Meet Our Staff
Pala International prides itself on having the finest staff in the mineral industry, bar none. With over a century of combined industry experience, no other company can offer you the same level of expertise.
The President of Pala International, William Larson, is one of the world’s most knowledgeable gem and mineral experts. Starting from a small mineral collection at age ten, he has built one of the planet’s finest mineral collections in private hands. And along with that, he has built Pala International into one of America’s great colored stone houses.
After graduating with a degree in Geological Engineering from the prestigious Colorado School of Mines, Bill started Pala International in 1967. Today he travels the globe several times each year, bringing back both fine gemstones and mineral specimens.
For a full biography of Bill, along with his wife, Jeanne, see Meet the Larsons: Pala’s Globe-trotting Collectors.
Will Larson is director of minerals at Pala International and consults as a collection adviser. He has been in the industry since he was a young boy participating in the family business. During that time he was exposed to mining, brokering and marketing of minerals and gemstones. At the age of 6 he started his own section in Pala international's booth called "Will's Corner" where he would sell minerals he found himself or traded for. Will began working full time for his father, Bill Larson, officially at Pala International in 2009 but started doing trade shows in Tokyo by himself as early as 2005. He has never missed a Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (according to his parents). His first major over seas trip to buy minerals and gemstones was in 1997 at the age of 12 to Vietnam, Thailand and Burma. On that trip he remembers waking up at 5 a.m. in Luc Yen, Vietnam to visit the woman's market to buy tourmaline and aquamarine, which he later sold in Tucson via Will's Corner. His first trip to Africa was to Tanzania in 2012 for the first Arusha International Gem Jewelry and Mineral fair. At the time he visited both Tanzanite One's operation and the artisanal miners in the D block. At Tanzanite One he went deep (2700 feet below the surface!) into the mine in search for tanzanite crystals and to better understand the location and rarity of these wonderful crystals. He has supplied many museums including but not limited to the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian. To this day he has continued his passion to collect, dig and sell minerals.
Mia Dixon took charge of the camera shutter upon the departure of in-house photographer Wimon Manorotkul in late September 2008. (We were told by Wimon that Mia was a quick learner, as tips of the craft were passed on while they worked together.)
Mia first started at Pala International back in 2002 as the Administrative Assistant. She left the company in July of 2004 to raise her first child.
In July of 2008 she joined the team again as the resident photographer, mostly of gemstones but also some shots of mineral specimens. Mia is working part-time so she still can enjoy spending time with her beautiful boys Erik and Axel.
Mia Dixon was born and raised in the area of Gothenburg (aka Göteborg), the trade, educational, and cultural center of southwestern Sweden. She first arrived in California in 1994. Mia received her Associate’s Degree in Fashion Merchandising & Design in 1996 from Palomar College in nearby San Marcos, California.
Jason Stephenson joined the Pala team in October of 2006. His path in the gem and mineral world began with a Bachelors of Science degree in Geology from the University of Idaho in 1999. He then earned his Graduate Gemology degree from the Gemological Institute of America in 2000 and quickly became involved in the gem trade.
Jason has worked on the wholesale and retail side of the business, and has been involved with the buying and selling of jewelry, gemstones, and mineral specimens.
At Pala, along with sales, Jason has been contributing to the growth of information on Palagems.com, by researching and writing about the ever changing landscape of gem materials.
Rika hails from a small town in Nagano Prefecture, Japan. During her second year while studying abroad in San Diego for a degree in Fine Arts she met her now husband Will Larson. Will introduced her to the business in the first month of them dating she visited her first Tucson show. Rika now has been working full time with Will since 2014. She has an avid ability to find good specimens while self-collecting and loves to be out in nature. Her passion for minerals and jewelry only continues to grow stronger. Currently she manages Pala’s sister company The Collector Fine Jewelry where she uses her Fine Arts degree to design beautiful custom jewelry.
John McLean (retired)
After two years in the Peace Corps in Peru, John McLean joined Pala International in 1971, and has been in charge of Pala’s mining and mineral division ever since. At one time or another, John has worked virtually every important gem deposit in San Diego County, including the Stewart, the Tourmaline Queen, and the Himalaya.
In addition to John’s mining talents, he also excels at mineral specimen preparation and mineral photography. A master of mineral aesthetics, John has brought out the hidden beauty in specimens now gracing the greatest mineral collections in the world, including the Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie and the LA County Museum.