Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Astro Gallery of Gems

The Astro Gallery of Gems is one of those places that could only exist on the island of Manhattan.  Located at 417 5th Avenue, between 37th and 38th Streets, the gallery is a three-thousand square foot space dedicated to the sale of enormous crystalline geodes and other geological oddities the likes of which I’d only ever seen previously in museums.  Sally and I were on our way to meet some friends when we happened by it, and we stopped in because we were running early and the sheer sparkling colors and overall oddity of the place caught our eyes.
Located on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York.

The store itself was fairly crowded, even at midday on a Friday afternoon, but it looked like most of the “customers” were mere looky-loos like me and my wife.  Though the prices on most of the artifacts ran into the thousands of dollars, still I found myself wondering how often they could possibly make a sale.  Most of the shop’s offerings were gigantic, both in scope and size.  They had everything from geodes the size of desk chairs to full-sized petrified tree stumps to a complete, wholly original prehistoric cave bear skeleton—all large enough to anchor the decorating scheme of an entire living room.   Are there really enough expatriate Russian oligarchs, itinerant professional athletes, trust-fund babies, and nouveau riche hedge fund managers—even in a city like New York—to keep a massive storefront like that in business on 5th Avenue selling semi-precious rocks?
Apparently there are.
Astro's main gallery.
Some very large rocks.
Jade and tourmaline.
The most interesting pieces in the gallery to me were the various fossils.  As I said, only in New York can you buy an actual piece of a dinosaur and bring it home in a frame fit for mounting on your living room wall.  The gallery had several collections of claws, teeth, and assorted fossilized bones, along with a slew of fossilized crustaceans, fish, and other sea creatures I feel certain that my daughter Emma could have identified on sight.  The entire experience was a bit reminiscent of walking through one of the rooms at the Museum of Natural History, save that everything in the store had a price tag on it.  That was a little weird.
The gallery’s back room held its rare minerals collection, presented in darkness with small spotlights in much the same way that the gem collection inside the Natural History Museum presents its rarest pieces of jewelry.  I was somewhat disappointed to see that the gallery didn’t have anything on the scale or scope of the Hope Diamond on offer, but what they had was still both extremely unusual and impressive, though I can’t speak personally to any of its value.  They had a lot of pieces of rare uncut quartz and topaz, however, though alas, they didn’t have an aquamarine.  I’ve got an aquamarine in my West Point ring, and I was really hoping to find out what a stone like that might cost in a size around two-thousand carats.
Rare sea coral.
More coral.
Kryptonite under spotlight, located in the back room gallery.
Dinosaur bits, 20% off for the 4th of July!
Back before the Internet revolution, finding things in stores was hard.  If you lived in a small town, you were sort of stuck with whatever you could get, and when you got a chance to come into a big city like New York, it was great because they had more on offer than you could get back home.  The modern world has done away with this, however, leaving the experience of mere shopping a kind of legacy of a former way of life.  Even in Manhattan, it’s hard to find things that you’ve never seen before or couldn’t get delivered easily enough if you have an Amazon account.
Fortunately, the Astro Gallery of Gems is an exception to this rule.  I doubt there’s another store like it anywhere else in the world, and if there is, that store probably isn’t as successful as the Astro Gallery is right here in Manhattan.  For that alone it’s worth the trip, though I don’t know that I’d come into the City just to see a bunch of rocks and geodes.  Still, if you’re in the area, it’s well worth a visit.

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