Waco Gem and Mineral Club, Waco, Tx

6.5 Entering Competition


6.5: Entering Competition

Each year, each of the seven regional federations of the AFMS holds a show and convention that includes the opportunity to enter a display into competition to earn ribbons and plaques. Junior members can even win a financial reward! The AFMS holds a joint show and convention with one of the regional federations, rotating over the years to each region. The juniors case earning the most points at an AFMS-affiliated show wins the AFMS Lillian Turner Award, which includes a certificate, a mineral specimen, and a $100 Series E Bond. Thus, it really can pay to enter!

Over the years, the AFMS has devised a detailed system of rules for all the different sorts of displays that represent the varied aspects of our hobby. Categories range from all manner of lapidary arts (sphere-making, cabbing, faceting, beading, intarsia, etc.) to mineral collecting and fossil collecting (with categories for micromounts, thumbnail specimens, and larger specimens; for self-collected fossils and purchased specimens; for materials from a single locality and those collected from around the world; and so on). Each category comes with its own requirements and rules, and—in order to ensure uniformity in judging—these rules have been collected together in a rather thick packet.

The junior program leader should obtain a copy of the AFMS Uniform Rules, read through it, and be on hand to help guide kids who wish to enter a competitive display. The rules can be complex and difficult for even an adult to follow, and entering competition can be daunting for anyone, young or old. While you shouldn‘t construct your kids‘ displays for them, you should be on hand to provide support, pointers, and advice based on a full knowledge of the AFMS rules for exhibiting.

The AFMS Uniform Rules may be purchased through the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies or your regional federation, or it may be downloaded free from the AFMS web site. (It‘s a long document, so make sure you have plenty of toner and paper in your printer!)

Within the Uniform Rules are sheets that explain at a glance the things to be judged within specific categories and the number of points allocated to each thing. You should copy these sheets to share with kids entering a particular category.

These Federation-sponsored shows aren‘t the only opportunities for kids to enter competitions. Check around your local area. County fairs often sponsor competitions for hobbies and collections. Schools sponsor science fairs. If you come up dry, hold your own competition for your junior members and pebble pups at your club‘s annual show utilizing the AFMS Uniform Rules or developing rules of your own, such as the following ones that were sent in by Audrey Vogelpohl of the West Seattle Rock Club.


(courtesy of Audrey Vogelpohl, West Seattle Rock Club of Washington)

Assisting junior members to display what they have collected, whether self-collected or purchased from commercial dealers, can be accomplished with this simple set of guidelines designed specifically for juniors. These guidelines are meant to be used at the club level for local show displaying.

Any junior can participate. The guidelines are designed with display categories, age grouping, judging, points, and ribbons. Displays must be a junior’s own work and effort, with coaching from a parent, guardian, or sponsor. Rules of participation are kept simple and aimed at the Junior level. These guidelines are not intended to distract or prohibit any junior from entering formal Federation show competition under the AFMS Uniform Rules but to provide a somewhat more simplified introduction to competing at the local level.

Ribbons only will be awarded. There will be no trophies unless a junior is participating in competition under the AFMS Uniform Rules at a regional or national Federation show. The points used for this local program are for training only and are not equivalent to the points system used with AFMS Uniform Rules.

Judging will be education-centered in order to provide the junior with helpful, constructive written feedback for any points taken off. Literally all judging criticisms need to be fully explained so the junior will have a primer to work from and improve. The goal should be to build confidence in the junior exhibitor to move to the next step of entering competition at a Federation level.

A NOTE TO PARENTS: It is very important to have your support. We hope that you will work with your child or children if they have an interest in displaying their material. These guidelines are to assist you in understanding the process of juniors entering a display in our own local club show. Please ask questions of the Juniors Chair and other fellow club members and learn basic steps that will help your own child create an excellent display for the public to appreciate.



1.1 Decide what you want to display

a. What do you like to collect?

b. Specimens from a special field trip?

c. What is the show subject or theme?

d. What will make your display special? (unique, best quality, complete collection, dramatic specimen, favorite)

e. Examples of your lapidary skills? (carving, cabs, faceting)

f. Have you made jewelry or gem trees?

1.2 Communications from your display

a. Present your display as if you are speaking to a new friend that you have not met yet.

b. Purpose of your display is sharing the art of nature, public education, and promoting your interests and club hobby.

c. Keep it simple without too much wording.

d. Coordinate colors that are pleasant to your eye and that highlight the specimens.

e. Avoid use of excess props (feathers, sticks, photos, glass, wood, metal) in your case because they steal attention from specimens.

1.3 Specimens you decide to display

a. All same material or different types of gems, minerals, or fossils.

b. Size may be large or small, uniform or mixed.

c. Quality should always be the very best you can provide.

d. Number of specimens should be just enough to make your display easy to view and not look too busy or overfilled.

e. Large specimens in back of display case, smaller in front.

f. Always wash/clean your specimens before placing in the case.

1.4 Labeling your display

a. Always have accurate names, correct spelling, punctuation, and information. To help avoid mistakes, proofread twice, then ask someone else to read the labels.

b. Use uniform size of lettering on the labels and make letters large enough to read at about two feet from the front of the case.

c. Individual labels for each specimen should include, at a minimum, correct name of mineral or fossil and origin, or where found.

d. If all material in a case is the same sort of material (all calcite; all trilobites), identify on a single label at the back or floor of the case.

e. Lettering should be typed or laser-printed on durable cardstock (not paper) than handwritten. Plastic covered labels are too reflective.

f. Prepare a label with your name and age, but only place it into the case after judging is over.

1.5 Display case for your specimens

a. Good display cases are hard to find so begin by borrowing a case for the show.

b. Typical cases are Federation Style, which are about two feet high, two feet deep, and four feet wide, with a glass front. Dimensions usually vary slightly because there are different builders.

c. Your case should always have a liner that is lighter color (white or pastels are best) than the dominant colors of your specimens. Dark or flashy liners will usually distract from the color effects of the displayed specimens.

d. Wash hands before installing liners in the case to prevent smudging with finger prints.

e. Best lighting is clear, incandescent bulbs or tube fluorescent bulbs that are cool white type, not to exceed 150 watts total per case.

f. After you have arranged and labeled the specimens, be sure to clean the inside of the front glass before securing to the front of the case.


For AFMS and Regional Federation competitions, juniors are defined as having reached their 8th birthday and not yet having reached the 18th birthday as of the opening date of the show. But for local shows, you might consider a wider range of ages, broken up into several groups, for instance:

Age Group 1: ages 4 through 7

Age Group 2: ages 8 through 11

Age Group 3: ages 12 through 15

Age Group 4: 16 through 17

Having a wider range allows for fairer groupings and also for awarding more prizes. For more experienced kids who have exhibited before, particularly those in Age Group 4, you might consider applying the AFMS Uniform Rules when judging to prepare them for that next step in competitive exhibiting.


Adapt categories to your own local club interests, but these may include:

3.1 Self-Collected Specimens

Any type, size, or location. Labels must include the specimen name and location where specimen was found. Date it was found is helpful, if available.

3.2 Minerals

Any size, type, or location. Must include accurate mineral names and locations on labels.

3.3 Educational

Any topic or theme relevant to rockhounding or rock uses. Brief, to-the-point wording is best on all labels.

3.4 Lapidary

Tumbling, polishing, faceting, carving, etc. On the labels, must include names of lapidary materials used.

3.5 Gem Trees

Must name stones, enamels, and/or metals used.

3.6 Fossils

Any type, size, or location. On labels, identify common names, genus and species names, locations, and geological age (period or epoch).


Points will be allotted out of an overall total of 100 as follows:

4.1 Showmanship: 30 points

Overall appearance, detail, arrangement. Does the display stand out amongst the others?

4.2 Workmanship: 20 points

Quality of lapidary and jewelry work or mineral and fossil cleaning and preparation. How neat and distinct is the work?

4.3 Labeling: 10 points

Individual and group labels. Judges will evaluate accuracy only. Other aspects of the labels, such as whether handwritten or printed or whether done on paper versus cardstock, will be evaluated under Showmanship. Deductions of 2 points per error to a maximum of 10 points.

4.4 Quality: 20 points

Color, size, rarity, definitive/classic specimen. Are your specimens the best you can reasonably find?

4.5 Educational Value: 20 points

Use of maps, graphs, print, historical background, photos, etc. Will the viewer learn something from your display?


5.1 Blue Ribbon for 90-100 points

5.2 Red Ribbon for 80-89 points

5.3 White Ribbon for 70-79 points

5.4 Certificate for Participating for under 70 points

The points used for this program are for training only and are not equivalent to the point system used with AFMS Uniform Rules. Remember, this program is designed for beginners training, so when you enter your display in competition at a Federation show to compete for Federation trophies, be sure you ONLY use the current updated AFMS Uniform Rules that are available from your regional Federation publications office or from the AFMS website.


In addition to the AFMS Uniform Rules, several other resources are contained on the AFMS website to be used in properly labeling mineral, lapidary, and fossil specimens. These include:

6.1 AFMS Mineral Classification List

This lists the most current names used for properly identifying minerals based on Fleischer’s Glossary of Mineral Species. It also lists names that have been replaced or that are now considered obsolete.

6.2 AFMS Approved Reference List of Classifications and Common Names of Fossils

This list of over 20 pages helps exhibitors place fossils within their taxonomic context, within their phyla, classes, orders, and subclasses.

6.3 AFMS Approved Reference List of Lapidary Material Names

A lapidary material sometimes goes by a different name than would be used if the same specimen was entered as a mineral or fossil. For instance, Turritella Agate is an accepted lapidary name, but if the same material were entered as a fossil, it would be called Goniobasis sp. The AFMS list provides accepted lapidary names to use in competition.


Exhibitor’s Name or #:  ________________________________________   Age:____

Place an X next to the number of the category for your display:

____ 1. Self-Collected Specimens   ____ 4. Lapidary

____ 2. Minerals                             ____ 5. Gem Tree

____ 3. Educational                        ____ 6. Fossils

---------------------------------Do No Write Below This Line----------------------------------

For Judges: Judging Categories & Points

Please provide explanations for any and all points deducted, along with helpful suggestions. Add comments to the back of the sheet as necessary.


Showmanship – 30 points possible                                             Points awarded: _____

Overall appearance, detail, arrangement.

Comments: _______________________________________________________



Workmanship – 20 points possible                                            Points awarded: _____

Quality of lapidary and jewelry work or mineral and fossil cleaning and preparation.

Comments: _______________________________________________________



Labeling – 10 points possible                                                    Points awarded: _____

Accuracy only. Other aspects of the labels (handwritten; printed on paper; etc.), to be evaluated under Showmanship. Deductions of 2 points per error to a maximum of 10 points.

Comments: _______________________________________________________



Quality – 20 points possible                                                    Points awarded: _____

Color, size, rarity, definitive/classic specimen. Are specimens the best one can reasonably find?

Comments: _______________________________________________________



Educational Value – 20 points possible                                     Points awarded: _____

Use of maps, graphs, print, historical background, photos, etc.

Comments: _______________________________________________________