Amethyst Galleries (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 (selling hair and fashion accessories), 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 (that’s 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 in the mineral business 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 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NSmcAyAYXA
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 1,000 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 back up.
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 minerals".