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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.11.2020 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

In these strange days, it’s hard to believe how different the world was, only a few weeks ago. Who imagined then, all the ways in which our lives would be impacted in the weeks after Tucson… As events evolve, it’s clear that it will be a while until all of us are once again together at a large international show, which makes it all the more important to enjoy a few memories of our most recent gathering and stay connected online. In that light, let’s travel back to Tucson…

Tracks

One of the best times of the year, the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral show is like no other time if the year for mineral people. It is gathering of countless thousands of mineral specimens!  OKOK… not just specimens… it is one of the mineral collecting community’s finest annual gatherings, with friends from all over the world converging on Arizona to catch up and share, and talk a lot about minerals (and even life beyond minerals, heaven forbid).

Cactus hills

Tucson is a great midwinter break for me and all of my northern friends – a chance to leave snow, ice and frigid temperatures behind for a bit. Instead of shades of white and grey, it’s blue skies, beige and every hue of green, not to mention the purple-blue shades of mountains all around the horizons.

I am lucky to be hosted by my friends David Joyce (davidkjoyceminerals.com) and Carol Teal, along with their dog Riley.

Carol, Riley, Dave

Riley and I have come a long way together – in the first year or two we knew each other, he had somehow failed to catch that I’m a dog person. I wasn’t speaking his language – I’m used to speaking Labrador Retriever. We’re sure good now though – he accepts me as a member of the pack.

Riley 1

We have an understanding that tummy rubs, ball throwing and treats are all part of the deal.

Riley 2

As always, Tucson was full of activity of all kinds, at shows spread out all over the city. It’s strange now to think that such a short time ago, COVID-19 was not a thought on many minds, and in Tucson there was virtually no visible indication of any difference – just lots of conscientious alternatives to handshakes and the occasional mask.

This year there was substantial movement of dealers and vendors around town. Of course this happens to some extent every year and the sands always shift over the longer term, as the individual shows and dealers evolve and migrate. Once upon a time, the Desert Inn was the place to be, and now it is no longer standing. Similarly, for many years, the show at the Best Western Executive Inn (also known as the “EI”) was the hub for a large number of dealers with the best selection of fie minerals. Years ago, the show moved to the Inn Suites (renamed the Hotel Tucson City Centre) and now the “EI” is closed and fenced for final demolition. In 2020, the Inn Suites completed its last contract year with the show organizers, and many dealers had already chosen to move to new venues. As for this show itself, the organizer is moving it to the Hilton Conquistador, up in Oro Valley – it remains to be seen what will happen at the Inn Suites next year. I’ve always really liked the setting at the Inn Suites and will miss the times when it was the major hotel show!

Inn Suites

Having said which, the larger development unfolding at the same time has been the development and opening of the “Mineral District” just off North Oracle, with the Mineral City show and other related venues all within a couple of blocks of one another.  The Mineral City venue hosts many excellent dealers and was greatly expanded into new buildings opened this year.

Meanwhile, another key spot in the Mineral District fully opened this year, as the conversion of the old La Fuente restaurant is now complete. It is the new main venue for Jewel Tunnel Imports (both the wholesale business and the selling of more of Rock Currier’s personal collection), as well as mindat HQ and the new location where you could have your favourites photographed by Jeff Scovil. Speaking of the new La Fuente, each restroom is particularly inclusive, inviting anyone:

Bathroom

Which makes a nice segue into a discussion of a few of the minerals in Tucson this year. Starting with JTI headquarters at La Fuente and Rock’s collection. As many of you will have seen in online reports, people lined up early in the morning to be able to see what was available. This was true for the original opening, and even to a lesser extent for each “refresh” opening, when they put out new material to fill spaces. Rock’s collection contained so many great high-quality pieces, including classic specimens, unusual localities and uncommon minerals and mineral associations.

Among the classics was this wonderful millerite from the Sterling Mine near Antwerp, New York – this is a fantastic specimen.

Millerite, Sterling Mine, Antwerp, Jefferson Co., New York, USA

Millerite, Sterling Mine, Antwerp, Jefferson Co., New York, USA – 6.6 cm

102543(2)(fov 1.6)Close-up of the same specimen

For unusual specimens from unusual localities, Rock had a small number of very cool hematite crystals from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Great crystal forms!

Hematite, Kamoto Principal Mine, Kamoto, Kolwezi, Lualaba, democratic Republic of the Congo

Hematite, Kamoto Principal Mine, Kamoto, Kolwezi, Lualaba, Democratic Republic of the Congo – 3.2 cm

Moving on to recent finds at Tucson 2020, there were gorgeous new bournonites from the Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia. The locality has produced excellent bournonite specimens over the years, but the finds are have been sporadic, often years apart. The nature of the bournonite has varied from one find to the next, and some of the bournonite has been of modest lustre, sometimes dull, and of varying sharpness/definition. This latest find has produced sharp, lustrous bournonite crystals of the finest quality, exhibiting the classic “cogwheel” twinning.

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia

 Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 5.2 cm

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia

 Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia
Field of view 3.5 cm

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia

 Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.2 cm

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia

 Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 2.3 cm crystal group

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia

 Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.1 cm

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia

 Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 3.8 cm

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia

 Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.9 cm

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.1 cm

There has been a new find of beautiful prehnite from Morocco (it seems Morocco somehow always comes through!). In fact several localities in Morocco have produced fine prehnite specimens over the years, but I love the prehnite from Taza, Fès-Meknès, Morocco.

Prehnite, Taza, Fès-Meknès, MoroccoPrehnite, Taza, Fès-Meknès, Morocco – 8.6 cm

This prehnite occurs with minor quartz crystals, including one small crystal on one piece that looks to me to be a faden. The prehnite crystal aggregates exhibit two principal habits, sometimes together on the same matrix: (1) radiating balls of crystals and (2) radiating fans of varying size and thickness. These specimens are quite different from most prehnite balls and aggregates, in that the individual crystals are easily visible and differentiated/separated from their adjacent neighbours – they are sharp and lustrous with individual terminations. The colour of these specimens is a pretty green – they are so nice!

Prehnite, Taza, Fès-Meknès, MoroccoPrehnite, Taza, Fès-Meknès, Morocco – 9.1 cm

Prehnite, Taza, Fès-Meknès, MoroccoPrehnite, Taza, Fès-Meknès, Morocco – 10.0 cm

Prehnite, Taza, Fès-Meknès, Morocco

Prehnite, Taza, Fès-Meknès, Morocco – 5.8 cm

Also from Morocco, from a find at Mibladen that originally debuted at Munich last fall, are vanadinite specimens in a habit we only see once in a while, in some rather good-sized crystals for the species. These are the somewhat complex, somewhat skeletal-growth crystals, often in small aggregates. The colour and lustre varies, including on the same specimen, depending on the viewing angle. They are super-cool vanadinites.

Vanadinite, Mibladen, Morocco

Vanadinite, Mibladen, Morocco – 3.7 cm
Vanadinite, Mibladen, MoroccoVanadinite, Mibladen, Morocco – 3.7 cm

One last entry from the African continent from me – welcome to my nightmare…

I include this next photo partly to show just how hard it is to secure fine mineral specimens. As many of you know, I’m very fond of the best of the prehnites, epidotes and good yellow stilbite balls from Mali. They are wonderful specimens and they make beautiful display pieces, adding colour and form to any display case. The prehnites and epidotes have been coming out for quite a few years now, and the good stilbites have been trickling out – I seek out excellent specimens, particularly of the stilbite which are so nice for the species. It has become evident that the problem is not that there aren’t any in the ground – rather, it’s what happens to them next. Many are thrown into sacks and buckets, then transferred to other containers with little or no packaging. This is a process no fine mineral specimen – but particularly stilbite – can be expected to survive… As an example, here’s a photo of an actual Mali specimen-packing job, arrived at Tucson for sale.

Bucket o' Mali

Bucket O’ Mali
(The specimens in this bucket are now completely damaged/destroyed and of no value to collectors of fine minerals.)

As an aside, I’ve been building a small collection of excellent Mali specimens for a future update – was only able to add a couple nice small pieces in Tucson (sadly, none from this vendor!), but there will be some really nice specimens coming in that update.

Moving on to Asia, some nice entries from localities that have recently been producing fine specimens. From Balochistan, Pakistan comes another new find of epidote fans and quartz. The epidote fans are sharp and very lustrous, with high-lustre terminations. Some are partially-to-fully included within quartz crystals, but this was uncommon in the material I saw. It’s too bad the percentage of fine specimens was not higher, as they are really beautiful combination-pieces, but most were badly damaged. I acquired a small lot of choice specimens.

Epidote and Quartz, Kharan, Balochistan, Pakistan

Epidote fans on Quartz, Kharan, Balochistan, Pakistan – 5.8 cm

For a few years, we’ve seen the lollingite specimens from the Huanggang mines (Inner Mongolia, China) that redefined the species. The best are the world’s finest by far (for example, John White’s – if you have not admired that one, it’s here). Specimens have never been plentiful and those pieces we do see available are damaged (I know, my common complaint from urban field-collecting expeditions…). I found a very small number of excellent specimens from one of my Chinese friends.

Lollingite, Huanggang Mines, Inner Mongolia, China

Lollingite, Huanggang Mines, Inner Mongolia, China – 4.6 cm

Also from China, over recent years we’ve seen some creedite specimens from Qinglong. In Tucson I acquired three with a light lavender hue – very pretty specimens!

Creedite, Qinglong County, Qianxinan, Guizhou, ChinaCreedite, Qinglong County, Qianxinan, Guizhou, China – 8.5 cm

And I’m going to finish with some specimens that some people might consider a bit less pretty, but given their rarity and where they come from, they are worthy of a grand finale. From one of Canadian dealer Rod Tyson’s expeditions to the Yukon several years ago, some excellent specimens of the Rapid Creek phosphate minerals were available in Tucson. Expeditions to this remote part of Canada have become difficult to arrange and have also become extremely costly of late (they require a lot of helicopter time). Rod feels it’s tough to predict what, if anything, will come out in the foreseeable future. For several of the species found at Rapid Creek, specimens from there are the best from anywhere.

Kulanite, Rapid Creek, Yukon, Canada

Kulanite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon, Canada
Main ball of crystals 0.9 cm

Gormanite

Gormanite on siderite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon, Canada – 3.2 cm

Of course the Tucson experience is about so much more than the minerals. Meals and maybe a couple beverages with mineral friends from all around the world, sometimes accompanied by music…

David Joyce Banjo

 David Joyce leading the songs with his banjo. (Not pictured: a bunch of us singing along..).

As happens every year, I am always already home before the main show and related festivities, so I obviously am not able to report on them. However, there was one important development in Tucson that I do not want to miss mentioning. This year is a special year as it represents the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Mineralogical Record. And of course, the Mineralogical Record was founded by John S. White (if you have not already, you can read about that here). This year in Tucson, a new award was unveiled and presented at a dinner held by Jordi Fabre and Jim and Gail Spann: John was the first recipient of what will be the annually-awarded John S. White Mineral Legacy Award For Excellence in Mineralogical Education. Every year from now the same wording will appear on the awards to future recipients – it will always be, in fact, the John S. White Mineral Legacy Award. John called it “the mother of all humbling experiences”.  Which is of course the kind of thing he’d say. He’s always been humble about those early days of the Mineralogical Record. But it’s pretty incredible to think that at 36 years old, with a young family and full-time job at the Smithsonian, he founded this magazine. So many mineral collectors owe a good part of their knowledge to the publication he created. So many serious collectors have the Mineralogical Record in their home. He has touched the lives of literally thousands and the award could not be more fitting.

John S. White Mineral Legacy Award

And on a final note about this beautiful part of Arizona, I confess that this beauty is an  aspect of the Tucson experience that I really did not take in properly for the longest time. Time on these visits is at such a premium – and it was especially so when I was taking time out of my last career to do it – there are so many minerals to see, so many mineral friends and so many good times together. Until recently, I never took the time to immerse myself in just how amazing this place is. I have Dave and Carol to thank for that, not only because they live in a beautiful little nature paradise, but also because they love to enjoy it. I thought I’d share a few photos from our time the Santa Rita foothills.

I swear I did not pay the deer and doves to pose – it’s naturally as idyllic as it looks..

Deer Dove

This is a great area for hiking (as long as you give the sharp plants lots of clearance!). Dave led the way…

Dave trail

Some of the plants are astounding. The Tucson show does not correspond with most flowerings, but looking at last year’s yucca and agave stalks… they are huge. Here’s a sense, with me for scale:

Yuccas and me

The stalks dominated the landscape in places, making for unusual and beautiful scenes.

Yucca stalks

And of course one can see such expansive vistas from the lookouts…

DaveRileyLookout

Riley catching up with Dave to take in the view…

Goodbye Tucson, til next time.

Sunset

 

As always, I love being away and I love coming home.

Bit of a temperature change from Tucson (20c/68F) to Bancroft that night…

Cold

(-22F…)

We had lots of snow once again this year, beautiful in an entirely different way from Arizona.

SnowTrees

And of course Rudy is in heaven in it…

Snow Rudy

Again this year the snowbank beside our house (known each year as Mt. Rudy) grew to a major height, width and depth – that’s Rudy (full-grown Labrador Retriever) for scale at the top with a normal-sized soccer ball in his mouth.

MtRudy2020

I’m happy to say that because I’m writing this so late this year, Mt Rudy is now much reduced in size, only about 5 ft high (it will be all melted in May). And as happens every spring, the lake is beginning to thaw. In the sun, there’s a bit of water on the ice on a warmer day, but I can see that as of now the ice at the margin of the dock is at least a foot thick…

Snow Lake

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.10.2020 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve posted exquisite new specimens in this Bolivia Bournonite Update (click here). These bournonite crystals are from the Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia. The locality has produced excellent bournonite specimens over the years, but the finds are have been sporadic, often years apart. The nature of the bournonite has varied from one find to the next, and some of the bournonite has been of modest lustre, sometimes dull, and of varying sharpness/definition. This latest find has produced sharp, lustrous bournonite crystals of the finest quality, exhibiting the classic “cogwheel” twinning.

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 5.2 cm

Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia
Field of view 3.5 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.2 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 2.3 cm crystal group
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.1 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 3.8 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.9 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.1 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 4.0 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 3.6 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, BoliviaBournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 2.9 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia -   Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia – 3.4 cm
Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia -   Bournonite, Viboras Mine, Machacamarca District, Potosí, Bolivia -

 

 

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 01.13.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added a group of diverse minerals in this Peru Update (click here). I have selected these out over various trips – each is a beautiful specimen for the mineral! This update includes a gorgeous rhodonite from Chiurucu, a brilliant alabandite, a super specimen of bournonite cogwheel twins on matrix, a specimen of scheelite coated with bright green stolzite, fluorescent fluorapatite crystals and more.

Rhodonite, San Martin Mine, Chirucu, Huallanca, Bolognesi, Ancash Dept., Peru
Rhodonite, San Martin Mine, Chirucu, Huallanca, Bolognesi, Ancash Dept., Peru – 6.0 cm

Stolzite on Scheelite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., PeruStolzite on Scheelite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru – 5.7 cm

Alabandite, Uchucchacua Mine, Oyon Province, Lima Dept., PeruAlabandite, Uchucchacua Mine, Oyon Province, Lima Dept., Peru
Field of View 3.3 cm

Bournonite, Julcani District, Angaraes Prov., Huancavelica Dept., PeruBournonite, Julcani District, Angaraes Prov., Huancavelica Dept., Peru
Field of View 3.5 cm

Fluorapatite on Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca Dist., Dos De Mayo Prov., Huanuco Dept., PeruFluorapatite on Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca Dist., Dos De Mayo Prov., Huanuco Dept., Peru – 7.9 cm

Fluorapatite on Pyrite, Huanzala Mine, Huallanca Dist., Dos De Mayo Prov., Huanuco Dept., PeruSame specimen as above, under fluorescent lighting

Gypsum var. Selenite on Halite, Salinas de Otuma, Paracas, Pisco, Pisco Province, Ica Dept., Peru Gypsum var. Selenite on Halite, Salinas de Otuma, Paracas, Pisco, Pisco Province, Ica Dept., Peru – 6.7 cm

Enargite, Quiruvilca Mine, Santiago de Chuco Province, La Libertad Department, Peru

Enargite, Quiruvilca Mine, Santiago de Chuco Province, La Libertad Department, Peru – crystal 2.4 cm

Chalcopyrite on Sphalerite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru Chalcopyrite on Sphalerite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru – 3.5 cm

Chalcopyrite on Sphalerite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru

Chalcopyrite on Sphalerite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru – 4.8 cm

Galena and Seligmannite, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru

Galena and Seligmannite on Quartz, Palomo Mine, Castrovirreyna Province,
Huancavelica Department, Peru – 4.6 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