The History of Amethyst Galleries, Inc.
The First Internet Rock Shop!
(The Natural Choice for Gifts!)
opened in 1990 with a small store in the Town & Country
Shopping Center in Kettering, Ohio, a suburb of Dayton. Previously, Doris
had sold some mineral specimens in a gift shop that she owned, but Amethyst
Galleries was opened as a dedicated nature store, selling minerals, fossils and other
items with similar appeal. The business was incorporated as Amethyst
Galleries, Inc. on November 11, 1993. Along the way, we opened another store
in the Salem Mall in Trotwood, Ohio, and then a large store in The Mall at
Fairfield Commons in Beavercreek, Ohio, all suburbs of Dayton.
Steve was a software consultant back in those days,
working for Wright Laboratories, the research wing of the US Air Force.
While the concept of the World Wide Web was created by Tim Berners-Lee at
CERN (who went public with the very first web site in August of 1991), the WWW
didn't really take off until the first browser capable of displaying
graphics was created in 1993. Mosaic was that browser, and directly led to
the explosion of the Internet. In 1993, there were perhaps 200 web
servers. In 1994, there were thousands. In 1995, tens of thousands.
Back to Steve: after creating one of the first web
sites for the US Air Force back in late spring 1994, he "saw the writing on
the wall" and began working on a web site
for Amethyst Galleries. The site went live (with perhaps two dozen species
described) in September of 1994, but it was just via a numeric IP address.
While we owned the galleries.com domain, it had not been assigned a
permanent IP address yet. We had applied for a permanent block of IP
addresses (thats how it worked back then), but address assignments and
domain name registration was in a state of flux during that period. More
mineral species were added each month, along with a few specimens for sale.
In any case, in early 1995 the dust settled such that
only major ISPs were given blocks of IP addresses to give out to their
customers. We received our IP address assignment, provided the address
of our DNS server to the NIC and immediately changed the web site to use mineral.galleries.com.
The first problem was getting the several hundred sites that already linked
to us to change from the numeric IP to galleries.com - a process that took most of a year to complete. In March of
1995, mineral.galleries.com had approximately a two hundred page web site,
describing over one hundred mineral species and varieties.
Thinking ahead (or not thinking, you decide), Steve
planned for the minerals to be in the domain mineral.galleries.com, fossils
in fossil.galleries.com, and so forth. Eventually, the home page of
www.galleries.com would simply
provide an index to the list of galleries. Perhaps someday (but Steve's been
saying that for at least 10 years now).
Side note: we created a "Mineral Gallery", and a few hundred successors
decided that they needed a "mineral gallery" also. One enterprising individual
grabbed the domain "themineralgallery.com" and claimed to be "The Original
Online Mineral Gallery for all rock, mineral, and crystal enthusiasts!" Huh?
They also claim "Since 1997", so we beat them by 3 years. Not sure what they've
been smoking. And ignorance is no excuse, since everyone knew of us. We
were first, and nearly every college, university, and non-governmental web site
dealing with minerals linked to us. We were hard to miss, even before Google.
Along a similar vein, there is a very interesting YouTube video (by Justin Zzyzx)
about the Internet archive and the first Internet mineral dealer (it points out
that Jendon Minerals makes absurd claims of being first). See
Ahh, the good old days. Doris used to spend each day
visiting EVERY new site on the web. Back in 1994 and 1995, that was from ten
to fifty web sites a day. She stopped doing that when the number of new sites per day
passed one hundred. Now, the site that once catalogued all new web sites no
longer exists (yet it was one of the most popular back in its heyday).
The first year or so, we ran the galleries.com web
server out of our
home on a 128kb ISDN line. Of course, almost everyone had dial-up lines, and
28kbps was a pretty fast modem. We could reasonably handle perhaps a dozen
simultaneous browsers. Colleges with T1 lines quickly overwhelmed the ISDN
line during the day, however.
Eventually we moved the server, web site and all, to a
server farm in Westerville, Ohio which had multiple high speed lines. This
was also the first time our numeric IP address changed, and it took weeks to
complete the transition.
We closed the last of our mall stores in January of
1996, and galleries.com became our only outlet (other than occasional
mineral shows). Business was good, and growing every month. But we now had
competition, and as the number of dealers on the Internet increased, our
sales peaked and began to decline. I remember one Tucson show (or perhaps it
was a Denver show), I talked to perhaps two dozen dealers who were testing
the Internet waters, and most of them sold about one rock per month. But
five hundred dealers selling one rock per month took a huge bite out of our
sales, even as total Internet mineral sales were growing considerably.
Today, there are hundreds of active mineral dealers on the Internet, over a
thousand if you include individual sellers at sites such as eBay.
Today, our server is a dedicated blade in a huge
facility in Florida, with OC12 or faster connections to all of the Tier 1
ISPs, a hurricane proof building with a 30-day backup generator, a 24-hour
staff, etc. The web site contains over 900 static pages describing over 600
mineral species and varieties, physical characteristics, dozens of rocks, plus the database generated specimen pages,
and with roughly 10,000 mineral photos it requires nearly 4 gigabytes to
In 2007, we totaled nearly 3.5 million visitors, and
delivered over 60 million hits (from about 15 million page views). Our
total delivered bandwidth exceeded 500 GB, comparable to the total delivered
bandwidth of the entire Internet in 1993, or about 5% of the total Internet
bandwidth in 1994. My, how times have changed.
In 2009, we totaled 4.5 million visits, 13.6 million page views (by humans,
and not counting cached pages), and a total bandwidth exceeding 880 gigabytes.
We are almost entirely advertiser supported, and we wish to extend our
heartfelt thanks to our visitors who shop through our pages every day. We'd have
to close this web site if it was not for you. In a sense, we are the equivalent
of local TV stations (supported by advertising), versus web sites such as
Wikipedia, supported by donations (and equivalent to PBS TV stations which are
largely taxpayer supported by government grants).
Altavista.com reports that over 7,800 sites currently
link to Amethyst Galleries' home page. Note that we have never done link
exchanges (which helps keep us ranked high on Google). We plan to continue
growing. The move to a largely advertising supported approach enables us to
increase the number of mineral species we describe (since we no longer need to sell specimens to justify a page),
plus expand to other
related things such as rocks, and even new or
controversial concepts such as "primordial