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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 10.06.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted a small number of great new specimens in this new Afghanistan Update (click here).  This update includes brilliant lustrous andradite crystals from the Spin Ghar range, and red zircon from the Dara-i-Pech District.

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 3.7 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 3.3 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 4.5 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet,  Diopside and Epidote, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range,
Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – field of view 4.0 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet and Epidote with Clinochlore, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range,
Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – field of view 2.5 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 5.5 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 6.0 cm

Zircon, Dara-i-Pech District, Konar Province, Afghanistan

Zircon, Dara-i-Pech District, Konar Province, Afghanistan – 3.7 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.25.2014 | Filed under: Adventurers, Bancroft, Ontario, Latest | Comments (0)

VTrail

Bancroft, Ontario is well known among mineral collectors. For over 100 years, specimens from the “Bancroft Area*” have been added to collections around the world, gracing the display cases of museums and private collectors. Photographs of minerals from the Bancroft Area often feature in 20th century North American mineral literature. However, these days, so many of these minerals are classics and can be super hard to obtain – they are seldom available on the international market. Nonetheless, they can be field collected. Although some localities in the region will never produce again, Bancroft mineral collecting continues each year. Of course, finding amazing specimens usually requires tons of hard work and some good luck (knowledge helps too). We sure don’t always come home with awesome display pieces! But every year new great specimens are found in the Bancroft Area.

And fall is a beautiful time here… I thought you might like some glimpses of fall and recent mineral collecting in the Bancroft Area.

Fall colours

Fall colours, Bancroft Area, Ontario

(* For mineral collectors, the term “Bancroft Area” has been used informally and inconsistently over the years to refer to a broad region that extends in a radius of perhaps 50-100km from the town of Bancroft itself. The “Bancroft Area” has variously been considered to include parts of the Haliburton Highlands, Algonquin Highlands, Hastings Highlands and Madawaska Highlands, and I use it inclusively, as many of us do.)

North and Northwest of Bancroft

The regions to the north and northwest of Bancroft are stunning, but we have not seen too many spectacular mineral finds here in recent years. To the further northwest lies Algonquin Park, which is an amazing place (it’s also huge, at 7,653 sq km). It is not a mineral collecting area, but just to deviate from the minerals for a short moment, if you are a first time visitor to this part of Ontario, a drive through the park (and a stop at the interpretive centre) provides great scenery and a super introduction to the wildlife native to the region.

Fall Blue Jay

Autumn Blue Jay

By fall, the mosquitoes and black flies are no longer an issue. However, part of the reason the bugs are gone is the cold – by fall, it can be pretty chilly in the mornings. On the bright side, the frost can be a nice compliment to the scenery.

Opeongo

Frosty scene near Lake Opeongo, Algonquin Park, Ontario

At times, some of the fall colours can be so bright that they appear almost unnatural. (If only our minerals were equally colourful!)

LakeTwoRiversFall

Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Park, Ontario

The intense colours also make for beautiful more intimate scenes.

OxtoungeRiverOxtongue River, near Algonquin Park, Ontario

And there are lots of great wild animals and birds throughout the larger “Bancroft Area” region.

Deer2

Curious White-Tailed Deer

Ok, ok, now back to the minerals.

North Baptiste Lake Road

In the area north of Bancroft, and not as far as Algonquin Park, one spot that has produced interesting mineral specimens in very recent times is a forested locality known as the North Baptiste Lake Road occurrence (on private land, permission/arrangements are required). My collecting partner David Joyce and I did some scouting at this locality this year for a couple of days. We found many mineralized zones with scapolite crystals, pyroxene (augite/diopside) crystals, and minor titanite crystals, but they were all in tight seams with poor crystal development and did not yield fine specimens. The most intriguing find from this excursion was a cool molybdenite crystal.

Moly1

Molybdenite, 3.5 cm blocky prismatic crystal from North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario. D.K. Joyce collection and photo.

Out of interest, here are two specimens I acquired from the collector who inspired us to go scouting at this locality in the first place. These specimens were collected in 2013.

DiopsideDiopside with Scapolite, North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario – 5.1 cm

Titanite1

Titanite (1.8 cm crystal) with Diopside and Scapolite, North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario

Certainly an interesting and prospective area. However, time, hard work and knowledge must be supplemented with good luck too… maybe next time we’ll do a little better!

West of Bancroft

To the west of Bancroft, some of the area’s best localities continue to produce fine specimens and others are prospected in hopes of new finds.

Bear Lake*

[*Important Note: As of May 2016, the Bancroft Chamber of Commerce has sold the property on which the Bear Lake Diggings are situated. This property is now privately owned, and all collecting and visiting are absolutely prohibited by the new owners.]

One of the Bancroft Area’s most prolific localities from the 1980s through to 2015 was “Bear Lake”, also referred to as “the Bear Lake Diggings” and “Bear Lake Road”. For much of this time, the locality was operated on a permit basis for collecting by the public by the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce.

Bear Lake is a classic “calcite vein-dyke” occurrence that produced specimens of many minerals but it is best known for excellent lustrous brown titanite crystals (formerly named “sphene” – crystals can reach sizes over 20 cm), green to reddish fluorapatite crystals (in some cases Beak Lake fluorapatite has been faceted into beautiful green stones), very fine crystals of biotite, and the world’s finest crystals of ferri-fluoro-katophorite, for which Bear Lake is the type locality. (Note: ferri-fluoro-katophorite is a black amphibole, sometimes locally just called “hornblende”, but confirmed by electron microprobe analysis (Robert Martin and I did at McGill University) to be ferri-fluoro-katophorite. It has in the past been classified as fluor-magnesiokatophorite. (Tempting to offer editorial thoughts on amphibole nomenclature, but I digress… we’re all going to be tempted to revert to the incorrect “hornblende” pretty soon!)  Some of the individual euhedral crystals at Bear Lake were huge: fluorapatite to 45 cm, biotite to 60 cm, orthoclase to 30 cm and  ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals to 30 cm.  However, the larger they are, usually the prettier they are not (!), and the fine mineral specimens are usually crystals under 10 cm.

I was out to Bear Lake a few times in 2014, but I confess with very limited success. I’ve been collecting at this locality since I was a kid, and have found many great things there over the years, but this year was more about scouting and test trenches – it did not yield much in the way of fine specimens. It was fun though!

Bear Lake 1

David Joyce as we commence digging on a vein-dyke with promising ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals at surface.  Photo of final trench is near the end of this post.

After two days of major digging (by hand), we had exposed walls of sharp ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals up to about 10 cm. Unfortunately, even down to depths of about 2 metres from surface, the crystals were either frost-fractured or otherwise weathered/damaged, and so although it was a cool crystal cavity to see, it did not yield fine specimens.

Bear Lake 2

Ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals to 10 cm exposed on calcite vein-dyke wall after two days of excavation.

BearLake4

Herwig Pelckmans, about to start in on a Bear Lake vein dyke.  This one ultimately produced a nice large cabinet specimen of sharply terminated biotite crystals.

Bear Lake was a fine example of a place where Mother Nature reclaims the forest incredibly quickly. Even though collectors had been digging trenches here since the 1960s, the forest is quite beautiful and the old workings are sometimes truly no longer apparent.

Of course, this meant that we had to be careful not to fall into any holes that had become obscured from view. But it also meant that there is one thing that all experienced Bear Lake collectors would dread. Nope, not the black bears that roam these woods. We would fear that after hours excavating a vein-dyke, we would find incontrovertible evidence that someone already excavated it years ago (and Mother Nature had reclaimed it just enough to mask that fact… and make look like a good fresh spot to dig…).

BearLake5Early-1980s Canadian 280 ml Coca-Cola can. Excavated in 2014.

I don’t want to leave Bear Lake without doing it at least a tiny bit of justice – even if this was a low year, this locality has produced some great specimens in the past –  here is a glimpse of examples of Bear Lake minerals from prior years.

Biotite

 Biotite (doubly terminated, floater), Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 5.8 cm

Titanite2

Titanite, Orthoclase and frosty little tracks of Anatase, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 5 cm

KatophoriteFerri-Fluoro-Katophorite, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton County, Ontario – 6.8 cm

Desmont Mine Property

Not too far from Bear Lake, another locality is generating interest – this is the Desmont Mine property, near the town of Wilberforce. Originally explored for uranium mineralization in 1954-55, this property includes more than one area of test workings which expose interesting minerals for the collector. We had a great day for an outing – I was there with local collector and Canadian mineral photographer Michael Bainbridge, Bancroft collector and geologist Chris Fouts and collector Herwig Pelckmans, as we scouted various zones of the property.

Desmont1

Small adit at the Desmont Mine property (me for scale).  H. Pelckmans photo.

Desmont2

Herwig Pelckmans and Michael Bainbridge at the Desmont Mine property

At the Desmont, there are many unusual minerals and although many do not form euhedral crystals, there are some: particularly intriguing diopside crystals (including chromian diopside), sharp molybdenite crystals (apparently crystals to several cm in diameter) and most of all the locality is known for small maroon stillwellite crystals (up to approximately 0.5 cm known so far). Granted, the stillwellites are not easy to find, but they are cool for the mineral.

Stillwellite

Stillwellite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 0.3 cm crystal (Note hexagonal pinacoid face)

Well-known Canadian mineral photographer and collector Michael Bainbridge has had some good recent trips to the Desmont Mine, having found stillwellite crystals up to 1 cm, larger than previously reported for the property.

Stillwellite A

Stillwellite (0.6 cm crystal) with Diopside in Calcite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario. M. Bainbridge specimen and photo.

I had an additional interesting find at the Desmont this year – a beautiful, sharp, complete euhedral crystal of albite, variety peristerite, with as bright a schiller as I have ever seen in an Ontario peristerite. It’s small, but sweet!

Peristerite

Albite, variety Peristerite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 1.5 cm crystal

The Desmont Mine locality is open to the public on a permit collecting basis – permits are obtained at the offices of the Highlands East municipality in Wilberforce. This municipality is very progressive and actively working to help mineral collectors access and open more localities in the Wiberforce area, so stay tuned! (The municipality also now administers permit-collecting access to the recently re-opened Schickler fluorite occurrence, where reddish and greenish fluorapatite crystals occur in calcite associated with deep purple granular fluorite.) Seems like the Wilberforce area will be a good one to visit over the coming years.

Northeast of Bancroft

Elk

Elk, near Hartsmere, Ontario

Miller Property

One of the most famous classic Canadian localities is often referred to in the literature or on old mineral labels simply as “Lake Clear, Renfrew Co.” The Lake Clear area, northeast of Bancroft, is actually not a single locality, but rather it includes several famous old mineral localities, including Turner’s Island, the Smart Mine, the Meany Mine, and the “Lost Mine”. (Lake Clear is approximately 100km northeast of the town of Bancroft – not so close – and is often considered by mineral collectors to be part of the “Bancroft Area”. In part, this is because of the geological and mineralogical similarities with other Bancroft Area localities, all part of the Grenville Geological Province). In recent years, in the forests east of Lake Clear, the Miller Property – in the immediate vicinity of the Smart Mine and which in fact encompasses the deposit formerly known as the “Lost Mine” – has produced some truly excellent specimens. This is another calcite vein-dyke locality, and this one is particularly known for the classic large red-brown fluorapatite crystals and excellent titanite crystals. Large augite crystals, orthoclase-microcline crystals and biotite crystals have also been found. Very rarely in the past this property also produced nice zircon crystals.

This year the Miller Property was the destination for a well-attended club field trip by the Walker Mineralogical Club and the Kawartha Mineral Club. A small group of us opened up a good vein dyke containing  a large number of fluorapatite crystals.

LakeClear6

Prominent Canadian collector Bob Beckett moved a lot of ground as we worked together at the fluorapatite trench. He did a good job hiding his disappointment we weren’t finding more biotite crystals.

Lake Clear4

As is often the case, we got very dirty excavating the fluorapatite crystals. This vein-dyke was narrow and tough to collect. R. Beckett photo.

The large complete crystal from this trench is now in the collection of Herwig Pelckmans. He parked his car beside the crystal for scale before taking this photograph.

LakeClear7

Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario.

H. Pelckmans specimen, photo and car.

Lake Clear 2Partially excavated calcite vein dyke containing fluorapatite crystals. The large crystal here is the same one in the photo above, now in Herwig’s collection. It is 25.5 cm long. Note the crystals on the hanging wall. Most were attached and could not be collected (they shatter).

Many of the crystals in this trench were not so sharp and lots were frost-damaged, but there were some nice ones too.  This one is quite typical for Lake Clear fluorapatite, if perhaps a little more pinkish than usual:

Fluorapatite

Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Twp., Renfrew Co., Ontario – 6.3 cm

Keith Miller, this property’s owner, is as generous and gracious about mineral collecting as I have ever seen – for club trips, he has opened the property up, including with heavy equipment, and the fees he collects per person are then donated to a local children’s hospital. Please note that one must absolutely not go to this locality (any locality, for that matter) without proper arrangements. This may include the specifically organized field trips that are set up by mineral clubs from time to time. It would be tragic should anyone undermine the goodwill and kindness between the collecting community and this remarkable property owner. How rare it is in this day and age that we (collectors) are fortunate enough to be accommodated, with specimens from a classic locality being preserved like this!

Lake Clear1

Excavator at the Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario.

One particularly interesting note from the club trip at the Miller Property this year – in the same area where the calcite vein-dykes occur, a pegmatite was excavated. The pegmatite included a few euhedral microcline var. amazonite crystals up to over 10 cm. Given the nature of the hard-rock occurrence, I am not sure how many of these were successfully removed intact but some certainly were. This is very unusual – I believe these would be considered the best amazonite crystals ever found in the Bancroft Area.  We’ll have to keep our ears open to learn what other collectors managed to find in the pegmatite excavation during the field trip.

Amazonite

Microcline var. Amazonite in situ, with Canadian “Toonie” coin (2.8 cm diameter) for scale.  Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario. R. Beckett photo.

Here are a couple of specimens found at the Miller Property in recent years:

Fluorapatite3

Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Twp., Renfrew Co., Ontario – 8.0 cm

Titanite3

Titanite with Fluorapatite,  Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario – 5.1 cm

Bancroft Mineral Collecting, 2014

Although awesome mineral specimens continue to come from many different mineral localities in the Bancroft Area, my own 2014 experiences produced only a very few interesting specimens. The large fluorapatite we found at the Miller Property is a remarkable specimen and a true classic, and there were certainly other cool pieces here and there this year. And yet, quite often, all that hard work and knowledge still leaves you at the bottom of a big freshly-dug hole without anything brilliant for the display cabinet.

BearLake3

At the bottom of a two-day hole at Bear Lake, dug together with David Joyce. No collection-worthy specimens from this effort. And no help from an excavator. Emery (at upper left) supervised.
D.K. Joyce photo.

So, this was not a year full of endless spectacular specimens, and I appreciate what we did manage to find.  In any event, my excursions this year could not have been better for scenery, wildlife and good times with good friends.

It’s always worth going out in the woods, and you never know what lies around the next corner.

Deer1

White-Tailed Deer – Doe and Fawn

IceStrawberry

Ice Crystals on Wild Strawberry Leaf

Chipmunk

Chipmunk, Collecting Food for the Winter

Deer3

White-Tailed Deer – Fawn

Island

Bay Lake, Faraday Township

Thanks!

Thank you to Keith Miller, for graciously making the Miller Property accessible to the mineral collecting community, and also to the folks at Highlands East, who are working hard to bring more properties in the Wilberforce area online for collectors. And thanks to the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce for all that is done to keep Bear Lake open and accessible to all. I am grateful to Joe Neuhold for all that he does for the elk and the deer in the Hartsmere area. Thanks to Michael Bainbridge and Bob Beckett for the great photos, and thanks to both of you and Herwig Pelckmans for great times out in the woods this year. Huge thanks to my long-time collecting partner David Joyce, for all the fun and collaboration on our many collecting adventures (also the moly photo).

About the Minerals Photographed in this Post

Except as otherwise attributed, the minerals photographed in this post are included here because I love sharing them, not for sale. (Some of the ones that I personally collected are my children…)

About the Website

If you have landed on this post without having explored our website, please have fun looking around – there are tons of photographs of minerals from all over the world that are available for purchase (you can surf through by using the “Browse” options (click here , and you’ll see the Browse options at left). Other blog articles are under the tabs Adventurers and What’s New Blog (you may wish to scroll a bit to explore within the What’s New Blog, as all of the weekly specimen updates are under this tab too).

If you are interested in more information relating specifically to Bancroft, Ontario and minerals, have a look – there is a post about the Bancroft Mineral Museum (the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum) and also one about our annual Bancroft Mineral Shows.  A brief more general introduction to Bancroft is under About Bancroft.

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 05.09.2014 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

RedwingedBlackbird
After a long, harsh northern winter, most people in this part of the world look to the arrival of the red-winged blackbirds and robins, buds and flowers to mark the arrival of spring. But let’s be honest, spring only truly arrives with “Rochester” (the annual Rochester Mineralogical Symposium). For fun, sense of community, contribution and cameraderie – and for the excellence of the presentations and displays – this is by far one of the best mineral events of the year, anywhere.  (And speaking of contribution, please note that the speakers were all generous in sharing their photographs for this post – thank you all!)  Organized by Steve and Helen Chamberlain, along with a team of dedicated volunteers, it is not to be missed.

Just a word about it, if you’ve never been: Come!

Rochester is a symposium meant for people who love minerals. It is not purely academic or technical – it is rich in substantive content, with cutting edge discoveries and research in specimen mineralogy, yet accessible to people at all levels of expertise.  The overall content is a super mix of mineralogy, photography, historical content, research, collecting information and glimpses of amazing places and people around the world.

The symposium (April 24-27) was incredibly high calibre, with excellent presentations by speakers from many different countries.  In case you were not there – or even if you were – I hope you will enjoy reading about it and looking at a few of the photos. All of the speakers have kindly contributed photographs from their talks.

Presentations

Michael Bainbridge’s “Grenville Grunge? Dispelling the Myth!” launched the symposium but lived on through the weekend. “Grenville Grunge” refers to the fact that some minerals found in the Grenville Geological Province, including parts of Ontario, Quebec and New York, can be dull, dark, and lacking sharpness, lustre or colour. It is a disparaging name coined by someone hopelessly misguided and misinformed. But I digress.

You may know Michael is an excellent mineral photographer, and so his presentation photos helped put an aesthetic face on Grenville Province minerals. However, the catchy alliteration “Grenville Grunge” seems to know no bounds. In a baffling development, it was repeated derisively by people around the symposium all weekend, and so the phrase lives on. It might even inadvertently have been granted a bit of new life… but don’t go propagating it. You can easily find shapeless lumps of mineralogical ugliness at awesome localities the world over. (It’s truly a ridiculous moniker – I will make it a mission of this website over time to help you see whether you agree. Because in fact, the sophistication, complexity and cool subtleties of Grenville minerals can be downright addictive.)

Tremolite

Tremolite, near Minden, Ontario – 12 cm.  Michael Bainbridge specimen and photo.
Michael collected this specimen in 2010.

John Jaszczak gave a fantastic presentation “Mineralogical Miracles at Merelani”, about some of the interesting mineral finds at Merelani, Tanzania beyond tanzanite and tsavorite. John spoke about the amazing crystals of graphite and diopside, and also about the recent finds of killer alabandite and wurtzite crystals. A Mineralogical Record article about the latter is in the works – can’t wait for it.

MerelaniDiopside

Diopside with graphite from Merelani, Tanzania.  Larger crystal 1.8 cm.  A.E. Seaman Museum specimen, John Jaszczak photo.

A super talk about one of the world’s most classic localities, the famous Herodsfoot Mine, was presented by Roy Starkey (“Herodsfoot Mine, Richard Talling and Bournonite”). Meticulously researched, with excellent mix of historical background and great minerals, and supported with lots of great photographs.

 HerodsfootCard

Herodsfoot, postcard from ca 1900.  Mining buildings and tailings at centre and left. Roy Starkey photo.

Bournonite

 Bournonite on Quartz from the Herodsfoot Mine, 9 x 7 x 3 cm (crystals to 4 x 1 cm).
Photo by Roy Starkey – Image copyright British Geological Survey.

One of my favourite subjects of the symposium was the Sulfur Mines of Sicily, featured in the Friday night presentation by Dr. Renato Pagano.

I have a confession here (mineral connoisseurs might say a huge confession). And I guess it’s a bit embarrassing, since I swear I really thought I had read Dr. Pagano’s (and other authors’) writings on this. But somehow it was only now that I finally have come to understand that Sicilian sulfur deposits are not volcanic deposits – it’s just so natural to assume that the famous active volcanoes on Sicily gave rise to and host the famous sulfur deposits, but this is not the case. Sulfur in Sicily occurs in a sequence of Miocene evaporitic formations including limestone and gypsum.

Anyway, now that my admission is out of the way…

Dr. Pagano included wonderful photographs and shared some amazing specimens with us – he provided a couple of my favourites for this post. The following are two specimens from the Pagano collection, photographed by Roberto Appiani.

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Slide4And I love the photos from some time ago now, when Dr. Pagano was making early trips to the region to obtain sulfur specimens – and then stacking them on the back of his bike.

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One of the best things about Rochester is that every year we end up in so many different mineral places, near and far. Over the years, Dr. Peter Lyckberg has made many visits to the Chamber Pegmatites of Volodarsk, Ukraine, and gave just an amazing talk on this – really, this presentation was so good you felt like you were right there, underground, collecting beryl and topaz. The mining of the chamber pegmatites has an interesting history, including massive state-sponsored investment during the Soviet era, without which, none of this could have been possible. However, it is a story that may be at an end, as the last mining has stopped as of January, 2013.  Peter clearly sensed that the chances to visit Volodarsk could be time-limited, and we’re so lucky he did!

HeliodorpocketCollecting in beryl pocket at Volodarsk, Ukraine, October 2007.  Photo by Peter Lyckberg.

PeterTopaz2

 “Peter’s Dream Pocket” with giant topaz and  zinnwaldite. Pegmatite 569, Shaft 3, Volodarsk, Ukraine. Photo by Peter Lyckberg January 2013.

PeterTopaz1

Peter Lyckberg with 29 kg topaz and smoky quartz from pegmatite tube near pegmatite 569 at 96 m level,
Shaft 3, Volodarsk, Ukraine. Photo by Alexander Chournousenko.

PeterwithCrystals

Peter at the symposium with a topaz and a heliodor.

Topaz2

Peter brought this beautiful topaz to show us at the Symposium – I’m guessing almost 15 cm across.
(The “matrix” in this photo is the dry-cleaning plastic we all use for packing specimens.)

Mark Jacobson took us to Mount Antero, Colorado, the classic Western American aquamarine locality. To me, the approach taken in presenting this really made it – the talk highlighted many of the collectors themselves, and their finds over the years. This was a great approach and a very engaging talk. The presentation included lots of photos of specimens of the “big three” from Mt. Antero – beryl (variety aquamarine), phenakite and bertrandite.

 Anteroaqua

Beryl, var. aquamarine from Mt. Antero – 16.8cm. Collected by Steve Brancato,
this specimen is in the Bruce Oreck collection. Mark Jacobson photograph.

 Anterobertr

Bertrandite from Mt. Antero – 1 cm. Mark Jacobson photograph.
Collected by Jeff Self, this specimen is in his collection.

Anterophen

Phenakite from Mt. Antero. The largest crystal is 3.1 cm. Originally collected by Curtis Abbott and
Cliff Robertson, this specimen is in the Dave Bunk collection. Mark Jacobson photograph.

Ted Johnson spoke on the pegmatite occurrence at Branchville, Connecticut. This is a locality for some very unusual minerals and interesting mineralogy/genesis. Unfortunately the locality is closed to collecting – a house is very nearby, and a road runs very close to the water-filled pit. However, analytical work by dedicated amateurs continues, and this is a great example of such contributions being made to specimen mineralogy.

Branchville
The old quarry at Branchville, Connecticut. Ted Johnson photograph.

Eucryptite1

Eucryptite, photographed in UV light, 7.5 x 5 cm. Ted Johnson specimen and photograph.

Eucryptite2

Eucryptite, with remnant spodumene core, photographed in UV light, 15.2  x 12.7 cm. Ted Johnson specimen and photograph.

Often, we are lucky enough to have key speakers give us a reprise on a separate subject to close out the symposium on Sunday morning.

Roy Starkey presented on the Cairngorm mountain range in Scotland. If you have read any older field guide, monograph or text, you have likely seen that the Cairngorms are a classic locality for smoky quartz crystals – so much so that they were sometimes themselves called cairngorms.  There was lots of great information in this talk – I had no idea that excellent topaz has also been found in the Cairngorms.  I also had no clue that Queen Victoria had done any field collecting for minerals…

CairngormMountains

Cairn Toul, Angel’s Peak and Braeriach from flanks of Ben Macdui, Scotland. Roy Starkey photograph.

CairngormDisplay

Smoky quartz and citrine from the Cairngorms, Scotland. Royal Scottish Museum. Roy Starkey photograph.

Dr. Peter Lyckberg gave us our grande finale, with “Highlights of 50 Years of Mineral Collecting”. The personal nature of this talk really resonated with me. He began his fascination and collecting of minerals when he was very young, and he has pursued it passionately ever since – many of us could truly relate. With a whirlwind tour, we visited localities worldwide, and had a chance to see some truly spectacular mineral specimens that have become part of his great personal collection – often after some rather dedicated pursuit!

PeterAlabashka2

 Peter Lyckberg was the first western visitor since 1917 in the Alabashka Pegmatite Field, Mursinka,Urals, Russia.
In this photograph, he is with Pocket 4 at 30 m depth, Kazionnitsa Pegmatite January 1993.

PeterAlabashka

Mining a gem pocket next to pocket 201 at 30 m depth in the Kazionnitsa Mine, Alabashka Pegmatite Field,
Mursinka, Urals, Russia, January 1993. Photo by A Kasyanov.

PeterBeryl

 Beryl, var heliodor and aquamarine – the largest heliodor is 12 cm tall. Peter Lyckberg collection and photograph.

Technical Session

Every year, Friday afternoon of the symposium is reserved for the technical session. This session is  always packed with tons of information – each presenter is limited to 15 minutes. Abstracts from these talks are included in the symposium program, and are also published during the year in Rocks and Minerals magazine.

Annual Features

The symposium includes some consistent high-level features every year.

Saturday morning always features Jeff Scovil presenting What’s New in Minerals and Localities. Jeff’s world-leading mineral photography dazzles us all for an hour, as he covers finds from around the globe that were uncovered in the prior year or so. Some of these are photographs that we see in the Mineralogical Record, Rocks and Minerals, and other publications during the year and other photographs may make their debut at Rochester – and when they are all together in one show, it’s a bit mind boggling.  I’ve never once seen Jeff do What’s New without having the audience draw breath collectively over some of the specimens.  (People might even pass out over the experience – I mean it’s always dark during the slideshow, so how would we know – although miraculously no-one is on the floor at the end.)

Following Jeff, “What’s New in Minerals and Localities II” is the chance for short contributions from other symposium registrants – we never have any idea what will come out during this hour, but always new, and one of the neatest sessions of the Symposium, where we can share with each other.

Frank Melanson spoke about the new Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum – I will post a separate piece on the blog about this one, coming soon, so stay tuned.

I presented briefly on some recent new mineral finds, including the amazing magnesiofoititite tourmaline crystals from Tsitondroina, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar.

CoverMagnesiofoitite, Tsitondroina, Fianarantsoa, Madagascar – 5.8 cm.

 I also presented on a remarkable Canadian find. One of Canada’s top field collectors, Mike Irwin, has discovered and collected some very fine specimens of the rare mineral serendibite from near Portage du Fort, Pontiac Co., Quebec.  Many of the specimens include some level of overgrowth and/or replacement growth by a combination of dravite-uvite and spinel. In some of the material, the serendibite is a nice blue, mottled in a lighter host rock which includes very pale diopside. The blue is an understated, blue-jean blue (suits us Canadians) rather than an outspoken copper oxide zone blue. So far, extremely few euhedral crystals have been recovered – vugs are rare at the locality.

Serendibite

Sharp serendibite crystals, up to 0.5 cm, with pale diopside – near Portage-du-Fort, Pontiac Co., Quebec.

R. Peter Richards has presented many fascinating topics to us at Rochester over the years. This one was to follow up on a remarkable find.  There is a locality along the Huron River, near Milan, Ohio, discovered thanks to smoke rising up out of a crevice. The smoke, from a natural shale fire underground, deposited micro-crystals, which at the time of the original presentation had not yet been identified. Subsequent work has now confirmed that these are sabieite-2H and -3R, intimately mixed in single crystals.  They are new polytypes of sabieite 1-T.  Unfortunately the material was incredibly limited and no specimens are available.

Sabieite

Sabieite -2H and -3R crystal, 0.5 mm, Huron River, near Milan, Ohio. R. Peter Richards specimen and photograph.

Finally, Gloria Staebler (of Lithographie LLC) spoke about what I think is a great development for the hobby: Lithographie is going to be publishing a new edition of the classic, Mineralogy for Amateurs by John Sinkankas, originally published in 1964.  (If you’ve read my Favourite Mineral Reads post, you’ll know this is one of my favourite mineral books of all time.) The new edition is undergoing significant work, in order to update the information, although it is fundamental to the project that the voice, tone and approach remain true to the Sinkankas original.  The new edition will be published as a two-volume set, with major revisions to update the mineral descriptions.  Gloria has many people involved, and is keen to involve more.  For example, she is planning to have given minerals updated by a single experienced individual (one person will do hematite, another will do pyrite and so on).  There is lots to be done, and if you would like to contribute to the revision of this classic, please contact Gloria and let her know of your interest at Gloria@lithographie.org .

Displays

As always, there were some great displays this year, both from museums and private collections.

 George

Super display of Nova Scotia Minerals by Canadian collector George Thompson.

SmokyQtz

 John Betts had a great display of U.S. minerals, including this great smoky quartz (ca 12 cm) he collected in 1992.

Perimorphs

Excellent display of pseudomorphs (specifically, these are perimorphs, which are formed when one mineral is encrusted by a second mineral, and the second mineral (crust) still remains while the original mineral has dissolved, leaving a hollow interior). Cincinnati Museum Centre display of specimens on loan from the Terry Huizing Collection.

Brucite

Remarkable brucite specimen, ca. 15 cm across, from Texas, Lancaster Co., Pennsylvania.  Formerly in the  famous William Jeffris Collection, then acquired by Andrew Carnegie in 1904.  Now in the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum collection.

Copper

Wonderful copper specimen in the collection of David K. Joyce – about 7 cm tall – it stands up straight like this and has been referred to as the “Copper Man”.

Dealers’ Rooms

As great as the presentations, program and displays are, a lot of what Rochester is about happens up on the famous fourth floor, where the dealers’ rooms are full of life well into the morning hours.

DaveGuitar

David K. Joyce plays and sings his mineral and mining songs every year at Rochester – it’s always a highlight, hanging out with friends and singing along.
(In this photo Dave is between songs, while Canadian dealer and collector Jonathan Zvonko looks on.)

If you have not yet heard Dave’s tunes, they are available on CD and downloadable from iTunes – and you can check them out here.

In another fun fourth floor moment, to the amusement and laughter of all in the room, John Betts made a presentation to me, welcoming me as a new internet mineral dealer. He presented me with an Internet Mineral Dealer’s Kit, to help me on my way.  Some of the contents of that kit simply can’t be discussed here. Suffice it to say that it included screws, mineral oil, Preparation H, a candle, a guide to ordering beer in 26 different languages… and other helpful items. The egg timer in the kit is meant to speed up my photography (a particularly good laugh).  And John feels strongly that I am not writing enough in bold all-caps (particularly the word RARE), and I’m using far too few exclamation marks.

JohnBetts

John Betts presenting me with a printed sheet full of exclamation marks and multiple examples of the word “RARE!!!” to give me an idea
of what a mineral dealing website should really look like. David K. Joyce photo.

John has been one of the leading online mineral dealers since the beginning of the internet age – if you have not been to his website, it is truly one of the best. I mean BEST EVER!!! and MOST COMPREHENSIVELY AWESOME!!!!  SUPER RARE!!!

Rochester is all about good times with good friends in mineral world.

Until Next Year…

It is true for most Rochester fans – once you have been, you really do your best to never miss another one.  So if you haven’t been, come and experience one of the best events of the mineral year with those of us who wouldn’t miss it (April 23-April 26, 2015). And of course to all the Rochester friends who are there each year, thanks for the great time together and see you there next year.