Noteworthy Individuals

This page recognizes members of Dallas Gem & Mineral Society who have made significant contributions to the lapidary arts.  These individuals were in the news, wrote or coauthored a lapidary paper, had a mineral/rock/fossil named after them, won a prize for lapidary work, or any other significant lapidary item.   This will also include members of the community who support Dallas Gem & Mineral Society.


Frances Mallison Johnson

GIA certified Gemologist who volunteers at all the local gem & mineral shows, identifying gemstones.  Frances is a charter member of the Dallas Gem & Mineral Society, and the first newsletter editor. Frances was one of the 4 women who found diamonds on the first field trip to Diamond Crater State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.  Frances now lives in Arlington and is a member of Arlington Gem & Mineral Club and Oak Cliff Gem & Mineral Society.  Photo courtesy of The International Gem & Jewelry Show.  Frances Johnson one of the Top Gemologists in Texas, with Arnold Duke at Fort Work Convention Center, January 24, 2015.  She’s 98 years young.

Interview by Gerald Pennington, October 2015

Everybody in every gem & mineral club in the DFW area knows Frances Johnson.  Frances is known for her sweet disposition, her beautiful smile, and her unfailing knowledge of gemstones.  Frances is the sweetheart of all the DFW area gem & mineral clubs.  Frances volunteers at every local gem & mineral show, identifying gemstones.

Frances Johnson with Arnold DukeFrances Johnson with Arnold Duke at the Fort Worth Convention Center. (Photo is on the website of The International Jewelry Show)

I have heard a lot of good things about Frances Johnson and most of them are true but a couple of things I had heard need to be straightened out.

  • Number One, Frances is not the first female Gemologist in the state of Texas.  In 1981 she became a Gemologist ad has tested stones for people at The International Gem & Jewelry Show since they first started, only missing 2 times in those 34 years for reasons of health, and attending the 110th birthday of her Aunt Mary Tankursley.
  • Number Two, Frances is the first generation of her family to work in this field.  She has copious notes in a notebook that is a treasure trove of information, but they are all her own notes.

Frances remembers her first Gem & Jewelry Show in Dallas at Fair Park in 1958.  She was there visiting the vendors and got a big shock when she found her sister-in-law selling Graves Faceting machines with Mr. Graves!  Frances had no idea that anybody else in the family was even remotely interested in gemstones or the lapidary arts.  Frances had a Graves faceting machine for years and later traded it to a Brazilian for a pound of aquamarines (she still thinks she made a bad deal!).  Today she uses a Raytech faceting machine and loves it.  Her faceted stones rival any faceted with the high tech faceting machines available today.

That same unmistakable smile - Do you recognize this UNT alumni?

That same unmistakable smile – Do you recognize this UNT alumni?

Frances keeps current by reading Gems & Gemology, the quarterly journal of the Gemological Institute of America.  Frances keeps herself young by keeping busy.  She is always helping out at area gem & mineral shows with her free services, identifying gemstones for those attending the shows.  You will also find Frances at the club cutting and polishing cabochons.

Frances is fascinated by the orderliness of gems – the crystal planes exhibited by each and the chemical composition.  Frances attended the second meeting of the Dallas Gem & Mineral Society in 1956 (at the urging of her friend, Dawn Tims) and became a charter member, through the club she learned to love rocks 7 gemstones, eventually becoming a life member of the Oak Cliff Gem & Mineral Society and the Arlington Gem & Mineral Club.  As the club was new, members were being solicited for officers during that meeting.  While Dawn Tims was talking to Frances the President appointed Dawn in charge of Field Trips, and Frances was volunteered to be the first Editor of the newsletter, Rok Tok.  She remembers seeing the “Star of Arkansas”, a 15.33 carat diamond (8.27 carat cut weight) which Winnie Parker found in March 1956 and had faceted by a New York City jeweler. It was bought at Christie’s in New York in 1994 for $145,000.

Frances was on the first field trip of the Dallas Gem & Mineral Society – to Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas.  She actually found a .41 carat brown diamond.  She laughs and says she still thinks the President of the club, Dwight Halstead, planted the diamonds for her and the other three women to get them hooked.  Frances still loves to hunt rocks.

Dawn Tims became the first Field Trip Coordinator and Frances was the first newsletter editor for Dallas Gem & Mineral Society.  Frances made a sugar spoon with her silversmithing skills and won a blue ribbon at the Texas State Fair.  She also made a silver bracelet that has gold wire on it, and still has it to this day.  Frances learned fabrication under John Szymak (first silversmith teach for the DGMS & OCGMS clubs) at the old YMCA in downtown Dallas.

Frances & John Johnson on their wedding day

Frances & John Johnson on their wedding day

Some more things that you may not know about Frances:

  • In 1961 Frances married the love of her life, John Johnson.  Unfortunately he passed away in 1999.  People tell me he sang to her all the time, and it was not uncommon for John to burst out singing a love song to Frances.
  • Her Grandmother Mallison made a living by sewing, and Frances is no stranger to a sewing machine.
  • Frances’ Mother took her to the missions on Harry Hines where children were taught to sew.
  • When in Stowe, Vermont, she got to meet Maria von Trapp, and also saw her perform at U.N.T.  For those who don’t recognize the name Maria von Trapp, think “The Sound of Music”, singing von Trapp Family.  Now you recognize the name?
  • Frances graduated from the University of North Texas when it was still a teacher college in January 1943 with a degree in Sociology and minors in Spanish, Home Economics and Psychology.  That was just after Pat Boone graduated.  Oh come on, you know who Pat Boone is!
  • After graduating, Frances went into the Navy as a WAVE in the Hospital Corps, from 1943-1945.  She was stationed in Corona, California, at the Lake Norconian Club, a legendary resort of the west coast which was turned into a naval hospital base and prison in 1941, where patients from the Pearl Harbor attack were housed and treated.
  • Frances took a class from commercial artist, George Kadel, and did four color screen printing.
  • Her favorite silversmithing teacher is Sam Howeth. “He teaches in an orderly manner, so you learn silversmithing better.”
  • Did you know that Frances was a pilot?  She took flying lessons in 1951 and still has her Student Pilot Certificate.
  • An amusing anecdote: Frances attended a meeting and heard an individual use curse words as they were speaking, she addressed the individual in the meeting and said it was uncalled for.  Frances said she knew all those words – she was in the Navy – but she chose not to use those words!  Gotta love her!

    Salute! U. S. Navy Pharmacists Mate 3c.

    Salute! U. S. Navy Pharmacists Mate 3c.



Dr. Nicholas J. Theis

Nick Theis has a mineral named after him – Theisite, discovered in Western Colorado.  Click here to learn about Theisite describes Theisite:


Dr. James L. Carter With Moon Dirt in Demand, Geoscientist’s Business is Booming
Media contact: Meredith Dickenson, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2293,

Dr. James L. Carter

Dr. James L. Carter

Popular UT Dallas Professor Retires to Devote Himself Full-time to NASA Product

 Jan. 16, 2008
After 43 years, Dr. James L. Carter has retired from teaching and research at the University of Texas at Dallas, but he is not giving up his other job: making fake moon dirt.
The geoscientist has parlayed his arcane specialty as an expert on lunar soil into a full-time business, ETSimulants.  The company makes and ships tons of lunar regolith simulant, or fake moon dirt, to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and other researchers.
Now that NASA is once again planning moon explorations, Dr. Carter’s bone-dry, ashy substance is needed for testing the special equipment that will be used on the lunar surface.  No other scientist in the world has just the right recipe, and NASA has run out of its original source.
“When you land on the moon, all this dry, dry dust blows into the space craft’s engines,” he says. “The astronauts’ safety rests on this substance being correct.  There can be no mechanical failures once you’re parked on the moon’s surface.”
To recognize the popular geoscientist and his years of mentoring graduate students, the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics has established a scholarship in his honor.  The James L. Carter Scholarship is for graduate and undergraduate students pursuing degrees in geosciences.  An anonymous donor has agreed to match the donations as well.
His former students remember him fondly, especially his field trips.
“Everything intrigued him whether it was rock, mineral, fossil, plant or just the scenery,” said Mary E. Cast, former graduate student and now a quality assurance chemist with the U.S. Geological Survey. “His mind was always going, and to keep pace, you had to engage your mind as well.  Nothing was too mundane to catch his attention.”
Moon dirt has not been Dr. Carter’s only area of research. Throughout his career he has studied everything from the earth’s upper crust to environmental geochemistry to paleontology. He made a name for himself when he helped to discover the fossil remains of a sauropod dinosaur in the Big Bend National Park.
NASA introduced moon dirt to Dr. Carter when they sent him soil samples brought back to Earth from astronauts on the first Apollo flight.  He was able to identify the chemical materials and the mineralogy-, but it was several years later, in 1992, when the space agency contacted him again about making the artificial stuff for its experiments.
Since starting up his business at a secret location in North Texas – he also won’t reveal his manufacturing process – Dr. Carter has made more than 40 tons of the artificial moon dirt.  The fake dirt resembles charcoal ash.  His rocks come from a volcanic quarry in Arizona.  He packs the dirt in large plastic bags, which can hold up to 3,000 pounds and transports these bags on 18-wheeler trucks to Houston.
Dr. Carter says “moon dirt” is a misnomer.
“Technically, the moon doesn’t have dirt. There’s no water, no oxygen and thus no clay. Everything is in a complete vacuum,” he says.
Dr. Carter came to UT Dallas in 1965 as a postdoctoral associate when the University was the Graduate Research Center of the Southwest.  He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in mining and geological engineering from Texas Western University, now The University of Texas at El Paso, and his Ph.D. in geochemistry from Rice University.



Ben Hong – Volunteer extraordinaire for many decades at the Natural Science Museum in Dallas (now the Perot Museum).
By Alisha Lund, November 2010

This is a sample of what it’s like when you visit the Dallas Museum of Nature of Ben HongScience.  Amid fossils and dinosaur skeletons, and roaming spectators you might also notice a wealth of volunteers.  These volunteers ensure the museum is one that thrives on a passion for lifelong learning, discovery, and innovation.  They are the driving force behind the collections and research that cover approximately 1.7 billion years of Earth’s history, illustrated through exhibitions on geology, earth sciences, and biodiversity.  Some spend hours repairing delicate fossils or sorting through boxes of vertebrae, or researching rocks.  Inside the museum is a glass-walled laboratory that allows visitors a rare, behind-the-scenes look.
That’s where you’ll find Ben Hong of Richardson, one of the key volunteers behind excavating fossils and researching rocks.  “Ben has been a reliable and regular volunteer for our museum for decades, and his contributions to our program have been enormous,” said Dr. Tony Fiorillo, Curator and Chief Paleontologist.  “His attention to detail has contributed to the ability of our department to publish high-quality scientific research.”
Since his early years as a young child, Hong had a real interest in rocks and fossils.  “I grew up in South Dakota on Indian reservations and always loved exploring and had a keen interest in rocks and fossils, in particular,” he shared.
Retired, he now spends two days a week volunteering at the museum.  Although he ever had any official schooling toward rocks and fossils, his passion for them is strong, and volunteering gives him the opportunity to pursue that passion and, consequently, gain new information and develop new skills.  “Volunteering is interesting to me because it’s a continuation of my hobby,” he said.  “You never know what kindBen Hong using microscope of fossil you are going to find through the process so the anticipation and discovery is always exciting.”
When visiting the museum, one will notice it is far more that just exhibits; it is an active and bustling research institution.  Many of the excavations happen in Alaska and the research begins upon arrival to the museum where fossils are later discovered.  Fossils vary in size from microscopic to gigantic (like dinosaurs and trees meters long and weighing tons).  Hong typically works with the microscopic fossils and said, “I love trying to find new types of fossils.  I also enjoy all the interesting people who I get to work with, as well as the visitors that come through.”





2 thoughts on “Noteworthy Individuals

    • Please visit with Donald Slater at Nature’s Gallery, 1102 S. Elm Street, Carrollton, TX 75006 972-446-1994.

      If this does not work out for you, please email me again and I will find an individual in one of the local gem & mineral clubs.