When exploration geologist Peter Megaw had a career choice between Denver and Tucson more than 30 years ago, the gem show sold him on Tucson.

As a 25-year-old master’s student studying geology at the University of Texas- Austin, the Tucson show was also what pointed Megaw to his career. He came at the invitation of a friend, not sure what to expect.

“I came out here and I spent four days with my eyes about the size of dinner plates looking at these specimens,” said Megaw, 61. “It had never occurred to me that there were more beautiful and valuable mineral specimens in the world than what I had seen in museums.”

Now, with more than 35 years of experience as an exploration geologist in addition to his later role as exhibits chairman for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Megaw gets VIP access to many of the world’s treasure chests.

He talks with curators at international museums to pick mineral exhibits for the gem show, and his career takes him into mines for base and precious metals.

Nearly 15 years ago, Megaw lucked into a literal cave of wonders in the Naica Mine in Chihuahua, Mexico, on a job-related trip.

The miners gave him a sneak peek into a crystal cave after his query about new gypsum specimens he had seen on the market. They assumed he was asking about their newest discovery — still under wraps. He wasn’t, but they took him there anyway.

Megaw remembers crawling into the cave, sweating in the extreme heat and humidity. His jaw dropped at the sight of towering white crystals that were about 4 feet across and 36 feet long.

“It’s now got a protected patio-type environment that you go onto, and they have lights mounted in the cave. ...” Megaw said. “But it’s just not the same as crawling in on your hands and knees and looking up and just going, ‘Oh my’...”

Megaw shares that thrill with friends and his daughter, a lifelong member of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society.

“Geology isn’t really a profession,” Megaw said. “It’s a lifestyle. You are always doing geology. It doesn’t matter where you go. There is always something to look at. That’s one of the beauties of it. The rocks all speak the same language.”

Writing about Tucson's heart and soul — its people, its kindness, its faith — for #ThisIsTucson.