Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 06.12.2019 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)


As spring unfolds in this part of the world in mid-late April each year, it’s time for the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium!

Of course, the extent to which it’s spring in this region depends on exactly where you are – Rochester was further ahead and this year there was still lots of snow up here in Bancroft. Even so, the first beautiful signs of the new season were emerging. (It has been a cold spring – our furnaces out here have been on still, into June (!)).


Rochester 2019 marked our 46th year.

If you are new to the Symposium, it’s a unique event. It brings together professionals and amateurs, and a complete range of subjects in specimen mineralogy. It is collegial and friendly, meant for collectors and those who love to learn about minerals. The RMS prominently features What’s New in Minerals each year. It is also a mineral show with excellent dealers set up and open when the talks are not on. It may sound scientific and formal, but Rochester is perhaps the most welcoming and inclusive mineral gathering I know. It’s a time for hanging out and having a good time with mineral friends, new and old (of course new people come every year, and if you’ve never been, make 2020 your first!). It’s possible a drink or two is shared among us, and a few mineral songs are always sung.

Rochester is not meant to be a strictly scientific symposium – it is meant for anyone who wants to learn more about minerals. At Rochester, many of the best-known mineral people of our time, mineralogists, curators, collectors (including beginners) and students, all share and learn together.

We had a stellar cast of speakers this year! We began with three talks (Thursday night and Friday morning) about crystals, given by three friends who have been experts in crystallography for a long time.

John Jaszczak, Pete, John Rakovan at the Rochester Symposium, 2019

Three Crystal Rogues. From Left, John Jaszczak, Pete Richards and John Rakovan.

These three talks began with some fundamental questions and concepts, progressed into distortions and ended up teetering on the edge of the crystallography universe – I lightheartedly told our speakers they were taking us on a journey, From Cubes to Tubes.

Thursday Night

John Rakovan started us off with Crystal Growth: A Primer. He explored why it is that crystals form flat faces. It’s such a fundamental question, I’ve never thought to wonder about it (!). It’s easier to assume that we have an understanding of basic crystals if we understand the crystal classes. As a general rule, crystals have flat faces, at a macro level. However, at a microscopic level, crystal faces often display topography that can help us to understand how they grew. The short answer about flat faces is that the mechanism of growth prefers to add thin layers as a crystal grows, completing a flat layer and then beginning the next. The longer explanation as to why that is has to do with the way atoms bond to surfaces – an atom will bond much more easily if it can attach not only to the flat surface underneath, but also a step/bench on one side. If thought of as a cube, if the bottom and one side can be attached, the atom is much more likely to be bonded and stay in place, as is the next, and the next, until the layer has crept all across the crystal. Once a new layer starts, the process is repeated.


Layered growth visible inside a Panasqueira fluorapatite crystal,
both on a macro scale and an incredibly micro scale.
John Rakovan specimen and photo.

Slide24 (1)

A beautiful illustration of layers on a pyrite crystal – this crystal surface is relatively flat
but with the right illumination, one can see the stepped growth pattern.

Friday Morning

R. Peter Richards opened Friday morning with a talk on Distorted Crystals. Many of you know Pete is often involved in unravelling some of the most interesting crystallographic mysteries in Mineral World. His presentation took us away from typical flat-faced, simple geometric crystal forms, into the realm of distortions of various kinds. Pete is an engaging speaker and this was a great talk!

Screen Shot 2019-04-20 at 1.13.23 PM

John Jaszczak then led us to the brink of the crystallographic abyss, with Criminal Minerals: Investigating Minerals that Break the Law. A subject that could easily descend into a very technical place and lose an audience, but there was no worry of that! Why? Well, other than the fact John is a great presenter in any event… he chose to explain the concepts using photographs of parked cars. Answering once and for all the age-old question (at least I’ve always wondered) can crystallographic issues be solved with parked cars…

Beginning with the illustration of a crystal on the right hand side of this slide…



Explaining, for example, that complications can result in a crystal’s growth when something shows up where it should not, within a crystal’s lattice…


Issuing a wanted-list for criminal minerals the offence of incommensurate modulation…


… you might feel like “incommensurate modulation” is a good technical place to become lost… nope, turns out parked cars can illustrate almost anything, as this one example shows.


OK, one _mineral_ example in photographs. This is cylindrite, a classic, with its cylindrical crystal morphology:



Friday Afternoon – Contributed Papers in Specimen Mineralogy

Friday afternoon at the RMS, we have Contributed Papers in Specimen Mineralogy (we typically refer to it as the “Technical Session”). Our coordinator of this session and editor of the abstracts is Sarah Hanson – she runs the call for papers, and coordinates everything to put this program together. Our call for papers is usually out in December, but start thinking about it now – if you have a paper you’d like to contribute, we’d love to see your submission this year.

The session itself is moderated by Dr. Carl Francis. Friday afternoon is packed with great 15-minute talks on a range of topics, some completely specimen-oriented, some more mineralogical. I never write at length in these blog posts about the Technical Session talks, because the abstracts from the talks are published during the year in Rocks and Minerals magazine (don’t forget to watch for them!) and they are published in the RMS Program Notes (see the links section at the end of this blog post).

However, I do feel strongly about writing a just bit about it. The Technical Session is one of the features of the RMS that makes it unique, with professionals and amateurs all contributing. For collectors, there is a lot of interest in these talks – sometimes about rare or new minerals or finds, sometimes about localities, sometimes about scientific work done to establish fakes in Mineral World. We had a high percentage of truly excellent talks given by students. The group from the Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio did a particularly outstanding job. Too often, we look around Mineral World and see fewer young people than we’d all like – these students represent a bright future for mineralogy and the science that underpins everything we enjoy in Mineral World.

Friday Night

On Friday night, Terry Huizing gave “The Variety and Appeal of Calcite”. Terry has a superb calcite collection, and this talk was full of photographs of wonderful calcite specimens. He spoke about calcite colours and crystals – with Terry’s presentation, anyone could be tempted to specialize in collecting calcite.

Terry made one point that really struck me – it’s something I had never known about calcite, and I thought it was an awesome bit of mineral learning. Many people know that calcite is known for its huge variety of crystal forms, as over 800 have been described. It’s mind-boggling. I love poring over incredible intricate calcite crystal drawings in Goldschmidt and other publications. Terry pointed out that all of these complex crystals we see are combinations of two or more of only five forms, along with any twinning that may be present: the pinacoid, prism, rhombohedron, scalenohedron and dipyramid. (!) I loved learning that! Terry illustrated these, including some Jeff Scovil photos in the following slides:

Calcite - Pinacoid and Prism


Calcite - Rhombohedron


Calcite - Scalenohedron


Calcite - Dipyramid

Terry’s was mostly a talk comprised of great photos of beautiful specimens, including this wonderful piece.

Rhombohedra and dipyramid

Saturday Morning: What’s New in Minerals and Localities

Saturday morning is always dedicated to What’s New in Minerals – it has been at the heart of the Symposium from the early days, and it is an absolute highlight every year. We divide the morning into Parts I and II.

Jeff Scovil has been leading Part I for 25 years (time flies!), and even after Friday night’s fun takes us all well into the night, this talk is packed every year. Of course it is: this is the world’s great and famous mineral photographer showing us fantastic photos of the most remarkable new things he’s shot over the past 12 months. The jaw-dropping specimens and awesome photos mean this part is full of oooohs and aaaahs. Here are a few highlights from Jeff’s Part I this year:


Gold, Colorado Quartz Mine, Mariposa, California – 2.7 cm high
Dave Varabioff specimen, Jeff Scovil photo


Cummengeite, Curuglu workings, Boleo Mine, Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur, Mexico – 1.8 cm
Peter McGaw specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

PinkEuclase Euclase, Brumado Mine, Bahia, Brazil – 1.7 cm
Alex Schauss specimen, Jeff Scovil photo


Meta-Autunite, Golconda Mine, Governador Valadares, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2cm
Marini & Gobin specimen, Jeff Scovil photo


Epidote, Kharan, Balochistan, Pakistan – 3.2 cm
Ziga Minerals specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

Fluorite, Joe Larkin’s Quarry, Shannapheasteen, Co. Galway, Ireland – 8.5 cm
Dan Weinrich specimen, Jeff Scovil photo


Quartz sceptre, Petersen Mt., Washoe, Nevada – 25.6 cm
Jim and Gail Spann specimen, Jeff Scovil photo

Part II is led by John Betts – he coordinates the program team and assembles all of what’s new into slides. John then presents some of the material, while other team members speak about the contributions they’ve assembled. This year’s team included Jim Nizamoff, Mark Jacobson and me. Part II is great session, bringing together finds and workings from around the world with photographs of localities and specimens. Of course, our goal is to bring new specimens and stories to light!

I won’t go too far into this, as we covered a lot of ground, but here are a few photos to give a little glimpse, and I’ll finish with a particularly interesting story from Mont St. Hilaire.

John covered finds from all over, and he included some rather interesting new finds from Maine:






The new finds I presented for What’s New have mostly already been posted elsewhere here on my website, including under What’s New Blog and New Specimens.

For example, the beautiful new fluorite specimens from Madagascar:

Fluorite, Mandrosonoro, Ambatofinandrahana, Amoron’i Mania, Madagascar

Fluorite, Mandrosonoro, Ambatofinandrahana, Amoron’i Mania, Madagascar – 11.0 cm
Mary Holdgraf specimen

On a very different note – a new identification – we had a great contribution from Lázló Horváth (thank you Les!). This story goes back to the 2013 approval of marshalsussmanite as a new species (an intermediate species between serandite and pectolite) and the subsequent 2014 Rocks and Minerals magazine article about it. Les wondered if perhaps some of the serandite specimens from Mont St. Hilaire might in fact be marshalsussmanite. In cooperation with the Canadian Museum of Nature, a survey of various Mont St-Hilaire serandites was commenced using several techniques, and a number were found to be in the marshallsussmanite range. Notably, one of them was from the major 1981 find, often associated with Ernie Schlichter. Single crystal structure analysis confirmed that the 1981 bladed serandite was marshallsussmanite. However, there’s more to the story…

This single crystal structure analysis also confirmed that the mineral named marshalsussmanite is identical to the mineral schizolite, described from Greenland in 1901 and unnecessarily dropped from the valid minerals list in 1955. There was no official discreditation at the time, because this predated the establishment of IMA. Now, owing to the priority of schizolite, marshallsussmanite has been discredited and the mineral is schizolite.

So where does this leave Mont St-Hilaire serandites? Well, there is no simple answer. It seems that so far, the 1981 Ernie Schlicter-find specimens tested are all schizolite. Initially, it had been thought that perhaps the thin, bladed habit might be reliable as a diagnositc indicator, but this has proven to be too simple and unreliable a conclusion. Ongoing study of specimens is being conducted by Tony Steede at the Royal Ontario Museum lab, and he has found crystals in the thin, bladed habit that are in fact serandite. It seems that the only way to know is to have every specimen fully analyzed. Further discussion of the schizolite story and findings are expected in an upcoming article by Peter Tarassoff in Rocks and Minerals magazine, and also in the highly-anticipated upcoming new book on Mont St-Hilaire (more on that below).

This is a confirmed schizolite:


Schizolite with analcime and natrolite, Mont St-Hilaire, Quebec – 18 cm
Laval University specimen, Laszlo Horvath photo

Saturday Afternoon

Saturday afternoon, we began with “Mineral Collection Matters”, by William Severance. Bill has shared specimens from his collection with us in the display room at the Symposium each year for as long as I can remember! He gave a great talk about mineral collecting, illustrated with specimens from his collection. One of my favourite aspects of mineral collecting is visiting mineral friends and going through their collection together, hearing the stories behind each piece. Bill’s talk was very much like that, with provenance of the specimens and other background, lots of collecting wisdom gleaned over the years, and some fun stories. I’ll share the one that was my favourite laugh (and I was certainly not alone):

Bill was visiting with highly-accomplished Tucson collector Jim Blees, and they had been spending time going through Jim’s collection. Bill recalled what Jim said (and we can give a small tip of the cap to Apocalypse Now):

“A great mineral specimen always comes up at the worst possible time. The house needs a new roof. Your wife needs a new washing machine. Your daughter needs braces. At that moment, you’re either a collector or you’re not. Sell the house! Sell the wife! Sell the kid! Buy the rock!“

This talk was a treat visually as well, featuring many of Jeff Scovil’s photos featured in Bill’s chapter in the Mineralogical Record Supplement, Mineral Collections of the American Northeast. (Jul/Aug 2016).


Dioptase on calcite, Tsumeb Mine, Tsumeb, Namibia – 2.7 cm
William Severance collection, Jeff Scovil photo.


Azurite, Tsumeb Mine, Tsumeb, Namibia – 9.5 cm.
William Severance collection, Jeff Scovil photo.
Ex Sid Peters specimen. Included in Julius Zweibel’s McDole
Trophy exhibit (1977). From Marshall Sussman (2003)

Calcite on Copper

Complex calcite twin over calcite phantom on copper, 6.4 cm, from the Copper Falls mine, Owl Creek fissure, Keweenaw County, Michigan.
William Severance specimen, Jeff Scovil photo.
Ex Clarence Bement collection (1900). Ex I. P. Scalisi collection.
From Stuart Wilensky (1999). Pictured in American Mineral Treasures (2008).

To close out our Saturday afternoon, Les Presmyk took the podium. Les has been a generous contributor in many capacities throughout Mineral World, and we were thrilled to have him back in Rochester. For those of you who might not know (or know of) Les, he has a superb collection of Arizona minerals, and has given presentations on a variety of Arizona mineral subjects. On Saturday he gave a talk he had just finished putting together, “Arizona Sulfates”.

I was intrigued by this talk as a subject matter, because when one thinks of Arizona, one does not usually jump to thinking of sulfates. Turns out there are lots of great sulfate minerals in Arizona! Far more species than only he ones that came to mind for me. Here’s just a glimpse (these are classics…):








Spangolite, Czar shaft, Copper Queen Mine, Bisbee, Warren District, Cochise Co., Arizona

Sunday Morning

Sunday we capped off the 46th RMS with two more excellent talks.

Chris Stefano opened with his talk, “Lucius Lee Hubbard: One of the Copper Country’s Greatest Mineral Collectors”. Hubbard was a true Renaissance man, and he was passionate about minerals. Chris told Hubbard’s story with far more than mineral specimens – he included historic photographs and Hubbard’s original correspondence, working with Hubbard’s descendants. The Hubbard collection ultimately contained many exceptional specimens, including superb Michigan copper country specimens, and it was one of the three private collections that formed the foundation for the collection of the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum of Michigan Technological University.

Stefano Copper

Copper, Keweenaw Peninsula, 23 cm. Michigan Mineral Alliance specimen (UM 1674).
Christopher Stefano photo.

Stefano Silver

Silver, Cliff Mine, Keweenaw Co., Michigan – 10 cm A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum specimen (LLH 508)
John Jaszczak and Christopher Stefano photo.

And for our grand finale, Les Presmyk presented “Collecting Arizona Minerals: 150 Years of Mining, 100 Years of Statehood, and My 50-Year Journey.” This talk was awesome, featuring historical photos and packed with photos of killer specimens.


Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, Trigo Mountains, La Paz Co., Arizona – 4.3 cm
Les and Paula Presmyk specimen, Jeff Scovil photo.

New Books!

Just a quick mention of three new books that are coming soon and were talked about a lot at the RMS – they are of particular interest to many of the people who attend RMS (and of course many more throughout Mineral World). I can’t wait for my copies of all three! Links for all of these are in the links section at the end of this blog post.

First, the project from George Robinson, Jeff Chiarenzelli and Michael Bainbridge, Minerals of the Grenville Province: New York, Ontario and Quebec should be out literally any day now (it can be ordered through Schiffer Books and will be on amazon… OR… if you will be at the Bancroft Gemboree this year (August 1-4, 2019), there will be a launch and signing, at the Bainbridge Photography booth (#145), and George Robinson will be there for a signing on Saturday, August 3, from 1:00-4:00 pm).


The new book on Mont St-Hilaire is almost here too! Mont Saint-Hilaire: History, Geology, Mineralogy by Lázló Horváth, Robert A Gault, Elsa Pfenninger-Horváth and Glenn Poirier (ed. R.F. Martin) will be released in September 2019.


And the third is the highly-anticipated book about Bill Pinch and his collection: The Pinch Collection at the Canadiane Museum of Nature, by Michael Bainbridge (eds. Gloria Staebler and Tom Wilson). It will be published in fall 2019 and the link for pre-orders is in the link section below. Bill was very involved with the preparation of this book, and the collection described has been regarded by many as perhaps the finest private collection ever assembled. With photography by Michael Bainbridge, this will be an amazing work.


Every RMS, we have great displays in the Exhibit Room and this year was no exception. Some are contributed by museums and many are contributed by collectors attending the RMS.

I say that it was no exception, but it _was_ exceptional in one respect. We have now retrofitted all of the RMS display cases with super new LED lighting. Thanks to Brian McGrath for doing all of the hard work on this – they looked awesome! (A side note, if you are interested in lighting for your own display cases, these are from Graham Sutton, with contact information in the links section below).

Here are a few glimpses from among the many great displays.

Terry Huizing assembled a case of beautiful calcite specimens in support of his talk. Some great eye-candy here!


John Betts’s display, “Recent Additions”, included many sweet specimens.


I could have chosen many for a closeup, but I chose this gorgeous chalcocite:

Chalcocite, Bristol Copper Mine, Bristol, Connecticut
Chalcocite, Bristol Copper Mine, Bristol, Connecticut – 5 cm (crystals to 2.6 cm)
From the private collection of Ex. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Wilke (1925-2014) of Eppertshausen, Germany, No. 193

The Mineralogical & Geological Museum at Harvard University brought a display of great calcite specimens:


Scale: specimen on the right approx. 4 cm.

Canadian collector George Thompson brought a case, “Canadian Quartz”, with many distinctive specimens from localities that are less commonly seen:


Don Dallaire had many excellent specimens in his case dedicated to the Minerals of New Hampshire – I thought this was truly exceptional quality for cordierite:


Cordierite, Richmond Soapstone Quarry, Richmond, New Hampshire – approx. 5 cm

Bob Morgan’s case was dedicated to Epitaxy – here’s a great albite on orthoclase specimen:


Scale: approx. 10 cm tall

Carl Francis brought a case of killer quartz specimens from Switzerland:


A couple of close-up photographs from Carl’s case – these are wonderful crystals:


Quartz gwindel, Fedenstock, Uri, Switzerland – approx. 9 cm


Quartz, Rhone Glacier, Wallis, Switzerland – approx. 25 cm


As I write every year in my RMS posts, a lot of the best of Rochester occurs beyond the talks – in the halls, over meals, and on the 4th floor (the dealer floor, open when talks are not on). Socializing continues well into the morning hours each night, and includes a few traditions – among others, the not-to-be-missed Saturday night mineral songs with David Joyce. (I assume most have heard Dave’s mineral collecting and mining tunes, but if not, I’m including a link below). Somehow, I had so much fun that I forgot to be taking pictures to include here. Oops.

We have a lot of fun together at Rochester – and if you’ve never been, I hope you’ll come next year and be a part of it with us!

RMS 2020

We have another great lineup of speakers shaping up – the dates are April 23-26, 2020. Our 2020 speakers will include Calvin Anderson, John Betts, David Joyce, Vladimir Klipov, Inna Lykova, Harold Moritz, Herwig Pelckmans, Tony Potucek, Jeff Scovil and Terry Wallace.

RMS on Facebook

The Rochester Mineralogical Symposium is now on Facebook (here) (thank you Michael Bainbridge!). Our Facebook page is one good way to keep up with us – feel free to visit and give it a Like!

Until Next Year…

The Rochester Symposium is a great event, that has seen many of Mineral World’s most prominent names as contributors. At the same time, the Symposium continues to embrace contributions from all levels in mineral collecting – it simply would not be what it is without everyone who contributes.

Thank you to all of our amazing speakers this year! And thanks to our speakers and photographers for all of your help with photos to share through this report.

Of course, the Symposium could literally not happen without the dedicated efforts of the team who put it together – particularly Carl Miller, our registrar. Carl is The Man. Sarah Hanson does it all to put together the technical session and coordinate the abstracts. Tom White is our technical coordinator, insuring that all the presentations and recordings run without a hitch. Many thanks to all on our committee and those helping in the background year-round, including John Betts, Steve Chamberlain, Dan Imel, Betty Fetter, Carl Francis, Bruce Gaber, Brian McGrath, Bob Morgan, Susan Robinson, and Quintin Wight. Thanks to Paul Dudley for technical and website support. We also have a host of people helping us at the RMS and behind the scenes, including Mike Avery, Michael Bainbridge, John Diaz, Charlene Freundlich, Fred Haynes, Mark Jacobson, Jim Nizamoff, Ed Smith, Laurie Steele Sperber, Dan Sperber, Gloria Staebler, Lee Tutt, and Ken Wolf I sure hope I haven’t missed anyone!

Links and References

If you are seeking links for anything mentioned above, some of these may be of interest:

Our amazing professional mineral photographers (who – of course – take photos of private collection specimens for individual collectors): Jeff Scovil and Michael Bainbridge

David K. Joyce has written – and plays and sings, of course – the soundtrack for so many great times in minerals. The mineral tunes are available on itunes (enter David K Joyce in your itunes search window) or the CD is available from Dave – if you’d like to hear them, here is the page where you can listen.

If you are interested in display lights for your collection, Graham Sutton’s company, It’s West Display & Lighting, has great lighting solutions. We love the new RMS display case lighting.


Here are links to the books:

Minerals of the Grenville Province (Click here) Or, as mentioned above, come to the Bancroft Gemboree and visit Michael Bainbridge. [NB as of the time of publishing this post, the only actively-shipping listing is the direct link through the publisher]

Mont Saint-Hilaire (Click here) [NB at the time of publishing this post, SP 14, Mont Saint Hilaire, was not yet listed at this page, but the book launches in September and it will be at this link!]

The Pinch Collection at the Canadian Museum of Nature (Click here)

When they are online, the 46th RMS Program Notes will be posted online here.


Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.13.2018 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)


I’ve added some great specimens from a new find in this Bolivia Amethyst Update (click here). These are beautiful glassy crystals – some doubly-terminated, and some exhibit a great reverse-sceptre habit.

There isn’t more specific information about the locality at this time – I’m told that this is because it is in an unnamed area of Potosi, not near to any named settlement or geographic feature. The specimens were discovered by farmers, at the edge of a field area, bordering hills.

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – 6.3 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – field of view 2.3 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – 5.3 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.7 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – field of view 3.0 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – field of view 3.5 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – field of view 4.5 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – field of view 4.0 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst (reverse sceptre), Potosí, Bolivia – field of view 1.5 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – field of view 2.5 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia, with negative quartz crystal inclusions
Field of view 1.5 cm

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz. var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia, with negative quartz crystal inclusions
Field of view 1.2 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 02.23.2018 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)


It’s hard to believe that another Tucson has come and gone already. In the middle of a cold Bancroft winter, Tucson’s wonderful warm sunshine was sure welcome.

Santa Rita Foothills, Arizona Santa Rita Foothills, southeast of Tucson

I was very fortunate to be able to experience Tucson’s natural surroundings this year. I stayed with my good friend and collecting partner David Joyce (David K. Joyce Minerals), with Carol Teal and their dog Riley at their new place in the beautiful Santa Rita Foothills, southeast of the city.


 Dave and Riley on their sitting rock

In the foothills

Photo of me taken by Don Doell – Santa Rita Foothills, with Tucson in the distance

The Sonora Desert is a remarkable place in the world. In places, and at many times of year, it appears harsh and unforgiving. As to flora and fauna, the Sonora Desert gives the superficial impression that it is inhabited only by the hardiest very few species.

Saguaro SceneSaguaro Cacti

Immerse yourself in it a little, and the truth reveals itself – the variety of plants and animals is amazing (600 plant species and 200 animal species).  As with everything in life, the more quiet observation you do, the more you see. The foothills and desert areas around Tucson are full of life.

Deer 1

Deer paying a visit to Dave and Carol’s place

Cactus flower

Cactus bloom

Saguaro armSaguaro arm

On one of our mornings in the desert, the moon put on a show of its own.

Mesquite EclipseUnder the mesquite trees with the lunar eclipse before dawn, Santa Rita Foothills

The Minerals

OK OK. I know, we all really want to read about minerals. Of course, what Tucson means is the fun of midwinter urban field collecting, and there were lots of great specimens this year.

Some beautiful and interesting specimens have continued to come from Pakistan and Afghanistan. From Pakistan, the recent brucite specimens are super – some of the finest brucite I’ve ever seen. The Killah Saifullah brucite were first noted to me by John White after he saw a couple in Munich, 2016, and since then, the quality of the finest has greatly increased over those early days. It seems that most of these are occurring in very tight seams, or with a fragmented or brecciated matrix, and so most have contacts and grey spots around them. The colour of most of them is a cream-to-very-pale-yellow, but the best have a bright yellow hue. Many are very finely crystallized, but on some, like these ones, one can easily see many crystal faces. These Pakistan brucites are amazing for the mineral.

I’ve done my best to colour-balance them accurately (daylight, shade). I always do that anyway, of course, but some mineral specimens are susceptible to really skewing away from daylight appearance when photographed.

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan
Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 6.1 cm

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 7.2 cm

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, PakistanBrucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 3.2 cm

From Afghanistan, a small number of excellent specimens have continued to come from some of the best-known occurrences, and I just want to highlight one in particular. From Sar-e Sang, Dudley Blauwet has recently brought out a couple of particularly excellent diopside specimens, and I am including one here. Given that diopside is not an uncommon mineral, it’s surprising that great matrix specimens are so hard to find. This one is striking.

Diopside, Ladujar Medam, Sar-e Sang River, Kokcha Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan – 8 cm

Moving on to South America, there have been a couple of particularly interesting new finds. In Potosí, Bolivia, there has been a discovery of very pretty amethyst crystals. There isn’t more specific information about the locality at this time – I’m told that this is because it is in an unnamed area of Potosi, not near to any named settlement or geographic feature. The specimens were discovered by farmers, at the edge of a field area, bordering hills. These have somewhat similar habit and appearance to some of the amethyst crystals from Peidra Parada (Las Vigas), Mexico. They are sharp, with top lustre and excellent transparency. Some are doubly-terminated, and some show a great reverse-sceptre habit. These are really sweet – I only found them available from one person, and I acquired the nicest for the website.

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosi, BoliviaQuartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – 5.3 cm

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz, var. amethyst (reverse sceptre), Potosí, Bolivia
Field of view 1.5 cm

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia
Field of view 2.5 cm

In Peru, there has been a new discovery of clinozoizite. I understand that the workings from which these were produced are only operational on a sporadic basis. The specific zone from which these specimens were recovered is apparently now done, and they have encountered a bit of epidote as the work has advanced. Excellent display specimens of clinozoisite are generally uncommon – one thinks of the famous finds at Alchuri in the Shigar Valley in Pakistan, and few other localities come to mind. These clinozoisite specimens are all clustered groups of crystals. I have seen no single isolated crystals. The crystals themselves are very sharp and well-defined, lustrous, with some twinned and some not.

Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Canete, Canete Province, Lima Dept., Peru

Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete,
Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru – 4.3 cm

Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Canete, Canete Province, Lima Dept., Peru Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete, Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru

Clinozoisite twin, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete,
Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru – 3.5 cm

Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Canete, Canete Province, Lima Dept., Peru Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete, Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru

Clinozoisite twin, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete,
Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru – 8.6 cm

I want to highlight one other great find that is relatively recent – the spectacular iron-cross twins of pyrite from Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia, discovered about a year ago (I believe the ones available in Tucson were from the original find, as opposed to new production). The term “iron-cross twin” refers to twinned pentagonal dodecahedra, the edges of which cross at right angles. Well-defined iron-cross pyrite twins have always been uncommon and sought-after. Most are small, and often incomplete. These are quite large for iron-cross twins – they are pretty spectacular. One note about these: they have been mislabeled as goethite or limonite after pyrite. They are not pseudomorphs. In fact, they are pyrite, with a very thin surface layer of goethite.

Pyrite Iron Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 5.0 cm

Over to Africa, some great specimens. In Tanzania, the Merelani occurrences continue to produce very fine specimens of a number of minerals, while a few specimens from finds in recent years have surfaced as well.

Merelani Diopside

 Diopside with graphite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania – 3.7 cm

MerelaniPrehnitePrehnite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania – 5.3 cm

From the finds in 2012-13, I managed to acquire a world-class alabandite crystal.

Alabandite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania

Alabandite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania – 6.8 cm

From Malawi, there have been more first class specimens available from the the occurrences at Mt. Malosa and Mulanje, including arfvedsonite, eudidymite and zircon.

Zircon, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi Zircon, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – crystal 3.2 cm

Over the years, the very well-known almandine occurrence at Vrondolo, Madagascar, has produced some unusually fine crystals. This occurrence is a fair distance up a small mountain – it takes hours to reach it on foot. Most often, the crystals from here are slightly to heavily chipped when extracted, because they are found frozen in solid rock. However, I found a small recent group of specimens including crystals that grew into open spaces, as well as other crystals extracted in super condition. These are really nice garnets!

Almandine, Vorondolo, Antananarivo, Madagascar

 Almandine, Vorondolo, Antananarivo, Madagascar – 4.5 cm

Last from Africa, Morocco continues to produce excellent specimens of many minerals – the golden age of Moroccan minerals continues. Because these finds have been known generally or written up by others, I won’t dwell too much on them in this report – there will be many fine Moroccan specimens coming on the website over the next few months. However, I want to highlight some Imilchil material that I think is noteworthy. For some time, we have seen small dark garnet crystals from Imilchil. Some of these crystals have been found to be the titanium-rich garnet group member, schorlomite, while I’m told most analyzed specimens are actually titanium-rich andradite, not enough titanium to be schorlomite. A new find at Anemzi (the same Imilchil-area locality that produces the fine green fluorapatite crystals, and has produced nice magnetites) has produced some of the nicest of these dark andradite crystals I have seen from Imilchil. At their finest, the crystals are sharp with beautiful morphology, and a good number of the specimens are comprised of a stack of these crystals. Some specimens have small, sharp, octahedral magnetite crystals in association – they are sparse, but a neat pairing. Independent from the andradites, Anemzi has produced some sharp magnetites lately as well, making for very nice specimens.

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 7 cm

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 3.5 cm

Magnetite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Magnetite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 4.4 cm

My final mineral entry is from China. I feel that the find of fluorite from Fujian deserves a mention, even though China has produced so much fluorite over the years. These new ones are the fluorites that have been dubbed “tanzanite fluorite” by several dealers. These have been available since early 2017, and they were not widespread this year at Tucson. The ones available were quite expensive. This locality has produced a range of fluorite – the most tanzanite blue-purple is from the one 2017 find, while other blues and purple hues have been recovered as well. I’ve been told there is “no more” – of course!!! – and we’ve all heard that so many times before, so skepticism is certainly warranted! I personally will believe it when I see it. However, I didn’t see as much as I expected and hoped, so we’ll see. Moreover, most of the specimens I did see were significantly contacted and/or damaged. I believe this is not only reflecting the way they were collected (perhaps in some cases with less care than we’d like), but also due to the nature of the occurrence. Many of these seem to have formed in very tight and narrow spaces, and would have been exceptionally difficult to extract without any contacting issues. I think the overall story of this locality will be clearer over time. Given that there are several colour hues and crystal habits from this locality, so it seems likely there was more than one pocket. These are beautiful fluorite specimens!

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

 Fluorite, Xiayang, Yongchun Co., Fujian, China – 5.3 cm

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yongchun Co., Fujian, China – 3.4 cm

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yongchun Co., Fujian, China – 5.2 cm

A Remarkable Emerald

My friend John White came upon a remarkable emerald specimen from Pakistan and I want to share a photo. I’ve never seen anything like it, and much more important, John (you likely know, the former curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s mineral collection) has never seen anything like it! It is available.

Beryl var. Emerald - Pakistan 28-1-25


 Beryl, var. emerald, Guijar Kalay Valley, Swat District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.
The larger crystal is 3.5 cm tall.


Tucson 2018 was a great time, with lots of great friends and the beauty of the Sonora Desert. Thank you all!

3 shadows

Evening shadows  (I believe the order is Don Doell, me, John Betts)

Mineral Song Campfire

Mineral songs around the campfire, led by Dave (of course!)
From left: Malcolm Southwood, John Veevaert, John Betts, Don Doell, David Joyce and Angela Southwood

Thank you again Carol, Dave and Riley, for a wonderful time!

Carol Dave Riley

Until next year, so long, Tucson…

Palo Verde Sunset

Home! And… Rudy!

As great as it was, it’s wonderful to be home. The warm sun of the Tucson desert having recharged me, I’m happy to be back out in the winter woods.

Snowy Road, Bancroft, OntarioOur snowy woods, near Bancroft, Ontario

SnowWoods 2

Sunny winter morning, Bancroft, Ontario

And as many of you know, this means I’m back to once again sharing fun with young Rudy, our Labrador Retriever puppy.

Rudy McDougallDad, can I join you on the couch?

Rudy McDougall

First shipping run to Bancroft.
Dad, I’ll drive.

In only a couple of months he has transformed from tiny puppy to young dog. He’s gleeful about pretty much everything.

Rudy McDougallSnow? Love it!

Rudy is of course new to all this mineral business. Our founding Labrador Retriever, Emery, supervised all operations – he was the Chairman of the Afternoon Snooze Committee and comprised our IT Department, although he slept through most of our business operations. It will be a while until Rudy is ready to step into Emery’s higher roles, but he is a great little supervisor. For now, he is happy to be a particularly active part of all packing, shipping and particularly unpacking operations. He has delighted in founding our Playful Mayhem Department.

Rudy McDougall

What do you mean, my office chair is for “sleeping” while you work?

With lots of Tucson minerals to come, Rudy and I will do our best to get them online over the next few weeks!