In 2001, Robert Lavinsky
was at a crossroads.
He had just finished his PhD in Molecular Genetics at University of California San Diego.
The obvious next steps in his
career path were in academia or research.
That had been the plan, after all.
But since middle school, he'd been skipping class to run a secret business on the side.
It had only gotten more and more lucrative as time wore on, and now he
was weighing whether to dive into it full time.
To put himself through grad school he
had been dealing rocks and crystals.
No, not like Breaking Bad.
was selling actual rocks and actual crystals.
As a child, Robert Lavinsky
collected and traded rocks and minerals because he
loved them, but he
never thought he'd make it his
"When I was a kid, I looked at how mineral dealers made a living, and it was a peripatetic (nomadic) life," Lavinsky
remembers older men going from show to show every week, living out of their vans.
"There just wasn't enough money in minerals in the mid-80s for most people to make a good living.
You made a living but not a great living."
minerals hobby, but chose a career path in science.
Then, when Lavinsky
was in college, he
started dealing minerals online before anybody else did.
And that changed everything.
It changed enough that when he got his PhD he decided to give minerals, "a few years," as his full time gig.
"If it doesn't work out," he
remembers telling himself, "I'll go get a job in biotech.
Now the industry has grown by orders of magnitude - at the highest end, pieces that used to sell for $10,000 are now selling for over a million.
company, The Arkenstone
- which he
named when he
was 14 for the ultra-precious stone the dwarf monarch pursues in The Hobbit - are the reigning kings.
with two of his
children at the Dallas Zoo's Nature Exchange.
When Robert Lavinsky, Ph.D., was a young boy, he developed a passion for minerals.
By the time he
turned 16, he
was attending rock and mineral shows and made his
first significant purchase - a $1,000 purple fluorite crystal on a barite matrix.
mother was furious!
But Dr. Lavinsky persuaded her to let him keep it and years later, created The Arkenstone and iRocks.com, successful businesses built on mineral and fossil collecting.
hopes to inspire youth to pursue their interests in science and he
has donated interesting mineral specimens to the Hillcrest Foundation Nature Exchange at the Lacerte Family Children's Zoo for many years.
"I find the tactile and three-dimensional experience of owning a rock or holding a fossil to be a thrill," Lavinsky
Dr. Rob Lavinsky, president and founder of iRocks.com and MineralAuctions.com, was the first to bring a mineral-selling website online in 1996.
has handled a number of important collections, and has watched mineral shows and online auctions grow and expand for hobbyists, curators, collectors and investors alike.
regularly emphasizes the art and science behind rocks and minerals.