As a child, Sandra Gonzales would stuff so many rocks into her chest of drawers that the thing would collapse under the weight.

“My dad always had to hammer it back together,” she says.

She’s found a more suitable place for her collection today. In the front yard of her Denver home, for example, a wagon keeps a colorful array.

“I have little neighbor girls,” she says. “I tell them they can come over any time and take any they want.”

Details: Colorado Mineral & Fossil Show, free, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Crown Plaza DIA, 15500 E. 40th Ave., Denver

That’s one way Gonzales shares her passion. To a much larger level, she does that at the shows she puts on twice a year in the city — exhibits drawing dealers and buyers from around the world. They’ll converge this weekend at the Crowne Plaza DIA, converting a ballroom into an exotic realm of shiny crystals and gems of all shapes and sizes.

A Russian is expected to bring meteorites. A Venezuelan is to attend with diamonds. A Dallas seller typically comes with precious stones from Pakistan. That’s just a few of the 80 dealers lined up.

Find more events around Colorado by visiting our Events Calendar.

Oh, and dinosaur remains are sure to make an appearance at the spring Colorado Mineral & Fossil Show.

“I had one guy walk in once,” Gonzales says. “He looked around and goes, ‘This is the biggest museum I’ve ever seen!’”

One can roam the booths at no cost, but serious rock hounds are known to scour with big billfolds. It’s not unusual for people to spend tens of thousands of dollars, Gonzales says.

The September show, among the biggest of its kind in the country, is a different story, she says. “You can have something come and it could sell for half-a-million. One of the dinosaurs did sell for half-a-million.”

Gonzales, a Colorado native, knows the temptation. After 25 years in health care, she put herself on the collecting world map by buying a world-class mineral supply from Africa.

She doesn’t deal any more, but she has claims at some of the state’s storied sites.

Those include Mount Antero, where hide rare aquamarine crystals; Lake George, home to some of the best smoky quartz out there; and Alma, which produces a red and gray gem desired far and wide.

Gonzales says her passion is “nature’s art.”

“You can’t get this at the store, you know what I mean? It’s nature’s art. It’s geology; it’s where we come from; it’s history; it’s science. It’s learning. … Every day, I learn from these dealers who come. I’m constantly learning, and I think that’s my passion.”

Find more events around Colorado by visiting our Events Calendar.

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