Rock star Tony’s big idea

TONY Joyce readily admits his fascination with rocks and minerals is “a retirement hobby that got out of hand.” That hobby now occupies a large building on Ring Road in New Norfolk, having outgrown the little retail space he used to occupy in the town centre. By “out of hand” the former school teacher means that The Big Tasmanian Rock Shop is now five substantial showrooms, each neatly set out and its content clearly identified.

It’s a place for the professional as well as the amateur collector, and considered by many of his devoted customers to be among the best private retail collections in Australia. Joyce draws his stock from around the world: malachite from Morocco, aragonite from Mexico, rhodonite and gabbro pebbles from Madagascar. There’s faden quartz from Pakistan, and a little further afield, rumuruti meteorites from the Asteroid Belt. Close to home, Joyce found a Permian brachiopod fossil in a new subdivision in New Norfolk, along with chalcedony from Lune River, down the Huon. He has fossils collected in the hills behind Glenorchy.

Tasmania’s mineral emblem, crocoite, is in abundance here. “Tasmania is famously one of the most mineralised places on planet Earth,” points out Joyce. “It’s also a great place to find fossils. But if you are short of time or energy … well, come here!”

Trained in England, Tony came to Tasmania originally to teach at Glenora and New Norfolk Primary, among several schools in southern Tasmania. His personal interest is fossils, and there’s an entire room is devoted to the subject. The fossil section includes amber and ammonites, shark teeth, fossil fish and dinosaur bits… a slice of heaven for fossil hunters. The showrooms are designed to cater to a variety of customers: those looking for a gift or jewellery will find what they need in the first showroom or two.

The store offers faceted gemstones, sought by customers for their transparency and subtle colours, as well as crystals for those who consider they have healing properties. A new shipment has arrived from Indonesia of tiny cabochons, gemstones that have been shaped for necklaces or bracelets.

For the serious collector or fossil fiend, lapidarist and minerologist, there’s a vast trove in the showrooms. “You can get quickly hooked once you start collecting rocks, gems and minerals, precious or not,” Joyce points out. “And then you discover the many Tasmanians who are likeminded.” The Big Tasmanian Rock Shop is open weekends.