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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 10.25.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added a new Morocco Update (click here) featuring a small number of excellent quality blue barite specimens from the Sidi Lahcen Mine, from beautiful cabinet specimens to super miniatures. These specimens are from a 2013 find of amazing top-quality crystals and crystal groups. The pieces from this find have sharp crystals, with nice, consistent  colour, excellent lustre and good transparency. The specimens in this update were selected for their high quality (so many specimens from the Sidi Lahcen finds were quite damaged) and aesthetic crystal arrangements.

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 8.4 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 6.0 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 8.2 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.9 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.7 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.1 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.6 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.6 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 10.17.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve added a new USA Update (click here) with excellent specimens from various localities, most of which were collected between 25 and 50 years ago. Some of the specimens are from the collection of Robert Bartsch.

Rhodochrosite, American Tunnel  Mine , Silverton, Colorado, USARhodochrosite, American Tunnel Mine, Silverton, San Juan Co., Colorado – 12.5 cm
From the collection of Robert Bartsch

Microcline var. Amazonite with Smoky Quartz, Jack Rabbit Mine, Crystal Creek nr Crystal Peak, Lake George District, Teller Co., Colorado, USA.

Microcline var. Amazonite with Smoky Quartz, Jack Rabbit Mine, Crystal Creek near Crystal Peak,
Lake George District, Teller Co., Colorado – 5.7 cm
From the collection of Robert Bartsch

Microcline var. Amazonite with Smoky Quartz, Jack Rabbit Mine, Crystal Creek nr Crystal Peak, Lake George District, Teller Co., Colorado, USA.

Microcline var. Amazonite with Smoky Quartz, Jack Rabbit Mine, Crystal Creek near Crystal Peak,
Lake George District, Teller Co., Colorado – 4.8 cm
From the collection of Robert Bartsch

Mona Mine, Specimen Rock Area, nr Colorado Springs, El Paso Co., Colorado, USA

Microcline var. Amazonite, Mona Mine, Specimen Rock Area, near Colorado Springs,
El Paso Co., Colorado – 4.1 cm

Fluorapatite, King Lithia Mine, Greyhound Gulch, Keystone District, Pennington Co., South Dakota

Fluorapatite, King Lithia Mine, Greyhound Gulch, Keystone District, Pennington Co., South Dakota
Field of view approx. 3.5 cm
From the collection of Robert Bartsch

Fluorapatite, King Lithia Mine, Greyhound Gulch, Keystone District, Pennington Co., South DakotaFluorapatite, King Lithia Mine, Greyhound Gulch, Keystone District, Pennington Co., South Dakota
Crystal 1.1 cm
From the collection of Robert Bartsch

Millerite, Platte River, MissouriMillerite, Platte River, Missouri – crystal group 1.5 cm

Chrysocolla, Quartz, Planet Mine, Planet, Buckskin Mtns., La Paz Co., Arizona, USAChrysocolla, Quartz, Planet Mine, Planet, Buckskin Mtns., La Paz Co., Arizona
Field of view approx. 6 cm

Chrysocolla and malachite, Morenci Mine, Greenlee Co., ArizonaChrysocolla and malachite, Morenci Mine, Greenlee Co., Arizona – 4.9 cm

Fluorite, Cave-in-Rock District, Hardin Co., Illinois

Fluorite, Cave-in-Rock District, Hardin Co., Illinois
Field of view approx. 5 cm

Goethite, Goethite Hill, Lake George District, Park Co., Colorado, USAGoethite, Goethite Hill, Lake George District, Park Co., Colorado – 6.1 cm

Barite, Pack Rat Mine, Pryor Mtns, Carbon Co., Montana, USA

Barite, Pack Rat Mine, Pryor Mtns, Carbon Co., Montana
Field of view approx. 4.5 cm

Quartz, variety Herkimer Diamond, Crystal Grove, Lassellsville, Town of Ephrata, Fulton Co., New York, USA

Quartz, var. Herkimer Diamond, Crystal Grove, Lassellsville, Town of Ephrata, Fulton Co., New York
Crystal 1.2 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 08.22.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

In the new Morocco Update (click here), I’ve added some super new specimens of erythrite from Bou Azzer, along with excellent new barite specimens from Bou Nahas.

Erythrite crystals from Bou Azzer are generally regarded as the finest in the world. The challenge with erythrite, however, is to obtain fine-quality specimens – the mineral is so soft and delicate that most specimens are damaged in the removal process or subsequent transportation. The erythrites in this small lot are superb quality specimens of this beautiful mineral.

 Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, MoroccoErythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – crystals up to 0.9 cm

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 1.0 cm crystal

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – field of view 2.8 cm

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – field of view 2.2 cm

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – field of view 2.6 cm

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – field of view 3.3 cm

Barite is one of the most common minerals at Bou Nahas. Specimens of barite and associated sulfide minerals (particularly pyrite and chalcopyrite) from Bou Nahas have been reaching the market since about 2011. In 2014, blockier, glassy, lustrous barite crystals made their debut, and since then we’re continuing to see more specimens of barite and associated sulfides from this locality. High-quality isolated barite crystals and crystal groups remain relatively scarce at this point, as most of this material to date has been damaged either during extraction or during transportation – but the top quality pieces are excellent barite specimens.

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 4.7 cm

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 5.6 cm

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 4.4 cm

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Barite with pyrite crystals, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 5.4 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.11.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

In this France Update (click here), I am including the first of the specimens from the 2015 Ste. Marie Show.

Despite the host country, the show is truly not full of French mineral specimens, given their relative scarcity, and the ones that are there are highly prized. Nonetheless, I was able to acquire a few excellent French pieces.

Beautiful deep golden barite crystals from a find at La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne.

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France

 Barite, La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France – 7.1 cm

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France – 4.3 cm

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France.

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France – 5.3 cm

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France.

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France – 4.8 cm

I also found a small stash of bournonite crystal groups from the contemporary classic locality, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon.

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 6.8 cm

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 6.1 cm

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 5.3 cm

From Buxières-les-Mines, there was one fluorite specimen that really caught my eye. We are used to seeing fluorite from occurrences where the habit is one of stacked cubes, but how often do we get to see stacked dodecahedra?

Fluorite, Buxières-les-Mines, Allier, Auvergne, France

Fluorite, Buxières-les-Mines, Allier, Auvergne, France – field of view approximately 3.0 cm

From an uncommon locality for fine mineral specimens, some brilliant, sharp alpine hematite.

Hematite, L'Alpe d'Huez, Oisans, Isère, France

Hematite, L’Alpe d’Huez, Oisans, Isère, France – 10.1 cm

100862(3)

Hematite, L’Alpe d’Huez, Oisans, Isère, France – field of view approximately 2.5 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.08.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

Morning sun on cobblestones, flowers spilling out of window boxes, the sounds of church bells and songbirds, swallows dipping and weaving through the village, the smell of fresh baked goods wafting from the boulangerie… fine cheeses and wines, scenic hills of vineyards and lavender-filled gardens… I mean really, what could be better than France in June?

Riquewihr2

Minerals in France in June. (Obviously.)

The annual mineral show at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines is so different from all others. Sure, we all love the large exciting mineral-filled halls and general mineral mayhem of the large shows, and the hotel shows in Tucson and Denver. But Ste Marie’s character and charm, from the theatre and the tent-lined streets within the show, to the town and the countryside beyond, make this an experience not to be missed.

Ste Marie is in Alsace, a region known for its beautiful small towns, distinctive architecture, hills, valleys and vineyards.

Riquewihr1Alsace village of Riquewihr

Beyond the gardens and planters, there are beautiful wildflowers.

Foxglove2

Wild foxglove (digitalis) at the edge of the forest

The woods and countryside are beautiful, home to a variety of animals. I wasn’t close enough for a good photo of the two deer grazing at the edge of the trees one morning, but I did catch this scene (granted, not so deep in the forest!)

StorksStorks, Alsace

The town of Ste Marie itself is situated in the heart of an historic mining district, the Val d’Argent (the Valley of Silver). This region’s mining history is remarkable, with underground mines dating to the 16th century. They say that within the greater valley and all its hills, there are more than 20,000 km of underground tunnels (!) – not sure how anyone would have calculated that, but even a lesser fraction of that would be astounding, as there is of course almost no evidence of this above-ground.

SteMarieShield

Such a great coat of arms.

Certain of these historic mines have been opened for organized visiting, and it’s well worth the time to go and explore. One such mine is Tellure. Major work has been done at this site to make it accessible to the public, with a modern interpretation centre and underground infrastructure to facilitate tours of small groups. Today, access to the old workings is via an adit which has been driven into the hillside to intersect older workings at various places – an amazing undertaking. This is well done – visitors experience workings of various vintages, from the 16th to the 19th century.

Most of the 16th century workings are irregular and require a small bit of clambering to walk through, as they were cut using only hand tools, advancing at an average of 15 cm per day in the hard rock areas. The workings from this era are narrow and not as high, as the miners were typically not as tall as we are today.

Tunnel16thc

An unusually straight 16th century working, through softer rock – this one is believed to have been exploratory, in search of the extension of the silver vein.

More recent workings were larger in scale, of course, as equipment and blasting were used.

Tunnel19thc

A section of 19th century workings, with supports.

Hoist

19th century hoisting apparatus

The museum at the Tellure interpretation centre includes many artifacts, although the collection of local minerals is currently very basic/elementary. A highlight at the Tellure interpretation centre was a temporary display – this year, a local collector of mining lamps had put on a super exhibit, absolutely first class in all respects.

Miner's Lamp, Saint-Marie-aux-Mines

 In the exhibit, many historical photographs were used together with the lamps, showing the given types of lamps
in use. Featuring the French symbol of the rooster, this lamp was used in the Val d’Argent.

OK, on to the main event – Ste. Marie 2015!

SteMarie

Ste. Marie – the river channel behind buildings and homes.

Of course, as one of the world’s premier mineral shows, Ste. Marie has the strengths that come with this reputation in Mineral World. Top dealers and smaller dealers from all over the world offer specimens of all kinds. In particular, Ste. Marie includes truly stunning thematic displays. At the same time, Ste Marie reflects other regular trends in Mineral World too – scarcity of new material and lots of high prices.

This year the show’s tents and exhibits opened under sunny skies, with lots to look through.

Tents

 One of the many tent “streets”.  There is no grid or obvious pattern to the layout (as it is in the old part of town)
so navigation back to that particular specimen you remember is a good challenge.

Theatre

The theatre rises above the surrounding tents. Hidden in the deepest shadows in the centre of this photo
is Alfredo Petrov, who was visible when I was waiting for the break in pedestrian traffic to take this shot.
Does he not want to be seen? What mineralogical secret has compelled him into the darkness?

If you’ve read other reports of mine from past shows, you may have noticed that I am regularly baffled by the torture to which some mineral specimens are subjected. It’s one thing to toss tumbled agates together, but here is the Ste Marie 2015 winner, for me – the two flats of reddish material at upper right and lower left.

TorturedCuprites

 Yes, this one is pretty low. Those are – or were – cuprite crystals from Rubstovskoe.
Sure, to be fair, they were undoubtedly not the top ones, but there were good
crystals among them and I just can’t see how this could ever be a good idea.

Searching the show, I found a few excellent things.

Despite the host country, the show is truly not full of French mineral specimens, given their relative scarcity. The ones that are there are highly prized. Nonetheless, I was able to acquire a few really interesting French pieces.

There are beautiful deep golden barite crystals from a find at La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France. This was in fact a sizeable find however it seems that the pockets were either collapsed or at least partially collapsed well before human eyes ever reached them – many of the broken surfaces have faint recrystallization textures on them.  As in so many cases in mineral collecting, even the most careful of collecting cannot help specimens that were damaged by nature, so I did not acquire many, but the ones I did pick out are very cool specimens. Many demonstrate late-stage layered crystal growth, to create sceptres and capped sections – really neat crystallization patterns on these.

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France – 7.1 cm

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France – 4.3 cm

I also found a small stash of bournonite crystal groups from the contemporary classic locality, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. As with the barites, many of the broken rear surfaces have faint recrystallization textures (and even micro crystals, in some cases) on them, and so again with these pieces there is the problem that many of them detached with just too little that was complete or in excellent condition. I did manage to come up with a very small number of great ones.

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 6.8 cm

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 6.1 cm

From Buxières-les-Mines, there was one fluorite specimen that really caught my eye.  We are used to seeing fluorite from occurrences where the habit is one of stacked cubes, but how often do we get to see stacked dodecahedra?

Fluorite, Buxières-les-Mines, Allier, Auvergne, France

Fluorite, Buxières-les-Mines, Allier, Auvergne, France – field of view approximately 3.0 cm

One last item of interest from France – from an uncommon locality for fine mineral specimens, some brilliant, sharp alpine hematite.

Hematite, L'Alpe d'Huez, Oisans, Isère, France

Hematite with quartz, L’Alpe d’Huez, Oisans, Isère, France – 10.1 cm

Ste Marie regularly includes a large number of sellers from Morocco. However, one really has to dig to find truly excellent specimens – they are few and far between!

Bou Azzer has for many years been known as the locality for the world’s finest erythrite specimens, but specimens are sporadic, and the quality is usually poor (to be fair, this is a very soft mineral and hard to bring from mine to market without damage.) This year a seller had a small lot of erythrite specimens of exceptional quality.

Erythrite1(8.8cm)

 Erythrite, Bou Azzer District, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 8.8 cm

Erythrite2(xls to 1cm)

Erythrite, Bou Azzer District, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – crystals to 1 cm

One other Morocco item – in my Tucson 2015 post, I mentioned some beautiful arite crystals from Bou Nahas. There has been a fair bit more material from this locality, but most of the barite groups and crystals are not particularly distinctive – and in fact I don;t find much of this material to be interesting. However, the isolated crystals and crystal pairs can be pretty special, and I found three more of those at the show – here’s one of them.

BariteBouNahas(5.0)

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane mining area, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 5.0 cm

You may recall that the beautiful yellow stilbite balls from Mali made their debut at Ste Marie last year. There almost none of these in Denver 2014, and I saw no high quality ones in Tucson this year (maybe I missed them?), so I wondered what the story was. Early after my arrival in Ste. Marie, I caught up with the same sellers from last year and went through their specimens. It turns out that the one digging, known simply as Diamonkara, has produced a number of further specimens over the past year, and although most were damaged, I was able to acquire some excellent pieces.

If you read about Diamonkara on my site last year, or if you were in Ste Marie either last year or this year, you may have noted that there has been a push to sell these as specimens of stellerite. When I asked one of the sellers last year as to what had been done to confirm that identification, I was told that “they look like stellerite” (because they often occur in the habit of spherical aggregates). Clearly, that is not enough to label them stellerite – not to mention, there are wheat-sheaf aggregates and individual crystals of this material too.  So yet again this year in Ste Marie, the name stellerite was used. I am aware of one set of analyses that was unable to demonstrate that any of these are in fact stellerite – this is second-hand information, but it is certainly consistent with the prior identifications of stilbite from the deposits of the region.

As for the specimens themselves, the good Diamonkara pieces are absolutely some of the nicest and most distinctive stilbites I’ve ever seen from anywhere, with beautiful colour and form. They are perhaps not yet appreciated for what they are – these are striking display specimens of a mineral that is often pale and drab.

StilbitePrehnite(6cm)

Stilbite, prehnite and epidote from Diamonkara, Bendougou, Kayes Region, Mali – 6 cm

Of all of the minerals that have been caught up in the rise of specimen prices, sadly, elbaite tourmaline stands out. It would be hard not to love a fine tourmaline, but these days it is hard to find excellent quality tourmaline specimens that can be purchased for prices that can be justified by that love. In Ste. Marie I was fortunate to be able to acquire a small number of wonderful-quality specimens from the classic Pakistan locality, Stak Nala. The seller’s family had mined these very recently.

Elbaite Tourmalin, Stak Nala, Pakistan

 Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.5 cm

Moving on from the dealers, the thematic displays this year were spectacular. The theme was minerals of the Alps, and many kinds of mineralogical environments were represented, including the classic alpine deposits and many others situated in the region. Just a couple of photos to give a glimpse:

RedFluorite

Fluorite, Massif de l’Aiguille Verte, Chamonix-Mont Blanc, Haute-Savoie, France – approximately 12 cm.
Collected by J. Couttet in 2004. Now in the Musée des Cristaux in Chamonix.

 Titanite

Group of twinned yellow titanite crystals – approximately 7 cm.

Jordanite

Famous (world’s finest) jordanite crystal from Lengenbach Quarry, Fäld, Finn Valley, Wallis, Switzerland –
approximately 7 cm. British Museum of Natural History collection.

Needless to say, I revisited the display area a few times, just to soak it all in.  The organizers and contributors did an amazing job – thank you!

Until next time, goodbye to the Val d’Argent.

Val d'Argent Val d’Argent, Alsace, France

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.15.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added a selection of fine, distinctive specimens in the new China Update (click here). The pieces in this group are very high quality, picked from many different lots. There are beautiful fluorites of various colours and habits, including stunning clear crystals, deep blue, green, purple, and there are great phantoms and zoning in some of them. The update also includes a great pyromorphite, an unusually fine quality Xiefang golden barite (these are virtually always damaged) with a nice phantom, a super cabinet specimen of Shimen calcite with a large twinned crystal, excellent lustrous spessartines and more.

Fluorite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China

Fluorite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China – crystal 1.1 cm

Fluorite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China

Fluorite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China – crystal 1.2 cm

Fluorite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China

Fluorite and Quartz, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China – 5.1 cm

Pyromorphite, Daoping Mine, Gongcheng Co., Guanxi Zhuang A.R., China

Pyromorphite, Daoping Mine, Gongcheng Co., Guanxi Zhuang A.R., China – 6.2 cm

Fluorite (Phantoms), Huangshaping Mine, Guiyang Co., Hunan Province, China

Fluorite (Phantoms), Huangshaping Mine, Guiyang Co., Hunan Province, China – field of view 4.5 cm

Fluorite, Quartz, Yaoganxian Mine, Yizhang Co., Chenzhou Prefecture, Hunan Province, China

Fluorite and Quartz, Yaoganxian Mine, Yizhang Co., Chenzhou Prefecture, Hunan Province, China
Field of view 4.0 cm

Fluorite, Quartz, Shangbao Mine, Leiyang Co., Hunan Province, China

Fluorite, Quartz, Shangbao Mine, Leiyang Co., Hunan Province, China
Field of view 2.3 cm

Barite, Xiefang Mine, Ruijin Co., Jianxi Province, China

Barite, Xiefang Mine, Ruijin Co., Jianxi Province, China – 5.1 cm

Calcite, Jiepayu Mine (Shimen Mine), Shimen Co., Hunan Province, China

Calcite, Jiepayu Mine (Shimen Mine), Shimen Co., Hunan Province, China – 11.8 cm

Quartz, Fluorite, Magnetite, Calcite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China

Quartz, Fluorite, Magnetite and Calcite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad,
Inner Mongolia A.R., China – 7.1 cm

Spessartine Garnet, Tongbei, Yunxiao Co., Fujian Province, China

Spessartine Garnet, Tongbei, Yunxiao Co., Fujian Province, China – 5.2 cm

Fluorite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China

Fluorite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China
Field of view 5.7 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.21.2014 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

This China Update (click here) features a diverse group of excellent specimens, including super fluorite, ilvaite and löllingite from the Huanggang Mines in Inner Mongolia. There are connoisseur level pieces here.

Fluorite and Quartz from Huanggang Mines, Inner Mongolia, China

Fluorite on Quartz, Huanggang Mines, Inner Mongolia, China – 5.6 cm

Ilvaite from Huanggang Mines, Inner Mongolia, China

Ilvaite, Huanggang Mines, Inner Mongolia, China – 4.5 cm

The update also includes beautiful individual pieces from the Yaoganxian Mine and other well-known Chinese localities – an aquamarine from Xuebaoding with amazing morphology (almost no presence of prism faces), a gorgeous group of twinned cinnabar from Tongren, colourful blue hemimorphite from Wenshan, a wonderful little twinned cerussite from the famous mines at Daoping and an exquisite barite from Lushi.

 Barite from Lushi, China

Barite from Lushi Co., Henan Province, China – 5.7 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.31.2014 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

This Morocco Update (click here) is dedicated to a small group of specimens of the recent blue barite crystals from the Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco. These are beautiful, sharp, highly lustrous crystals of excellent quality.

100471(3)

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – 7.8 cm

100472(1)

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – 8.2 cm

100473(1)

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – 5.6 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.02.2014 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

Nestled in the Val d’Argent, in Alsace, France, the town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines hosts one of the world’s largest minerals shows, with character and class unto itself.

SM1Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

Alsace is dotted with picturesque villages…

SM2

Rodern

vineyards…

SM11

The vineyards near Saint-Hippolyte

… and forests, hills and castles.

SM4

Château du Haut Koenigsbourg

The towns are small and picturesque, with distinctive architecture.

SM6

Roses on a home in Saint-Hippolyte

SM5

Quiet afternoon in Saint-Hippolyte

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First morning sunlight in Saint-Hippolyte

The Sainte Marie show itself is centred on the old theatre in the centre of town, with a small group of dealers hosted inside, and many more outside, based in white tents, lining tent “streets” in the mineral dealing area. (There are also other large buildings full of dealers).

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Theatre, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

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Exhibits inside the theatre

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A glimpse of some of the tents on one of many “streets” of dealers

Of course, with so many dealers and others in mineral world all coming together in one place like this, one hopes that there will be interesting minerals to see, and Sainte Marie 2014 did not disappoint. If you have time for a glimpse into a small number of highlights, here are a few.

For a couple of years now, we have been seeing the pale blue barites from the Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco. These are delicate and can be outright spectacular, but alas many are quite badly damaged and lots do not have good colour. A small number with the better colour have survived the mining/collecting, prep work, shipping and travel – and these are wonderful specimens.

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Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 7.7 cm

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Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 5.8 cm

Some super new dioptase specimens have been collected very recently at Mindouli, Mindouli District, Pool Department, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).  As always, it remains very hard to obtain specimens from this area, as it lies at the heart of the border area between DRC and Brazzaville, and conflict continues. However, these have been brought out and are beautiful.

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Dioptase with Plancheite, Mindouli, Mindouli District, Pool Department, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) – crystal 1.2 cm

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Dioptase with Plancheite, Mindouli, Mindouli District, Pool Department, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) – 5.3 cm

Another new African find is quite intriguing. The now well-known Bendougou vicinity in the Kayes Region of Mali has been producing fine specimens of green prehnite balls and epidote for many years. A new locality among the many within the district  – Diamonkara – recently produced super specimens of yellow stilbite. One dealer was adamant that these are stellerite, and then suggested that some are stellerite and some are stilbite, but the consensus assumption by many of us (granted, from observation alone) is that they are in all likelihood all stilbite. They are primarily “balls” and “wheels” of crystals, up to about 6 cm, some of which are associated with epidote and even prehnite. Unfortunately a few that could otherwise have been nice were terribly damaged, but the fine specimens are really sweet! I obtained the fine ones I could find available.

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Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.7 cm

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Stilbite with Epidote, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.5 cm

Finally, I would feel strange coming back from Ste Marie without anything fun from France… and I managed to find a small group of interesting pieces, including bournonite from Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, and some very cool hematite specimens from Le Haïcot, Brézouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France.

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Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 7.0 cm

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Hematite,  Le Haïcot, Brézouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France – 5.0 cm

As with other top-level large international mineral shows, the Sainte Marie show included educational presentations and a display area. The theme of the display area was copper minerals and it included many jaw-dropping specimens from France and all over the world, assembled from the collections of museums and private collectors. I feel that photographing these through glass with inappropriate photo lighting would be tantamount to insulting these gorgeous specimens (and the collections in which they are housed). I mean it’s hard enough taking good accurate photos of azurite and dioptase as it is (!). Suffice it to say, I sure returned to this area more than once. (Did I kneel down in front of any cases?  Well I guess you may never know…) Beautifully done!

Minerals from the show will be available on the website in updates coming over the next few weeks.

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2014 was a great show – a sincere thank you to the organizers and display contributors. If you have not yet been, it is a show like no other. À la prochaine!

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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 02.10.2014 | Filed under: Adventurers, Latest | Comments (0)

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Why is Morocco one of the world’s great countries for minerals? No glaciers! Many of the world’s most colourful minerals are found in deposits at the surface, formed over time by the interaction of water, air and rock. Glaciers remove all of that good stuff (as happened in Canada recently, geologically speaking) –  and with no recent glaciation, Morocco hosts many fantastic occurrences of minerals unlike any in parts of the world stripped bare during the last Ice Age.

My collecting partner David Joyce and I jumped at the chance to go to Southern-Central Morocco. The trip was organized by Mindat.org and the Spirifer Geological Society, and included the Second Annual Mindat Mineral Conference in the city of Midelt.

Morocco is an amazing place.  Hopefully this comes through in the photographs – it is a beautiful region with stunning landscapes, rich in history, harsh in climate. And… it hosts gorgeous minerals.

Marrakech

Founded almost a thousand years ago, Marrakech has historically been the imperial capital of Morocco – and in fact from Medieval times until the beginning of the twentieth  century Morocco was known as the Kingdom of Marrakech. Today, Marrakech remains the major economic centre in this region, hosting at its centre the largest Berber market in the country. The market area is comprised of many individual markets (souks).

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 A merchant takes his wares to the souk, passing in front of the 12th century Minaret of the Khoutoubia Mosque

Market1Wares in an alleyway, in one of the souks

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The market at night

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Steam and smoke rise from the food stalls at the night market in Marrakech

Arch1Intricate decor in historic Marrakech

Sidi Rahal

Not far from Marrakech, miners work the basalt deposit at Sidi Rahal by hand to produce geodes containing agate and quartz (some of which is amethystine). The geodes from Sidi Rahal can include beautiful stalactitic growths, and rarely box epimorphs of quartz after fluorite. Groups of world-class goethite crystals have been found in geodes at Sidi Rahal – barite, calcite and aragonite have also been found.

Some of the excavations are quite deep – and fun to explore.

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I clambered down into the tunnel on the left

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Amethystine quartz geode in the wall underground

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Climbing back out the tunnel to daylight

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Small quartz/chalcedony geode (6cm) in basalt.

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Many walls at Sidi Rahal are constructed of block comprised of mud and straw

Over the Atlas Mountains

To get to the great mineral localities of southern-central Morocco, the route leads over the Atlas Mountains. South of Marrakech, it is not long before the road is into the foothills.

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Farms in the foothills

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A small Atlas Mountain village on the road to Tizi-N-Tichka Pass – even here, there are satellite dishes…

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Atlas Mountain Valley – at the bottom, green with lush vegetation

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Up and over the Atlas Mountains

Ouarzazate

After crossing the mountains we arrived at the city of Ouarzazate, an important regional power for centuries. The regional governor reigned over the area from within the protected and fortified kasbah, which lies at the centre of what has now become the city.

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View of part of the kasbah

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Traditional Berber design on the kasbah walls

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Night falls over the kasbah in Ouarzazate

Bou Azzer District

To make a pilgrimage to Bou Azzer – one of the world’s great mineral districts – there is no way around it, you are into some rather arid countryside. The trip into this region is spectacular.

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  The highway winds over and around rugged, parched hills…

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… and clearly there is not enough vegetation to obscure the strata…

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… although some hardy plants give a tinge of green to the landscape in places.

The highway eventually leads down out of the hills into an incredibly dry landscape that stretches on and on.

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There are occasional signs of settlement attempts, where ultimately the climate has proved too harsh – sustenance in this land requires an oasis or valley.

BAz2 It seems that this small oasis was not enough to sustain the dwelling that was once here.

Upon arrival at Bou Azzer, we stopped at Shaft #9, where the head frame and mining works stand up over the landscape.

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The Bou Azzer district has produced 215 mineral species, including the world’s finest specimens of erythrite, roselite, wendwilsonite, roselite-beta, talmessite, skutterudite and gersdorffite . It was not possible to enter the working areas of the mines, and so collecting was quite limited but certainly enjoyable and it was great to see these famous mines!

We headed out to Aït Ahmane, which is renowned as the source of the world’s best gersdorffite crystals. This was quite a trip, as the road rattled our vehicle for about an hour each way, until it seemed like it simply might fall into pieces. Out there, you’re in the middle of true nowhere, so an intact vehicle is a plus! Ultimately our driver refused to drive the last stretch of road, so we hiked for a few km in the hot desert sun to get to the mine. (Who bothers to notice such things when on the verge of seeing a famous mine…)

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At the mine, the small valley gathers enough water to sustain vegetation – the rest of the landscape is quite barren.

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Hiking back by a different route – along a track near the valley – we could  eventually see the village of Aït Ahmane ahead.

Although we found small interesting things (including lots of tiny picropharmacolite crystals), it was only later in the trip that I managed to procure a better gersdorffite.

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Gersdorffite, 3.5 cm, Aït Ahmane

While still in the Bou Azzer District, we also visited the Agoudal Mine, which has recently produced very fine cobaltoan calcites.

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Cobaltoan Calcite from the Agoudal Mine – 6cm

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Cobaltoan Calcite from the Agoudal Mine – field of view 4.3 cm

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Cobaltoan Calcite from the Agoudal Mine – 6.1 cm

Dave found a nice vug containing sphaercobaltite crystals.

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Sphaercobaltite, Agoudal Mine – Field of view 5mm.  (D.K. Joyce specimen and photo)

During the course of the trip we were able to obtain other interesting minerals from this district, including excellent crystallized silver from the Bouismas Mine and beautiful roselite from the Aghbar Mine.

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Silver crystals on calcite, Bouismas Mine – 5.2 cm

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Roselite crystals, to 0.9 cm, Aghbar Mine

The Northern Sahara

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Prior to this trip, I knew little – when I thought of the Sahara Desert, I thought mostly of the sand dunes from Lawrence of Arabia, with some hills, cliffs and valleys interspersed. (Interesting side note: much of the movie was filmed in Southern-Central Morocco.) I was really not expecting the desert to comprise of such massive open stretches of rocky terrain. There are of course sand dunes – the spectacular dune system at Erg Chebbi is one of many sand dune fields in the Sahara – but much of the landscape actually looks similar to the tumbling rocky landscapes NASA’s rovers photograph on Mars.

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Rocks strewn all over the ground and stretching to the horizon

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Escarpment in the distance breaks up the flat expanse of rockiness

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Even signs of failed settlements are sparse

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Nomadic Berber tent

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The camels wander nearby the Berber camps

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The Erg Chebbi dunes rise over the stony desert

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Light and shadow shift subtly on the dunes

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The sand flows in the wind, almost like water in slow motion

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In places, the contrast between the sand dunes and the rock is striking – here, the transition zone included a few trees

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This seasonal lake forms every two or three years at the base of the northern edge of the Erg Chebbi dunes – a true oasis

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View out to the dunes from our lodgings at Erg Chebbi, the Yasmina Hotel

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What adventure to the Sahara would be complete without camels… so Dave and I headed into the dunes…

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Our guide led us on camels part way

Once we got to the base of the larger dunes, we dismounted and hiked to the top. Our guide instructed us to leave our hiking boots behind, as it would be easier in the sand – so we hiked it barefoot.

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From the summit, a sea of dunes

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Also from the summit – the seasonal lake beside the Yasmina Hotel

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Dave and our Berber guide

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Sunset in the Sahara

One of the most amazing things about the Sahara is how stark the difference can be, inside and outside of an oasis.

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Inside an oasis, which is divided into plots and farmed by local families

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Collecting grass (for the goats) and vegetables

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Looking after camels, perhaps 50 feet outside of this same oasis (behind me it is lush vegetation (!))

Taouz

The famous mineral locality in this part of Morocco is an old mine and series of workings near the town of Taouz. Over the years, the workings of Taouz have produced beautiful specimens of several minerals. Taouz is most noted for its vanadinite crystals (usually very distinctively on a black matrix of iron/manganese oxide mineralization), and also beautiful specimens of cerussite.

Taouz is the end of the road – heading south, this is the last settlement in Morocco before one reaches the closed border with Algeria. We were advised to stay away from the border, as we were told it has been laced with land mines in places.

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View from Taouz workings, Algeria in the distance

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Miner looks out over a basic hoist – this  shaft (covered with corrugated sheet metal anchored with rocks, when not in use) is only about 3 feet wide

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Collapsed tunnel underground at Taouz

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Typical quartz crystal veining underground at Taouz

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Typical specimen of manganese oxide mineralization at Taouz

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Beautiful vanadinite crystals to 6mm on manganese oxides from Taouz

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Blocky barite from Taouz – 4.5 cm

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Iron-cross twin of pyrite, 1 cm, purchased from a miner at Taouz. He told me that this specimen was from an outcrop on a ridge beyond the main workings.

On to Midelt and Mibladen

On our last morning in the Sahara I was up before dawn…

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Oasis sunrise in the Sahara

… and then we were on the road to Midelt and the amazing mines and minerals of Mibladen… Continued in Part 2