Tunnel Mole Strikes Gold, and Garnets and Emeralds and Topaz

Look a little bright in there? Just think about what it does to Tunnel Mole's eyes.
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Some bloggers post holiday wish lists, but your humble Tunnel Mole is more concerned about what to give, not to receive. Like, what to give the Real-Estate Tycoon Brother Who Has Everything?

My Real-Estate Tycoon Brother Who Has Everything is getting his own chunk of land, courtesy of Jeanne's Rock Shop, where I unearthed a breathtaking geode containing quartz, smoky quartz and amethyst crystals. It'll look great on one wood-paneled wall of shelves that rises up for three stories.

By that, I mean, the gift will stand out amongst opulence. Jeanne's is the second-best local gemstone attraction, next to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. And it's going out of business Christmas Eve, so everything's on sale. It's enough to make a geologist sob at the pleasure and pain of it all.

In fact, one of my geologist friends did just that recently, when I took her there to say goodbye to the shop. Every time she'd try to pay and leave, she'd succumb to the magnetic pull from unikite earrings or a rutilated quartz serving dish or a salt lamp. Everything's on sale, but with the two-for-one special, we headed straight for the ginormous amethyst geodes -- the kind that makes you wonder which foreign dignitary the owner had to pleasure. Plus, everyone on our gift lists now has the appropriate chunks of ruby, garnet, Celestine, rose quartz, citrine and/or green calcite to cure whatever ails 'em.

Jeanne's is a family affair and an institution in Bellaire, having spent most of its 35 years there, at the corner of Chimney Rock and Bellaire, next to a local favorite, the Bellaire Coffee Shop. While we've heard about a movement to gentrify the Bellaire Triangle -- kind of absurd that one of H-town's richest areas would require that -- but that's not why Jeanne's is closing its doors.

"We're just going in a different direction," said owner Jeanne Gurski, meaning where everyone's going: the Worldwide Web. After their annual junkets to the winter rock shows in Arizona, they're putting up most of their wares -- carvings, chess sets, jewelry, trilobites, the works -- online, to be accessible at JeanneRockShop.com.

But true fans will miss the camaraderie and the tactile pleasures of roaming through chunks of Earth from all over the world. "I came here as a child, and I brought my children here," one woman wailed to Jeanne last weekend, in a tone that sounded like the "baby daddy" tirades on Jerry Springer. "What about my grandchildren??!!!"

"It's getting too hard to train people," Jeanne says. (No doubt, with the thousands of museum-quality specimens they offer.) And of course, she says, "kids today are not the same." Jeanne's famous for bringing a loyal group of high school students up through the ranks -- one current employee, JJ, is second-generation. The Bellaire junior's mom worked there when she was in high school.

Jeanne's daughters, Linda and Gwynn, and her sister, Martha, expertly guide customers amongst the collections that span the globe. And while they're all bittersweet about the closing, there's scarcely time to mourn. The store resembles Bloomingdale's in Manhattan on Christmas Eve. Throngs of people squeeze into the shop so tightly, it feels like a real tunnel. All you need is a pickaxe to mine your treasure. – Tunnel Mole

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