50 years ago this May 2021, Wayne and Dona Leicht opened a small mineral business and natural history gallery which rapidly became known around the world. In tribute to our big anniversary, we will be doing throwback Thursdays every week with photos, ads, articles, and memories from this whirlwind journey. First up we have a photo of Dona and Wayne taken in front of the shop when it was located in the Forest Avenue Mall in Laguna Beach (before later moving to our current location on North Coast Highway).

When digging through old photos we even found some of our original ads from the local newspapers.

Hidden all around the shop are memories…like these Tucson Gem and Mineral Show posters.

1994 in the old shop location on Forest Avenue. Stephanie, our shop manager, with her daughter, Jami, who now also works at Kristalle!
Dona in 1993 at the tanzanite deposit
Merelani, Tanzania
Wayne in 2016 at the Oriental Mine in Alleghany, California

Rock and Gem Magazine article. We can’t remember the exact date or issue this came from (so much has happened over these 50 years!) but we think it was written in the 1980s. Text from the article:


“A dozen years ago the February Tucson Show was an enjoyable but not yet overwhelming three-day gem and mineral show. Life was simpler then. On the Friday afternoon the weekend before the show, gem dealers Wayne and Dona Leicht held a cocktail party at their Laguna Beach shop, Kristalle. Saturday morning everyone drove to Fallbrook, about 50 miles away, where Bill Larson had one of his The Collector gem and mineral shops, and the headquarters of the Pala Properties International. If the weather was rainy, the Saturday barbecue was at the Fallbrook shop; if it was sunny, everyone shuttled across some Pala Indian land to the Stewart Lithia Mine for the barbecue and mine tours.

The Pala Mine bash hasn’t been held in half a dozen years, and the fifteenth and final Kristalle party was held this last February. The reason for ending the Kristalle get-together was not that business is poor in the mineral and gem trade, but, rather, that it has been increasingly good the last few years. The Tucson Show expanded from three to four days a couple of years ago, and the gemstone and jewelry dealers in Tucson’s motels and hotels, numbering in the thousands, begin setting up their glittering displays a week or ten days before the Tucson Show opens.

Many top mineral-collectors and authors of the major books on mineralogy and gemology used to attend the gatherings at Laguna Beach and Fallbrook/Pala. They could do so on their way to Tucson. Now they are often in Tucson a week or more before the Show, buying or lecturing, and taking time off and catching a plane to LAX is a major inconvenience. So, the decision was made to make this year’s Kristalle party the final one.

We’ve printed articles about the Kristalle and Pala parties over the last twelve years, as the guest list was always impressive. Typically you would find John Sinkankas, author of a dozen mineral and lapidary books, the latest being Emerald and Other Beryls; Fred Pough, author of A Field Guide to Rocks and Mienerals; Paul Desautels, then curator of minerals at the Smithsonian, author of The Gem Kingdom, The Mineral Kingdom and more recently, The Jade Kingdom; Peter Bancroft, author of Gem & Crystal Treasures. There would be top craftsman-collector-dealers the likes of Herb Obodda, Dave Wilber, and Idar-Oberstein’s Gerhardt Becker. Author photographers like Bob Jones were regulars, as were photographers Harold and Erica Van Pelt, and Earl Lewis.

Kristalle and Fallbrook/Pala were places where you could talk to the very people whose books had been your sources of information about minerals, gemstones, and lapidary work. Indeed, these truly were Camelots, and the last one disappeared just a few months ago.

Sic transit gloria mundi.”

Every year the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show has a poster showcasing that year’s event. Their very first poster in 1981 featured Kristalle and was photographed by the iconic Van Pelts!
First Munich Show in the late 70s
Kristalle advertisement that ran in Mineralogical Record in the early 80s
Wayne at the Tokyo Show
Kristalle when it was on Forest Avenue in the 1970s

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