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"Published Record - Joseph "Joe" Guetterman."

Subject: Joseph "Joe" Guetterman

Title: Joe Guetterman rock hound par excellence.

Name of publication: Metro-East Journal Magazine

Date published: Sunday, April 4, 1976

Location of publication: St. Clair County, Illinois

Provided by: Audrey (Gerlach) Guetterman


"Transcript of the above article"

Title: Joe Guetterman, rock hound par excellence.

The flock of peacocks in Joseph Guetterman's St. Clair farmyard prepares you for something- and someone- extraordinary. Peacocks roosting and strutting around, as at home on the farm as chickens. "There're about 40 of them out there," Guetterman said, "We bought a few from Texas and they kept procreating." Peacocks, however, are not what Guetterman is all about. But they give you insight about a man who loves the unusual.

Guetterman, a Belleville Area native, is a renowned rock hound- a label affectionately attached to a person who collects rocks. He also is a lapidary- an artisan who fashions rocks. At 77, he appears tireless. He brushes aside a sit- down interview, preferring, instead, to show what he's been doing.

He invites you to touch and weigh and inspect his treasures, which fill cabinets, drawers and display cases all about his home. He has installed special lights to accentuate most of his displays.

Guetterman, a retired farmer, and his wife, Helen, his companion of rocks hound, live in a comfortable farmhouse near Belleville (St. Clair County, Illinois) with their collection of rocks, an aging dog and the peacocks.

His hobby has taken him all over the world in search of unusual rocks. After 33 years, he can boast the merchants who think they have the most unusual stones find that Joe Guetterman already has several of the same kind, but even more unusual. His fame is best indicated by the fact that photographs of rocks in his collection appear in Encyclopedia Britannica.

The Guettermans' collection contains hundreds - perhaps thousands of rocks. The Guettermans found most of the rocks, and Guetterman does the cutting and polishing.

There are countless items of interest. Teeth and petrified bones of prehistoric animals, which are rock forms. Several different types of sea coral. An African rock embedded with rubies - not the precious kind, but rubies. Can you imagine holding a wooly mammoth's knuckle in your hand? . . . Or was it mastodon's knuckle?

The Guettermans don't get confused, and that in itself is amazing because of the size of their collection and the number of years spent collecting. Yet, with almost every rock or artifact is a tale about how it was found, where it was found and why it is special.

There are the ivory projectiles from an Arctic sea animal that they saw in a shop in New York, rushed in and bought. They then carried the six foot long, spear-like treasures away through stares, it was quite an experience, Mrs. Guetterman says.

The Guettermans used to go on rock hounding expeditions at least twice a year. They have explored almost all the continental United States and have done extensive hunting in Mexico. They have been to Africa, India, Brazil, Europe, Madagascar, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Canada, Alaska - and St. Clair County (Illinois).

Everywhere they go there are other rock hounds. The Guettermans are interested in rocks with unusual formations, but for almost every rock hound there is a different interest, Guetterman said.

There are no set of rules for rock hounding. You start by collecting rocks that interest you, "If you like it, fine," Guetterman says. The knowledge, the expertise, and the ability to recognize different stones, come with time. To be a lapidary, you need a cutting wheel, patience and imagination. Guetterman's wheel was made by a friend from parts of two antique sewing machines.

His shop is in a room adjacent to the kitchen and contains pounds and pounds of stones awaiting his lapidary touch. He has cut gems in every imaginable shape, tiny and large. One of his showpieces is a large topaz fashioned into a sphere.

The fireplace in the collection room is the most eye-catching display. It is completely embedded with colorful stones. But Guetterman isn't one to pat himself on the back. There's to much else to do, even though he seems to have done everything a rock hound could ever want to do.

He's got several projects going, but his pet for the moment is designing a cross with gems. The theme for much of Guetterman's lapidary work is religious. He has done a scene of the Last Supper and the Madonna and Child.

Religious themes provide the greatest opportunity for an artist to show his skills and talent because of the tremendous emotion involved, Guetterman said.

The path to the Guetterman's door is known by rock hounds far and near. School children also are frequent and welcome visitors.

He says the time he spends with visitors is worth it to interest someone in the love of rocks.

He didn't want to talk about how he became interested in rocks. It has to be with recuperating after some hay fell on his head many years ago. But he said, that insignificant. Besides, Joseph and Helen Guetterman have a lot more pleasant experiences to savor.


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