From Prism Volume II 2023: Firm Member Profile The Arkenstone

By Jennifer Heebner, Editor in Chief

Mineral Lover’s Paradise

Rob Lavinsky’s passion for minerals was born in his youth in Ohio fossicking for calcite.

Rob Lavinsky, Ph.D., got hooked on collecting crystal specimens at age 12. The present-day founder of The Arkenstone, a massive gallery and museum of rare mineral and gem specimens in Dallas, found his first calcite crystals in a quarry in Toledo, Ohio. Two years later (in 1986), he took a bus to the Columbus Rock and Mineral Society, where exhibiting dealers indulged his budding interest with specimen education and trades. By 1988, a 16-year-old Lavinsky was both a super fan of The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and a student of Gem & Crystal Treasures by Peter Bancroft.

“That book changed my life forever,” he says. “It teaches you the difference between rocks and collectibles, which have provenance, quality, and value.”

By 1991, he was an undergrad at Rice University in Houston studying biochemistry and history. That year, a Faberge exhibit landed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. With three years of high school Russian in his language arsenal, Lavinsky chatted up the museum curators and serendipitously started dealing in Russian minerals. Three years later, in 1994, Lavinsky digested the entire first edition of HTML for Dummies and built, one of the era’s first retail websites, and certainly among the first sites selling fine crystals and minerals like Rhodocrosite.

“People told me it was a waste of time to build a website,” he recollects with amusement. But with time on his hands and a good computer connection in his dorm, he brought (and later, to life. Paper ads in Lapidary Journal and other publications drove people online to see merchandise for sale. “This was before search engines, so you had to rely on print ads to tell people about your website.”

The hobby had become serious, as had his educational intentions: pursuing a Ph.D. in genetic engineering and molecular biology from the University of California.

Rob Lavinsky, Ph.D., of The Arkenstone

A Business is Born

Mineral sales helped fund Lavinsky’s undergraduate tuition, but despite sales doubling every year he was in graduate school, he still saw minerals as a passion, not a profession. Even after founding The Arkenstone (the name of a gemstone from LOTR), and later some prodigious specimen sales from the renowned F. John Barlow collection, his pursuit of genetics remained steadfast.

He finally reconsidered while writing his thesis—did he really want to spend his life in a lab? Or could mineral procurement and sales be more fulfilling? He ended up both completing his Ph.D. and pursuing a career path in crystals.

By 2003, Lavinsky was selling minerals and gem species like Tourmaline and Aquamarine for five figures on his website. As piles of rocks spilled out of a guest bedroom and into a hallway at home, he knew it was time to get an office. The first was 2,500 square feet. The second space doubled to 5,000 square feet. The third move was into a 10,000-square-foot gallery. Finally came the current space, and as you might expect, it’s double the size of his last. “At 20,000 square feet, it’s actually full, and that’s a problem,” he says.

At least it’s packed with some of the world’s finest natural art, raw crystals, and minerals, which sell to collectors and institutions worldwide.

“We regard the best minerals as an art form, each measured by defined criteria that include crystal form, color, transparency, luster, proportions, and orientation,” he explains.

And with thousands of species for sale, from natural crystallized gold to Emeralds to unusual material like Pezzottaite and Phosphophyllite, Lavinsky’s passion is sharing these masterpieces with new collectors. “We aim to expand their appreciation of how they relate to gems and the value of such rare objects,” he says.

Rob Lavinsky, Ph.D., of The Arkenstone

Collectors & Accomplishments

Today, Lavinsky’s inventory and mineral savvy are both vast and specialized. He sells rare specimens like crystals of platinum from Russia to museums and crystallized silver from Norway to private collectors. But in a move born of resourcefulness, he’s cultivated niches in directly sourced materials from Peru and China.

Without deep pockets to fund his growing business, Lavinsky scrutinized lesser-known mineral locations like Peru. Unlike its gem-rich neighbor Brazil, Peru’s mines had ore minerals, Fluorite, and Pyrite, which were still appreciated but cost less and attracted fewer rivals.

“For Brazilian material, you had to have a lot of capital and power to compete for specimens,” he says. “I didn’t have either so I couldn’t source from there, but I could afford an overnight direct flight from Dallas to Peru to spend a weekend finding crystals.”

Also in the early ’00s, China was emerging as a collector’s frontier for material like Calcite (his first love from childhood). Lavinsky realized that Chinese-origin minerals were underpriced, so he shifted gears from spending $50,000 on Russian Calcite specimens to tens of thousands less on “random, beautiful minerals” from China, he says. As he personally started collecting more from China, his business purchases started to mirror the personal acquisitions. Lavinsky has visited more than 60 times and has had a buying office and gallery there since 2009. He buys from and sells to the Chinese, and he’s even written a book on the country’s mineral riches at

“The Arkenstone has also served as a conduit for many important gemstones sales, like a 230 ct. yellow Sapphire, to private collectors and institutional museums in China,” he says.

Two final sources of pride? Serving as a cofounder (with Gene Meieran) of The Dallas Mineral Collector Symposium and having a mineral named after him. The first is an in-person and online effort dedicated to the growth of the field of fine mineral specimens as an emerging asset class, while Lavinskyite is a copper mineral that was discovered in South Africa. The mineral was named after Lavinsky by a NASA-affiliated laboratory in 2013 for his contributions and support to the field and to the next generation of collectors—the lifeblood of his business.

“We are after the long-term relationships that build important collections,” he explains.

Rob Lavinsky, Ph.D., of The Arkenstone

Fast Facts on The Arkenstone

Contact: Rob Lavinsky, Ph.D.

Years in Business: Since 1986

Headquarters: Dallas and Guilin, China

Phone: 972-437-2492

Email: [email protected]

Website: and

Best Sellers: Natural crystals and minerals

Starting Retail Price for Jewelry: About $2,500

Instagram Accounts: @arkenstone_minerals, @irocks_minerals, and @mineralauctions

TikTok: @arkenstone_minerals

YouTube: @arkenstone_minerals


Getting Personal with Rob Lavinsky, Ph.D. (founder)

What is your favorite gem and why?

Benitoite—it is magical to me and has a natural crystal shape, color, and brightness in addition to an intellectual rarity. And the finest crystalline examples are unique to the U.S., which adds to the geological and mineralogical interest.

What was the most special loose gem you ever sold?

We were honored to sell a 5.14 ct. emerald-cut red Beryl with ExCel treatment from the collection of the late Rex Harris, who owned the red Beryl mine in Utah. The gem was acquired in 2015 from fellow AGTA member Ray Zajicek of Equatorian Imports, who handled some of the Harris estate, and I sold it to the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

State one fact that people generally don’t realize about crystal specimens.

Historically, miners weren’t careful with a lot of delicate stones. A few scratches on the surface of a crystal isn’t meaningful for material sold as gem rough as it can be polished away. But for mineral collectors, those scratches make a significant impact on the value. We’ve spent decades educating miners on how to protect these crystals from damage as they’re being mined. You can take a broken crystal and polish it into a beautiful gemstone, but you can’t take a broken crystal and turn it into a perfect one. We pay the miners more to keep natural crystals intact and protect them from damage.

Tell us about your involvement in, which some liken to a Wikipedia of minerals.

Since my website was one of the earliest online and in the mineral space, I had a rich database of photos and mineral information that served as part of the foundation of It formed in the late 1990s, and by 2010, it had become a dominant database for science—NASA tapped into it when it needed big data to help develop the database used for shooting lasers at rocks on Mars. We could have never foreseen this crowd-sourced collector database turning into something important. That’s why NASA named Lavinskyite after me.


“We’ve worked with Rob since 2010 to build a collection of world-class minerals. His honesty, directness, quick responses, and depth of knowledge are spot on. Our daughter Monica first collaborated with Rob because of her Mandarin skills, and Rob later hired her, and she’s been with Arkenstone for eight years.” Beth Kitt, private buyer

“I have bought rare minerals from Rob for years, material like Cerussite from Namibia. He has a huge inventory, incredible contacts around the world, is true to his word, and really knows the rare mineral and gem specimen industry. You can trust him, and I call him a friend.” Herb Obodda, H. Obodda

“I met Rob 25 years ago. He had an innovative way of looking at the mineral industry, revolutionizing it even though the world responds poorly to change. Now he’s a major force who acquires a large variety of high-quality minerals and sells them fairly while maintaining a reputation of integrity.” Gene Meieran, private buyer

This is proprietary content for AGTA and may not be reproduced. 

This article first ran in Prism Volume II 2023. See the flipbook by clicking here.