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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 01.14.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve posted some beautiful new specimens in this Morocco Update (click here).  The pieces include azurite from Kerrochen and Bou Beker, vanadinite from Taouz, pyrite-coated fluorite from El Hammam, purple fluorite from Tounfit, twinned cerussite from Mibladen and quartz on siderite from Gourrama.

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Crystal 2.5 cm

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Crystal 3.1 cm

Azurite, Bou Beker, Touissit-Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco

Azurite, Bou Beker, Touissit – Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco – 9.7 cm

Azurite with Malachite, Bou Beker, Touissit - Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco

Azurite with Malachite, Bou Beker, Touissit – Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco – 6.3 cm

Vanadinite, Taouz, Er Rachidia Province, Morocco

Vanadinite, Taouz, Er Rachidia Province, Morocco – 5.2 cm

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 6.0 cm

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 4.2 cm

Cerussite with Barite, Les Dalles Mine, Mibladen Mining District, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Cerussite with Barite, Les Dalles Mine, Mibladen Mining District, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 4.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 3.5 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 3.0 cm

Quartz, Siderite, Gourrama, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Quartz, Siderite, Gourrama, Er Rachidia, Morocco
Crystal 3.2 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.02.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added some great new French specimens in this France Update (click here).

Several were recently collected by French collector Grégoire de Bodinat at the Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France. The Mésage Mine was originally explored in the early-nineteenth century for iron, and the underground workings have been abandoned since the late-nineteenth century. Grégoire had a nice selection of high quality specimens from this classic region – siderite with quartz, ankerite crystals, and sharp bournonite crystals with white barite.

This update also includes a fine bournonite from Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, and a water-clear (literally!) calcite crystal perched on smaller calcite crystals from Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine.

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

 Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.6 cm

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

 Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 4.9 cm

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite, Pyrite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite, Pyrite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.4 cm

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

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

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 4.7 cm

Calcite, Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France

Calcite, Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Aquitaine, France

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.02.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

In a valley in the Vosges region of France, the quiet town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines transforms into a bustling mineral and gem extravaganza every June. This is the most beautiful setting for any of the world’s major annual mineral shows, and attending is a great experience.

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2016 mineral show

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, 2016

Although there was much stormy and unsettled weather across France and Germany this year, the towns of this area escaped the more significant flooding damage that affected so many communities elsewhere. The Rhine was certainly swollen with much more water than usual – and thunderstorms left debris on the roads – but for the most part, the rains just meant lots of green across the countryside.

Orschwiller, France

Vineyards, near Orschwiller. Chateau Haut Koenigsbourg is perched above, in the Vosges mountains.

I love the region’s idyllic small towns – quiet, with the calls of blackbirds overhead.

Saint Hippolyte, France

Saint Hippolyte, Haut-Rhin, France

Saint Hippolyte, France

Beautiful Alsace architecture bathed in a warm evening light

In the town of Ste. Marie itself, one of my favourite things about its setting is that the valley is quite steep, and so the forests and pastures form a backdrop for many of the views from down in the middle of the town.

Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, France

Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, Val D’Argent, France

The river and waterways of the town are channeled behind the houses and other buildings – and normally at this time of year there isn’t much water. This year, there was lots!

Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, France

Bubbling water channel running through Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

One thing that really stood out this year was the temperature – it was HOT! Humid too. Lots of sun and haze… and you also had to watch for the late-afternoon thunderstorms.

Storm3

Signs of impending rain at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2016

So I did see this one coming…

Storm1

Thunderstorm coming from up the Val D’Argent

…and I thought I had time to make it back to the car, but… ended up sheltering part way there, when the skies opened up!

Storm2

Rainwater streaming from waterspouts directly into the water channel that runs behind the houses – efficient!

The storms were short and did not make life uncomfortable for long – they were actually refreshing. In fact, there was something that made things far more uncomfortable at the show…

Halogen

300W halogen lights on stands. It is hard to find a hotter mainstream light source (!) – these were all over the indoor dealer displays.
I love the colour quality of halogen lights, but these things are stoves on sticks.

Sainte-Marie-aux_Mines, France

One of the tent-lined streets at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

For me the most exciting new find at Ste. Marie was actually not on public display. Tomasz Praszkier brought out the top new Moroccan aragonite specimens and they are truly superb! Aragonite is not a rare mineral, of course, and some aragonite localities are rather abundant producers, so, for example, we typically see lots of aragonite available from Tazouta, Morocco, and also from Minglanilla, Spain. (Even in those instances, truly fine specimens are not the rule, as the vast majority are damaged). These specimens exhibit twinning, with pseudo-hexagonal cyclic twins of aragonite. However, these new specimens from Mamsa are classic, elongated, tapered orthorhombic crystals in groups of radiating spikes and make for dramatic specimens.  Even though aragonite itself is uncommon, it is very hard to acquire high-quality specimens of this most classic habit.

In this case, Tomasz went through hundreds of flats (yes flats (!)) of material in Morocco, and the specimens I acquired from him are all in the top 20 to date (top 20 pieces, not flats!). Almost everything he saw was badly damaged. This bulk of lower quality material will undoubtedly begin to show up at future mineral shows, but – interesting – it was almost entirely absent among the Moroccan dealers in Ste. Marie.

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco – 7.5 cm

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 6 cm

It is notable that the aragonite at this locality does also occur in other habits, including as elongated pseudo-hexagonal twins, so we may see those in future. The locality itself is well-exposed in a barren area north of Sidi Ayed. The difficulty is that the material closer to the surface has been extracted, and this was the matrix that was easier to collect – as they’ve gone deeper, the matrix has been tougher, and the material from these deeper excavations has been damaged. Most collecting there has been by local collectors who are more often digging agates, and of course collecting these delicate aragonite sprays required different techniques and care – hence the high level of damage with most of this material.

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

 Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco – 6.9 cm

As usual, there were many Moroccan dealers with the usual – most had very typical material, in moderate condition. One interesting new find was some purple fluorite, from very narrow seams at a locality Elyachi, near Tatouine.

TatouineFluorite

 

Fluorite, Elyachi, nr. Tatouine, Meknes-Tafilalet, Morocco – 8.2 cm

One last note from Morocco is that the production of the beautiful blue barites from Sidi Lahcen (these ones) is reportedly finished. Although we always have to be skeptical when we are told that a locality is exhausted, the marketplace confirmed it in Ste. Marie this year, with almost no truly high-quality specimens available.

Speaking of high-quality specimens one cannot track down… I had hoped to bring back a few more of the bright yellow stilbite ball specimens from Mali (if you aren’t familiar with them, some are here). Although there were some at the show, they were all too damaged for our collections – I’m not sure that any were new. I suspect that most were the low-quality pieces from the original collecting of this material. I continue to keep an eye out for them, as they are some of the nicest yellow stilbite specimens I’ve ever seen, and they look so great in the cabinet. We’ll see what the future brings. In the meantime, I was able to pick up some excellent prehnite/epidote specimens from Mali, along with a sharp, lustrous vesuvianite.

Prehnite Mali

 Prehnite, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.3 cm

New from France, French collector Grégoire de Bodinat recently collected some beautiful specimens at the Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France. The Mésage Mine was originally explored in the early-nineteenth century for iron, and the underground workings have been abandoned since the late-nineteenth century. Grégoire had a nice selection of high quality specimens from this classic region – siderite with quartz, ankerite crystals, and sharp bournonite crystals with white barite.

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.6 cm

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 4.9 cm

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

The Mésage Mine specimens are on the website here.

Finally, another great new find is from the Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland. This is of gypsum, var. selenite, with inclusions of herbertsmithite (a rare copper chloride mineral), making the specimens a vibrant green colour. These are gorgeous cabinet specimens! There were not many of these, and only a handful were top quality – I acquired all of the top quality ones.

Gypsum, var. Selenite, Herbertsmithite, Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland

Gypsum, var. Selenite, with inclusions of Herbertsmithite, Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland
Crystals up to approximately 3 cm

Displays

The Saint-Marie-aux-Mines show has hosted super displays in recent years.

This year, the main theme was Minerals and Wines (“Origines Pierres et Vins”), with some cases dedicated to matching mineral colours and wine colours, and others featuring the wines and minerals of a particular region.

DisplayRioja
Rioja, Spain – home of great wines and the incomparable pyrites of Navajun
Display by Pedro Conde

DisplayChessy4
The minerals and wines of the Chessy-les-Mines, Rhône

The Chessy case had some amazing specimens – here is a closer look at a few:

DisplayChessy1

Cuprite crystals, Chessy-les-Mines

DisplayChessy2

Azurite, Chessy-les-Mines – a gorgeous specimen,approximately 9 cm

From the Origines Pierres et Vins cases, I loved this Chanarcillo Prousite from the Collection of the Museum National d’Histoire Natural in Paris.

DisplayProustite

Proustite, Chanarcillo, Atacama, Chile – approximately 4 cm

The exposition also included a few cases dedicated to colours in minerals, explaining what causes the colours in certain minerals. These cases included many stunning specimens and here are a few.

DisplayAdamite

This adamite was an amazing hue – approximately 5 cm

This next one looks at a glance like it’s a classic from Amatitlan, Guererro, Mexico, but look at the label… (!)

DisplayAmethyst

Amethyst, Traversella, Piedmont, Italy, approximately 20 cm

This photo doesn’t do this crystal justice – an astounding, lustrous, old-time Red Cloud wulfenite, pristine…

DisplayWulfenite
Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, La Paz Co., Arizona – crystal approximatey 4 cm
Collection of the Musée Mineralogie de Mines, Paris Tech

And finally, while we’re on the subject of the causes of colour in minerals, and leaving the displays… I wandered into one dealer with new crystals of “Amegreen” (!). These are Uruguayan amethysts that have been subjected to radiation in a lab, to turn them green. Blech!! (At least the dealer was openly disclosing the origins of the colour.)

Amegreen

Quartz, originally var. amethyst, tortured and turned green in a lab using radiation – marketed as “Amegreen”
Artigas, Uruguay

 Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines is such a great show. I already can’t wait for next year, and hope to see you there!

St. Hippolyte, France

 Beautiful summer evening in Alsace

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 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 01.13.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve added a new Morocco Update (click here) with some particularly fine specimens. I have managed to obtain five more blue barites from the Sidi Lahcen Mine in Nador that are worthy of including on the site. Although almost all barites from Sidi Lahcen have some amount of damage (many are badly damaged) these ones are in excellent condition – they are great high-quality pieces.

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – 10.7 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – field of view approximately 10 cm

This update includes several wonderful individual specimens. A startling hot pink cabinet specimen of cobaltoan dolomite from Bou Azzer, a super sharp thumbnail-sized specimen of, and also a great glassy miniature of green fluorapatite from Imilchil, a sharp, gemmy brown titanite from Imilchil, a Tounfit fluorite that will have you looking a while to sort out the morphology, and an unusually fine specimen of sprays of goethite crystals included in quartz crystals from Tizi-n-Tichka.

Dolomite, var. Cobaltoan Dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Dolomite, var. Cobaltoan Dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 10.8 cm

Fluorapatite, Anezmy, Imilchil, Morocco

Fluorapatite, Anezmy, Imilchil, Morocco – 4.3 cm

Fluorapatite, Anezmy, Imilchil, Morocco

Fluorapatite, Anezmy, Imilchil, Morocco – 3.0 cm

Titanite, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Titanite, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – largest crystal 1.5 cm

Goethite, Quartz, Tizi-n-Tichka, Ouarzazate, Morocco

Goethite in Quartz crystals, Tizi-n-Tichka, Ouarzazate, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra, Morocco – crystal approximately 1 cm

Finally in this update, I have included a group of new specimens of yellow fluorite cubes with barite and quartz. Although Moroccan yellow fluorite is often attributed to “Aouli”, an abandoned historical mining complex which is not producing specimens, contemporary specimens are in fact from an area near Sidi Ayed. It is road-accessible, but it is relatively remote in a barren, windswept area, which sees sandstorms in the dry weather and roads washed out in the rain. These fluorites are nice for Sidi Ayed specimens, for a few reasons – they are isolated on quartz crystals rather than massed together, some of the quartz has some nice red colouring from hematite, and a few of the crystals show tiny irregular zones of greenish blue colour.

Fluorite, Sidi Ayed, Boulemane, Morocco

 

Fluorite, Sidi Ayed, Boulemane, Morocco – crystal 0.8 cm

Fluorite, Sidi Ayed, Boulemane, Morocco

Fluorite, Sidi Ayed, Boulemane, Morocco – crystal 1 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