WILLIAM PINNA

About DOMINION GEMS

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CHRIS WENTZELL

WHAT WE DO:

 

DOMINION.  Fine Mineral Specimens.  Gemstones.  Opals.  Lapidary.  Mineral exploration, mining claim location and staking, development, gemstone mining, gem trading, and consulting related to prospecting, mining claims, gem and mineral deposits.  Evaluation of rock, gem, and mineral collections for trade, sale, or for estate planning or liquidation purposes.  Agents for the promotion and sale of gems and unique lapidary materials.  Assisting with building gem and mineral collections and acquiring fine specimens and stones.  We are real- life gemstone prospectors, gem hunters, brokers, and miners.  We mine, buy, sell, trade, and everything else...      In 2022 and beyond we are focusing our mineral interests in our home state of South Dakota and will be selling off all of our Virgin Valley Nevada Opal Mine holdings.

 

 

WHO WE ARE:

 

DOMINION GEMS was founded in early 2015 by longtime friends and now co-partners CHRISTOPHER WENTZELL and WILLIAM PINNA.   Chris has been involved in the lapidary, gem & mineral community for decades, beginning at the age of 4 years "rockhounding" with his family.  Billy has always been interested in nature and minerals, and has been a friend of the Wentzell family for many years, and more recently being an employee and independent designer at Birchtree Gallery in Watertown, South Dakota.  Billy and Chris joined up as partners in early 2015 as DOMINION GEMS in Watertown, South Dakota, and spread the business the Las Vegas, Nevada, for about a year.  DOMINION GEMS is now wholly in the State of South Dakota.   

     We are not a storefront (at this time) nor a wherehouse shop filled with mediocre  to wholesale quality specimens and stones; we buy, sell, trade, and mine to bring you high quality stones, specimens and cutting rough. We make private showings and sales in the Watertown area or anywhere else we travel to.  DOMINION GEMS' brings the collective experience and enthusiasm of Chris and William together as one unit which gives DOMINION the leading competitive edge that is needed in the gem, lapidary, and mineral collecting world, and for the success of any particular project, to bring you fine mineral specimens, gemstones, exotic lapidary rough, and the occasional gemstone mine for sale.

WHERE WE ARE LOCATED:

 

We have some minerals and stones on display for sale at Chris' parents' Stained Glass Studio & Birchtree Gallery in Watertown, South Dakota, where we also design stained glass panels.  Our higher-end gems & minerals are kept in the bank for security purposes and/or travel with us to gem and mineral shows and can be shown by prior appointment.  For our current show schedule, CLICK HERE.    We will be located in Virgin Valley Nevada starting the summer of 2020 from May thru September, with the rest of the year based out of Watertown SD and traveling/mining.

     

 

      DOMINION FINE MINERALS and DOMINION GEMS are based in Watertown, South Dakota, USA

Get to know us:

 
William Pinna and Chris Wentzell of Dominion Gems Las Vegas NV.jpg
William Pinna and Chris Wentzell of Dominion Gems Las Vegas NV.jpg

Bellagio Fountains, Las Vegas

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Chris at Kelly Mine NM
Chris at Kelly Mine NM
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Chris mining in San Diego Co.
Chris mining in San Diego Co.
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Chris at his fathers opal mine
Chris at his fathers opal mine

Virgin Valley, Nevada

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Chris next to petrified log
Chris next to petrified log

on his father's famous WRT Stonetree Opal mine in Virgin Valley, Nevada

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Chris holding Kunzite gems
Chris holding Kunzite gems
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Chris at Katerina Mine Pala, CA
Chris at Katerina Mine Pala, CA

repairing and maintaining original claim boundary markers and performing assessment work, 2012

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Chris digging pocket of crystals
Chris digging pocket of crystals

Pala Chief Mine, Pala, San Diego Co., California 2012. You can dig here for a fee (link below):

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Chris squeezing through old tunnels
Chris squeezing through old tunnels

searching for tourmaline, about 19___.

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Chris at Katerina Mine, Pala
Chris at Katerina Mine, Pala

1990

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George Ashley of Pala
George Ashley of Pala

Chris' early mentor and friend; read more about George at the link below on Mineralogical Record:

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Chris 4 yrs old searching for gold
Chris 4 yrs old searching for gold

with his father in Northern California

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Hiking in Claim Posts
Hiking in Claim Posts

staking a rose quartz mine in South Dakota

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Ron Keller & Chris Wentzell
Ron Keller & Chris Wentzell

at the Dominion Opal Mine in Virgin Valley, Nevada, which belongs to Chris' father. Ron & Chris are partners in AGEM (The American Gem Exploration & Mining Company (link below):

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with Leah Brashear et al, near Denio
with Leah Brashear et al, near Denio

Chris (far left) with Jim Marks, Mike "TC" Ford, and Leah Brashear, at the newly surfaced hot spring near Baltazaar, between Denio and Virgin Valley Opal Mines in Nevada. Leah was an amazing person, gifted opal digger, and a good friend, she unfortunately died in a tragic accident in 2005. We unfortunately had a falling out years ago, and never got to talk which I regret. Life's Lesson: Set aside differences with your friends and tell them you care while you still can.

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CHRIS WENTZELL

is a gemstone prospector/miner/collector and mining law historian.  He is one of the most "colorful" characters in the gem prospecting business.  His first collecting experience was panning for gold in the Truckee River of northern California on a family vacation when he was 4 years old.  Chris has been involved with rocks, minerals, lapidary, gems, prospecting, and mining ever since that early age.  Later developments brought him to study law and legal procedure, including civil and American mining law, which he has studied for nearly the past 20 years.  Chris’ primary specialties are in the precious opal deposits of Virgin Valley, Nevada, and the gem and lithium bearing pegmatites of southern California, (particularly the Pala District), USA and the Custer area of the Black Hills, South Dakota.  Chris also has a love of the history of the mines and miners of these regions.  Besides his family, his largest early influence in becoming a prospector and collector was the noted gem miner and lapidarist George Ashley, and another dear friend whom  advised Chris to “Always look deeper.”   In the early 1990's Chris became involved with Karl Morin and Byron Weege in the mining of the Katerina Mine at Pala, and even discovered the mineral Pseudomalachite there.  For a number of years Chris owned "Dominion Opal Mines & Exploration" and the famous WRT Opal claims in Virgin Valley, Nevada, but sold them to his father who bought them as an investment, so that Chris could return to his roots and interests in the San Diego County pegmatites as well as prospecting and mining in various other locations.  Chris currently lives in northeastern South Dakota part of the year and travels every week or two during the summer months to the Black Hills to prospect and collect, and also travels frequently for Dominion Gems' projects as well as other mining projects, collecting trips, trading, and to attend gem and mineral shows.  He is also Trustee of AGEM (The American Gem Exploration & Mining Company) with his friend and partner Ron Keller, which owned and operated a rose quartz mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota until 2013.  Having been wrongly imprisoned for over 15 years (1995-2010) for a crime he did not commit, Chris is passionate about and supports innocence projects as well as prison and legal reform as well as civil rights advocacy.  Chris was a member of the Coteau des Plaines Gem & Mineral Society (Midwest Federation of AFMS) and served as the editor of the club newsletter as well as on the Board of Directors through 2013.  In 2013 Chris joined up with Craig Boyce as Dominion Exploration.  Finally, in early 2015, Chris partnered up with longtime friend William Pinna as DOMINION GEMS.  In 2014 he reacquired one opal mining claim in Virgin Valley, Nevada, to work himself.  His present collecting interests are in (1) San Diego County pegmatite minerals, gems, and history; (2) minerals from the Homestake Gold Mine, (3) Howardite Rattlesnake Jasper from Nevada; (4) Virgin Valley Nevada & worldwide opals; other classics and pieces that catch his eye.  Chris also serves as the curator for the Wentzell Gem & Mineral Trust.  When not out prospecting/mining or buying/selling, he can normally be found at his family's Art Gallery (Birchtree Gallery & Northern Lights Stained Glass) in Watertown, South Dakota, soldering stained glass panels, or designing websites in his spare time.    Between 2020-2022 during Covid, Chris focused primarily on collecting in the Black Hills, including the Lithium pegmatites, with the occasional trip to California and surrounding states.  In September 2022 Chris decided to focus his mining interests within his home state of South Dakota and sell off any opal holdings in Nevada so that he can work and dig closer to home.  Chris’ skills at mining claim validity research are regarded by many as being the best in the field.  Depending which side you are on, Chris is either praised by those he is working with, or on the other side of the fence, feared and often despised by adversaries or those with opposing interests to his involvement in a particular matter.  This reputation which precedes him is due to his knowledge, skill, and in-depth attention to crucial factors and mining laws which make or break a case.   Everyone knows that with Chris’ involvement comes strict scrutiny and results.  Experience counts in this regard and Chris brings plenty of it to Dominion Gems.  Additionally, Chris has been mentioned in the following publications:

 

  • Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, Special Publication MI-2004, "The Nevada Mineral Industry 2004," at page 53 under "Gemstones" (noting Wentzell trust as staking the largest 2004 mining claim group in Virgin Valley) (LINK HERE).  

  • U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Minerals Yearbook 2004, Volume 2, Area Reports-Domestic, at page 30.4 under "Gemstones" (same as above) (LINK HERE).

  • Nevada — Jackpot! MINERAL Monograph No. 18, at page ___ (noting Wentzell Opal Mining Claims in Nevada's Virgin Valley).  Lithographie LLC, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-9836323-4-4.  (LINK HERE).

  • Mineralogical Record Vol __ p. __ (____/202_)(Photo of Oceanview Mine Kunzite).

  • United Lithium Corp. Received BLM Validation of 508 Claims staked at the Liberty Lithium Project, South Dakota (Sept. 28, 2022).  (photos of Spodumene in the Black Hills)(unauthorized use) https://unitedlithium.com/united-lithium-corp-receives-blm-validation-of-508-claims-staked-at-the-liberty-lithium-project-south-dakota/

You can also see some more of Chris here:

 

  • Chris Wentzell on facebook
  • Chris Wentzell on Instagram
  • Dominion Gems Wentzell on Youtube
  • Dominion Gems Wentzell on Twitter
  • Chris Wentzell on Blogger
  • Christopher Wentzell on Mindat
  • Christopher Wentzell on FMF
  • Chris Wentzell Mining Professionals
  • Christopher Wentzell on LinkedIn

Memberships:

  • Senior Founder, Virgin Valley Opal Miner's Co-Op, 1995

  • American Opal Society

  • IGS Opal Specialist

 
Panning gold in South Dakota
Panning gold in South Dakota
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Will's first Hills Fairburn Agate
Will's first Hills Fairburn Agate
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Billy with some gems
Billy with some gems
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Will's Bluecap Tourmaline
Will's Bluecap Tourmaline
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Billy looking at Minerals
Billy looking at Minerals
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Billy at campfire
Billy at campfire
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Billy hauling fluorescent opal
Billy hauling fluorescent opal
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William the Conqueror
William the Conqueror
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Preparing for campfire
Preparing for campfire
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Digging fluorescent opal
Digging fluorescent opal
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Billy polishing stones
Billy polishing stones
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Dominion Gems Logo by William Pinna
Dominion Gems Logo by William Pinna

copyright 2016 all rights reserved.

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WILLIAM "OMEN" PINNA,

aka "BILLY THE KID"

has been involved with the DOMINION & Wentzell family for many years, and works at Birchtree Gallery in Watertown, South Dakota, performing Stained Glass restoration, repair and design, Lapidary, Gems & Minerals. Billy is an accomplished artist in many mediums including pen, pastel, painting, leaded stained glass, and tattoos.  His interests include music, adventure, outdoors, and many others.  Billy is co-owner of Dominion Gems with Chris Wentzell and is the chief miner.  He travels with Dominion for prospecting and mining and his primary specialties are rarities and opals in Nevada, as well as assisting with the evaluation and purchase of old collections for lapidary and other uses.  He designs and makes his own line of jewelry using natural rough gemstones and crystals which dazzle as they are found in nature.  He also has his own unique style on display at Birchtree Gallery.  In early 2016, he discovered a previously unknown type of Petrified Wood from Virgin Valley exhibiting a schiller effect (Adularescence).  Billy is our hardest worker and has a strong work ethic.  In addition to mining and gems, WILLIAM attained the title of Master of Leaded Stained Glass in 2016 and has built numerous Stained Glass Panels for churches, homes and offices.  

 

William Pinna and Chris Wentzell, owners of Dominion Gems, Las Vegas NV