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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 10.18.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added excellent new specimens from Cape Split in this Nova Scotia Update (click here).

Cape Split is on the Blomidon Peninsula – “Blomidon” is best known among mineral people as a classic locality for analcime. Over the past three years, a pocket system at Cape Split has sporadically yielded excellent, distinctive specimens of several minerals, most notably the groups and hemispheres (and even balls) of natrolite crystals, associated with sharp analcime crystals, and lustrous brownish stilbite crystals. This pocket system seems to be at an end, and this group of specimens represents some of the nicest pieces recovered from these finds.

Natrolite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 8.4 cm

Natrolite with Stilbite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite with Stilbite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 9.5 cm

Natrolite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 6.1 cm

Natrolite with Calcite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite with Calcite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 6.8 cm

Natrolite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite with Analcime, Stilbite and Heulandite – 8.3 cm
Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Field of view 4.5 cm

Natrolite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Field of view 4.5 cm

Natrolite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Analcime with Stilbite on Heulandite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Analcime with Stilbite on Heulandite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 5.8 cm

Analcime with Heulandite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Analcime with Heulandite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 3.5 cm

Stilbite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Stilbite with Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 7.2 cm

Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Analcime, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 6.1 cm

Stilbite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Stilbite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Field of view 4.0 cm

Natrolite with Stilbite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Natrolite with Stilbite, Cape Split, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Field of view 6.5 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 10.18.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted some great chabazite specimens from Wasson’s Bluff in this Nova Scotia Update (click here).

This is the classic Canadian locality for chabazite, including the deep-coloured ones that were once known as “acadialite”, and many of the specimens in this update are this colour (there are also very fine cabinet specimens of the nice mid-orange colour.) Acadialite was named after Acadia (which is the English for L’Acadie, the colonial-era name for this part of Canada). The name “acadialite” is sometimes still seen on older collection labels, sometimes as a species name and sometimes as a varietal name. Under current nomenclature, these specimens are known as chabazite, with “acadialite” now considered a historical synonym.

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 3.7 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 9.6 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite with Heaulandite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 2.8 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 9.0 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 5.4 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Field of view 6 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 5.3 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada
Field of view 2.2 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, Canada – 5.0 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 03.24.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve added some excellent crystals in this new Alberta Selenite Update (click here). These specimens of gypsum, var. selenite were recovered during a project at Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta in the early 1990s. These crystals are sharp, lustrous and transparent – many are like crystal models.  And… they have great fluorescence.

Willow Creek selenite crystals are fluorescent under ultraviolet light, exhibiting an “hourglass” pattern that is not visible in natural light. It is clearly visible in short-wave, medium-wave and long-wave ultraviolet, most prominent in short-wave.

These crystals are also phosphorescent – the hourglass pattern remains briefly visible in a green hue in total darkness after the ultraviolet light source is extinguished – the selenite crystal then fades and until it too is dark.

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada – 6.7 cm.

Gypsum var selenite, Willow Creek, Nanton, Alberta, ultraviolet light

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada – 6.7 cm.
Same crystal as in the previous photo, exhibiting fluorescence,
photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light.

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada – 7.2 cm

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada – 6.5 cm

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada – 6.2 cm

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada – 6.2 cm.
Same crystal as in the previous photo, exhibiting fluorescence,
photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light.

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada – 7.6 cm

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta – 5.0 cm

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta – 5.0 cm
Same crystal as in the previous photo, exhibiting fluorescence,
photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light.

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada

Gypsum, var. selenite, Willow Creek, near Nanton, Alberta, Canada – 5.8 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 06.07.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added some great specimens in this Mont Saint-Hilaire Update (click here). One of the world’s great mineral localities, with over 400 species, the quarry has been closed to collecting since 2007 (with isolated exceptions that have not produced specimens in any quantity). The specimens in this update are from finds dated from 1988 to 2007.

One of the most remarkable aspects of collecting at Mont Saint-Hilaire is that no two occurrences are the same – the mineralized zones and pockets are each different, with varied mineral assemblages and crystal habits. This selection of specimens represents several different finds, each of which was unique.

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.4 cm

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.4 cm

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.2 cm

Analcime pseudomorph after analcime, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Analcime pseudomorph after analcime, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.7 cm

Manganoneptunite on catapleiite pseudomorph after sodalite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Manganoneptunite on catapleiite pseudomorph after sodalite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada
Field of view 1.0 cm

Rhodochrosite (twinned), Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Rhodochrosite (twinned), Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.5 cm

Analcime on microcline, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Analcime on microcline, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.6 cm

Serandite with epidiymite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Serandite with epididymite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 7.3 cm

Sodalite, var. hackmanite, pink albite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Sodalite, var. hackmanite with pink albite coating, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.4 cm

Sodalite, var. hackmanite with pink albite coating, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Sodalite, var. hackmanite with albite coating, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 2.5 cm

Narsarsukite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Narsarsukite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 1.2 cm crystal

Leucophanite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Leucophanite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 2.4 cm

Analcime, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Analcime, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.6 cm

Rhodochrosite pseudomorph after serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Rhodochrosite pseudomorph after serandite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.3 cm

Quartz with albite and gaidonnayite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Quartz with albite and gaidonnayite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 6.3 cm

Quartz with albite and gaidonnayite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Quartz with albite and gaidonnayite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.2 cm

Quartz, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Quartz, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.2 cm

Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 3.2 cm

Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada

Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada – 4.5 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 12.13.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added a new Howlite Update (click here) with beautiful sharp crystals of this mineral from the only locality to date that has produced crystals (other than a US locality with micros). It was a bit surprising for us to see these latest specimens, because in the past, finds have typically been sporadic. High quality specimens have always been hard to obtain and this seems unlikely to change in the long run. These specimens come from a relatively remote occurrence on Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia) at the base of a small series of cliffs where the seawater pounds the enclosing anhydrite to reveal the delicate howlite crystals. I’ve added a small separate post on the blog with a few locality photos, should you like to see where they come from (click here).

Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

 Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada – 2.5 cm

Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Crystal group 1.8 cm

Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Crystal group 1.8 cm

Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Crystal group 2.8 cm

Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada – 4.7 cm

Howlite, Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Nova Scotia, Canada

Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada – 4.2 cm

Howlite, Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Crystal group 1.7 cm

Howlite, Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada

Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada
Crystal group 2.8 cm, crystals slightly over 1 cm (!)

Howlite, Bras D'Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada Howlite, Bras D’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co., Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada – 3.1 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 05.01.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

For each mineral update on the website, I write a blog post and include a few of my favourite photos from the update.

However, because this week’s Thunder Bay Amethyst Update (click here) is special, it is accompanied by its own full post with lots of photographs of all kinds. (The special nature of this Thunder Bay Amethyst update is explained more fully in the “About These Amethysts” section of the individual specimen descriptions.)

So with the full post online, there’s no need for me to go overboard and post more amethyst photos here too. On the other hand I  just can’t help myself… and maybe you’re arriving at this page directly from a search engine… so here are a couple below. I hope you’ll have a chance to look at the  full length post/article about Thunder Bay Amethyst (click here) and I hope you enjoy both it and the beautiful specimens in the update.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 9.4 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 10.1 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.30.2015 | Filed under: Adventurers, Latest | Comments (0)

This article is jointly authored by Raymond McDougall, David K. Joyce and Ian Nicklin. Except as otherwise credited, all photographs are R. McDougall photos.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Quartz var. amethyst with hematite inclusions from the Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario
Field of view 8.0 cm

THUNDER BAY AMETHYST

Just north of Lake Superior, the Thunder Bay District of Ontario is world famous for its distinctive, ancient amethyst crystals. Thunder Bay amethyst has been known since the 19th century, and is remarkable for its variety – it occurs in all shades of purple from pale to deep, from warm to cool hues, it is often further coloured by inclusions (most often red, due to included hematite) and once in a while phantoms are also found. It is a long journey to the amethyst mines of the Thunder Bay District, and hopefully this article will bring this beautiful region, its history, geology, mines and collecting experience a bit closer!

Location

The Thunder Bay District is located along the northern shore of Lake Superior.  The Thunder Bay District is a formal subdivision of the Province of Ontario comprising over 103,000 square km. The amethyst-producing region, within the Thunder Bay District, is located in an area approximately 60 km northeast of the city of Thunder Bay. Just to give you a sense of how long a drive it is to reach the amethyst area from major international centres, it is over 1200 km from Toronto and over 1000 km from Chicago. (Closer large cities are still a surprisingly long way from Thunder Bay: Milwaukee over 900 km, Winnipeg over 700 km and Minneapolis-St.Paul approx. 550 km). Flights from Toronto are frequent, but commercial air travel is not the most convenient when transporting major collecting gear or any decent amount of specimen material.

MapMap showing the location of the Thunder Bay District, with red dart in the amethyst-producing region
and green dart showing the city of Thunder Bay. (Google Earth 2015, Image credits: Landsat, NOAA.)

North of Superior

The land north of Lake Superior is rugged – it is stunning, wild country. It is one of the most beautiful regions in Canada, but because it is relatively remote from major population centres, it is not as well-known or as frequented as some of our more famous scenic locations. It is a land of the Canadian Shield, with exposed Precambrian rock, lakes and evergreen forests.

Lake Superior North ShoreIslands among the waves, north shore of Lake Superior, Ontario

The distant hills are often quite rounded thanks to the glaciers, and in many places, the shoreline rock has been shaped into smooth forms, first by the glaciers, and since the end of the last Ice Age, by the unrelenting waves, ice rafts and deep frost.

Neys Provincial Park, OntarioGranite on a calm day along the north shore of Lake Superior, Ontario

Inland from the shoreline, signs of the last glaciation are still readily apparent, with rock faces worn smooth, and interesting features like the deep, dark, round pools known as kettles, created by powerful glacial runoff, carrying rocks as abrasive agents. The most recent glaciers receded from the area approximately 10,000 years ago.

Granitepool2The Canadian Shield north of Lake Superior, sculpted by the glaciers

Even beyond the glaciers and away from the shoreline of Lake Superior, this region is constantly being visibly reshaped – by heavy storms, and often just by water as it makes its way from higher land down to Lake Superior.

Rainbow Falls Provincial Park, OntarioSmall waterfall, north of Lake Superior, Ontario

Speaking of storms, Thunder Bay is named for the sound of the thunderstorms as they roll through. Severe thunderstorms are common throughout Ontario in the summer months, but they are just awesome in Thunder Bay, where the thunder booms around the bay and echoes off the surrounding landforms. (It is an amazing experience. Ideally not experienced in a tent.)

The Thunder Bay District is home to lots of wildlife, including large mammals such as moose, timberwolves and black bears.

Black Bear, Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, OntarioBlack bear out for a summer stroll, Sibley Peninsula, Thunder Bay District, Ontario

From Early People to Modern Times 

After the glaciers retreated, the first people moved in to inhabit the lands along the north shore of Lake Superior, approximately 10,000 years ago. Several peoples have lived in this region since that time, the Plano, the Shield Archaic, the Laurel and the Terminal Woodland peoples, and the Anishinaabe (including the Ojibwe, or Chippewa). They have hunted, fished, gathered berries and even mined native copper – and they have been active traders. Early inhabitants used canoes for water transportation – first, canoes were carved out of large tree trunks, and later canoes were made using lighter wooden frames covered by birch bark and assembled using a glue made largely from tree resins (combined with animal fat and soot).

Today, there are few tangible signs of most of these early peoples. In some places, small stone pits and piles of stone are evident, and artifacts have assisted researchers to better understand the past of the area. Painted red ochre pictographs are seen on the Lake Superior shoreline cliffs – these are comparatively recent, estimated to be 200-400 years old.

Agawa Rock Pictographs, Lake Superior Provincial Park, OntarioPictographs, Lake Superior Provincial Park, Ontario

With the arrival of the first French explorers in the mid-17th century and the opening up of trade by the British and the Hudson’s Bay Company, life around Lake Superior began to change. Through trade, the French and the British engaged with the Ojibwe people. As the British continued to explore and develop these interior regions during the nineteenth century, prospecting and mining followed.

Ojibwe Teepees, Fort William, OntarioTeepees, dwellings of the Ojibwe people (constructed as they were in the early 19th century)

In the beginning, what is now the city of Thunder Bay was comprised of two separate settlements/towns (it was not until 1970 that they amalgamated as Thunder Bay). The first was Fort William, which was established in 1803 by the North West Company as a trading post for furs and other goods. After the merger of North West Company and the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1821, the importance of Fort William as a trading post diminished, although the settlement continued on and became a town.

Fort William, OntarioFort William Trading Post (constructed as the original was constructed, early 19th century)

In the latter half of the 19th-century, a  second settlement, initially named Prince Arthur’s Landing, was founded nearby in connection with the Government of Canada’s post-confederation efforts to extend the railway from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Soon renamed Port Arthur, it was was initially supported by local silver mining. As the silver mining declined, the era of railway development was on the rise, and  both Port Arthur and Fort William were to become important Canadian railway towns. Port Arthur was the key rail terminal for Western Canadian wheat, which was then loaded onto ships and transported through the Great Lakes.

Once the first railway across the north of Lake Superior was completed in 1885, trains were the major means of land transportation across the region for the next 75 years.

FortWilliamTrainMountain type Canadian National Railway train, Fort William, Ontario, December 24, 1957.
(Lloyd Zapfe photo, courtesy of Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society 972.272.16hh)

These same Northern Ontario railways are still fundamental Canadian transportation corridors today, linking Central and Western Canada. The echo of trains in the distance day and night is an evocative sound of this part of the country.

CNR Train, Northern OntarioCNR train near Armstrong, Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Because the land is so rugged, with steep hills and river gorges, the last section of the Trans-Canada Highway linking Thunder Bay with Sault Ste. Marie (at the eastern end of Lake Superior) took decades to complete and was only finally opened in 1960. Today the Trans-Canada Highway in this region runs like a ribbon through hundreds of kilometers of rocky forest, sometimes relatively close to the lakeshore, and sometimes much further north, where construction was more feasible.

Trans-Canada Highway, Lake Superior, OntarioTrans-Canada Highway, Lake Superior, Ontario

Ancient Geology

The land north of Lake Superior is part of the Canadian Shield, and includes ancient rock types dating back to 2.7 billion years old. The landforms and rocks evidence mountains and volcanoes that have come and gone, and massive geological events including regional structural metamorphism, folding and major faulting.

Ouimet Canyon, OntarioOuimet Canyon, Thunder Bay District, Ontario

The amethyst deposits of the Thunder Bay District are associated with the rocks of the Osler Group, formed during a late Precambrian stage of volcanism and faulting, from 1.2 to 0.9 billion years ago. In general, the amethyst deposits are in or near the granitic rocks, in proximity to the contacts between the rocks of the Osler and Sibley Groups. The faulting and related fracturing of these rocks during the late precambrian allowed for the intrusion of the fluids which ultimately led to the deposition of the amethyst crystals. These fluids precipitated the amethyst (and also silver, lead and zinc-bearing minerals at the localities where they occur) onto the walls of the fractures, creating crystal-lined veins and cavities. The faulting and fracturing – and therefore the nature and occurrence of ameythst-bearing veins – differs somewhat from locality to locality within the Thunder Bay District. Some brecciated zones are characterized by large numbers of relatively parallel small veinlets, while in other places much larger fractures are hosted by much more competent rock. The size of individual amethyst crystal-bearing vugs and cavities can vary significantly – they can be as small as 2 cm and a cavity 15 x 3 x 2.4 metres has been excavated. The vugs and cavities within a vein or berated zone are often interconnected with one another.

History of Thunder Bay District Amethyst Discoveries

Silver was discovered in the Thunder Bay District in the mid-19th century and soon silver mines were operating. Amethyst was found in these mines, and was described by W.E. Logan (founder of the Geological Survey of Canada, and namesake of weloganite) in a report in 1846. By 1887, G.F. Kunz was reporting a thriving trade and exports of amethyst from the Thunder Bay District for tourists and for building materials. However, by the early 20th century, two factors led to the decline of the Thunder Bay District amethyst trade: the silver mines began to close and large amounts of high-grade Brazilian amethyst began to appear on the market.

For mineral collectors, the most important amethyst discoveries were yet to come. In 1955, amethyst crystals were discovered northeast of Port Arthur in McTavish Township, but it was the discovery by Rudy Hartviksen in 1967 at Loon Lake (also in McTavish Twp.) that began the modern era of fine amethyst production from the Thunder Bay District. The deposit found in 1967 was to become the Thunder Bay Amethyst Mine, the largest commercial amethyst mine in the region. It has operated continuously since that time and is now named the Amethyst Mine Panorama. Many other localities in the Thunder Bay District have been operated since 1967, and perhaps the most prolific for producing fine, top-quality collector specimens has been the Diamond Willow Mine.

The Diamond Willow Mine

The Diamond Willow Mine is on a vein in McTavish Township, in the Thunder Bay District, located on a claim block at the northern end of Pearl Lake. It was named by its owner, Gunnard Noyes, after the type of willow tree that grows at the site of the mine and is highly prized by wood carvers. From the late 1970s and for over 30 years, sections of the vein were leased and worked in the summers by the father-son team of David and Ian Nicklin. They collected with great care and produced some of the finest quality amethyst to have ever come from the Thunder Bay District.

During this period, portions of the Diamond Willow vein were also worked by Gunnard Noyes, his sons Doug and Clark, and later his daughter Francis.

To give a small insight into what really lies behind the excellent amethysts mined during that period at the Diamond Willow Mine, the following account is written by Ian, together with a few photographs from mining in those days.

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioArrival at the Diamond Willow Mine (I. Nicklin photo)

Amethyst Mining at the Diamond Willow Mine

My father, Dave Nicklin, and I first met Gunnard on the suggestion of the Ontario Geological Survey regional geologist in Thunder Bay 42 years ago, while on a summer rock collecting trip. Gunnard had worked in the mines at Sudbury for many years and had retired to the small railway stop town of Pearl, approximately 60 km northeast of Thunder Bay. He was a great source of stories and a remarkably generous man. Knowing of the amethyst riches in the region, he staked his several claims just north of the hamlet of Pearl but when we first met him they were not developed to any extent. The claims were only accessible by a narrow twisting trail or by canoe, up Pearl Lake.

On our first visit, my father and I canoed Gunnard’s ancient but still functional Atlas Copco Cobra plugger drill up the length of the lake and met him at the trailhead. I was 16 at the time.  Although I was quite strong for my age, I clearly recall complaining about the weight of the drill as I struggled through the bush with it. Gunnard, a man well into 60s at this point, laughed at my complaints, grabbed the drill from me and hoisted it onto his shoulder with no fuss. (Anyone with any familiarity with Cobras knows what that takes and just how uncomfortable it is.) I think he was enjoying showing up the young pup.

We eventually reached a small clearing on an outcrop where there was evident signs of blasting and some amethystine rubble. This was the beginning of the Diamond Willow Mine. Gunnard drilled some holes with the plugger and prepared to put off some shots. He had stuffed some sticks of Forcite 40 into his pockets before heading up the trail. This was the first time we had seen blasting up close and as with most things associated with Gunnard it was memorable. He had some pre-cut fuse and a few blasting caps which had to be crimped onto the fuse with special plyers. In later years, we would use electric caps but these were still early days. He set the charges, lit the fuse (it would burn for about 30 seconds) and told us to find cover … which we did.

As we walked away – never run from an impending blast – to find shelter (with Gunnard yelling “Fire!”, the signal for anyone who might be nearby that an explosion was imminent) I became aware just how long 30 seconds can be. The anticipation of the bang made the seconds interminable. But off they went and I can still see the smoke slowly wafting through the trees and the smell of cordite in the air as we made our way back. And there lay our first amethyst specimens, which I still have to this day. We collected about 100 pounds or so of specimens and packed them into the canoe for the trip back. This was the beginning of a 42-year-long relationship, first with Gunnard and later with his sons.

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioDrilling at the Diamond Willow Mine in later years (I. Nicklin photo)

My father was a teacher and so he had the summers off. While I was in school, we would return to the Diamond Willow every year, collecting for several weeks. Later my father and mother bought a trailer in a nearby camp and spent the summers there – I would join them as time allowed.

We learned how to quarry, drill and blast. Although we used feather-and-wedge method of rock removal as much as possible (to minimize chances of damage), blasting was normally mandatory.

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioHoles set (I. Nicklin photo)

We typically used Forcite 40, which we found to be a good general purpose explosive and usually loaded the holes lightly so as to crack the rock but not throw it to minimize damage to the pockets. It might take a full day of drilling to lay out a blast and I clearly remember not being able to open my hands fully without pain after a day on the plugger.

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioLoading the holes (I. Nicklin photo)

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioWired and ready! (I. Nicklin photo)

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioInitial aftermath when the dust has cleared (I. Nicklin photo)

Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Township, Thunder Bay District, OntarioVugs lined with amethyst crystals in a tight brecciated zone (I. Nicklin photo)

The amethyst at the Diamond Willow Mine had a complex history of formation, with the crystals first forming tight to the walls of the pockets and then later, probably due to more geologic activity along the fractured fault systems the plates of crystals collapsed into a jumbled mass. At some later time these pockets became filled with a stiff red clay. This history of formation is something of a mixed blessing. If the pockets had not collapsed the crystalline plates would have to be cut or otherwise chiselled off the walls making recovery much more difficult. But of course, because they are collapsed, the plates suffered nearly ubiquitous damage. (Another “fun” aspect of working in the clay filled pockets is that the clay is typically riddled with tiny, razor-sharp quartz shards… after a few weeks of that, your hands are in rough shape…)

Although we have not been back to the Diamond Willow for many years now, today it is still in production.

- Ian Nicklin

Thunder Bay Amethyst

Crystallized quartz in the Thunder Bay District is found in vugs and cavities of varying sizes, from 2 cm across to a cavity large enough that you can crawl in. Donald Elliott (1982) describes one pocket that was 15 x 3 x 2.4 metres in size (references are listed at the end of this post). Amethyst crystals from the Thunder Bay District are most commonly 1-2 cm in size, but larger crystals are also occasionally found. Rarely, very large crystals have been found – a crystal 61 cm across is reported in Elliott (1982).

Thunder Bay quartz crystals occur in many colours and shades, from colourless to smoky quartz, and the variety amethyst occurs in crystals from delicate pale lilac to a deep purple that can approach black.  The lustre of Thunder Bay amethyst ranges significantly from the best of the brilliant, lustrous crystals at the Diamond Willow Mine (some of which look perpetually wet (!)) to crystals that are not bright and can even be fairly dull in lustre.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 8.2 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 8.3 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 13.4 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 9.6 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 9.4 cm

One of the most beautiful and distinctive characteristics of many Thunder Bay amethysts is the inclusion of red hematite (microscopic disks/spherules within the amethyst). The inclusion of red highlights, red zones, and even completely red amethyst crystals are all a classic look for Thunder Bay specimens.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – field of view 8.0 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 6.3 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Hematite disks/spherules included in quartz var. amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario
Field of view 1.7 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 7.4 cm

The crystal morphology of Thunder Bay amethyst is basic, as most crystals exhibit only well-developed pyramidal faces. Prism faces are uncommon, and doubly-terminated crystals are rare.

200008(7)(x4.1)Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 4.1 cm crystal

The glassy lustre on the best Diamond Willow Mine amethyst specimens is superb.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 12.4 cm

Some specimens are entirely red, and some show distinct zoning – the crystal surfaces are red and amethyst is evident as an earlier phase growth.

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, OntarioQuartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 11 cm high

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario

Quartz var. Amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario – 7.0 cm

One of the authors has always thought the completely red ones look like clusters of jasper crystals, if only jasper crystals existed. (Neither Ray nor Ian has ever contemplated the existence of jasper crystals – both agree that’s a great description of the intense tone of red.) Certain of the completely red crystals have been found to be comprised internally of zoned ametrine, underneath the red outer layer.

The best of the amethyst specimens mined by David and Ian Nicklin at the Diamond Willow Mine are remarkable, in part for their brilliant lustre and exceptional condition.

 Labelling Thunder Bay Amethyst

The history of the amethyst discoveries and production of the past is helpful in understanding locality information, particularly for older specimens. it is also instructive for all specimens where the labelling has been vague. It is so common to see mineral specimen labels with “Thunder Bay, Ontario”, and no further information. Although “Thunder Bay amethyst” has actually occasionally been found right inside the city limits, the city of Thunder Bay is not the source of the Thunder Bay amethyst specimens on the contemporary mineral market.  Similarly, it would be a feat today to obtain an amethyst specimen excavated in the silver mines of the area before the early 20th century. Unless a specimen is actually known to date to the early 20th century or earlier, specimens labelled “Thunder Bay, Ontario” (or, one sometimes sees “Port Arthur, Ontario” on pre-1970 specimens) are most likely from any of a handful of producing mines and properties – or possibly even any of a rather large number of prospects and additional known deposits – most of which are in McTavish Township, in an area beginning about 50 km northeast of the city of Thunder Bay. Absent specific locality information, the use of only “Thunder Bay” on a label should be considered to refer to the Thunder Bay District.

Thunder Bay Amethyst – Today and Future

Thunder Bay amethyst is among North America’s finest and is known by collectors around the world. These amethysts are contemporary classics for mineral collectors. Because the amethyst-lined vugs of any size naturally have collapsed during their history before anyone has found or collected their contents, excellent quality specimens will always be uncommon, hard to obtain and highly prized.

Quartz, var. amethyst, Diamond Willow Mine, McTavish Twp., Thunder Bay District, Ontario
Field of view 4.5 cm

Amethyst has been found at many localities over a considerable area within the Thunder Bay District (localities up to 200 km apart) and mining continues today at a few properties. As Frank Melanson (2012) points out, thanks to our winters it is a short mining season, and thanks to the rugged terrain, access and access cost is always an issue, so it is difficult to mine Ontario amethyst profitably. And yet, the lure of the amethyst continues to inspire ongoing efforts, despite the economic hardships (and not to mention the black flies!). In Frank’s words, “for many, keeping the mines open was a labour of love.”

It is possible to personally collect amethyst in the Thunder Bay District, primarily on a fee-collecting basis, and also at other prospects and exposures. All of the authors have collected amethyst crystals in the Thunder Bay District. Most individual collecting is typically on the dumps, notably at the Amethyst Mine Panorama, but it is difficult to find collector-quality fine mineral specimens on the dumps. Other collecting is just a bit more involved, as Ian’s description conveys!

When amethyst was first encountered in the early silver mines of the nineteenth century, no-one would have foreseen the story of Thunder Bay amethyst as it has unfolded. Thanks to the later vision and pioneering efforts of Gunnar Noyes, Rudy Hartviksen and others, those first finds of amethyst would lead to the discovery of significant amethyst deposits and the preservation of spectacular amethyst specimens that now reside in museums and collections all over the world. It is unclear how many Thunder Bay amethyst mining ventures will be able to continue in the future, but it is likely that fine specimens will continue to be found, in very small numbers, relative to the amount mined. It is also likely that the best amethysts mined by David and Ian Nicklin will, for a very long time, be considered among the finest quality amethysts ever collected in the Thunder Bay District.

Agawa Bay, Lake Superior, OntarioLake Superior, Ontario

Amethyst specimens from the Diamond Willow Mine are available on the website – click here to have a look.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to the Noyes family for their kindness and generosity, and for enabling the development of their deposit such that Diamond Willow Mine amethyst crystals will be enjoyed in collections worldwide for generations to come.

Thanks also to Tory Tronrud and the Thunder Bay Historical Museum Society for kind assistance and permission to share the Fort William mountain train photograph in this article.

References

Elliott, D.G. (1982) “Amethyst from the Thunder Bay region, Ontario” The Mineralogical Record.  March-April 1982, vol. 13, no. 2.

Melanson, F. (2012) “Purple Rain: Thunder Bay Amethyst” No. 16: Amethyst, Uncommon Vintage. Gilg, H.A., Liebetrau, S., Staebler, G.A. and Wilson, T., eds. Lithographie, Ltd.

Vos, M.A. (1976) Amethyst Deposits of Ontario  Ontario Division of Mines – Ministry of Natural Resources, Geological Guidebook No. 5.

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 03.23.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

This Yukon Update (click here) features selected classy specimens of uncommon minerals that are hard to obtain. These are from the famous phosphate mineral occurrences at Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon, Canada, and include gormanite, kulanite (both of these minerals were first described from Rapid Creek) and goyazite, as well as lazulite and wardite. The pieces in this update are from the heyday of specimen discoveries at Rapid Creek in the 1980s and 1990s.

Lazulite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District,  YukonLazulite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – 3.7 cm

Lazulite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District,  Yukon

Lazulite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – crystal 1 cm

Wardite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District,  Yukon

Wardite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – crystals to 1.1 cm

Wardite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District,  Yukon

Wardite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – field of view 2.5 cm

Wardite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District,  Yukon

Wardite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – crystal group 1.4 cm

Kulanite with Fluorapatite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon

Kulanite with Fluorapatite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – field of view 1.7 cm

Gormanite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon

Gormanite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – 7.0 cm

Gormanite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon

Gormanite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – field of view 2.5 cm

Gormanite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon

Gormanite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – field of view 3.0 cm

Goyazite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon

Goyazite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon – field of view 2.0 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 01.05.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I have added a group of excellent new specimens in the Canadian Titanite Update (click here).  These crystals are remarkable for their quality and sharpness.

Titanite is among the most highly-prized minerals in the Bancroft Area and other regions of the Grenville Province. And yet, truly excellent quality specimens are elusive, both locally and on the international market. One reason is that titanite is very brittle. Its wedge-shaped crystals feature long, thin edges that are easily broken, cracked and chipped, by natural processes and also by collectors. Another issue is that titanite crystals from the Grenville are very often incompletely formed or heavily contacted, having often formed contemporaneously with other neighbouring minerals.

The crystals in this update have a black appearance, but on close inspection of the crystal edges under bright light you can see that they are in fact the deepest reddish-brown colour.

Titanite, Quebec, Canada

Titanite, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 5.5 cm

 Titanite, Quebec, Canada

Titanite, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 3.4 cm

Titanite, Quebec, Canada

Titanite, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 6.5 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 08.13.2014 | Filed under: Bancroft, Ontario, Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)


If you’ve ever wondered about mineral shows as they used to be, the smaller-town affairs meant for all sorts of people – serious collectors, beginners and families alike – the Bancroft Shows offer a glimpse, going back to the first show, over 50 years ago. Even the name of our original show, the Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree (at first, named the Gem-Boree), harks to an earlier era in the evolution of mineral collecting. In an older incarnation, the Bancroft Gemboree was held a few kilometres north of town at the old Bird’s Creek fairgrounds…

Gemboree64

Gemboree, August 1964  (Archives of Ontario, RG 65-35-1, 8-H-1964)

Now the show is in Bancroft, with mineral-related activities to make up for the fact that there is no longer a ferris wheel.

There is a lot to be said for these kinds of mineral shows, based in smaller towns – the Bancroft Area has beautiful scenery, wildlife and, of course, rocks!

LoonNest

Common Loon on nest (Bay Lake, just outside of Bancroft)

The Bancroft Shows

Although Bancroft on a snowy day in early December or late March is a very quiet little town, at many other times of year Bancroft is an outdoor destination, and the height of it all is the week of the Bancroft Shows!

Bridge Street

Bridge Street, Bancroft, during Gemboree weekend

When I say the “Bancroft Shows”, we have two separate annual gem and mineral shows, within one week. The large Rockhound Gemboree, in its 51st year, is held for four days, Thursday-Sunday, every year on the first weekend of August. The Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club also hosts a smaller show, on the last July Sunday that falls one week prior to the Gemboree – next year will already be our 20th year for the show.

It’s hard to come up with three more truly Canadian venues: the Bancroft Shows are hosted inside the Canadian Legion (the Club Show), the hockey arena and the curling rink (the Gemboree).

Starting the week off each year, the Club Show is a small non-commercial show, organized and run buy the members of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club. All proceeds go to funding the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum. Usual Suspects Wendy and Frank Melanson are key organizers of this fine local show.

F&W

It isn’t too hard to see what’s wrong in this photograph. (Not staged – he really was walking around like that for a couple of hours.)

The exhibitors at the Club Show are mostly local Ontario dealers and collectors, with some from further afield as well. As a result, this show often offers a “sneak peak” availability of what’s new and interesting in Canadian minerals. Over the years, lots of interesting things have shown up here!

Club Show

Club Show, before morning opening

Club members contribute to very fine mineral displays – this year featuring quartz.

George Thompson contirbuted an excellent display of Canadian Quartz, all the more impressive since several of George’s Canadian quartz specimens are already on display in his separate Minerals of Ontario display across the river in the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum! (For more about our new museum, click here.)  His show display, anchored by the giant Diamond Willow Mine amethyst (near Thunder Bay, Ontario), showcased fine quartz specimens from localities across the country, including Bathurst, New Brunswick, Boylston, Nova Scotia, Black Lake, Quebec, Kamloops, British  Columbia and  Emerald Lake, Yukon, among others.

GeorgeDisplay

Canadian quartz specimens from the collection of George Thompson.

Wendy Melanson put together a case of quartz from all over the world, with a central riser of beautiful amethyst specimens. The large one at back centre is from the Anahi Mine, La Giaba Distsrict, Sandoval Province, Santa Cruz Dept., Bolivia.

WendyDisplay

Quartz specimens from the collection of Wendy Melanson.

The Club show ends in the late afternoon with an event that is not to be missed if you can help it – Club member and professional auctioneer Mark Stanley conducts a mineral auction to benefit the Museum, and he is awesome! Always a lot of laughs, it is a good time.

A few days later, the town is host to the Rockhound Gemboree. The Gemboree is Canada’s largest commercial gem and mineral show, with displays of minerals, jewellery, and other mineral-related items (books, tools, historical mining artifacts). Of course, the Gemboree has a large indoor setup featuring many dealers at both venues (a very short walk apart from one another).

GemboreeGemboree, hockey arena venue, before the morning open

For those of you who appreciate details, in the photo above, you’ll see the fine netting to stop hockey pucks from hitting spectators, and also the row of colourful hockey victory banners hanging from the rafters. The boards around the perimeter of the ice surface are all hidden by the nice curtains (all in, you don’t feel like you should be wearing skates).

A great part of the Gemboree experience is that it also has the old-style, outdoor tailgating section for dealers. That’s where you’ll find a few familiar faces, including George Thompson, David K. Joyce and me.

GemboreeOutside

A quiet moment after two drops of rain had chased everyone inside for a few minutes

Yes, we’re at the mercy of the weather (which was fantastic this year!) but it’s worth the risk – what could be better than summer sun, fine minerals, friends, mineral talk and of course mineral music?

DaveSerenadeDave Joyce serenades some of his non-website minerals with an as-yet unnamed tune.  (Something about love and red dots.)

Mystery Mineral

One morning while innocently talking with people looking at my table, a woman stopped and asked me if I had any “Mystery Mineral”. A smart aleck might have replied “you tell me”.

But I could see that it was an earnest request and I explained that “Mystery Mineral” is not a mineral name, but rather a marketing name of some kind, so I was not sure what mineral she was looking for.

Mystery Mineral Woman: “No, that IS the mineral name: Mystery Mineral.”
R: [Pause]
MMW: “Aren’t you based in Bancroft?”
R: “Yes.”
MMW (now with edge of annoyance): “Well you SHOULD know all about it. It’s a new find, from very near Bancroft itself. If anyone should know, it’s YOU.”
R: “I promise you it is not a mineral name. Can you tell me what it looks like? Is it white or colourless and clear?”
MMW: “Oh so you DO know of it!”
R: “Does it form slender, pointed six-sided crystals?”
MMW: “Yes!”
R: “And can you tell me where you saw them?”
MMW: “At a store… [Ed. Note: the name of which suggested something to do with spiritual odysseys]”
R: “Hmmn…”

I don’t think she believed my diagnosis. People really do give common quartz all sorts of names in order to sell it.

I didn’t tell her “Mystery Mineral” might be my favourite to date.

Real Minerals

It’s been a quiet run in Canadian minerals lately, but it is always possible to find interesting things at the Bancroft Shows.

From Nova Scotia, beautiful zeolites and associated  minerals are still found from time to time.

 StilbiteChab

 Stilbite on Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia – 4.5 cm

Natrolite

Natrolite ball (2 cm) on Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia

Classics from Quebec are becoming increasingly hard to obtain, but there are usually a small number of good ones at these shows.

Vesuvianite

Vesuvianite with Diopside, Jeffrey Quarry, Asbestos, Quebec – 7.5 cm

Prhnite

Prehnite crystals (to 1.2 cm), Jeffrey Quarry, Asbestos, Quebec

Rutile

Rutile crystals to 1.2 cm, McGregor Lake, Outaouais, Quebec

Rhodo

Rhodochrosite and Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec – 6.5 cm

Titanite

 Titanite with diopside, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Québec – 5.5 cm

Stay tuned for Canadian mineral updates over the coming weeks.

Well, the Bancroft Shows are over until next year, but they usher in our late summer and early fall – the time of year that often affords some of the Bancroft Area’s best field collecting weather. Hope to see you in the trenches!