belo horizonte studio

Taking a Journey into a Crystalline World
BY CLAIRE FULLERTON
You simply cannot make the shortsighted mistake of taking Malibu at surface value. Malibu has too rich of an interior life for any of us to ever claim that we have a handle on her character. Sure, we can grapple with description. We can say that Malibu is a city that masquerades as a beach town; that there is a dichotomy between the old and the new, disparity between the rural and the coming into being, incongruity between the high profile and the unassuming, and that all of this takes place under the mantle of a place with a worldwide image of glamour and privilege, but all of that is just surface stuff. 

We are truly unique here in Malibu. We are far enough away from the maddening crowd that we have the luxury of latitude to employ our uniqueness in individual ways and because so many do, Malibu is a wheel comprised of surprising spokes that spins incessantly and whirs with an energy that permeates us all.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you never know what’s going on down any hidden road in Malibu and therefore, we are a community of secrets that are oftentimes revealed through word of mouth. That is exactly how I found myself at the gates of Belo Horizonte Studio, and what I found there was a world within a world.
Up an uneven, veiled driveway on the land side in Malibu—so veiled, in fact, that I passed it by three times before I found it, there is a wire-fenced, concrete courtyard that serves as the entry to Belo Horizonte Studio. Through the fence, two friendly dogs wag their tails in greeting. Once inside, the slope of a yard descends to the left and circles around back covering three sides of the property. 

Peppered throughout are works of art but not of the usual variety. Belo Horizonte is a lapidary studio and show room. It is a working studio and for those of you pausing for a spell, trying to recall what lapidary means, I’m talking about stones, as in precious stones, as in gemstone quality, as in treasures from this earth.

The arrangement appears haphazard at first until you spy an open door and curiosity beckons you in. Upon first blush, you are astounded. In the front room, amethyst geodes stand among quartz points, pieces of citrine, calcite, selenite, fluorite, malachite, rainbow obsidian, rutilated quartz, rose quartz, lapis lazuli and the list goes on forever. All pieces are beguiling, all are of the highest quality and all are just sitting there without much thought to their arrangement because they speak for themselves.

The front room flows into a rectangular middle room that houses tables with massive quartz clusters that catch the sun’s rays just so. Along the sides of the walls are floor to ceiling display cases showcasing gemstone spheres, pyramids, points and clusters from varying origins. All are exquisite, all are rare.

Always saving the best for last, I’ll tell you about the back room in a minute, but first I have to tell you about Bob and Jim.

Belo Horizonte has been in Bob’s family for three generations. It started when  his grandfather had good cause to move to Brazil in the 1920s and once there, he got into the quartz mining business and sold to the U.S. government for the purposes of electronic technology, you know, things for communications such as walkie-talkies, radios, watches—they all run on quartz crystals and Brazil is rich with quartz mines. Years passed, generations evolved, one thing led to another, and by the time Bob came into ownership, Belo Horizonte had morphed into a working art gallery in Malibu. There are lots of twists and turns to the story but I like how Bob put it to me by saying, “It seemed a shame to take such perfect specimens of quartz and break them up when their esthetic beauty will never be duplicated again.” In short, somewhere along the line of Bob’s family, the utilitarian use of quartz was exchanged for use as art, and I’d venture to say that Bob’s family was one of the first to see it.

Enter Jim. Jim is a big bear of a guy who today is a lapidary, master artist known for his craft the world over, and what I like the best is that Jim is selftaught. He’s the guy who literally cuts, shapes and polishes massive chunks of stone on site that weigh anywhere from 50 to 2000 pounds. Jim is a purist who goes to painstaking measures to preserve the integrity of the stones and his finished products are considered sculptures. You’ve never seen the likes of the equipment he uses to shape the stones. It looks like something that belongs in a medieval torture chamber, what with the huge, iron saw embedded with a diamond blade that he uses to cut through the massive stones The results are something you have to see to believe, which brings me around to the back room. 

It is intentionally dark in the back room of Belo Horizonte because all of the crystals stand illuminated with strategic lighting. Because they are displayed so, you can see into the stones and discover layers of depth and movement like galaxies within a universe. The stones glow with a shimmer and stand on custom-made bases. Should anybody need any proof that stones gleaned straight from the earth are pieces of art, all they’d have to do is walk into the back room of Belo Horizonte.

“Malibu is really the only place I can think of where we could do this,” Bob said to me. “People here are sophisticated, enlightened and open-minded and therefore, we are situated in the right place.” Private collectors, interior designers, energy consultants, metaphysical healers and art appreciators sooner or later find their way to Belo Horizonte but beyond word of mouth, it’s a mystery how they do so. Belo Horizonte does not advertise, they welcome you in by appointment only, and yet there are Bob and Jim, with a worldwide reputation of quality and excellence in their esoteric field living a life of passion and productivity right here off an uneven driveway in Malibu.

BY CLAIRE FULLERTON