If we are going to tell the story of Kristalle, we have to go back to the 1940s. Mrs. Kirkby from the Jurupa Nature Center near Riverside, California, brought in minerals collected from the nearby hills to show to Wayne Leicht’s 3rd grade class, and instantly, Wayne’s passion for minerals began. He was hooked and spent much of his free time thinking about minerals, digging in the nearby hills, or panning for gold at his grandfather’s cabin in the gold country of California each summer.
Wayne attended Johns Hopkins University and the University of California Long Beach with degrees in physics and earth sciences. He then worked at Aeronutronics, a division of Ford Motor Company then in Newport Beach after his years with Army Intelligence on the east coast. While living in Maryland he met Dona and they began to visit mineral localities, museums, and attend symposiums where they met some of the best known mineralogists and curators from around the world. Dona still tells the story of their ‘first date’ – to a quarry in Pennsylvania – in the rain!!
Returning to California and resuming his position with Aeronutronics working with low temperature physics research, the pair joined the Mineralogical Society of Southern California (the oldest society west of the Mississippi). Wayne served as its president for a number of years.
It was in 1971 when Wayne and Dona decided to cut the corporate cord and finally had the opportunity to open Kristalle – a natural history gallery filled with mineral specimens, fossils, shells, and much more to pique everyone’s curiosity. Kristalle’s history in Laguna Beach started in downtown Laguna Beach in the Forest Avenue Mall. After 23 years at that location, they then moved into a landmark cottage in North Laguna, and that is where you can still find the unique store now.
Although we are now entering our 50th year in business, customers constantly tell us they “have lived in Laguna for years and never knew Kristalle existed.” But….the young Lagunans knew Kristalle well. Every Friday afternoon after school there were dozens of youngsters from grade school to high school who would bring their 50 cents to buy one of the famous ‘grab bags’ (which we still make to this day).
While we have kept a low profile in Laguna Beach, we have a worldwide reputation among the mineral community for our fine quality minerals and crystallized gold. Gold specimens from California, in particular, are what brought the Kristalle name to the attention of the world.
Wayne and Dona have spent over 50 years learning about minerals, traveling the world, visiting mines, handling hundreds of collections, writing articles, selling at mineral shows, and contributing to museum exhibits. Their own personal collection of gold specimens have been on loan to many museums around the world and several years ago was a featured exhibit at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. One could visit just about every natural history museum around the world and find specimens that were acquired from Kristalle.
Wayne and Dona have been to mining localities in several countries and have self-collected in hundreds of localities in the United States. Wayne was contracted by the government to map the old copper mine off Grandview Point in the Grand Canyon and in the process two new mineral species were discovered by Wayne, now named ‘grandviewite’ and ‘parnauite’.
Wayne has given lectures around the world, been on TV in many countries, and has been featured in 60 minutes and a few films. Dona has logged in as the one with the lust for world travel. She has been to the emerald mines in Colombia, the jade deposits in China, the gem deposits of Sri Lanka, the mines of Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and so many other localities around the world.
They have a son, David, who attended Laguna Beach schools and is a musician, starting in 7th grade with the “battle of the bands’ on through high school with his buddies. He is a drummer in several reggae bands that play up and down the coast, including our beloved ‘Dirty Bird’ (Sandpiper to non-locals). He was also a Brooks Street winner and member of the high school surfing team. Recently he has become quite the talented creator of Mandala stones with veryintricate designs and they are for sale at Kristalle.
The mineral world can be a whirlwind, but that is why we have loved having Kristalle based in a (mostly) tranquil section of North Laguna. The quaint Kristalle cottage creates a comfortable surrounding in which visitors can spend time browsing through thousands of specimens with a vast range of prices. Kristalle customers include fascinated beginners, prominent private collectors, and museums of the world, and we are proud to cater to all levels of collecting. No one is too young or too old to develop their interests.
Now that you have gotten to know us……stop by one day!
We at Kristalle hope to do as Mrs. Kirkby did for Wayne…. and ignite new passions in all our customers.
Stephanie Andrews – Manager
Lois Nelson – Collections Manager
Jami Andrews – Website Manager
875 North Coast Highway – Laguna Beach, CA 92651-1415
Wednesday – Saturday: 10 -5
Sunday: noon- 5