by Ruth Gerson
Have you ever collected rocks and minerals as a child? I remember marvelling at a geode, the egg-shape rock that when broken reveals marvellous amethyst crystals, one of many of nature’s secrets. Robert McLeod, an Englishman from Kent, found a niche in the Asian market selling top quality fine crystals of the somewhat obscure creations of mother earth, to a public who is slowly acquainting itself with them. When asked what gave him the idea to delve into this area of rocks, Robert answers that he collected rocks as a child, but what really propelled him in that direction were some photographs that he saw and which captured his imagination.
Robert has a good and trained eye, working as photographer in Asia and worldwide, starting photographing promotions for hotels and ending with the prestigious Architectural Digest magazine. His road to photography is interesting too. After graduating from university while working as a math and chemistry teacher in Japan, he photographed as a hobby underground theatres in Tokyo; these are non-main stream surreal theatres akin to those of the 1930s in France. Robert eventually took one such group of twenty Japanese actors to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with immediate success which launched him in Japan overnight, with clients seeking his photographic services. He continued photographing for five years until the massive economic crash of 1991 that required him to move on. The new destination was Thailand where he had expanded his photographic services, enjoying exciting assignments. “That was the heyday of photography” he says. However, nothing lasts forever. With a change of management at the Architectural Digest and the advent of digital photography, Robert found his work less desirable than in the past, and he began to look around.
It is quite a courageous venture to start selling rocks to the uninformed public, investing money with uncertain returns. It seems however that Robert’s bold move paid off. Testing the so called “waters” he put his first goods in 2007 on consignment at a shop in Siam Paragon shopping centre. Although sales were successful, the cost of maintaining these items at the upmarket venue became prohibitive. After three years he once again consigned his goods to a shop, this time at Gaysorn Plaza. In 2016 Robert decided to branch out and opened the two -level shop in the then newly renovated River City naming it Agata Gallery. It is in a prime location at the ground floor of the central atrium with its crystals sparkling at passersby.
When discussing the business aspect of his shop Robert says that fine minerals are still undervalued compared to antiques and other art assets. His customers are worldwide however, his most loyal ones are the Thai. Outstanding on display are the Spanish Pyrite cubes, known as Fool’s Gold, as is the natural formation of a cream colour rock called Gogotte found in Fontainebleau, France formed naturally at the end of the Ice Age. It’s smooth intertwining shapes inspired a number of 20th century sculptors including Henry Moore. These silica-sand centred rocks are now very popular with auction houses.
Robert emphasises that he started this line of work not to seek profit, but out of interest, the only route that he would take. The money is secondary, needed to finance his interest. “I enjoy finding pieces”, he says. “It is a competitive business and one must be fast in making decisions, particularly in purchasing new items.” Agata Gallery is one of a kind shop in Asia selling the highest quality crystals, equaled only by some shops in New York.
Agata’s crystals are on display at River City 3rd floor from the end of July 2020 for the duration of one year.
Room 188, River City, Talad Noi, Bangkok