About Earth’s Treasury

Digging a gem pocket in the Elizabeth R Mine in Pala, California

I started Earth’s Treasury in 2012. I’ve had a passion for minerals and gemstones since I was a small boy, when I dreamed of being a mineralogist. Life led me elsewhere, first to graduate school to pursue a PhD in Molecular Evolutionary Biology,  and then into the world of technology and international finance. I left grad school before finishing my PhD thesis and started my first business, a very successful regional information technology consulting firm. The business won a number of awards and I was recognized regionally as an up and coming entrepreneur. Along the way, I was awarded my Masters degree for my graduate work–I refer to it as my “consolation prize.” After six years of rapid growth, I decided to merge my company with a large national accounting firm rather than seek venture capital funding. In short order I was asked to lead that firm’s national IT consulting business and serve as their Chief Technology Officer. I led that business to new levels of success and was even featured in a cover story for “Accounting Technology” magazine. While I enjoyed my time with that firm, after several years I chose to take a new opportunity with a globally recognized leader in finance and departed for Los Angeles. As Chief Technology Officer of for this firm, I created a new strategy that helped lead the business to new success. I was subsequently appointed Chief Operating Officer of their analytics software business and turned that business around, positioning it for renewed growth. While I experienced great success in the corporate executive roles I filled, I longed to go back to my entrepreneurial roots and pursue some of my many passions.

In 2011, while on a trip in western San Diego County to hunt for rare wildflowers, I was reminded of the fact that southern California hosts a number of gem-bearing pegmatite deposits when I came across an exposed pegmatite. As I dug through the float material around the pegmatite I found some beautiful schorl crystals. While I had kept an interest in minerals and had been building a collection through purchases, this rekindled my interest in minerals and gemstones to a much higher degree, especially my interest in collecting my own gems and minerals. I began researching collecting localities in southern California and in the process I made a connection with the team at the Oceanview Mine in Pala, California. Starting in the spring of 2012, I began working with the mining crew at the Oceanview Mine. I was fortunate that the crew allowed me to join them working underground, and after a period of training I received my MSHA certification as an underground hard rock miner. I spent nearly a year working with the crew several days a week, drilling, blasting and mucking–all in the pursuit of gems and minerals. As an avid photographer, I posted pictures of many of my adventures online, and soon my friends and family began asking if I could get them faceted gemstones, jewelry or mineral specimens. I realized that this was my opportunity to pursue my passions and return to being an entrepreneur, and made the decision to found Earth’s Treasury.

In this photo I'm operating an air-powered hydraulic jackleg drill. We were opening a new adit to explore the Pala Chief pegmatite. After drilling a series of holes like this, we would load them with explosives and detonate them in a precise order to properly create a new section of tunnel. It is HARD and DIRTY work.
In this photo I’m operating an air-powered hydraulic jackleg drill. We were opening a new adit to explore the Pala Chief pegmatite. After drilling a series of holes like this, we would load them with explosives and detonate them in a precise order to properly create a new section of tunnel. It is HARD and DIRTY work.

Initially the business focused on the sale of gem minerals and gems and jewelry created by others, but I was driven to learn the art of cutting gems. With the mentoring of several master gem cutters and friends, I learned this craft in early 2013 and now I create many of the custom-cut collector and fine gems seen on this website–although I also love to feature the precision gem cutting work of others here as well. I continue to sell a limited line of custom-designed jewelry by partnering with artisanal jewelers who share my passion for fine handcrafted works of art. I focus primarily on colored gemstones and source them from all over the world. I work hard to source directly from the small miners who dig these gems all over the world. I’ve helped by investing in equipment and housing for small miners in Africa and providing business advice to artisanal miners around the world.

I'm checking the polish on a facet in this image to make sure its perfectly flat and smooth. Photo Credit: Greg Keating
I’m checking the polish on a facet in this image to make sure its perfectly flat and smooth.
Photo Credit: Greg Keating

Earth’s Treasury has now become my full-time vocation, not just a passion. It’s the second business I’ve started, and I’m excited to once again be pursuing my entrepreneurial interests while combining those with my passion for gems and minerals.  Apart from this website, I’m also very active on Facebook.  Check out my Facebook page for nearly daily updates on the latest gems I am cutting or special deals and sales: http://www.facebook.com/EarthsTreasury. I hope you enjoy what I have put together here. If you would like to see something and you can’t find it online, please contact me, I’d love to hear from you!

–Jeff Hapeman, Founder of Earth’s Treasury

The Earth’s Treasury Team

Lauryn Volovar, G.G.

As a child I developed a love for rocks and gems, obtaining a huge collection of inexpensive stones that still sit on my desk at home to this day. As an aspiring artist without a clear idea of what direction I wanted to follow in life, I enrolled in the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and remembering my love of minerals, decided to take a jewelry making class. In the metals/jewelry/CAD-CAM department, I learned ancient jewelry making techniques on the bench in combination with cutting edge CAD-CAM and 3D printing technology, giving me a comprehensive set of skills to apply to jewelry design. I wanted to immerse myself in the industry after graduation and so I took a full time job at a fine jewelry store. There I learned about the world of gemology, and just six months after getting my BFA, I applied for and received the Richard T. Liddicoat Scholarship from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA).  I completed the GIA Graduate Gemologist (G.G.) program over two years, during which I transitioned from retail to a full time job as a goldsmith, honing my jewelry making abilities.

I stayed active as a gemologist by appraising jewelry on nights and weekends, and looked for other ways to further my education. I joined the board of the Philadelphia Chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association, and participated in mentorship programs through the American Gem Society and social media platforms. Through this, I met my gemological mentor and started a podcast called Gemology Worldwide, where we discuss relevant topics in the world of gems and interview experts in the field. As fate would have it, Jeff Hapeman was our first guest on the show. After our interview, he revealed his need for an artist to create one-of-a-kind pieces for his incredibly unique gemstones, and brought me on as Earth’s Treasury’s full time jewelry designer. I’m so inspired by the color and sparkle I see here every day, and love combining my passions as an artist, maker, and gemologist. Keep checking the site for new designs, and please contact me to get started on a custom piece of jewelry!

–Lauryn Volovar, Jewelry Designer

Tessa Paige

Tiny details have always been my forte- from an obsession with texture in my artistic practice to planning events properly or, of course, finishing a piece of jewelry just right. I began pursuing a BFA in Studio Art at Arcadia University in order to satisfy my curiosity about everything from scientific illustration to ceramic sculpture and sewing costumes. My combined interest in creative work and practical careers led me to concentrate in Metals and Jewelry with the goal of becoming a bench jeweler, and even before graduating I began my career as a goldsmith. I love the craft of making jewelry, especially the satisfaction of finishing a perfectly polished product. Since then I have furthered my education in stone setting at the New Approach School, and by joining the Philadelphia Chapter of the Women’s Jewelry Association.  I treasure the opportunity to work with outstanding gems and minerals every day as Earth’s Treasury’s  full-time bench jeweler. Rest assured that in my hands, your one-of-a-kind jewelry has been artfully and lovingly crafted!

-Tessa Paige, Bench Jeweler

Elizabeth Cormier

Elizabeth joined Earth’s Treasury to start out 2021.  With over twenty years experience as a bench jeweler, she’s a fabulous new addition to our team!