Whether it’s wandering on beaches or hillsides – even standing in a stream – Doyle and Vonna Sheffield love finding precious bits of nature to bring home to cut, grind or melt.
The self-described rockhounds have been married 58 years and have shared a love of stones for most of that time.
“It all started when we would go look for arrowheads together. But you can’t do that anymore,” Doyle says, adding the pair really began rockhounding together about 40 years ago.
“It’s a together hobby,” Vonna adds.
When scouring the beaches for new stones to pocket, “The first thing you look for is colour,” she says. “We are always looking for pretty colours.”
The couple has a workshop at their Langford home and Doyle proudly boasts he can polish about 70 pounds of rocks at a time.
“I like to polish them up and then share them with people,” he says.
Also in the shop are rock saws and grinders Vonna uses to cut and polish stones to be converted into jewelry.
Among their favourite spots around the region, the couple wander Island View Beach looking for agates, hunt for dallasite on the beaches along and look for gold at Esquimalt Lagoon.
“Gordon Beach out beyond Sooke has some gorgeous rocks,” Vonna says. “The rocks are already tumbled somewhat.”
Growing up in New Mexico, her parents were avid rockhounds. Vonna still has trays of carnelian that her folks found and passed on to her.
“If you go back to that place you cannot find it anymore,” she says. “I don’t give these away to people – when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
In winters the couple likes to head south to New Mexico and Arizona. One of their favourite rockhounding spots is along the Colorado River, where they often find agates and jaspers.
In Arizona, the Sheffields search for chalcedony, a white volcanic glass.
“Once rocks get in your blood, it’s in your blood,” says Vonna, holding a fossil. She has a collection of fossils that include coral, shells and even little creatures.
The pair have also been gold panning for years, but these days Vonna finds it hard on her knees, so Doyle tends to search for gold solo.
The key to success, they say, is to search for quartz veins first, which can appear as a white stripe in a rock.
While he enjoys the hunt, he doesn’t admit to having “gold fever.”
“In the last 41 years, I’ve found about three ounces. I just do it for the pleasure of it.”