Last updateWed, 01 Apr 2020 1pm

The Story Behind the Stone: Hurricane Harvey’s heartfelt outreach

Jarrett Oct CherylThe recent widespread devastation from Hurricane Harvey was both riveting to watch on TV and agonizing to process. The upheaval wrought incalculable destruction to homes, human life and animals across a wide swath of land that’s impossible to grasp without being there.

We all were touched in different ways - for different reasons. Well-known gemologist and animal advocate Cheryl Ells was among the millions of us keeping vigil via television while feeling hamstrung.  “Watching the devastation on TV, I felt so helpless.  I saw so many images of animals that were displaced by Hurricane Harvey and felt heartbroken for them.” While encouraged by watching the heroic efforts made to rescue trapped and stranded Texans, she knew there were still many in harm’s way who faced abandoning their beloved pets and livestock. 

A Light Bulb Moment

It struck a tender chord with her as a veteran animal volunteer. “I have worked in animal rescue for over 20 years. So, I know firsthand how hard the work is, and that there is never enough money under the best of circumstances.”

Ells has just embarked on an ambitious new online jewelry business, You Rock Gems, and was in the midst of developing her website, www.yourockgems.com. “I am a new small business owner and funds are tight right now. I was looking at my little rescue dog (a tiny chihuahua with a big personality) Twiglett and thinking about how heartbroken I would be if he got lost or were somewhere needing my help. That’s when a light bulb went off.” 

From that empathetic heartache while watching the horrible news unfold rose a swell of creative resourcefulness in her. “I may not have extra funds to donate, but I do have valuable gemstones in my personal collection as well as for my business.” Ells has been carefully building a collection of exceptional minerals and gemstones for the last 14 plus years. She decided to pull some prized specimens from her private cache that she knew consumers would relish. “Why not do an online Facebook auction with these unique treasures and raise funds that way?” Her destination for monies raised would be, you guessed it - the Houston Humane Society.  “I was happy to donate gemstones to help the animals in Texas.”

Jarrett Oct ApatiteDirect Grass-Roots Appeal

Hurricane Harvey pummeled a massive band of Texas terrain beginning late Friday, August 25th, 2017. As it stalled over the region, the havoc had just begun. The Cat 4 hurricane preceded the main event - torrential unrelenting downpours creating unprecedented flooding. Watching the seemingly unending devastation spurred Ells to action. “I thought of the auction on Wednesday and selected four special gemstones and one mineral specimen.”

Taking to Facebook in a direct grass-roots approach, Ells announced she would conduct an online gemstone auction to benefit Houston’s Humane Society. In short order, she put the word out on her Facebook page - not knowing what the effort would produce. Were people so distracted by watching the real time live-feed reportage that she’d get no bidders on her auction? Who would actually tune in to Facebook to watch - and bid on her initiative?

Ells’ brainchild event started at 6pm on Wednesday, August 30th. It was all done by Friday Sept 1st at 1pm eastern time. In just 43 short hours she converted an idea into an $880 donation for the Houston Humane Society. And a few like-minded gemstone lovers got their stones of a lifetime in the transaction - not to mention the feel-good effect of knowing their purchase would do so much good. Ells knows that the amount raised may not sound as fantastic as the millions of dollars promised by celebrities in recent days. But this animal activist knows first-hand how far each of those auction dollars will go to feed, house and administer medicine to some of Houston’s most vulnerable victims.

Jarrett Oct KunziteThe Bidders Got Energized

Gemstone cutter Mike Soebbing jumped in on the auction, saying, “I participated in the auction as a tribute to our family cat, Herc, who passed away this week from cancer. My bidding was a nice way to memorialize her life.”

The stones up for bidding were perfect for knowledgeable collectors. “One of my favorite stones in the auction was a 7.35 carat vivid pink Afghanistan Kunzite with very light rutile needles in the stone,” Ells pointed out. Serious gem lovers covet certain inclusions like these which impart a distinct collectability by their rarity. “Also, a .95 carat vivid bright orange spessartite garnet,” she swoons. “It was clean and bright!”

One of the fortunate auction winners, gem lover Jason Balingit Rangieri shares a kindred spirit with Ells tender heart for animals. “I participated in the auction because I am an animal lover and really feel for those who couldn’t get their pets before having to flee their homes,” he explained. “I’m hoping that all the animals find their homes - and for those who were already homeless, I hope they find their forever homes soon. I know the good work that the Humane Society does, and I wanted to support their efforts in Houston.”

Award winning trade journalist and gemologist Diana Jarrett is a Registered Master Valuer Appraiser and a member of the Association of Independent Jewellery Valuers (AIJV). She’s a popular speaker at conferences and trade shows. Jarrett writes for trade and consumer publications, online outlets, her blog: Color-n-Ice, and www.jewelrywebsitedesigners.com. Contact her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., visit her website at www.dianajarrett.com, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter (Loupey).