Ron Romanella – Commercial Mineral, Passes Away

The legendary Ron Romanella, born in New York in 1932, passed away on October 24, 2022 in Bangkok, Thailand.  Dr. Frederick Pough of the American Museum of Natural History observed young Ron’s interest in minerals and gems and encouraged him to enroll in mineralogy and geology courses at Columbia School of Mines, which he did concurrently while being tutored in the business by mineral dealers Hugh Ford and Maurice Hammoneau.   In 1954 he opened his own office as a dealer in commercial and industrial minerals to customers who used minerals for industry, such as sphalerite and calcite for the optical industry, quartz for the electrical industry, as well as gem rough.  In a 1954 advertisement in Rocks & Minerals magazine, he offered emerald rough from Colombia, sapphire rough from Ceylon and perfect sphalerite crystals from Joplin, Missouri.  Within a month, the advertisement offered “African garnet, diamond and zircon suitable as cutting material or as specimens.” The Mineralogical Record Biographical Archive stated that by 1962, “Every few months his advertised specimens seemed to get better and better and more spectacular” from commercial minerals to “attractive mineral specimens” to a “complete selection of fine gem crystals” in 1957 to “museum quality specimens” by 1962.  “Rare mineral sales were made to such well-known institutions as The Smithsonian Institute, Harvard Museum, Cranbrook Institute in Michigan, and many others” (The Mineralogical Record Biographical Archive).  Ron opened branch offices in Denver, Colorado, Woodland Hills, California, Bombay, India (1963-1975), Governador Valadares, Brazil (1965-1974) and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (1965-1968).  Notable mineral and gem dealers Lawrence Conklin, Eric Engel, Herb Obodda, David Wilbur, Pravin Dav’e and Narinda and Neera Malhotra were all hired and employed at one time by Ron, having left at various times to start their own ventures.

An avid globe jumper, Ron was in constant pursuit of new gem rough for cutting productions, and in early 2000s, relocated to Thailand and Switzerland.  His office in Thailand sold rough to international customers, produced cut from rough and served as a buying/selling base for sons Michael and Jerry Romanella, who have owned and operated Commercial Mineral Company (CMC) in Scottsdale, Arizona since 1977.

A colorful, worldly character, who lived a full and adventurous life, Ron will be remembered by all who had the opportunity to meet and deal with him. Rest in peace Ron Romanella.

Commercial Mineral Company (CMC) was established in 1959, primarily as an industrial and rare mineral dealer with some “gemmy” grade rough and cut stones, CMC gradually evolved into gemstone sales, producing it’s own cut (faceted) stones from rough. Early customers were users of mineral for industry. (i.e. Sphalerte and calcite for the optical industry, quartz for the electrical industry, etc.)

Rare mineral sales were made to such well-known institutions as: The Smithsonian Institute, Harvard Museum, Cranbrook Institute in Michigan, and many others.

Commercial Mineral has grown into one of the largest full-service, wholesale colored stone houses in the Western United States. We also have a long history of participation in the international marketplace, with branch offices in Governador Valadares, Brazil (1965-1974), Bombay, India (1963-1975) and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (1965-1968). Building on this network of long-term friends and customers and extensive experience, CMC has established direct overseas contacts with gem mines and cutters. Our affiliate office – AFCO Far East, Ltd. in Bangkok, Thailand – sells rough to international customers, produces cut from rough for CMC and serves as a buying/selling base when we are overseas.

The success of our family-owned business is based on our reputation for customer service, integrity, the highest standards of quality, flexibility and responsiveness in meeting customer needs.