Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 06.13.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)


I’m publishing this one a bit later than I expected this year, but I hope you will enjoy the content all the same. And for those of you who are in hot summer places, perhaps harking back to northern spring will feel refreshing…

Each year, I personally love the arrival of the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium for two reasons.

First, it’s my favourite annual event in Mineral World. And second, the RMS always marks the arrival of spring out here in the Bancroft woods, with nicer temperatures and the occasional chance to drive with the windows down again.

So, in this photo taken the day before the Symposium, I’ll leave it to you as to whether Emery’s happy expression was about hanging out the window and soaking up the early spring sunshine or the arrival of RMS 2017…

Emery Window

…but my own happiness that day was about both!

If you’ve attended the RMS, you’ll know why it’s special. The Rochester Symposium is a unique event. It brings together professionals and amateurs, and a complete range of subjects in specimen mineralogy. It is collegial and friendly, meant for collectors and those who love to learn about minerals. The RMS prominently features What’s New in Minerals each year. It is also a mineral show with excellent dealers set up and open when the talks are not on. And the RMS is a true mineral community with great cameraderie – it’s a time for hanging out and having a good time with mineral friends, new and old. It’s possible a drink or two is shared among us, and a few mineral songs are always sung.

If you haven’t yet come, I hope you’ll join us next year. Rochester is meant for you as much as anyone! You can reserve the dates right now: April 19-22, 2018.

2017 RMS Presentations

Opening – Bill Pinch

We began the 2017 (44th) RMS acknowledging the passing of our friend Bill Pinch, the great mineral collector who began the Symposium 44 years ago. As this had happened only three weeks before the Symposium, this was a hard period for Bill’s family and friends.

At RMS 2017, the Program Notes began with an In Memoriam, written by Chairman Steve Chamberlain – I have reproduced it in full, below. Bill’s website hosts both a great In Memoriam by Mark Feinglos (which he wrote for The Mineralogical Record) and some other great links – I include the link below, under Links and References.

Steve also announced that RMS 2018 will be dedicated to Bill’s memory and, in celebrating him, we will have a Bill Pinch theme. In addition to a presentation about Bill himself, there will be talks on the subjects he loved most during his collecting career, including Tsumeb, rare minerals, and collecting fine minerals.

Bill was a good friend and a kind mentor to me. What we enjoyed most – as I’m sure was true with so many of his mineral friends – was losing all sense of time together talking about minerals. And so that’s what we all did at RMS 2017 – we enjoyed each other’s company and immersed ourselves in minerals.

The King of Tides: Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy

I gave the first talk of the 44th Rochester Symposium, about the minerals of the Bay of Fundy. For those of you who know my website, you will have seen the articles I have posted on the blog (Collecting the Bay of Fundy, and Collecting on the Islands). Although the RMS presentation was about the minerals from the classic Bay of Fundy localities discussed in the blog posts, I had a different goal in putting it together.  My goal was to share not only the story and scenery, but specifically some of the top specimens, to show how great they can be. Those specimens reside primarily in a few Canadian collections, and so there was a collaborative effort to track them down and photograph them. This talk was only possible with the involvement of several people, so the presentation slides have four additional authors – Terry Collett, Ronnie Van Dommelen, Michael Bainbridge and David Joyce. Together, our efforts resulted in a well-received talk and many photographs of specimens that, until now, have not been well-known beyond our local circles. Some stunning pieces have been found on the Bay of Fundy.

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

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 7 cm
Terry Collett collection, Ronnie van Dommelen photo.


Chabazite on Heulandite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 14 cm
Ronnie Van Dommelen collection and photo.

DaveTwinChabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Chabazite, contact twin, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 1.2 cm crystal
(Penetration twins are common at Wasson’s Bluff, but contact twins are not.)
David Joyce collection and photo.

Copper, Cape D'Or, Nova Scotia, Beckett Collection, Michael Bainbridge photo

Copper, Cape D’Or, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 15 cm
Largest spinel-law-twinned crystal 5 cm
Robert Beckett collection, Michael Bainbridge photo.

Copper, Cape D'Or, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia
Copper, Cape D’Or, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – crystal 15.7 cm
Rod and Helen Tyson collection, Michael Bainbridge photo.

Thomsonite, Cape D'Or, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia, George Thompson specimen, M. Bainbridge Photo

Thomsonite, Cape D’Or, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 10.5 cm
Originally in the Doug Wilson collection, now George Thompson collection,
Michael Bainbridge photo.

18cm wide

Natrolite, Diamond Island, Five Islands, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 18 cm
Ronnie Van Dommelen collection, Michael Bainbridge photo.

6.7cm high

Stilbite, Five Islands, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 5.7 cm
Rod and Helen Tyson collection, Michael Bainbridge photo.

Michael Bainbridge is taking superb photos for collectors and publications these days – a link to his website is below, under Links and References.

Overview of Silicate Structures 

At the last minute, Dr. Frank Hawthorne was unable to attend and present at the RMS. Thanks to an above-and-beyond effort by Dr. Robert Lauf, this talk was in fact still presented at the RMS – Bob was up into the wee hours of the night working with the original slides to that he could then give both this talk and his own talk on Friday morning.

Bob gave a tough subject and it was a great morning for learning. After a late night of fun with friends, it’s not easy to greet the next morning in a dark presentation room hearing the opening statement “silicates are a complex business…”

However, this talk gave context and focus for what is in fact an important issue in mineral work.

Silicate structures have been generally understood since the 1930s, when William Bragg developed the silicate groups that are still in use today. Those groups are defined on the basis of the nature of the structural organization within the minerals. Silicates are all defined by having a silicon-oxygen tetrahedron- SiO4 – at the heart of their structure, and the key differentiating factor among silicates derives from the way in which each such Si04 tetrahedron is linked to others. This linkage is determined by the way in which the SiO4 tetrahedron shares the other elements within the mineral. This can result in chains, rings and other arrangements, and as a result, the silicates are grouped on this basis – inosilicates, cyclosilicates, orthosilicates, tetrasilicates.

Silicate structures are vitally important, and this talk highlighted why. When we are conducting analyses to identify and define minerals, we can know certain things from chemical analysis, but ultimately we may need to combine chemical and structural analysis to arrive at a proper definition and identification. In fact, structural analysis can be determinative. For example, the mineral wiluite is identified conclusively by understanding the structure – the structure will reveal which site in the mineral’s composition is occupied by boron, and that is determinative in the correct identification.

The silicates require much more structural work. Although definitive work has been completed with other mineral groups, the same cannot be said for the silicates – it is an overwhelmingly large subject, with lots yet to be done.


Fresh off giving the first talk, Bob Lauf was up at the podium to give the talk he had planned to give – an overview of the orthosilicate minerals. The orthosilicates include many awesome minerals, such as the titanite group, the zircon group, the garnet group, the humite group, vesuvianite and topaz, and this talk included many photos.


Clinohumite, Jikhan, Koksha Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan 2.5 cm crystal
R. Lauf specimen and photo.

The orthosilicates are defined not by chains or rings, but by isolated groups of SiO4 tetrahedra. Bob likened the results of packing these SiO4 groups, together with the metals, to packing groups of organized ball bearings, with configurations that vary mineral to mineral. In general, the orthosilicates have dense, tightly-packed structures, and this can often mean a high surface hardness and toughness – many of these minerals survive weathering exceptionally well. Meanwhile, properties like cleavage, striations and crystal forms are determined by the metals within the structure, not the SiO4 tetrahedra.

Bob has a new book out, Collectors’ Guide to Orthosilicates. A link is below under Links and References.

 Grossular CaliforniaGrossular, Calixico, California – 8 cm
R. Lauf specimen and photo.

Technical Session

Every Friday afternoon at the RMS, we have what we colloquially call the “Technical Session”, Contributed Papers in Specimen Mineralogy, moderated by Dr. Carl A. Francis. This session is packed with great 15-minute talks on a range of topics, some completely specimen-oriented, some more mineralogical. I don’t write at length in these blog posts about the Technical Session talks, because the abstracts from these talks are published during the year in Rocks and Minerals magazine (don’t forget to watch for them!) and they are published in the RMS Program Notes.

However I really want to highlight the Technical Session for a moment this year. One reason is because the Technical Session is one of the features that makes Rochester unique, with professionals and amateurs all contributing. For collectors, there is a lot of interest in these talks – sometimes about rare or new minerals or finds, sometimes about localities, sometimes about scientific work done to establish fakes in Mineral World. And perhaps even more this year than in recent memory, we had a high percentage of truly excellent talks given by students. The group from the Department of Geology and Environmental Earth Science, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio did a particularly outstanding job. Too often, we look around Mineral World and see fewer young people than we’d all like – these students represent a bright future for mineralogy and the science that underpins everything we enjoy in Mineral World.

Friday Night

The Monteponi Mine, Sardinia, Italy

Our Friday night presentation was The Monteponi Mine, Sardinia, Italy, given by Dr. Renato Pagano, one of the world’s pre-eminent mineral collectors. The Renato and Adriana Pagano Collection includes 13,500 specimens, and 4,300 species, making it one of the most remarkable collections ever assembled.

Renato gave a great talk on this classic locality, with great photos. One of my favourite facts from the talk was the origin of the name Monteponi (since we’ve all seen it on musuem labels and in the literature for decades…).  The name has evolved from its original name, Monte Paone. Paone was an old Italian word meaning peacock, so it is Mount Peacock. Monteponi is a slightly (!) older locality than our New World ones – the Carthaginians mined silver-bearing galena there from the 6th century BC, and Monteponi later provided silver and lead to the Roman Empire, particularly for coinage and pipes, respectively.  Renato took us through the history and stories from the past, including the tragic incident in which one of the great phosgenites was presented as a gift to a clumsy Swedish ambassador who dropped and destroyed it.

Among collectors, Monteponi is most famous for having produced the world’s finest phosgenite crystals.

I had to include this one in this post  – I have loved this crystal for about 40 years, as its photograph was featured in one of the first mineral books I ever owned, as a child (Encyclopedia of Minerals and Gemstones).

Phosgenite, Monteponi, Sardinia, Roberto Appiani photo Phosgenite, Monteponi, Sardinia, Italy – 2.5 cm crystal
Milan Natural History Museum specimen, Roberto Appiani photo.

And here are two great phosgenite specimens from the Pagano collection:

Phosgenite Monteponi Pagano Collection Roberto Appiani photo

Phosgenite in a vug in galena, Monteponi, Sardinia, Italy – 6 cm
Renato and Adriana Pagano collection, Roberto Appiani photo.

Phosgenite Monteponi Pagano Collection Roberto Appiani photo

Phosgenite crystals, Monteponi, Sardinia, Italy – 2 cm
Renato and Adriana Pagano collection, Roberto Appiani photo.

Monteponi is also known as a locality for exceptionally fine anglesite crystals.

Anglesite Monteponi Pagano Collection Roberto Appiani photo

Anglesite, Monteponi, Sardinia, Italy – 8 cm
Renato and Adriana Pagano collection, Roberto Appiani photo.

A comprehensive article on Monteponi by Renato, together with Wendell Wilson, is included in The Mineralogical Record, November-December 2014, Vol. 45, No. 6 . If you haven’t yet read it, it’s superb, and if you read it when it came out, maybe time for another read…

Saturday – Annual What’s New

At the heart of the Rochester Symposium for decades, the annual Saturday morning presentations have captured highlights of what has been new in Mineral World over the prior year or so, focusing on fine mineral specimens for collectors.

What’s New in Minerals and Localities – Part I – Jeff Scovil

Jeff Scovil leads our worldwide survey of exceptional new mineral specimens, with an hour of stunning photos. It doesn’t matter who was up for how long having fun the night before, the room is always packed. Jeff’s presentation is always a Symposium highlight!

So here are a few photos to give you a sense – imagine an hour of this… It’s Mineral Heaven!


Euclase, La Marina Mine, Muzo District, Boyaca, Colombia
Crystals to 5 cm
Irv Brown collection, J. Scovil photo.


 Djurleite, Aït Ahmane MineBou Azzer, Ouarzazate, Morocco – 4 cm
Steve Smale collection, J. Scovil photo

Djurleite, Aït Ahmane Mine, Bou Azzer, Ouarzazate, Morocco – 6 cm
Fine Gems and Minerals specimen, J. Scovil photo

Wulfenite China Jeff Scovil

Wulfenite, Jianshan Mine, Xinjiang, China – 4.3 cm
Sam Yung specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Apophyllite Bowtie Jeff Scovil

Fluorapophyllite, Aurangabad, Maharastra, India – 3.2 cm
Spirifer specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Elbaite Morocco

Elbaite tourmaline with albite, Ouarzazate, Morocco – 3.3 cm
Spirifer specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Fluorite Jeff Scovil photo

Fluorite, Huanggang Mines, Inner Mongolia, China – 8.9 cm
Steve Smale collection, J. Scovil photo.

And this last one may not be quite as recent, but the photo is, and the lighting on these crystals is simply as good as mineral photography can get…

Wulfenite Red Cloud Jeff Scovil

Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, Trigo Mountains, La Paz Co., Arizona – 3.9 cm
Unique Minerals specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Jeff is the Yoda of mineral photography. If you would like him to photograph your minerals, or you are looking for mineral photos for a publication, his website is under Links and References.

What’s New in Minerals and Localities – Part II

Part II of What’s New in Minerals is open to contributions from attendees. We had a couple of presentations about new books, including one mineral book, an upcoming book by Van King on Franklin, New Jersey, so we’ll keep our eyes open for that.

I then presented a few more examples of what has been new in Mineral World over the last year or so. If you’ve been following this website over the past year, you’ll be familiar with most of these.

Just a note of explanation about photographs here. Below each photo, I am including a link to the applicable blog post on the website where you can see more photos and specimens than are here. (Every new mineral update on this website is represented by a blog post, so even if you didn’t see a specimen before it sold and was removed, there is a nice record of my favourite photos from each update preserved in the blog.)

I’ll begin with the “Synchysite Mystery”… this goes back to a find from 2015, but the analytical work was completed in 2016…

In late 2015, I had posted on the website a small number of “synchysite” crystals from Novo Horizonte, Bahia Brazil. Although they had been sold to me as synchysite, some question arose as to confirmatory identification of these, in part thanks to some work that was ongoing to describe the new mineral parisite-(La) (described in my Tucson 2017 blog post). Analysis by Don Doell, first at the lab at University of Arizona, began to confirm more about their identity. Don then conducted semi-quantitative EDS at SGS Labs and narrowed things down. These are in fact phosphate mineralization: they are likely a combination of rhabdophane-(La), rhabdophane-(Ce) and possibly including monazite-(Ce). They appear to be pseudomorphs after a REE carbonate, probably in the parisite group, given that parisite-(La) has been found at Novo Horizonte in crystals with a similar aspect and appearance, at a similar time (therefore possibly similar part of the deposit). They could also be after bastnasite-(La), which has been described from the locality, although these are most similar in aspect to the parisite-(La) crystals. For now, I’m labelling them rhabdophane, pseudomorph after parisite, with the proviso that the above is the technically closest identification information to date. Thanks very much to Don for this analysis!

Rhabdophane, ps Parisite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, BrazilRhabdophane, ps Parisite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 4.3 cm
(More photos/specimens)

 A few other “What’s New” entries:

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
W.W. Pinch collection.
(More photos/specimens)

 Rutile, var. Struverite-Ilmenorutile, Santa Rosa Mine, Itambacuri, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Rutile, var. Struverite-Ilmenorutile, Santa Rosa Mine, Itambacuri, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 3.1 cm
(More photos/specimens)

 Wodginite, Linopolis District, Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Wodginite, Linopolis District, Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 3.2 cm
Jack Smith collection.
(NB: If you are interested in these, I was able to acquire five more in Ste. Marie and they will be on the website soon)
(More photos/specimens)

Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Cape Province, South Africa

Quartz with Red Phantoms, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 5.2 cm
(More photos/specimens)

More Saturday Presentations – Sixteen Years On: How mindat is Driving New Scientific Discoveries

Jolyon Ralph followed with a talk about mindat as it is today, status, and uses. (Jolyon has presented to the RMS on mindat before, so this was an update). As perhaps all of you know, is a “Wikipedia”-like site for mineral information, contributed by users and monitored by administrators. What fewer of you may know (along with me, I didn’t!) is that mindat now hosts over 5 million pages, including 800,000 photographs and profile information for 280,000 localities. (!) (As an aside, Jolyon calculated that the information on mindat would now print a stack of paper 5 km tall.)

Jolyon explained how mindat is now being used for scientific studies and more analytical use. He highlighted that mindat is now being used to draw links between localities, particularly with a view to predictive occurrence among similar types of deposits and occurrences. He also explained that an important consideration when using mindat relates to the biases of users and contributors. For example, there is far more collector interest in crystals of wulfenite than there is in crystals of nepheline, so the amount and quality of information on mindat for wulfenite is different than it is for nepheline.

Mindat is an incredible resource and it was interesting to hear the new ways in which it is being used.

Upside Down and In the Future – Mining Tasmania’s Adelaide Mine

Saturday afternoon was amazing. John Cornish led off with his great talk about the Adelaide Mine in Tasmania, the world’s preeminent crocoite locality. John is involved with the Adelaide Mine project and shared his experience with enthusiasm! He took us on a tour of the mine region, with great information on local flora, fauna and history. And then he took us underground, to see pockets of crocoite up to 7×4 metres. (!) Just amazing…

Crocoite Pocket at the Adelaide Mine, Tasmania, John CornishCrocoite Pocket at the Adelaide Mine, Tasmania
John Cornish photo.

There was one particular story I had not heard and really enjoyed…

All field collectors must adapt to the conditions and nature of the occurrence they are working. What that means in practice is that often the tools that will be of most help will vary wildly from one mineral locality to the next. And I think it’s safe to say that all of us who have done field work for a long time have found resourceful ways of addressing issues, and collecting more efficiently. Often, the need for resourcefulness is driven by our desire to minimize the risk to specimens in the extracting process. Clearly, care is required when collecting crocoite! And in his focus on minimizing damage, John had a resourceful way of minimizing percussion and therefore lowering the risk of popping crocoite crystals off…

Crocoite Underground at the Adelaide Mine, Tasmania, John CornishTrimming crocoite matrix with a hand saw, underground at the Adelaide Mine, Tasmania
John Cornish photo.

Some of the specimens recovered from the Adelaide Mine have been huge. Sometimes with large specimens in the field, we might include a prospector’s pick for scale. But in this case, John simply had himself included for scale.

Crocoite from the Adelaide Mine, Tasmania, John Cornish Crocoite from the Adelaide Mine, Tasmania
A very happy, if dirty, John Cornish for scale.

Crocoite from the Adelaide Mine, Tasmania, John Cornish

Crocoite from the Adelaide Mine, Tasmania
John Cornish photo.

John’s enthusiastic account was a highlight of RMS 2017.

If you are interested in seeing a bit more online about the Adelaide Mine, and more crocoite specimens, I am including a link to the Adelaide Mining Company’s website below, under Links and References.

Red Cloud Mine – The World’s Greatest Wulfenite Locality

John’s talk was a hard act to follow, but was Les Presmyk ever up to the task…

Les presented on the Red Cloud Mine, a locality that has inspired many of us as collectors since we began collecting minerals. Who doesn’t dream at night of perfect, glassy, sharp, lustrous. red-orange bevelled-square wulfenite crystals from this legendary mine? (Be honest.)

The Red Cloud is located in the Trigo Mountains, near the western border of southern Arizona. It was named after the prehistoric Red Cloud Trail, which leads to the west, on the California side of the Colorado River nearby.

Les took us through the early history of the mine, with some fascinating insights. One I liked was the explanation that because it is so relatively barren with no trees, lumber had to be brought in for quite a distance and was therefore expensive. Of course they did this to timber the mine tunnels, but it was too expensive for miners’ homes. So, the miners made their homes by digging tunnels into the side of the hill, to protect themselves and their belongings from the elements.

This presentation focused on significant mineral collecting at the Red Cloud over the years, beginning with Ed Over’s famous finds in the 1930s, and detailing the 1990s project by Wayne Thompson, James Horner and Les. During this time, the Red Cloud Mine was developed as an open pit operation, specifically for wulfenite specimens.

The most striking fact for me about this project was that from 1995 through 1999, only one significant pocket was found during the entire project – the 1997 pocket, that measured approximately 6 ft x 4 ft. That was it. For all the money spent on each year’s mining, very little was found. After major overburden removal beginning in 1995, and mining for months in advance of the Tucson show in early 1997, the team had assembled one flat of “decent” specimens from vugs and small pockets (under 10cm). Later in 1997 they hit the significant pocket, and from then until they stopped, very little was found – scare pockets and a few good specimens.  Suffice it to say, for the period following the 1997 pocket, the expenses far exceeded the value of specimens recovered. This puts into real perspective just how remarkable it is to have excellent Red Cloud wulfenite specimens from any era – they are rare and have come out of the ground at major cost.

Wulfenite Red Cloud Scovil

Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, Trigo Mountains, La Paz Co., Arizona – 10.7 cm
Les and Paula Presmyk specimen, J. Scovil photo.


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

This was a super talk!

Just as an aside, Red Cloud has been written about a lot, given its legendary status among mineral localities.  Of the many published articles and chapters in books, I particularly like the accounts in “Collecting Arizona, State of Mines, Legacy of Minerals” (recounted by Tony L. Potucek, Les Presmyk, Richard Graeme and others, edited by Terry Wallace with Gloria Staebler, Ray Grant, Suzanne Liebetrau and Tom Wilson, published by Lithographie, 2012), and I personally was originally inspired by the Red Cloud Mine section in Peter Bancroft’s classic “Gem and Crystal Treasures” (published by Western Enterprises-Mineralogical Record, 1984). These are good reads – I highly recommend them.

Sunday Finale

By Sunday morning, it was time to recover from all the orange and red crystals from Saturday afternoon.

In past years, we have sometimes had lower attendance on Sunday mornings, but again this year Sunday morning was most-hands-on-deck. (Granted a few stragglers had had too much fun Saturday night.)

Meet an Important Unknown Mineralogist

Belgian collector Herwig Pelckmans led off with a talk that was fascinating, and not only for its subject matter. In his research and work on certain minerals, Herwig had come across the name Vaes, in connection with several uncommon species, and he was curious to know who “Vaes” was. However, when he looked him up, there was almost no information readily available. And so Herwig began an extensive research investigation that led him eventually back to the family and descedants, as he learned about the mineralogist Johannes Vaes (1902-1978). Vaes was a Dutch mining engineeer who became a mineralogist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He worked with the company Union Miniere du Haut Katanga, and he identified and defined several new minerals.

Johannes Vaes, CongoJ. F. Vaes in Jadotville (now called Likasi), when he was most likely in his early thirties.
Unknown photographer. Copyright H. Pelckmans

Vaes was at the famous Shinkolobwe Mine, and it was here that he made his discoveries.

Old Belgian postcard showing the open pit of the Shinkolobwe uranium mine, printed by Nels.
Notice the original French spelling of the locality. Photo and copyright H. Pelckmans.

One striking fact about Vaes’ discoveries is that the only scientific instrument he had at his disposal was a polarizing microscope.

Saleeite, Shinkolobwe, Paul DeBondt

Saleeite, Shinkolobwe Mine, Shinkolobwe, Katanga Copper Crescent,
Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Field of view 3.6 cm
Paul De Bondt specimen and photo.

The mineral vaesite (NiS2) is named in his honour.

Vaesite, nepouite, uraninite, Shinkolobwe

Vaesite with Nepouite coating, associated with black uraninite crystals
Shinkolobwe Mine, Shinkolobwe, Katanga Copper Crescent,
Katanga, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Field of view 3.5 cm, vaesite crystal 1.1 cm.
Paul De Bondt specimen and photo.

At the end of this talk, we had an example of one of the great things about the RMS – the amazing pool of mineral knowledge and mineral history knowledge that is collected together in that ballroom. Van King was able to add an extra footnote to the talk, giving further context for the mineral collecting community: he was able to share that Vaes had in fact been the boss of famous mineral dealer Gilbert Gauthier (who was ultimately responsible for handling many of the fine DRC specimens that now grace collections around the world).

The Pioneer District, Pinal County, Arizona – The Silver King and Magma Mines

Les Presmyk gave the final talk at RMS 2017, about the Silver King Mine and the Magma Mine in the Pioneer District. This was another excellent presentation, with detailed historical accounts and wonderful historical photos. This one really struck me – today, it is hard to imagine horse/mule-drawn ore trains.

Silver King, Ore Wagon, 1880s.AHS

Mule-drawn ore wagons at the Silver King Mine, 1880s. AHS Photo.

This part of the talk is very well represented by Les’s recent excellent article in The Mineralogical Record, “The Arizona Silver Belt: Silver King to McMilllenville”, The Mineralogical Record July-August 2015, Vol. 46:4.

Les then spoke about the famous Magma Mine, where he had worked as a mining engineer. This mine is probably best known among collectors for the glassy barites it produced, but it also produced some wonderful calcite specimens.


 Calcite, 3700 Level, 4D Stope, Magma Mine, Superior, Pinal Co., Arizona -11.1 cm
Les and Paula Presmyk specimen, J. Scovil photo.


  Barite, 3600 Level, 4D Stope, Magma Mine, Superior, Pinal Co., Arizona – 7.1 cm
Les and Paula Presmyk specimen, J. Scovil photo.

The Rest of the Fun

As I write every year in my RMS posts, a lot of the best of Rochester occurs beyond the talks – in the halls, over meals, and on the 4th floor (the dealer floor, open when talks are not on).  Socializing continues well into the morning hours each night, and includes a few traditions – among others, the not-to-be-missed Saturday night mineral songs with David Joyce. (I assume most have heard Dave’s mineral collecting and mining tunes, but if not, I’m including a link below).
The collegiality at the RMS is unique among mineral events!


The Exhibit Room had great displays this year, as every year. Some are contributed by museums and many are contributed by collectors attending the RMS.

Terry Huizing Calcite Display, Rochester 2017

Calcite, Terry Huizing collection.
Amazing variety in this case.

As a reader, I often find it hard to take in many full-case displays in photos,  so here are just a few of the specimens that really struck me.

This brilliant bournonite in John Betts’ case has truly gorgeous twinning.

Bournonite, Yaoganzian Mine, John Betts collection

Bournonite, Yaoganxian Mine, Hunan, China – 3.6 cm
John Betts collection.

A huge spinel from the classic New York locality featured in the display from the New York State Museum.

Spinel, Monroe, Orange Co., New York, New York State Museum, Steve Chamberlain Collection

Spinel, Monroe, Orange Co., New York – approx 15 cm
Steve Chamberlain collection at the New York State Museum.

Super quartz from Palermo No.1 – for all the world looks like a fine contemporary Brazilian quartz, with bright, glassy lustre not conveyed in the photo.


Quartz, Palermo No. 1 Mine, North Groton, New Hampshire – approx 7 cm
Mined by Bob Whitmore. Maine Mineral and Gem Museum

A great nest of silver wires from Beaverdell, in George Thompson’s case.

Silver, Highland Bell Mine, Beaverdell, British Columbia, George Thompson collection

Silver, Highland Bell Mine, Beaverdell, British Columbia – approx 5 cm
George Thompson collection.

Two super specimens from John Medici’s case.

Celestine from Holloway Quarry, Fluorite from Auglaize Quarry
Celestine, Holloway Quarry, Newport, Michigan – approx 7 cm
Fluorite with Calcite, Auglaize Quarry, Junction, Ohio – approx 5 cm
John Medici collection.

This hematite took my breath away. It is spectacular! It was part of an excellent display case of hematite and goethite from the Diane Francis collection.

Hematite, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil, Diane Francis collection
Hematite, Casa de Pedra Mine, Congonhas, Minas Gerais, Brazil – approx 7 cm
Diane Francis collection.

David Joyce had a great case of Grenville minerals. I thought rather than include something you might be expecting, like one of Dave’s great titanites, fluorapatites or zircons, I’d opt for something we don’t usually see from the Grenville. This is a striking, bright yellow sphalerite crystal.

Sphalerite, Balmat, St. Lawrence Co., New York, David Joyce collection, formerly Bill Pinch collection

Sphalerite, Balmat, St.Lawrence Co., New York – approx 5 cm
David K. Joyce collection

This beautiful sphalerite was formerly in Bill Pinch’s collection, and he gave it to Dave as a gift, so it seemed particularly fitting to include as my last photo entry from the cases this year.

Bill Pinch

As mentioned above, the following is the full In Memoriam written by Steve Chamberlain and included at the beginning of the RMS Program Notes this year.

In Memoriam – Rochester Mineralogical Symposium

Bill Pinch passed away on April 1, 2017 from complications of earlier surgery. A reception will be held this year in Rochester, New York, to celebrate his life. Next February, there will be a memorial service in Tucson, Arizona. We will celebrate his many achievements next April at the 45th Rochester Mineralogical Symposium.

Bill was an elemental force in specimen mineralogy. One of his most significant achievements was the initiation of the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium. The First Annual Mineral Workshop was held 20-21 April 1974 at the Sheraton Inn in Canandaigua. Under the auspices of Mineral Section President, Kay Jensen, Bill and Dave Jensen served as co-chairmen this first year. The second workshop, now the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium, was held 17-20 April 1975 in the downtown Holiday Inn and was again co-chaired by Bill and Dave Jensen.

For the next ten years, Pinch served as convening co-chairman and helped build the Symposium into an internationally-recognized annual event, setting the highest standards for speakers, exhibits and congeniality. He initiated the annual What’s New in Minerals – still a popular Saturday morning part of the event. He also began the annual production of Program Notes. With the 13th RMS, formal leadership of the Symposium passed to others, but Bill continued to serve as an advisor. With his support, the Technical Session was added to the Friday afternoon program and important mineralogical works were reprinted, including Goldschmidt’s Atlas der Krystalformen and Beck’s Mineralogy of New York State, to name just a few.

At the 25th Symposium, Bill gave a keynote address, “50 Years of Mineral Collecting; 25 Years of the Symposium”.  The preceding year, the Symposium had donated the annual proceeds of its annual auction to the successful funding effort for the Canadian Museum of Nature to purchase the W.W.Pinch mineral collection, establishing another legacy.

Slowly, over the next decades, Bill drifted away from direct participation in the Symposium We were delighted by his attendance at the 43rd RMS on the occasion of Michael Bainbridge’s talk, “The William W. Pinch Collection at the Canadian Museum of Nature”. The coming book of the same title will be a fitting memorial to Bill’s success in assembling a world-class mineral collection.  Here we acknowledge our debt to Bill for his successful efforts in beginning and growing the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium. Godspeed.

2018 RMS

As I mentioned up top, RMS 2018 will be a little different – it will be dedicated to Bill’s memory, and it will include talks on several topics that were close to Bill’s heart – among them, Tsumeb, Rare Minerals and Fine Minerals. Stay tuned for updates, as arrangements are finalized.  The dates are April 19-22 ,2018.

Until Next Year…

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

Of course, the Symposium could literally not happen without the dedicated efforts of the team who put it together – countless thanks to Steve Chamberlain (chair), Helen Chamberlain (registrar), and many others on the committee and those helping at the event and in the background, including Dan Imel, Carl Francis, Bruce Gaber, Brian McGrath, Bob Morgan, Betty Fetter, George and Susan Robinson, Quintin Wight, Elizabeth Von Bacho and Tom White. I hope I haven’t missed anyone!

And thank you to all of the speakers and photographers from this year, for all of your help with photos to share through this report.

Links and References

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

On Bill Pinch’s website, there are tabs for the In Memoriam and also Links (this latter includes three links, with a video produced after the Canadian Museum of Nature acquired his original collection).

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

The new book by Robert J. Lauf: Collectors’ Guide to Orthosilicates

The Adelaide Mining Company has lots more crocoite photos (mining and specimens available) on its website. The underground photos are in the History section – they really give a sense of how tight most of these pockets have been, and provides good context for how remarkably well the specimens have been collected and preserved.

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

When they are available, the 44th RMS Program Notes will be posted online here.

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.29.2015 | Filed under: Adventurers, Latest | Comments (0)


Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy has been famous among mineral collectors for a long time. In fact, these coastal cliffs were internationally-known for their zeolites before Canada existed as a country.

(Just a note: this post is really The Bay of Fundy Part I. The next post, Part II, is about collecting the Islands, in the Bay of Fundy, so I hope you’ll fund that one fun too – the link is below, under the Links heading near the end of this post.)

Wasson's Bluff Sunrise, Nova ScotiaEarly summer morning at Wasson’s Bluff

Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy shoreline occurrences are early classic Canadian mineral localities, and have been producing superb specimens of many mineral species since the mid-19th century. For perspective, this is well ahead of the recovery of mineral specimens from other well-known Canadian localities like the Jeffrey Quarry at Asbestos or Mont St. Hilaire (Quebec), the Bancroft Area or Thunder Bay District (Ontario) or Rapid Creek (Yukon) – in some cases, over 100 years before the minerals of these localities were even discovered.

Specimens from the Bay of Fundy were noted in late 19th century texts and reports in Canada and internationally, and crystals of of gmelinite from Pinnacle Island (albeit as “Pinnack Island”) are included in Victor Goldschmidt’s early 20th century Atlas der Krystallformen.

Today, fine mineral specimens are still periodically recovered along the coasts of the Bay of Fundy, making this area one of the most productive contemporary regions for Canadian fine mineral specimens.

This post focuses on three classic localities: Wasson’s Bulff, Amethyst Cove and Cape D’Or. Part 2, a second post, is about two more classic localities, Two Islands and Five Islands – a link is at the end of this post.


First, just a bit of orientation. As shown to the left of centre on the map below, the Bay of Fundy is a large, elongated bay on the Atlantic Ocean. The area of interest for mineral collectors is at the northeastern area of the Bay of Fundy, including the Minas Basin, in the centre of the map. From Cape D’Or on the north shoreline, to the Morden area on the south shore, the linear length of shoreline to travel to the various mineral occurrences is over 400 km (approximately 250 miles).

Note in particular the tiny hook-shaped feature (the Blomidon Peninsula) poking up in the middle of this map, separating the triangle-shaped Minas Basin from the wider Bay of Fundy.

Bay of Fundy Map 1(Google Earth 2015, Image credits: Landsat, NOAA.)

Zooming in closer, with the “hook” of the Blomidon Peninsula in the centre of the map below, I’ve plotted just a few of the most important Bay of Fundy mineral localities. These are to give a general idea, but in many cases the names of localities on the Bay of Fundy are used to refer to a stretch of shoreline, not one specific plotted point. The town of Parrsboro, right of centre, hosts the Nova Scotia Gem and Mineral Show every August (a long-established show, it has passed its 50th anniversary), and is home to the Fundy Geological Museum.

Bay of Fundy Map 2(Google Earth 2015, Image credits: Landsat, NOAA.)

In this post, I use the term “Bay of Fundy” to include the area that is known as the Minas Basin, east of the Blomidon Peninsula.

Background – World Class Mineral Specimens

From the 1830s on, the Bay of Fundy began to attract attention for its mineral occurrences, particularly the zeolites and associated minerals.

Several minerals occur in world-class specimens from the Bay of Fundy localities: analcime, chabazite and gmelinite are the classics.

Excellent specimens of natrolite and thomsonite are also found. Even certain more common minerals, known in spectacular specimens from other world localities, occur in rather unique specimens from the Bay of Fundy – for example, stilbite colours range into distinctive and beautiful golden yellow and cinnamon brown, while heulandite can be various colours, including brilliant orange. The type locality for mordenite is Morden, on the south shore of the Bay of Fundy.

It should be noted that the Bay of Fundy is also known for agates and pretty amethyst specimens.

About the Bay of Fundy

The coastlines along the Bay of Fundy include many exposures of rock, including cliffs up to about 100m (300 ft) high. The Bay of Fundy mineral localities are typically exposed rock the base of the cliffs themselves, and also some large rock falls where cliff sections have collapsed onto the beaches.

BlomidonSunriseSunrise from camp at the top of the Cape Blomidon cliffs

Unlike many other mineral localities, the Bay of Fundy occurrences are constantly refreshed by strong forces of nature. The Bay of Fundy itself does a lot of the work. The ocean here is particularly powerful, with incredible tides, periodic major Atlantic storms and occasional hurricanes.

The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world: the difference between high and low tide can be about 16 metres (over 50 feet) (!).

FundyTideLong way down to the boats at low tide on the Bay of Fundy

The waves and the pounding action of the tides, compounded by storms, scour the shorelines. Of course they also have the power to pile lots of unwanted rock on top of a good vein and bury it – so one never really knows what to expect at a locality on any given visit! The cliffs themselves are highly susceptible to erosion from heavy rain storms, and particularly from the freeze-thaw cycle in winter. Huge sections of the cliff walls crash down onto the beaches, and sometimes those rockfalls contain excellent mineralized zones.

All this action from the ocean is helpful, but it is also a power to be respected, both on the water and on the shore. From low tide to high tide, 14 cubic kilometres (14 billion tonnes) of water race through the relatively narrow gap between Cape Split and Cape D’Or. It is said that during a rising tide, at mid-tide, the channel by Cape Spilt is filled at a rate of 4 cubic kilometres of water per hour, equal to the combined flow of all of the world’s rivers and streams. This causes turbulent tidal currents and can create treacherous boating conditions.

FundyLighthouseLighthouses have dotted the Bay of Fundy clifftops since historical times.
The ocean looks pretty peaceful from this high up on the cliffs…

It goes without saying that one needs to be very careful when collecting along the Bay of Fundy. (Please read the Please Use Caution section at the end of this post.) Collecting trips are timed exactly with the tides – at some locations, getting caught on the shore against the cliffs in a rising tide would be fatal. In addition, one must be careful about being anywhere near the cliffs, and obviously hard hats are worn in these areas. True, with the rare rockfalls that exceed the size of a car, the hard hat would be about as useful as Wyle E. Coyote’s umbrella, but most of the time what falls is small enough that a hard hat can save you a nasty headache, or save your head from becoming cratered.

Overview – Geology

The geology of the cliffs and surrounding Bay of Fundy formations reveals a complex history, far beyond the scope of this post. The rock formations exposed in this region include Carboniferous, Triassic and Jurassic deposits. Various rock types outcrop in the cliffs, including basalts, sandstones and siltstones. Many of the sedimentary rocks in the Bay of Fundy host important fossil occurrences, notably the early reptile fossils in the outcrops at Joggins, and dinosaur fossils in the sandstones near Parrsboro and Wasson’s Bluff.

WassonGeoCliff section exposing basalt and sandstone at Wasson’s Bluff

Of greatest interest to mineral collectors are the basalt exposures. These relate to many separate lava flows during the late Triassic period (a little over 200 million years ago) and they host cavities and vein structures in which well-crystallized minerals are found. The cavities, known as amygdules, were originally formed as gas bubbles trapped in the lava as it cooled and hardened. Later, water flooded the amygdules and minerals formed. (Among the most commonly seen examples of amygdules from basaltic-host environments are the large amethyst cavities from Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, and Artigas, Uruguay).

AmygdulesSmall amygdules containing zeolite minerals in fractured basalt at Amethyst Cove.

Within the Bay of Fundy deposits, in addition to the amygdaloidal basalt occurrences there are significant breccia zones, where fluids filled cracks and mineralized veins resulted. Most often, as in the photo below, these are narrow seams with minimal potential for mineral specimens, but some of these veins are of sufficient size and complexity that they include excellent hollow zones and cavities in which crystals formed. Crystal-hosting zones are often very narrow and must be collected with extreme care, while it is very common to see crystals that just didn’t have adequate open space to fully develop. Certain seams have allowed for the development of crystallized copper.


Typical breccia zone seam containing small chabazite crystals on the beach at Wasson’s Bluff

Collecting Minerals Along the Bay of Fundy

At some localities along the Bay of Fundy, collecting is not for the faint of heart (figuratively or literally).

As one might expect, access is over the cliffs, down to the shores. In places, ropes are needed.

AmCoveRopesGrab on and down we go! A small section of the ropes on the trail to Amethyst Cove.

CapD'OrCliffLadderOver the last clifftops and down, at Cape D’Or

Wasson’s Bluff

Of course it’s hard to isolate a single Bay of Fundy locality, but if one had to choose, perhaps the most prolific one through mineral collecting history has been Wasson’s Bluff, which has been collected since the mid-nineteenth century.

WassonSceneryThe view at Wasson’s Bluff (which is along the shore).
This scene is looking toward Two Islands and Five Islands, at nearly high tide.

Wasson’s Bluff is known for superb chabazite crystals, balls of natrolite crystals, analcime crystals and golden-yellow stilbite fans.

It should be noted that Wasson’s Bluff has a protected designation under provincial law. Collecting is only permitted on the beach, and not in the cliffs. (All specimens depicted herein were obtained legally.) It is also important to observe that some of the access requires the crossing of private land and permission must be obtained.

One can access Wasson’s Bluff via different routes. One of them follows a narrow gully carved in the sandstone by runoff waters.

WassonsCowCreekGeorge Thompson and David K. Joyce making their way down to Wasson’s Bluff

WassonsCowCreekDescentDavid Joyce took this photo of me descending the rope through the gap in the cliffs.
(Note the background expanse of the tidal flats at low tide. At high tide, the water is up at the driftwood by the cliffs.)

The name Wasson’s Bluff is used to refer to a fairly long stretch of shoreline cliffs, rather than a single cliff or outcrop.

WassonsBeachA late spring scene at Wasson’s Bluff, tide receding

Some good collecting can be done when cliff sections have come down onto the beach as rock falls. A current one is the “Analcime Fall”, where lustrous glassy analcime crystals can be found.

WassonsAnalcimeFallThe collapsed cliff section at Wasson’s Bluff known as the “Analcime Fall”.  (Two Islands on the horizon).

I use the term “current” for the Analcime Fall because even though it is large, just as with everything else on the Bay of Fundy, the ocean will devour this rock pile.

Other mineralized zones outcrop when the tidal waters have scoured the beach clear, making beach collecting possible. For example, in the zones known to host chabazite crystals, some veins and vugs are exposed in the rocks down on the beach. These openings are often very tight, interconnected cavities with little open space for the crystals to have developed. The intergrown crystals are fragile and the basalt is friable, making these very difficult to collect as fine mineral specimens.

WassonsChabaziteinSituChabazite in this vug had particularly fine deep orange colour and good lustre.
This is in situ on the beach at Wasson’s Bluff and the largest crystal is about 2 cm.

Sadly, the largest crystal in the above photo was cracked, as you can see if you look closely. However, the next photo shows a fine specimen that was successfully collected from the vug above:

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

Chabazite with Heulandite and Calcite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 7.2 cm

After a good day on the beach, there are specimens to haul back.


Returning along the beach at Wasson’s Bluff. David Joyce photo.

Here are some specimens from this classic locality:

Natrolite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia - crystal ball 2 cmNatrolite on Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 2 cm crystal ball

Natrolite on Analcime, Wasson''s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Natrolite on Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – crystal ball 2 cm

Natrolite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Natrolite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 5.7 cm

Natrolite on Analcime, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Natrolite on Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – balls to 1.1 cm

Natrolite with Analcime, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Natrolite with Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia
Field of view approximately 5 cm

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

Chabazite with Heulandite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 3.0 cm

Chabazite Wasson's Bluff Nova Scotia

Twinned Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia - crystal 1.1 cm

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

Chabazite (beautifully twinned), Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 3.0 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 7.7 cm

An interesting note about Wasson’s Bluff chabazite, as we’re strolling through some of the various chabazite colours from the locality… At one time, the dark brick-red crystals (such as in the photo below) were given the mineral name “acadialite”, after Acadia, the name (L’Acadie) of the French colony that was comprised of modern-day Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and parts of eastern Quebec and Maine. However, when it was ultimately determined that there was no composition distinction between acadialite and chabazite, acadialite was dropped and is now an obsolete name for chabazite. One still sees the name acadialite on old labels once in a while.

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

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – crystals to 2.0 cm

Stilbite and Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Stilbite with Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia
Field of view approximately 4.5 cm

100653(2)Stilbite on Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia
Field of view approximately 2.5 cm

Even though the arrival of fall in Canada is a sad signal that we’re almost done collecting until spring, we nonetheless appreciate that the woods above Wasson’s Bluff are beautiful in the fall!

WassonsFallBirch, maple and fir in the woods above Wasson’s Bluff.

Amethyst Cove

Amethyst Cove is one of the well-known localities on the Blomidon Peninsula, between Cape Blomidon and Cape Split. The mineral locality name “Amethyst Cove” is usually used to refer to a significant stretch of the coastline between Cape Blomidon and Cape Split, and not only the cove itself.

Collecting at Amethyst Cove presents a more significant expedition than most other localities on the Bay of Fundy. The hike is a bit involved, with forest sections, rocky beach sections, and of course the ropes. Lots of ropes.

A nice gentle start greets you at the top of the rope section.

TerryAmCove1Terry Collett leading the way

But the fact that the Minas Basin is so far below, visible looking down through the trees…

… means that this is what I think of when I think of Amethyst Cove.

TerryAmCove2Terry Collett down on the next ledge, undoubtedly wondering what’s taking me so long. He flies over terrain like this.

Down at the base of the cliffs, the scenery is stunning.

AmethystCove3The shoreline hike to Amethyst Cove (which is out near the point)

DKJAmethystCoveDavid Joyce exploring the seams at Amethyst Cove

AmethystCove1The cliffs near Amethyst Cove

As the name would suggest, Amethyst Cove has long been known for vugs of amethyst crystals.  Often a mid-purple colour, most frequently the vugs and crystals are relatively small (comparatively speaking, in relation to world localities). They are quite distinctive and attractive, often with pale agate in association. Amethyst Cove and the Blomidon Peninsula host seams of agate of various kinds, and people hike the beach searching for them.  The colours and aspects of these agates vary considerably (and it’s beyond my field of experience in general) – here is a typical one from Big Eddy.


Agate and Quartz, Big Eddy, Blomidon Peninsula, Kings Co., Nova Scotia – 8.8 cm

However, among mineral collectors, the true classics for which Cape Blomidon and Amethyst Cove are best known are the analcime crystals. The finest analcime crystals from here rank among some of the finest from anywhere.

Analcime with Stilbite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova Scotia

Analcime with Stilbite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova Scotia – 3.3 cm crystal

Analcime with Stilbite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova Scotia

Analcime with Stilbite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova Scotia – 1.3 cm crystal

Cape Blomidon has also produced excellent specimens of thomsonite (thomsonite-Ca) in mounds and balls of small bladed crystals.

Thomsonite, Cape Blomidon, Kings Co., Nova Scotia

Thomsonite, Cape Blomidon, Kings Co., Nova Scotia
Field of view 1.5 cm

A pocket opened up by David Joyce at Amethyst Cove in 2015 produced a few crystals of apophyllite that are quite large for this species along the Bay of Fundy.


Apophyllite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova Scotia – 4.4 cm crystal

One absolutely great thing about ropes and cliffs… is that they make you think long and hard about how much rock you really want to haul out from the site. (You already have your equipment weighing down your pack…)


David Joyce and Terry Collett on the ropes as we start back up


As soon as you get to the top of one section, you have a nice clear view of… the next section. Up, up, up!

Cape D’Or

Back on the north shore of the Bay of Fundy, Cape D’Or is spectacular, both for its cliffs and its minerals. The hike to Cape D’Or is moderate, with ropes to assist, but the route is not as steep or as long as Amethyst Cove. The last stretch down the rock face at the shore can be done by rope down the small waterfall, or by ladder. Down at the shore, the rugged cliffs stretch on in either direction.

CapeD'OrShoreThe cliffs at Cape D’Or

CapD'OrSeaweedLow tide at Cape D’Or

The Cape D’Or cliffs are huge. In the following photo, Terry Collett gives a sense of scale, at the small bottom section of one of the large cliff walls.

CapD'OrTerryScaleTerry Collett examines a zone that has produced mesolite, stilbite and other minerals in the past

Everything at Cape D’Or seems large – the boulders and rocks on the shoreline require a bit of careful navigation if you want to make any progress (and remain upright!)

MeCapeD'OrDavid Joyce took this photo of me for scale

Some of the pocket zones along this shoreline are impressive.

CapD'OrDaveCavityDavid Joyce in a mesolite pocket zone

Earlier in 2015, a large wall section came down from high on the cliff face, and crashed onto the beach – it is full of mineralized cavities and seams. Shown in the photo below, this is an example of a rock fall where neither your hard hat nor Wyle E. Coyote’s umbrella would save you.


George Thompson and David Joyce examining vugs and seams

This fall was informally named the “Apophyllite Fall”, as it yielded large numbers of specimens hosting sharp colourless apophyllite crystals. The rocks in this fall zone also contained significant amounts of mesolite and some associated stilbite. (The mesolite we found exposed at surface was cool to see, but not fine mineral specimen-calibre).

CapD'OrMesoliteMesolite covering a cavity wall – field of view approx 10 cm.

In recent years, Cape D’Or has perhaps best been known for the native copper specimens that have been collected from tight seams in one zone of basalt at the base of the cliffs. Some great crystallized copper specimens have been found.

As a locality note, there is more than one Cape D’Or copper occurrence, and the one that has produced many of the specimens (including the ones that follow) is on the shore near the historic workings of the Colonial Copper Mine. As a result, most labels use “Colonial Copper Mine” to identify that it is from these seams, where the mine workings are.

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D'Or, Nova ScotiaCopper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia – 8.3 cm

The fact that a number of these have been on the market might suggest two thoughts: (1) that they are easy to obtain, or (2) that they will become plentiful. I can personally confirm that the first thought is categorically false (!) and the second one is unlikely to become true. At present, a zone of exposed and fractured material yielding excellent copper specimens has been removed, and although copper can still be found, most of the remaining exposed rock is tight bedrock, with few signs of continuing copper at this time. (Hopefully the ocean will help a bit over time, but this is back from the usual reach of the waves, and even the metal detector isn’t encouraging, for now.)

In any event, I thought you might like me to illustrate my rejection of the “easy to obtain” idea.  The copper occurs in narrow seams of celadonite cutting through the basalt. The basalt is solid stuff – when you are wailing away on it, it’s not something weathered or loose on the surface. You’ve hit solid Canada – hard rock. Meanwhile the copper is delicate, thin, and as if it is filigree. The copper is still very attached to Canada. A challenge, particularly if your goal is to remove the copper with a little bit of nice matrix!

To immerse yourself in the full Canadian-weather Cape D’Or experience in the next couple of photos, add a chilly wind, and note that the water in these photos is due to a cold November rain. (Yes, feel free to cue the Guns N’ Roses if you like, but there was no holding of candles.)

This photo shows nice crystallized copper, edge-on, in solid rock.


Copper in situ at Cape D’Or

Eventually, after a major effort, Terry Collett successfully extracted this section of copper, and here is a specimen:

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D'Or, Nova ScotiaCopper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia – copper 4.8 cm across

One can work around a group of copper crystals, chiselling the hard rock as I did with this one…

CapD'OrCopperSitu2Copper (about 3 cm) still attached to Canada, at Cape D’Or

… but ultimately after about an hour of hard work, the crystal aggregate sadly popped off with no matrix, and it was not as interesting as it looked like it might have been. C’est la vie!

Some nice specimens collected in recent years:

Copper, Cape D’Or, Cumberland Co., Nova ScotiaCopper, Cape D’Or, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia - 9.1 cm

Copper, Cape D’Or, Cumberland Co., Nova ScotiaCopper, Cape D’Or, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia - 7.2 cm

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D'Or, Nova ScotiaCopper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia – 7.3 cm

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D'Or, Nova Scotia

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia
Field of view 3.5 cm

Cape D’Or is known for fine specimens of many minerals, including the zeolites and associated species. Finds of particular interest have included thomsonite and some super stilbite epimorphs after mesolite.


Thomsonite-Ca, Cape D’Or, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 6.9 cm

Stilbite epimorph after mesolite, Cape D'Or, Nova ScotiaStilbite epimorph after mesolite, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia – 7.0 cm

As winter settles in, we all hope that over the coming months with the freeze-thaw cycles and storms, the cliffs at Cape D’Or will drop more nice, big mineralized blocks full of amazing crystal pockets down onto the beach, just in time for the next collecting season. (Who dreams of “sugarplums” for Christmas? I mean really. There are so many better things to dream about. Mmmmm… pockets of gleaming crystals…)

The End of Collecting Season

In most parts of Canada, November heralds the end of collecting season. There’s no need to bother telling this to the hardest-of-hard-core Bay of Fundy collectors because they will  sometimes be out year-round, with equipment to facilitate climbing on the ice and snow (!). However, for Canadian collectors with local mineral localities inland from the coasts, the ground freezes solid, localities fill with solid ice and are buried in snow… we know the signs of late fall mean that it’s time to allow Canadian winter to run its course again.


White pine with early-November blueberry bushes above the Bay of Fundy,
in Cumberland County, Nova Scotia

About the Mineral Specimens in this Post

Many of the mineral specimens in this post are, or have recently been, available for sale on this website. I do my best to source Bay of Fundy minerals regularly, and to ensure that there are excellent specimens available (click here for Bay of Fundy Specimens).

I should note that the specimens photographed in this post (and the ones on the website at the above link) were collected by several people, including those mentioned in the next section, over years of visits to Bay of Fundy localities. While it is certainly possible to personally collect a good specimen during a visit, most of the specimens that come to light are the result of regular year-round visits to the most productive localities by a number of hard-working Nova Scotia mineral collectors. As with all mineral collecting, sometimes these visits produce fine specimens.


Just a quick note to express my thanks to some friends in the Nova Scotia mineral collecting community. To Terry Collett, with his encyclopedic Nova Scotia mineral knowledge and amazing memory – he may know almost every mineralized seam and outcrop along the Bay of Fundy. (It’s a bit scary.) An extraordinary field-collector and our generous friend in the field – thank you!

TerryDescentCapD'OrTerry Collett descending the ropes at Cape D’Or.
(Photographing wildlife – always challenging – is easier than catching Terry in a sharp still photo,
thanks to his enthusiasm and energetic speed when out field collecting.)

Thanks to Ronnie Van Dommelen for hosting us to learn from your amazing collection, and for making so much superb Nova Scotia mineral information available to all of us on your definitive Nova Scotia mineralogy website (please see References below). Thanks to another well-known superb field collector, Doug Wilson, for great time at Wasson’s Bluff (Doug and Jackie run the Amethyst Boutique in Parrsboro) and of course for all of your hospitality.

DougWilsonWassonDoug Wilson at Wasson’s Bluff

Thanks to Dino Nardini (who runs Nova Scotia Agate) for hosting our collection visit.

And thank you very much to Rod and Helen Tyson (Tyson’s Fine Minerals, in Parrsboro) for your warm hospitality.

As always, thanks to Dave Joyce, for all that goes into our adventures. (For the contributed photos too!)



Part 2: Mineral Collecting on the Islands, Bay of Fundy (click here)

Mineral Specimens from Nova Scotia’s Bay of Fundy currently available for sale (click here)


Please Use Caution!

There are serious accidents every year along the Bay of Fundy. Provincial emergency rescue teams are required to respond to evacuate hikers and others, and unfortunately these stories do not always have happy endings. People have lost their lives here. It may look gentle and mild in some of the photographs here (taken on the calmest of days), but absolutely don’t underestimate it – please be careful if you ever visit.

Any arrangements in this area must be made with careful consideration of the tide times and the weather conditions – mistakes in this regard can literally be fatal. Weather conditions on the Bay of Fundy can change incredibly rapidly. One must always have an eye on the time, the tide and the weather: always have a plan for managing a safe exit.

No visit to any Bay of Fundy locality should ever be made alone. Even some of the most careful, experienced Bay of Fundy mineral collectors have required the assistance of one or more additional persons to safely exit a Bay of Fundy mineral locality, either due to injuries or storms.

Many of the trails and access areas are steep and dangerous. The beach cobbles and shore bedrock can be super-slippery, particularly when wet. As between the trails and the shorelines, I think we’ve all fallen somewhere at some point along the way on these excursions.

Use of many of the access trails should not be undertaken without an accompanying guide.

The rocks comprising the cliffs along the Bay of Fundy can be loose and very unstable – some of the rock units are particularly weak. Always wear a hard hat and do not climb the cliffs.

Most of the collecting localities along the Bay of Fundy are unsafe and are certainly not appropriate for children. Beach collecting in a few of the very easy-access beach areas on the Bay of Fundy, away from cliffs, may be fine for children of an appropriate age, provided that it is conducted with continuous adult supervision to ensure, among other things, careful observation of the tides and avoidance of the strong undercurrents that can occur all around the Bay of Fundy.

This post does not constitute advice or recommendation to travel to the localities mentioned, and any decision to do so is each person’s own risk and responsibility. Adherence to applicable law and respect of private property are fundamental, and each of us is individually responsible – for ourselves, families and friends, and to the mineral collecting community as a whole – to be compliant and respectful at all times. If you are crossing or conducting any activity on private property, appropriate permissions must be obtained.


If you would like to read more about Nova Scotia minerals or research Nova Scotia mineral localities (including beyond the Bay of Fundy), I highly recommend Ronnie Van Dommelen’s great website,  The Mineralogy of Nova Scotia

For additional reading, see also Van Dommelen, R. and Collett, T., “An Introduction to Minerals in Nova Scotia and a Report on Recent Collecting” in Rocks and Minerals 81:1 (Jan/Feb 2006), pp. 54-61

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.29.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve added a new Nova Scotia Update (click here), with minerals from the Bay of Fundy. This update accompanies the new post about Nova Scotia Mineral Collecting – The Bay of Fundy, with specimens from the classic Bay of Fundy localities highlighted in that article: Wasson’s Bluff, Amethyst Cove and Cape D’Or.

This is the first of two Bay of Fundy updates. Next week’s update will feature specimens from different localities – the islands (particularly the gmelinite localities) and Cape Split. An article about these localities is also now on the site, Mineral Collecting on the Islands – Bay of Fundy (click here) to give a little sense of what is behind the specimens from the islands.

To see mineral specimens from the Bay of Fundy currently available for sale, click here.


This update features superb analcime crystals and chabazite crystals, beautiful balls and sprays of natrolite crystals, delicate crystallized copper and more.

Analcime with Stilbite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova Scotia Analcime with Stilbite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova Scotia – 3.3 cm crystal

Analcime with Stilbite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova ScotiaAnalcime with Stilbite, Amethyst Cove, Kings Co., Nova Scotia – 1.3 cm crystal

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

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 3.0 cm

Chabazite, Wasson's Bluff, Nova Scotia

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

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

Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 4.1 cm

Analcime, Mackay Head, Cumberland Co. Nova Scotia

Analcime, Mackay Head, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 4.1 cm

Natrolite with Analcime, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova ScotiaNatrolite with Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia
Field of view approximately 4.5 cm

Natrolite, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Natrolite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia – 5.7 cm

Natrolite on Analcime, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Natrolite on Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia
Natrolite crystal balls to approximately 1.1 cm

Natrolite on Analcime, Wasson's Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia

Natrolite on Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland Co., Nova Scotia
Field of view approximately cm

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D'Or, Nova Scotia

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia – cm

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D'Or, Nova Scotia

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia
Field of view approximately 3.5 cm

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D'Or, Nova Scotia

Copper, Colonial Copper Mine, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia – 8.3 cm

Thomsonite, Cape Blomidon, Kings Co., Nova Scotia

Thomsonite, Cape Blomidon, Kings Co., Nova Scotia
Field of view approximately 1.5 cm

Stilbite epimorph after mesolite, Cape D'Or, Nova Scotia

Stilbite epimorph after Mesolite, Cape D’Or, Nova Scotia – 7.0 cm