting on their annual club show intrigued her to pursue selling at other club shows, and then to create her own website with the help of some friends. When she met James, it was so natural to blend their efforts together.
Their journey together began back in August of 2000 when James and Cindy met in California at the Santa Cruz gem and and mineral society club meeting. James was a software analyst working in the bay area at the time and Cindy was working at Foothill College as a supervisor in the admissions office. They found that rocks and gems were a strong passion for both of them and they became inseparable doing all things rock related together from doing gem shows, rockhounding trips, and combining efforts to sell on ebay and websites. James' job became outsourced overseas during the dot com crash which limited the opportunities available in California. While he was searching for what was available in California he got an offer for a job in Minneapolis. Cindy had reached the highest rung of her job at the college and in order to keep up with the cost of living in California, she would need to either get a second job, or think about moving elsewhere. So when James got the offer for a job in Minneapolis, it was a no brainer to take the leap with him. It was soon after moving to Minneapolis that they decided to take the plunge and work the stone business full time. They relocated themselves in Arkansas to be centrally located in the country and to be able to go play in the dirt and dig for crystals whenever the mood struck. They have built their business to be able to source the rough, slab the rough, cut cabochons from the slab and then put the cabochons into finished jewelry. Being able to see something being created from start to finish is so rewarding. Their business allows them to indulge in two passions they share, the love of working with stone, and traveling across the country to see new places and meet people from various parts of the country as they do trade shows. Life doesn't get any better than that.