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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.

RonnieChabazite

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.

Orthosilicates

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

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

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

Djurleite2

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

Djurleite1
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

mindat.org – 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, mindat.org 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
Brilliant!
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.

Wulfeniteonquartz.RedCloudMine.Scovil2011-04-0081

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.

Shinkolobwe
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.MagmaMine.3700L.Scovil2011-07-0105

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

Barite.3600.4D.Magmamine.Superior.Scovil2011-07-0096

  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!

Displays

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.

PalermoQuartz

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 02.22.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

Always hard to contain my enthusiasm about Tucson… The world’s largest annual gathering of mineral people and mineral specimens from around the globe never disappoints – it is a great time full of great minerals.

Santa Rita The foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains, just south of Tucson.

OK, I admit it’s also a sunny and warm break from Canadian winter. While many others in North America seem to be having a bit lighter winter than usual, we’ve had lots of snow this year in the Bancroft area. It began in November and now the snow is high. A February 2017 snowbank by our house:

SnowbankBancroft, winter 2016-17. Snowbanks about 8-9ft tall.
(For scale, Emery is a 90 lb Lab. He never misses a chance to be out in the snow.)

Tucson’s surroundings are obviously a real contrast to home, both as to weather and scenery.

SaguaroSanta Rita Mountains and a saguaro.

During the show, there is so much to see and do with the minerals and mineral friends that, in the limited time of a Tucson trip, there is precious little chance for exploring the surroundings. However, every step out in the area is worth it!

YuccaA walk in the foothills

As every year, the mineral events around Tucson are spread over many different show venues, over a few weeks. From one year to the next, dealers come and go, and move about. New shows pop up, older shows wane and sometimes disappear altogether, and then some rise again from the ashes. So, always something new and interesting to discover out there in the urban field-collecting jungle.

I thought maybe I’d start with my favourite warnings and signs from around the shows.

I didn’t take a photo of the one in my rental car, but it was a winner: every time I turned on the car,  a bright, bold electronic notice told me not to operate the car stereo while the car is operating, because it’s dangerous. (Thanks so much to the Mensa-candidate lawyer who came up with that one.)

At one show:

Washroom sign

Really???
(People do this?)

I quite liked this lawn sign:

No Lawn Signs

And at that same show, within about 40 ft of the one above:

Lawn Signs

Anyway… On to the minerals!

On the whole, there were some excellent finds, mostly of the small and isolated variety (rather than large-scale splashes of new discoveries). I’m going to start with Brazil, because over the past year, it has produced many fine specimens.

A small number of new wodginite crystals have been found. These are sharp and great for the species!

 Wodginite, Linopolis District, Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil Wodginite, Linopolis district, near Divino das Larajeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2.5 cm

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

Wodginite, Linopolis district, near Divino das Larajeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 2.6 cm

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

Wodginite, Linopolis district, near Divino das Larajeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 3.2 cm

If you’d like to see more of these, I’ve posted them in the Wodginite Update (click here).

The workings at Novo Horizonte have produced more excellent hematite-rutile specimens. Most of these are not in very good condition, but a few are really super.

Rutile on Hematite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil

Rutile on Hematite, Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – 4.8 cm

Novo Horizonte has also been the subject of some additional mineral analysis, with very interesting results over the past year. One of these is a new mineral, published in 2016. The work on this mineral began with our late friend, Luiz Menezes – one of the most observant and careful people in mineral world, who never missed something new, never assumed an identification, and whose work contributed to the description of several new minerals. The work on this material was continued by a group of mineralogists, and in June 2016, the new mineral, parisite-(La), was officially regognized by the IMA. (The full group: Luiz A.D. Menezes Filho, Mario L.S.C. Chaves, Nikita V. Chukanov, Daniel Atencio, Ricardo Scholz, Igor Pekov, Geraldo Magela da Costa, Shaunna M. Morrison, Marcelo Andrade, Erico Freitas, Robert T. Downs and Dmitriy I. Belakovskiy.)

I am including a photograph of one of the best specimens – there are not many in existence. This one was available from Luisa at Luiz Menezes Minerals.

Parisite La
Parisite-(La), Novo Horizonte, Bahia, Brazil – approx. 7 cm

Just before leaving Novo Horizonte, I have a small final update. In November 2015, I had a few specimens from this locality on the website, sold to me under the label “synchysite”, and so-labeled on the website. Subsequent analysis by Don Doell has confirmed more about their identity. Having conducted semi-quantitative EDS at SGS Labs, Don found that these are in fact phosphate mineralization, and they are likely a combination of rhabdophane-(La), rhabdophane-(Ce), possibly including monazite-(Ce). They appear to be pseudomorphs after a REE carbonate, probably in the parisite group, given that this new parisite-(La) has been found at Novo Horizonte in crystals with a similar aspect and appearance, at a similar time. They could also be after bastnasite-(La), which has been described from the locality. 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! Very cool for rhabdophane. (If you’d like to see what these looked like, they are here.) Mine are all sold, but Carlos Menezes had a few thumbnail-sized specimens of this fascinating material available in Tucson.

Also from Brazil, there has been one I think will be underrated and missed by many collectors. From Mantena, Minas Gerais, there has been a find of beautiful muscovite crystals. Yes of course the mica group minerals are very common minerals, and one might be jaded and tempted to overlook them on that basis. However, it can be a challenge to acquire a genuinely good muscovite specimen. These muscovite crystals from Mantena have nice colour, giving depth and presence. I picked out the finest few I could find and they will be online in a coming update.

Muscovite, Mantena, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Muscovite on albite, Mantena, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 7.3 cm

I have always loved the blue fluorapatites from Ipira, but, although I always look for them, I am almost always disappointed. This is not because there aren’t any – it’s because very few of them are sharp and collection-worthy. The deposits mostly contain corroded-looking crystals with poor definition, and most crystals are broken crystal segments. This past year, Daniel Foscarini Almeida conducted significant mining operations in a zone that contained small, sharp crystals. Almost all had small chipping, but I went through hundreds and these best ones are extremely good. The colour with backlighting is hard to believe.

Fluorapatite, Ipirá, Bahia, Brazil

 Fluorapatite, Ipirá, Bahia, Brazil – 3.2 cm

And finally from Brazil (for now), Minas Gerais yielded some very fine phantom quartz crystals this year, from the deposits at Presidente Kubitschek. As always with Brazilian quartz, it can be very hard to find specimens in excellent condition, but some of these are just great.

Quartz with phantoms, Presidente Kubitschek, Minas Gerais, Brazil

Quartz with phantoms, Presidente Kubitschek, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Crystal 2.0 cm wide

Moving on from Brazil to the African continent next, still on the quartz theme, there was a pocket of spectacular quartz with red phantoms from Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Red quartz has been produced from this locality for many years, however, long-time South African dealer Clive Queit told me he has never seen any he liked as much as these, because these have such distinct red phantoms enclosed in sharp, clear quartz crystals – in his view they are the best. The crystals themselves are relatively small, and my favourite specimens were the ones that had good proportions (of crystal size to the piece), so the ones I consider the best are not large specimens. They are superb.

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

Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 5.0 cm

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

Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 4.0 cm

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

Red Phantom Quartz, Orange River, Northern Cape Province, South Africa – 6.1 cm

Further north in Africa, there’s something a bit different and new from Arrondissement Diako, in Mali. We’ve seen thousands of loose single garnet crystals from here over the years, and occasionally we’ve been lucky enough to see matrix specimens. A new find, at Diabe Sira, has produced some very attractive specimens with sharp, lustrous grossular crystals on matrix. As is the case with all localities, and particularly much of the Mali material (of the various minerals), so much is damaged – the devil is in finding fine, collection-quality specimens. I worked through a lot of this material and I found a few – they are really nice!

Grossular, Diabe Sira, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali

Grossular, Diabe Sira, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 9.7 cm

Further north still, I think we’ve all become a bit spoiled by the constant flow of excellent mineral specimens from Morocco in recent years. So it felt like a bit of a disappointment that there wasn’t a spectacular new find, and that some of the material we’ve seen in recent times is drying up. As I mentioned in my Ste. Marie post last summer, the Sidi Lahcen barites are no more – I love those specimens, and good ones are now already hard to find (and in some cases very expensive). Speaking of production that seems to have dried up, I was also surprised that there were hardly even any signs of the Mamsa aragonites (the ones posted here last fall).  I had expected to see some of the lesser material at very least.

However, from Morocco there were some beautiful erythrites from the Bou Azzer district.

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 1.3 cm crystal

China seems to have produced less in the way of truly new material. There are some new bluish-purple quartz specimens, highly priced and different dealers were giving different locality names – we’ll see what the future holds for these. From Huanggang, there were a few of the flat, discoidal calcites that made their debut last fall in Denver – here is a sweet small one.

Calcite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China

Calcite, Huanggang Mines, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad, Inner Mongolia A.R., China – 3.3 cm

From Russia, the mines at Dal’negorsk continue to operate and there was a new pocket of sharp datolite crystals found at the Bor Pit. These crystals are a beautiful light green and they are highly lustrous.

Datolite, Bor Pit, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia

 Datolite, Bor Pit, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia – 5.0 cm

As you’ll know if you’ve read my posts from the past, I love Peru and Peruvian mineral specimens. Over the years, the large polymetallic mines have produced a variety of excellent specimens, and several workings undertaken purely for mineral specimen mining have provided spectacular pieces. However, this was really not a great year for new Peruvian specimens. Ucchucchacua has now produced no new specimen material in three years, and a new piece of unfortunate news from Peru is that the Lily Mine has ceased operations. Lily was operated for copper and is known to collectors for a few minerals – chrysocolla, and most notably some of the best atacamite and clinoatacamite specimens that have been found anywhere. I obtained only a few more of these, as good specimens are already scarce, and I’m told any future production is questionable.

 Clinoatacamite, Lily Mine, Pisco Umay, Ica Dept., Peru
Clinoatacamite, Lily Mine, Pisco Umay, Ica Dept., Peru
Superb crystal group, 5 mm

In much better news, a Peruvian collection and the workings at Mundo Nuevo have provided some excellent specimens.

Pyrite and Lautite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru

Pyrite and Lautite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, La Libertad Dept., Peru – 2.9 cm

Back to North America, I was lucky to pick up a couple of nice little wulfenite specimens from the Red Cloud Mine, including this one – it’s not big, but this thing is a red window pane.

Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, Silver District, Trigo Mts., La Paz Co., Arizona

 Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, Trigo Mountains, Arizona – 2.3 cm
(Crystal 1.0 cm across, 0.8 cm on edge)

Over the coming weeks, many of these finds – and more new material – will be posted on the website, so stay tuned!

Palm

 

In the meantime, as nice as it is to have had a break, it’s so great to be home. (You can take the Canadian out of the winter but you can’t take the winter out of the Canadian – at least not this Canadian.) It’s beautiful out here in the winter woods in February, as always!

Bancroft, Ontario, Canada

Yes, the snow piles are high.

Snow Window

Another 9 ft tall snowpile. Granted, it reduces the view for a while.
And we probably shouldn’t expect this part of the garden to emerge until late May.

This year’s snow-management issues aside, it’s gorgeous and peaceful, with lots of active local residents in our woods…

 Blue Jay, Bancroft, Ontario, Canada

Blue Jay, near Bancroft, Ontario

And there’s this one guy who loves winter more than any being I’ve known:

Snow Angel

Every day from the first snows until the last snow patches are too small in spring, Emery does snow angels.

Well, that’s it, until the Rochester 2017 report.

If you haven’t yet seen them, this year’s Rochester Mineralogical Symposium program and registration materials are online here. Hope to see you there!

Meanwhile, of course these specimens will be coming online soon!

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 01.14.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve posted some beautiful new specimens in this Morocco Update (click here).  The pieces include azurite from Kerrochen and Bou Beker, vanadinite from Taouz, pyrite-coated fluorite from El Hammam, purple fluorite from Tounfit, twinned cerussite from Mibladen and quartz on siderite from Gourrama.

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Crystal 2.5 cm

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Azurite, Kerrouchen, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Crystal 3.1 cm

Azurite, Bou Beker, Touissit-Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco

Azurite, Bou Beker, Touissit – Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco – 9.7 cm

Azurite with Malachite, Bou Beker, Touissit - Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco

Azurite with Malachite, Bou Beker, Touissit – Bou Beker District, Jerada Province, Morocco – 6.3 cm

Vanadinite, Taouz, Er Rachidia Province, Morocco

Vanadinite, Taouz, Er Rachidia Province, Morocco – 5.2 cm

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 6.0 cm

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite coated with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 4.2 cm

Cerussite with Barite, Les Dalles Mine, Mibladen Mining District, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Cerussite with Barite, Les Dalles Mine, Mibladen Mining District, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 4.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 3.5 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.0 cm

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra Province, Morocco
Field of view 3.0 cm

Quartz, Siderite, Gourrama, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Quartz, Siderite, Gourrama, Er Rachidia, Morocco
Crystal 3.2 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.10.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted some amazing aragonites from a new find this year, in this Aragonite Update (click here).

These aragonites are from a Mamsa, north of Sidi Ayed, Morocco – a completely new locality. The best from Mamsa rank among the aragonites from the top historic aragonite localities. The vast majority of Mamsa specimens found to date have been poor quality, many were contacted across the cavities, and almost all recovered specimens were significantly damaged.

The specimens in this Update were selected by Tomasz Prazkier in Morocco – he estimated that he went through a few hundred flats’ worth of material to bring back around twenty top quality specimens. These specimens are the top ones available from that group of specimens.

As the workings have gone deeper, the rock has become much tougher, and recovery of the fragile aragonites has become increasingly more difficult – these were from the weathered zone near the surface.

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

 Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco – 7.5 cm

ragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 7.5 cm

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 8.0 cm

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 7.5 cm

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 5.0 cm

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

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

 Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 5.0 cm

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 6.0 cm

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco

Aragonite, Mamsa, nr. Sidi Ayed, Boulemane Province, Fes-Meknes Region, Morocco
Field of view 6.5 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 04.07.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added a few colourful new specimens in this Morocco Update (click here).  This update includes some particularly fine and unusual pieces, including a super azurite-malachite from the Tasalart Mine, Tafraout, exceptional fluorites from Sidi Said, hot pink cobaltoan dolomites, a glowing jewel of a cobaltoan calcite from the Agoudal Mine in the Bou Azzer district, a mirror-bright skutterudite from the Bouismas Mine and a beautiful, classic twinned cerussite from Touissit.

Azurite and malachite pseudomorphs after azurite, Tazalart Mine, Tafraout, Tiznit Province, Morocco

 Azurite and malachite pseudomorphs after azurite, Tazalart Mine, Tafraout, Tiznit Province, Morocco
Field of view 4.5 cm

Fluorite, Chebka Sidi Said, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite, Chebka Sidi Said, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco – 4.o cm

 Fluorite, Chebka Sidi Said, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco

Fluorite with quartz, Chebka Sidi Said, Midelt, Khenifra Province, Morocco – 5.2 cm

Dolomite, var. cobaltoan dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Dolomite, var. cobaltoan dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 5.7 cm

Dolomite, var. cobaltoan dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Dolomite, var. cobaltoan dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 13.7 cm

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District,
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view 2.2 cm

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Calcite, var. cobaltoan calcite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view – 2.5 cm

Skutterudite, Bouismas Mine, Bou Azzer District, Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Skutterudite, Bouismas Mine, Bou Azzer District
Tazenakht, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco
Field of view – 2.5 cm

Quartz on Chalcedony, Sidi Rahal, El Kelaa des Sraghna Province, Morocco

Quartz on Chalcedony, Sidi Rahal, El Kelaa des Sraghna Province, Morocco
Field of view – 3.0 cm

Quartz var. Amethyst, Sidi Rahal, El Kelaa des Sraghna Province, Morocco

Quartz var. Amethyst, Sidi Rahal, El Kelaa des Sraghna Province, Morocco
Field of view – 5.0 cm

Cerussite, Touissit, Jerada Province, Oriental Region, Morocco

Cerussite, Touissit, Jerada Province, Oriental Region, Morocco – 3.1 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 02.23.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

I love arriving back in Tucson. Urban field collecting at its finest!

TucsonSunset

There’s an excitement about the Tucson shows – we all feel it.

A bit similar to the way a the Christmas tree each year is evocative of the fun of past Christmases, in Tucson we have our ornamental orange trees in the courtyard at the Hotel Formerly Known as The Inn Suites…

Oranges

The mornings at the start of Tucson 2016 were not quite tropical.

frost

 Palm trees through the frost on the car windshield.

 However,  the Tucson sun is great and by the afternoon there’s a warm sunlight casting shadows.

Tucson 2016

So, into the car and off to the shows all over town in search of fine minerals… but can I just make a small random observation first?

Our rental car flashed this at us regularly,  throughout the trip:

CarWarning

I’m sorry, but if your brain is not already subconsciously running this question in the background for you every day, you’re gonna have issues. Waiting until a car prompts the thought is inadvisable.

OK. I’m done. On to the minerals. (It’s safe to move.)

poolsideThe courtyard mineral localities beckon…

Minerals!

There were great mineral specimens in Tucson this year and this post is just a small glimpse of a few fun things I managed to acquire. Each of the following will be the subject of an update on the website over the coming weeks.

Let’s begin with a new find of gorgeous yellow fluorites from Morocco. These are from the classic fluorite locality, the El Hammam Mine, they are unusually sharp, yellow cubes.

The hue of these fluorites varies, depending on the light source (common for fluorite), from a warmer honey-yellow under halogen, to a slightly brighter yellow in daylight and even a bit bolder under cool-temperature LED lighting. (This effect is different with each specimen, some show it more and some less).

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Field of view 4.0 cm

Upon close inspection, many of the crystals contain delicate, fine-lined purple phantoms.

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Field of view 2.5 cm

This was not a large find, and I chose the best quality ones available – if you’d like to see more photos, they are in the Morocco Fluorite update (click here).

Next up is the amazing Milpillas Mine in Mexico. It’s no surprise that we are continuing to see more azurites, and a few other things are trickling out too, but this time I was particularly interested in the brochantites. There are not so many (certainly nothing like the azurites) but these are super for the species, and I found a few excellent ones available this year.

Brochantite

Brochantite, Milpillas Mine, Cuitaca, Mun. de Santa Cruz, Sonora, Mexico – 3.9 cm

Brochantite2

Brochantite, Milpillas Mine, Cuitaca, Mun. de Santa Cruz, Sonora, Mexico
Width of this group is 3.2 cm

A bit further away from home, there was a relatively small new find of axinite at Dalnegorsk, Russia. Of course, over the years, some beautiful axinite specimens have been found at Dalnegorsk, some have been identified as axinite-(Mn), some as axinite-(Fe), and I’m told that these ones are axinite-(Fe). As is always the case with axinite, it is incredibly difficult to obtain damage-free specimens, and most from this find did have chipping. However, a few were in superb condition!

Axinite-(Fe)Axinite-(Fe), Bor Mine, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia
Field of view approximately 4 cm

Also from the Dalnegorsk mining complex, a newer mine has produced some wonderful new calcite specimens. The Yushnoe Mine is a newer mine and to date has produced virtually no fine mineral specimens. In 2015, a pocket of calcite crystals contained some beautiful twins. This was not a large or prolific find at all, and I found almost no specimens were undamaged, but I did find them! They show excellent twinning, with the same form as the now-classic twinned yellow calcites from the Sokolovskoe Mine, Rudniy, Kazakhstan. Beautiful!

YushnoeCalciteCalcite, Yushnoe Mine, Dal’negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia
Field of view approximately 3.5 cm

From Canada, a recent expedition to Rapid Creek, Yukon, produced some fine lazulite specimens. This is a very remote locality and collecting there is so expensive that it is rarely undertaken these days. Many specimens from the find debuted in Tucson, and we (David K. Joyce and I) acquired the finest.

Lazulite2

Lazulite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon, Canada
Largest crystal 1.5 cm

Lazulite1Lazulite with Kulanite, Rapid Creek, Dawson Mining District, Yukon, Canada – 5.7 cm

One of the great things about Tucson is of course the chance to reconnect with mineral friends and colleagues from all over the world, and sometimes they have brought some pretty amazing things along with them. Not all of these are new finds by any means, but sometimes some remarkable specimens surface in Tucson.

One such find was strontianite from an Austrian collection. Strontianite is a relatively common mineral, but great specimens are not common. Typically when we think of the mineral strontianite – let’s face it, IF we even think of it at all – we think of fuzzy-looking aggregates of tiny crystals or relatively unattractive specimens. Perhaps that’s not fair (sorry strontianite!) and there are of course exceptions, including a small number of specimens from Scotland, Illinois and the Alps. And some of the finest strontianite crystals in the world come from Oberdorf an der Laming, Laming valley, Bruck an der Mur, Styria, Austria. The crystals occur in a variety of habits, with quartz-like prisms, blocky hexagonal prisms and elongated dogtooth-style crystals. I was very happy to have found a small suite of exceptionally well-crystallized strontianites from Oberdorf an der Laming in Tucson.

StrontianiteStrontianite, Oberdorf an der Laming, Laming valley, Bruck an der Mur, Styria, Austria
Crystal 1.2 cm

Strontianite2Strontianite, Oberdorf an der Laming, Laming valley, Bruck an der Mur, Styria, Austria
Field of view approximately 3.5 cm

Strontianite3

Strontianite, Oberdorf an der Laming, Laming valley, Bruck an der Mur, Styria, Austria
Field of view approximately 2 cm

Another great thing about reconnecting with everyone in Tucson is the chance to learn from mineral friends. You know, we all end up with these specimens from all over the world, and then we take them back to our little lairs, and inevitably we have more work done on them. So there are always new finds, identifications, and re-identifications of minerals.

In Tucson this year, I learned that last year’s find of super tetrahedrite crystals at the Mundo Nuevo Mine was in fact a find of crystals of tennantite. Of a large number of specimens tested at Harvard, only one turned out to be tetrahedrite. Almost all turned out to be tennantite (a small number were intermediate, tennantite-dominant). Which is fun – they were already great tetrahedrite, but they are super for tennantite. I have a few left and although they are presumably tennantite, I have taken them off the site pending confirmatory analysis, and then they will be back on. For those of you who might not have seen them when I posted them originally, they are sharp and lustrous – here are a couple.

100740(2)(fov4.0)

Tennantite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru
Field of view 4.0 cm

100742(1)(8.2)Tennantite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru – 8.2 cm

Related to this finding, it was also discovered that there are some tennantite specimens with the rare mineral lautite on them. These are microscopic crystals and rosettes – a mineral that is rarely found at all, let alone in crystals. Here’s a photo. (By the way, Dave still has a few of these lautites available on his website – I’m including a link to them at the end of this post, if you are interested.

lautite

Lautite, Mundo Nuevo Mine, Huamachuco, Sanchez Carrion Province, La Libertad Dept., Peru
Field of view 2mm.
David K. Joyce photo.

Speaking of identifications, one find that first came to light last year has turned out to be something special. Last year you may have seen (and may even have acquired) specimens of “chrysocolla over malachite pseudomorphs after azurite” from the Luputo Mine, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Thanks to analysis conducted by Dr. Hexiong Yang at the University of Arizona, we now know they are in fact not chrysocolla, but ajoite. This is a remarkable development – ajoite has not been known in display specimens, so this is a first! (Ajoite is best known from the ajoite-included quartz crystals from Musina, South Africa).  I was very happy to be able to acquire a few of these specimens in Tucson!

Ajoite2Ajoite over Malachite pseudomorph after Azurite
Luputo Mine, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Field of view 3.5 cm

Ajoite3

Ajoite over Malachite pseudomorph after Azurite
Luputo Mine, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Field of view 2.5 cm

Tucson Beyond the Minerals

I’ll spare you the stories of all of the great get-togethers with mineral friends, but I’d like to share a couple.

Canadian collector and dealer Ray Hill hosts fun dinners at his rented place in Tucson each year. Not only is he a great cook, but he also assembles such good groups together that it is always both interesting and a good time. The group included Ray Hill, David Joyce, John Montgomery, Marie and Terry Huizing, David Wilber and Larry Venezia. I wish I had a photo from this evening’s highlight, but it was too dark out to capture the mood without a proper camera setup. Ray had brought a portable propane campfire from Canada. (Never seen one before…) After dinner we moved outdoors… and what is a campfire without a song or two?  Many of you know that David Joyce has written, and plays and sings, great mineral songs (link at the end of this post) – so Dave brought out his guitar and we had good fun singing mineral songs around our Tucson campfire under the stars.

The other one I’d like to share is a photo from a dinner we look forward to every year, with Si and Ann Frazier, and Frank and Wendy Melanson. Always a fun evening, with good food, stories, laughs, and some mineral show-and tell, so it’s hardly a time that prompts serious reflection (!). However when I was looking at this photo afterward, I was struck by the knowledge and experience in this room. You are looking not only at five of the most knowledgeable mineral people out there, but the five people in this photograph have been responsible, directly and indirectly, for the preservation and placement of uncounted tens of thousands of the world’s fine mineral specimens into museums and private collections.

Dinner

From left to right, Si and Ann Frazier, Wendy Melanson, David K. Joyce and Frank Melanson

Although we all wish Tucson would never end, somehow it ends too soon every year…

Last Light

Last sunlight, as Tucson shadows fall

Happy to be back home, to the forest shadows…

Snowshadows

… and where the snow crunches underfoot with each step in the winter woods.

Final Snowshadow

Links

(1) For the lautite specimens at davidkjoyceminerals.com, click here.

(2) For the mineral songs click here (“The Mineral Dealer” is an awesome song for Tucson season.)

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 02.22.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted a new Morocco Fluorite Update (click here) with super yellow fluorite crystals from a small recent find at the El Hammam Mine. These are great yellow fluorite specimens!

The hue of these fluorites varies, depending on the light source (common phenomenon for fluorite). They appear a warmer honey-yellow under halogen, a slightly brighter yellow in daylight and even a bit bolder under cool-temperature LED lighting. This effect is different with each specimen, some show it more and some less. The depth of the yellow colour also varies from one specimen to the next thanks to the fine, faint purple phantoms in many of the crystals.

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Field of view 4.0 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Field of view 2.5 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Fluorite with Pyrite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 14.8 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Field of view 4.0 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 11.3 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Field of view 2.5 cm

 Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 7.2 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 4.1 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 7.6 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco – 5.4 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, MoroccoFluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Field of view 4.0 cm

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco

Fluorite, El Hammam Mine, Meknes, Meknes-Tafilalet Region, Morocco
Field of view 2.5 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 10.25.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added a new Morocco Update (click here) featuring a small number of excellent quality blue barite specimens from the Sidi Lahcen Mine, from beautiful cabinet specimens to super miniatures. These specimens are from a 2013 find of amazing top-quality crystals and crystal groups. The pieces from this find have sharp crystals, with nice, consistent  colour, excellent lustre and good transparency. The specimens in this update were selected for their high quality (so many specimens from the Sidi Lahcen finds were quite damaged) and aesthetic crystal arrangements.

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 8.4 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 6.0 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 8.2 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.9 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.7 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.1 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.6 cm

Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, MoroccoBarite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 4.6 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 08.22.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

In the new Morocco Update (click here), I’ve added some super new specimens of erythrite from Bou Azzer, along with excellent new barite specimens from Bou Nahas.

Erythrite crystals from Bou Azzer are generally regarded as the finest in the world. The challenge with erythrite, however, is to obtain fine-quality specimens – the mineral is so soft and delicate that most specimens are damaged in the removal process or subsequent transportation. The erythrites in this small lot are superb quality specimens of this beautiful mineral.

 Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, MoroccoErythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – crystals up to 0.9 cm

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 1.0 cm crystal

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – field of view 2.8 cm

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – field of view 2.2 cm

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – field of view 2.6 cm

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco

Erythrite, Bou Azzer, Tazenahkt, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – field of view 3.3 cm

Barite is one of the most common minerals at Bou Nahas. Specimens of barite and associated sulfide minerals (particularly pyrite and chalcopyrite) from Bou Nahas have been reaching the market since about 2011. In 2014, blockier, glassy, lustrous barite crystals made their debut, and since then we’re continuing to see more specimens of barite and associated sulfides from this locality. High-quality isolated barite crystals and crystal groups remain relatively scarce at this point, as most of this material to date has been damaged either during extraction or during transportation – but the top quality pieces are excellent barite specimens.

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 4.7 cm

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 5.6 cm

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 4.4 cm

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Barite with pyrite crystals, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 5.4 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.08.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

Morning sun on cobblestones, flowers spilling out of window boxes, the sounds of church bells and songbirds, swallows dipping and weaving through the village, the smell of fresh baked goods wafting from the boulangerie… fine cheeses and wines, scenic hills of vineyards and lavender-filled gardens… I mean really, what could be better than France in June?

Riquewihr2

Minerals in France in June. (Obviously.)

The annual mineral show at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines is so different from all others. Sure, we all love the large exciting mineral-filled halls and general mineral mayhem of the large shows, and the hotel shows in Tucson and Denver. But Ste Marie’s character and charm, from the theatre and the tent-lined streets within the show, to the town and the countryside beyond, make this an experience not to be missed.

Ste Marie is in Alsace, a region known for its beautiful small towns, distinctive architecture, hills, valleys and vineyards.

Riquewihr1Alsace village of Riquewihr

Beyond the gardens and planters, there are beautiful wildflowers.

Foxglove2

Wild foxglove (digitalis) at the edge of the forest

The woods and countryside are beautiful, home to a variety of animals. I wasn’t close enough for a good photo of the two deer grazing at the edge of the trees one morning, but I did catch this scene (granted, not so deep in the forest!)

StorksStorks, Alsace

The town of Ste Marie itself is situated in the heart of an historic mining district, the Val d’Argent (the Valley of Silver). This region’s mining history is remarkable, with underground mines dating to the 16th century. They say that within the greater valley and all its hills, there are more than 20,000 km of underground tunnels (!) – not sure how anyone would have calculated that, but even a lesser fraction of that would be astounding, as there is of course almost no evidence of this above-ground.

SteMarieShield

Such a great coat of arms.

Certain of these historic mines have been opened for organized visiting, and it’s well worth the time to go and explore. One such mine is Tellure. Major work has been done at this site to make it accessible to the public, with a modern interpretation centre and underground infrastructure to facilitate tours of small groups. Today, access to the old workings is via an adit which has been driven into the hillside to intersect older workings at various places – an amazing undertaking. This is well done – visitors experience workings of various vintages, from the 16th to the 19th century.

Most of the 16th century workings are irregular and require a small bit of clambering to walk through, as they were cut using only hand tools, advancing at an average of 15 cm per day in the hard rock areas. The workings from this era are narrow and not as high, as the miners were typically not as tall as we are today.

Tunnel16thc

An unusually straight 16th century working, through softer rock – this one is believed to have been exploratory, in search of the extension of the silver vein.

More recent workings were larger in scale, of course, as equipment and blasting were used.

Tunnel19thc

A section of 19th century workings, with supports.

Hoist

19th century hoisting apparatus

The museum at the Tellure interpretation centre includes many artifacts, although the collection of local minerals is currently very basic/elementary. A highlight at the Tellure interpretation centre was a temporary display – this year, a local collector of mining lamps had put on a super exhibit, absolutely first class in all respects.

Miner's Lamp, Saint-Marie-aux-Mines

 In the exhibit, many historical photographs were used together with the lamps, showing the given types of lamps
in use. Featuring the French symbol of the rooster, this lamp was used in the Val d’Argent.

OK, on to the main event – Ste. Marie 2015!

SteMarie

Ste. Marie – the river channel behind buildings and homes.

Of course, as one of the world’s premier mineral shows, Ste. Marie has the strengths that come with this reputation in Mineral World. Top dealers and smaller dealers from all over the world offer specimens of all kinds. In particular, Ste. Marie includes truly stunning thematic displays. At the same time, Ste Marie reflects other regular trends in Mineral World too – scarcity of new material and lots of high prices.

This year the show’s tents and exhibits opened under sunny skies, with lots to look through.

Tents

 One of the many tent “streets”.  There is no grid or obvious pattern to the layout (as it is in the old part of town)
so navigation back to that particular specimen you remember is a good challenge.

Theatre

The theatre rises above the surrounding tents. Hidden in the deepest shadows in the centre of this photo
is Alfredo Petrov, who was visible when I was waiting for the break in pedestrian traffic to take this shot.
Does he not want to be seen? What mineralogical secret has compelled him into the darkness?

If you’ve read other reports of mine from past shows, you may have noticed that I am regularly baffled by the torture to which some mineral specimens are subjected. It’s one thing to toss tumbled agates together, but here is the Ste Marie 2015 winner, for me – the two flats of reddish material at upper right and lower left.

TorturedCuprites

 Yes, this one is pretty low. Those are – or were – cuprite crystals from Rubstovskoe.
Sure, to be fair, they were undoubtedly not the top ones, but there were good
crystals among them and I just can’t see how this could ever be a good idea.

Searching the show, I found a few excellent things.

Despite the host country, the show is truly not full of French mineral specimens, given their relative scarcity. The ones that are there are highly prized. Nonetheless, I was able to acquire a few really interesting French pieces.

There are beautiful deep golden barite crystals from a find at La Côte d’Abot, near Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France. This was in fact a sizeable find however it seems that the pockets were either collapsed or at least partially collapsed well before human eyes ever reached them – many of the broken surfaces have faint recrystallization textures on them.  As in so many cases in mineral collecting, even the most careful of collecting cannot help specimens that were damaged by nature, so I did not acquire many, but the ones I did pick out are very cool specimens. Many demonstrate late-stage layered crystal growth, to create sceptres and capped sections – really neat crystallization patterns on these.

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France – 7.1 cm

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France

Barite, La Côte d’Abot, Saint Saturnin, Puy-de-Dôme, Auvergne, France – 4.3 cm

I also found a small stash of bournonite crystal groups from the contemporary classic locality, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France. As with the barites, many of the broken rear surfaces have faint recrystallization textures (and even micro crystals, in some cases) on them, and so again with these pieces there is the problem that many of them detached with just too little that was complete or in excellent condition. I did manage to come up with a very small number of great ones.

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 6.8 cm

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France

Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-Le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 6.1 cm

From Buxières-les-Mines, there was one fluorite specimen that really caught my eye.  We are used to seeing fluorite from occurrences where the habit is one of stacked cubes, but how often do we get to see stacked dodecahedra?

Fluorite, Buxières-les-Mines, Allier, Auvergne, France

Fluorite, Buxières-les-Mines, Allier, Auvergne, France – field of view approximately 3.0 cm

One last item of interest from France – from an uncommon locality for fine mineral specimens, some brilliant, sharp alpine hematite.

Hematite, L'Alpe d'Huez, Oisans, Isère, France

Hematite with quartz, L’Alpe d’Huez, Oisans, Isère, France – 10.1 cm

Ste Marie regularly includes a large number of sellers from Morocco. However, one really has to dig to find truly excellent specimens – they are few and far between!

Bou Azzer has for many years been known as the locality for the world’s finest erythrite specimens, but specimens are sporadic, and the quality is usually poor (to be fair, this is a very soft mineral and hard to bring from mine to market without damage.) This year a seller had a small lot of erythrite specimens of exceptional quality.

Erythrite1(8.8cm)

 Erythrite, Bou Azzer District, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 8.8 cm

Erythrite2(xls to 1cm)

Erythrite, Bou Azzer District, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – crystals to 1 cm

One other Morocco item – in my Tucson 2015 post, I mentioned some beautiful arite crystals from Bou Nahas. There has been a fair bit more material from this locality, but most of the barite groups and crystals are not particularly distinctive – and in fact I don;t find much of this material to be interesting. However, the isolated crystals and crystal pairs can be pretty special, and I found three more of those at the show – here’s one of them.

BariteBouNahas(5.0)

Barite, Bou Nahas, Oumjrane mining area, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 5.0 cm

You may recall that the beautiful yellow stilbite balls from Mali made their debut at Ste Marie last year. There almost none of these in Denver 2014, and I saw no high quality ones in Tucson this year (maybe I missed them?), so I wondered what the story was. Early after my arrival in Ste. Marie, I caught up with the same sellers from last year and went through their specimens. It turns out that the one digging, known simply as Diamonkara, has produced a number of further specimens over the past year, and although most were damaged, I was able to acquire some excellent pieces.

If you read about Diamonkara on my site last year, or if you were in Ste Marie either last year or this year, you may have noted that there has been a push to sell these as specimens of stellerite. When I asked one of the sellers last year as to what had been done to confirm that identification, I was told that “they look like stellerite” (because they often occur in the habit of spherical aggregates). Clearly, that is not enough to label them stellerite – not to mention, there are wheat-sheaf aggregates and individual crystals of this material too.  So yet again this year in Ste Marie, the name stellerite was used. I am aware of one set of analyses that was unable to demonstrate that any of these are in fact stellerite – this is second-hand information, but it is certainly consistent with the prior identifications of stilbite from the deposits of the region.

As for the specimens themselves, the good Diamonkara pieces are absolutely some of the nicest and most distinctive stilbites I’ve ever seen from anywhere, with beautiful colour and form. They are perhaps not yet appreciated for what they are – these are striking display specimens of a mineral that is often pale and drab.

StilbitePrehnite(6cm)

Stilbite, prehnite and epidote from Diamonkara, Bendougou, Kayes Region, Mali – 6 cm

Of all of the minerals that have been caught up in the rise of specimen prices, sadly, elbaite tourmaline stands out. It would be hard not to love a fine tourmaline, but these days it is hard to find excellent quality tourmaline specimens that can be purchased for prices that can be justified by that love. In Ste. Marie I was fortunate to be able to acquire a small number of wonderful-quality specimens from the classic Pakistan locality, Stak Nala. The seller’s family had mined these very recently.

Elbaite Tourmalin, Stak Nala, Pakistan

 Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.5 cm

Moving on from the dealers, the thematic displays this year were spectacular. The theme was minerals of the Alps, and many kinds of mineralogical environments were represented, including the classic alpine deposits and many others situated in the region. Just a couple of photos to give a glimpse:

RedFluorite

Fluorite, Massif de l’Aiguille Verte, Chamonix-Mont Blanc, Haute-Savoie, France – approximately 12 cm.
Collected by J. Couttet in 2004. Now in the Musée des Cristaux in Chamonix.

 Titanite

Group of twinned yellow titanite crystals – approximately 7 cm.

Jordanite

Famous (world’s finest) jordanite crystal from Lengenbach Quarry, Fäld, Finn Valley, Wallis, Switzerland –
approximately 7 cm. British Museum of Natural History collection.

Needless to say, I revisited the display area a few times, just to soak it all in.  The organizers and contributors did an amazing job – thank you!

Until next time, goodbye to the Val d’Argent.

Val d'Argent Val d’Argent, Alsace, France