Chip Roberge bought a rock tumbler for his kids for Christmas 25 years ago. Since his kids didn't have enough patience for it, he started using it. He hasn't looked back since. Completely self-taught, Chip is an avid gem collector who hasn't missed the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in 30 years.
Chip digs up many of the rocks he uses to make jewelry. He tumbles and shapes the stone, working on every aspect and making everything but the chain the pendant hangs on. Most of his pendants have designs on the silver back, as pictured below.
Chip uses fine silver on his pendants instead of sterling, emphasizing the organic quality of the stones. He rarely uses straight lines or angles in his work.
Death Valley agate, a very colorful and the most rare of the agates, has not been not available since the 1960s. It is found at what is now the China Lake Naval Weapons Center near Death Valley. Chip bought his pieces at auction.
One of his friends is a miner with claims on local land. Chip likens the mining process to the Old West, explaining that if material is found on public land, one can use the "prudent man" rule. In a nutshell, this allows an individual who can make a living on the claim to post a bond, making it illegal for anyone else to prospect there.