Selwyn Genrich.
Selwyn Genrich.

Toowoomba Lapidary Club’s 50 year anniversary

IT IS safe to say that back in the early 1960s, lapidary - the art of engraving, cutting, or polishing stones and gems - was not as well-known in Toowoomba as it is today.

As a 24-year-old shop assistant at TT Hardware, Selwyn Genrich would field the occasional inquiry, including such questions as, "What do you know about this lavatory hobby?"

Things have changed somewhat since then, with the Toowoomba Lapidary Club having just marked its 50th anniversary.

As its original publicity officer, Mr Genrich shared his insights into the early days of the club and his role in its development.

Born into a dairy farming family at Highfields, Selwyn moved to Toowoomba aged eight and attended Newtown Primary School.

With 40 children in a single class it was something of a change from Highfields where there were 32 children in the entire school.

Nonetheless, he did well enough to go on and complete his scholarship year, later securing a five-year carpentry apprenticeship with George Strohfeldt and Son.

After eight-and-a-half years in the carpentry game, Selwyn then moved into hardware and this is where the lapidary connection began.

Noticing an interest in the art form, Selwyn wondered if there might be a business opportunity in stocking lapidary-related items.

With the blessings of his boss, Mr Hermann, Selwyn set about contacting lapidary supply firms with the aim of stocking the Toowoomba store with items such as grinding wheels, tumblers, diamond saws and prospector's sieves.

The 1965 Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers provided an opportunity to showcase lapidary to the public via displays and demonstrations at the store.

So well were these sessions received, that a meeting to gauge interest in developing a local club was held with 120 members of the public in attendance.

When asked why there was so much interest, Selwyn said: "I think it was just the fascination of being able to pick up a piece of rock and see the possibilities."

Indeed, Selwyn himself, had not been fossicking prior to his involvement with the hardware store, but upon joining his initial field trip to Murgon, said he was "hooked".

Although now retired from the lapidary scene, one of the highlights for Selwyn has been the growth and continuation of the club.

"There is a sense of satisfaction seeing the club start from nothing and build and knowing that the club is continuing on in good hands."

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