Tribute to an Outstanding Man: Merrill O. Murphy

By Ernie Hawes

Merrill O. Murphy

Venerate: to regard with great awe and devotion; to pay tribute or homage to. Yep, I think that fits the man. He just turned 80 in mid August. I have only known him for maybe twenty-five of those years, but if there was ever a man in the New Mexico Faceters Guild whom I would regard with great awe, or would pay tribute to, it would easily be this man, Merrill O. Murphy.
Merrill’s contributions to faceting go back many years. He was designing gems before a lot of the current faceters were born. Several of Merrill’s designs have been published in Lapidary Journal and have been reproduced in various faceting guild publications around the world. Some, like the Tripolar cut, have been used in master level competitions at the national level. The Aztec Triangle, which we are reprinting in this issue of The New Mexico Facetor, was first published in Lapidary Journal in November, 1966.

Merrill is not only an outstanding designer, he is also the distinguished author of a number of very interesting articles on faceting that have appeared in Lapidary Journal, and, of course, in The New Mexico Facetor, which Merrill edited for many years. Merrill’s numerous articles have been reprinted many times in other guild newsletters around the world.
In the early years of our guild, Merrill was asked on several occasions to be the speaker at guild meetings. Merrill’s talks were always well received for being both interesting and informative. Guild members, who had the opportunity to discuss faceting and New Mexico gem localities with Merrill during our informal meeting time, often found those discussions as important and interesting as the scheduled program.

I have been privileged to be a friend of Merrill’s since the New Mexico Faceters Guild began back in 1981. Together, we have hunted rocks, minerals, and faceting material. We have camped and fished together, we have worked on our equipment together, and we have spent many an hour conversing about gems and gem locations in New Mexico and Colorado, Merrill’s native state. Most of those discussions involved me listening as Merrill drew upon his vast store of knowledge and first-hand experiences hunting and finding minerals and gemstones. Over the years, I have talked with a lot of very knowledgeable folks in our hobby, and I seriously doubt that there is anyone more generally knowledgeable about New Mexico gems and minerals and about faceting than Merrill O. Murphy.

Merrill never brags about what he knows. In fact, Merrill is quite modest when he generously shares his vast storehouse of knowledge. A gentle, friendly, and articulate man, Merrill is easily approached and will take whatever time is necessary to answer someone’s question. If Merrill doesn’t know the answer, then he takes it upon himself to research the question and find the answer, which is one reason why he is so very knowledgeable on many subjects.

Merrill, in a conversation about twenty years ago, said to me that we would be lucky if the Guild survived for more than five years. He said we would run out of speakers and topics for meetings, and folks would lose interest. That is what happened to the previous Albuquerque faceters club, and Merrill felt certain we were doomed, too. What Merrill may not have realized was that the first group was made up of fairly equally experienced and knowledgeable men. Like some old married couples, I think they sort of ran out of things to talk about. With a combination of experienced faceters like Merrill, Eldon Fleck, Louis Natonek, Dick Ochsner, and Al Huebler, along with a steady stream of new faceters eager to learn, our guild has continued to thrive for more than twenty years. Every guild should be fortunate enough to have men and women with the kind of experience and willingness to share that Merrill has, and that these other men in our guild had also. As we younger faceters become knowledgeable experts, it behooves us to follow Merrill’s and the others’ examples in sharing our knowledge and skills.

Unfortunately, Merrill is the only one of the men I named who is still around. Hopefully, he will continue to be a source of both information and inspiration for years to come. I think I can speak for the entire Guild when I say, I am very proud to know Merrill and to have him for a friend.