New markets, including cruise ships and buyers in Asia, are creating a sparkling future for Oregon sunstones.
“This has been a sleeping giant for some time,” believes Allan Dickinson, who heads international sales for the Oregon Outback Mining Co., which is based in Lake Oswego, but is planning to move its operations to Plush, the community closest to the sunstone mines.
Dickinson recently updated Lake County Commissioners on Oregon Outback Mining’s operations. He said plans to move operations to Plush have been delayed because the company is focused on developing new markets, including sales aboard Holland American cruise line ships. On five cruises to Hawaii, Alaska and Mexico, he said about $60,000 worth of jewelry and loose stones were sold.
He said Holland-America has offered to allow the company to sell stones on another 80 cruises.
The company’s success, he said, are resounding because, “We are sales people. We are smart. It might sound like we’re working in paradise, but it’s bloody hard work.”
Dickinson said the company also is making inroads to Asian markets, which he said are potentially much larger than New York City and London.
“It’s delicate timing,” he told commissioners, noting the company has been contacted by a potential investor who may provide the machinery for an expanded faceting operation in Lakeview. He said working with the investor’s machinery would significantly reduce start-up costs.
Dickinson’s wife, Barbara Vandenberg, who lives in Plush, said the company’s goal is to create sunstone items that are mined, faceted and made into jewelry in the U.S. Although the sunstone was named Oregon’s state gemstone in 1987, she said it is largely unknown, which is one of its attractions.
If the company moves ahead with its development plans for Plush, which Dickinson said has “taken a backseat for the moment,” he envisions the need for skilled employees doing faceting of sunstones and other gemstones. He said long-range projections call for up to 40 jobs. Both said they may expand rental units at Vandenberg’s Hart Mountain Cabin.
He said sunstones are the world’s rarest actively mined gemstones and said their unique properties make them attractive to potential buyers.
“It’s becoming a worldwide business now,” Dickinson said.