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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 02.24.2018 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted a small number of excellent new specimens in this Pakistan-Afghanistan Update (click here). This group includes colourful brucites from Killa Saifullah, a superb matrix diopside from Sar-e Sang, twinned titanite from Alchuri, topaz from Shigar, and one of my favourite zircon specimens from Astor Valley.

 Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, PakistanBrucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 7.2 cm

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 6.1 cm

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 3.1 cm

102113(1)(8.0)

Diopside, Ladujar Medam, Sar-e-Sang River, Kokcha Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan – 8 cm

Titanite, Alchuri, Shigar Valley, Baltistan, Pakistan

Titanite, Alchuri, Shigar Valley, Baltistan, Pakistan – Field of view 2 cm

Topaz, Shigar Valley, Skardu District, Baltistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Topaz, Shigar Valley, Skardu District, Baltistan, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 3.1 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
Field of view 2.0 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 02.23.2018 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

It’s hard to believe that another Tucson has come and gone already. In the middle of a cold Bancroft winter, Tucson’s wonderful warm sunshine was sure welcome.

Santa Rita Foothills, Arizona Santa Rita Foothills, southeast of Tucson

I was very fortunate to be able to experience Tucson’s natural surroundings this year. I stayed with my good friend and collecting partner David Joyce (David K. Joyce Minerals), with Carol Teal and their dog Riley at their new place in the beautiful Santa Rita Foothills, southeast of the city.

DaveRiley2

 Dave and Riley on their sitting rock

In the foothills

Photo of me taken by Don Doell – Santa Rita Foothills, with Tucson in the distance

The Sonora Desert is a remarkable place in the world. In places, and at many times of year, it appears harsh and unforgiving. As to flora and fauna, the Sonora Desert gives the superficial impression that it is inhabited only by the hardiest very few species.

Saguaro SceneSaguaro Cacti

Immerse yourself in it a little, and the truth reveals itself – the variety of plants and animals is amazing (600 plant species and 200 animal species).  As with everything in life, the more quiet observation you do, the more you see. The foothills and desert areas around Tucson are full of life.

Deer 1

Deer paying a visit to Dave and Carol’s place

Cactus flower

Cactus bloom

Saguaro armSaguaro arm

On one of our mornings in the desert, the moon put on a show of its own.

Mesquite EclipseUnder the mesquite trees with the lunar eclipse before dawn, Santa Rita Foothills

The Minerals

OK OK. I know, we all really want to read about minerals. Of course, what Tucson means is the fun of midwinter urban field collecting, and there were lots of great specimens this year.

Some beautiful and interesting specimens have continued to come from Pakistan and Afghanistan. From Pakistan, the recent brucite specimens are super – some of the finest brucite I’ve ever seen. The Killah Saifullah brucite were first noted to me by John White after he saw a couple in Munich, 2016, and since then, the quality of the finest has greatly increased over those early days. It seems that most of these are occurring in very tight seams, or with a fragmented or brecciated matrix, and so most have contacts and grey spots around them. The colour of most of them is a cream-to-very-pale-yellow, but the best have a bright yellow hue. Many are very finely crystallized, but on some, like these ones, one can easily see many crystal faces. These Pakistan brucites are amazing for the mineral.

I’ve done my best to colour-balance them accurately (daylight, shade). I always do that anyway, of course, but some mineral specimens are susceptible to really skewing away from daylight appearance when photographed.

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan
Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 6.1 cm

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 7.2 cm

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, PakistanBrucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 3.2 cm

From Afghanistan, a small number of excellent specimens have continued to come from some of the best-known occurrences, and I just want to highlight one in particular. From Sar-e Sang, Dudley Blauwet has recently brought out a couple of particularly excellent diopside specimens, and I am including one here. Given that diopside is not an uncommon mineral, it’s surprising that great matrix specimens are so hard to find. This one is striking.

102113(1)(8.0)
Diopside, Ladujar Medam, Sar-e Sang River, Kokcha Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan – 8 cm

Moving on to South America, there have been a couple of particularly interesting new finds. In Potosí, Bolivia, there has been a discovery of very pretty amethyst crystals. There isn’t more specific information about the locality at this time – I’m told that this is because it is in an unnamed area of Potosi, not near to any named settlement or geographic feature. The specimens were discovered by farmers, at the edge of a field area, bordering hills. These have somewhat similar habit and appearance to some of the amethyst crystals from Peidra Parada (Las Vigas), Mexico. They are sharp, with top lustre and excellent transparency. Some are doubly-terminated, and some show a great reverse-sceptre habit. These are really sweet – I only found them available from one person, and I acquired the nicest for the website.

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosi, BoliviaQuartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia – 5.3 cm

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz, var. amethyst (reverse sceptre), Potosí, Bolivia
Field of view 1.5 cm

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia
Field of view 2.5 cm

In Peru, there has been a new discovery of clinozoizite. I understand that the workings from which these were produced are only operational on a sporadic basis. The specific zone from which these specimens were recovered is apparently now done, and they have encountered a bit of epidote as the work has advanced. Excellent display specimens of clinozoisite are generally uncommon – one thinks of the famous finds at Alchuri in the Shigar Valley in Pakistan, and few other localities come to mind. These clinozoisite specimens are all clustered groups of crystals. I have seen no single isolated crystals. The crystals themselves are very sharp and well-defined, lustrous, with some twinned and some not.

Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Canete, Canete Province, Lima Dept., Peru

Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete,
Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru – 4.3 cm

Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Canete, Canete Province, Lima Dept., Peru Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete, Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru

Clinozoisite twin, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete,
Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru – 3.5 cm

Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Canete, Canete Province, Lima Dept., Peru Clinozoisite, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete, Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru

Clinozoisite twin, Cerro San Cristobal, San Vincente de Cañete,
Cañete Province, Lima Dept., Peru – 8.6 cm

I want to highlight one other great find that is relatively recent – the spectacular iron-cross twins of pyrite from Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia, discovered about a year ago (I believe the ones available in Tucson were from the original find, as opposed to new production). The term “iron-cross twin” refers to twinned pentagonal dodecahedra, the edges of which cross at right angles. Well-defined iron-cross pyrite twins have always been uncommon and sought-after. Most are small, and often incomplete. These are quite large for iron-cross twins – they are pretty spectacular. One note about these: they have been mislabeled as goethite or limonite after pyrite. They are not pseudomorphs. In fact, they are pyrite, with a very thin surface layer of goethite.

Pyrite Iron Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

Pyrite Iron-Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia – 5.0 cm

Over to Africa, some great specimens. In Tanzania, the Merelani occurrences continue to produce very fine specimens of a number of minerals, while a few specimens from finds in recent years have surfaced as well.

Merelani Diopside

 Diopside with graphite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania – 3.7 cm

MerelaniPrehnitePrehnite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania – 5.3 cm

From the finds in 2012-13, I managed to acquire a world-class alabandite crystal.

Alabandite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania

Alabandite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania – 6.8 cm

From Malawi, there have been more first class specimens available from the the occurrences at Mt. Malosa and Mulanje, including arfvedsonite, eudidymite and zircon.

Zircon, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi Zircon, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – crystal 3.2 cm

Over the years, the very well-known almandine occurrence at Vrondolo, Madagascar, has produced some unusually fine crystals. This occurrence is a fair distance up a small mountain – it takes hours to reach it on foot. Most often, the crystals from here are slightly to heavily chipped when extracted, because they are found frozen in solid rock. However, I found a small recent group of specimens including crystals that grew into open spaces, as well as other crystals extracted in super condition. These are really nice garnets!

Almandine, Vorondolo, Antananarivo, Madagascar

 Almandine, Vorondolo, Antananarivo, Madagascar – 4.5 cm

Last from Africa, Morocco continues to produce excellent specimens of many minerals – the golden age of Moroccan minerals continues. Because these finds have been known generally or written up by others, I won’t dwell too much on them in this report – there will be many fine Moroccan specimens coming on the website over the next few months. However, I want to highlight some Imilchil material that I think is noteworthy. For some time, we have seen small dark garnet crystals from Imilchil. Some of these crystals have been found to be the titanium-rich garnet group member, schorlomite, while I’m told most analyzed specimens are actually titanium-rich andradite, not enough titanium to be schorlomite. A new find at Anemzi (the same Imilchil-area locality that produces the fine green fluorapatite crystals, and has produced nice magnetites) has produced some of the nicest of these dark andradite crystals I have seen from Imilchil. At their finest, the crystals are sharp with beautiful morphology, and a good number of the specimens are comprised of a stack of these crystals. Some specimens have small, sharp, octahedral magnetite crystals in association – they are sparse, but a neat pairing. Independent from the andradites, Anemzi has produced some sharp magnetites lately as well, making for very nice specimens.

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 7 cm

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 3.5 cm

Magnetite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Magnetite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 4.4 cm

My final mineral entry is from China. I feel that the find of fluorite from Fujian deserves a mention, even though China has produced so much fluorite over the years. These new ones are the fluorites that have been dubbed “tanzanite fluorite” by several dealers. These have been available since early 2017, and they were not widespread this year at Tucson. The ones available were quite expensive. This locality has produced a range of fluorite – the most tanzanite blue-purple is from the one 2017 find, while other blues and purple hues have been recovered as well. I’ve been told there is “no more” – of course!!! – and we’ve all heard that so many times before, so skepticism is certainly warranted! I personally will believe it when I see it. However, I didn’t see as much as I expected and hoped, so we’ll see. Moreover, most of the specimens I did see were significantly contacted and/or damaged. I believe this is not only reflecting the way they were collected (perhaps in some cases with less care than we’d like), but also due to the nature of the occurrence. Many of these seem to have formed in very tight and narrow spaces, and would have been exceptionally difficult to extract without any contacting issues. I think the overall story of this locality will be clearer over time. Given that there are several colour hues and crystal habits from this locality, so it seems likely there was more than one pocket. These are beautiful fluorite specimens!

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

 Fluorite, Xiayang, Yongchun Co., Fujian, China – 5.3 cm

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yongchun Co., Fujian, China – 3.4 cm

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yongchun Co., Fujian, China – 5.2 cm

A Remarkable Emerald

My friend John White came upon a remarkable emerald specimen from Pakistan and I want to share a photo. I’ve never seen anything like it, and much more important, John (you likely know, the former curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s mineral collection) has never seen anything like it! It is available.

Beryl var. Emerald - Pakistan 28-1-25

 

 Beryl, var. emerald, Guijar Kalay Valley, Swat District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan.
The larger crystal is 3.5 cm tall.

Friends

Tucson 2018 was a great time, with lots of great friends and the beauty of the Sonora Desert. Thank you all!

3 shadows

Evening shadows  (I believe the order is Don Doell, me, John Betts)

Mineral Song Campfire

Mineral songs around the campfire, led by Dave (of course!)
From left: Malcolm Southwood, John Veevaert, John Betts, Don Doell, David Joyce and Angela Southwood

Thank you again Carol, Dave and Riley, for a wonderful time!

Carol Dave Riley

Until next year, so long, Tucson…

Palo Verde Sunset

Home! And… Rudy!

As great as it was, it’s wonderful to be home. The warm sun of the Tucson desert having recharged me, I’m happy to be back out in the winter woods.

Snowy Road, Bancroft, OntarioOur snowy woods, near Bancroft, Ontario

SnowWoods 2

Sunny winter morning, Bancroft, Ontario

And as many of you know, this means I’m back to once again sharing fun with young Rudy, our Labrador Retriever puppy.

Rudy McDougallDad, can I join you on the couch?

Rudy McDougall

First shipping run to Bancroft.
Dad, I’ll drive.

In only a couple of months he has transformed from tiny puppy to young dog. He’s gleeful about pretty much everything.

Rudy McDougallSnow? Love it!

Rudy is of course new to all this mineral business. Our founding Labrador Retriever, Emery, supervised all operations – he was the Chairman of the Afternoon Snooze Committee and comprised our IT Department, although he slept through most of our business operations. It will be a while until Rudy is ready to step into Emery’s higher roles, but he is a great little supervisor. For now, he is happy to be a particularly active part of all packing, shipping and particularly unpacking operations. He has delighted in founding our Playful Mayhem Department.

Rudy McDougall

What do you mean, my office chair is for “sleeping” while you work?

With lots of Tucson minerals to come, Rudy and I will do our best to get them online over the next few weeks!

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.18.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted a number of beautiful elbaite crystals from Afghanistan and Pakistan in this Tourmaline Update (click here). Several of the tourmalines from Stak Nala were very recently collected – I acquired them from a family that is mining the specimens.

Elbaite Tourmaline, Paprok, Afghanistan

 

Elbaite Tourmaline, Paprok, Afghanistan – 5.8 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline on Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

 

Elbaite Tourmaline on Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 6.8 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline on Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

The same specimen as above, photographed in ultraviolet light

Elbaite Tourmaline with Muscovite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite Tourmaline with Muscovite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.8 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.2 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.6 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.2 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 3.8 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.2 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite Tourmaline with Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 3.9 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.27.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

I’ve posted some wonderful new zircon crystals in this Pakistan Red Zircon Update (click here).

These are from a large new find of red zircons from the Astor Valley, in Pakistan. A locality that has somewhat sporadically produced small amounts of fine material in recent years, this find produced a large number of pieces. However, from all I have seen, fine zircons are few. There are two key reasons for this. First, the zircons are enclosed within solid rock with other hard constituent minerals, such that many zircons were broken when they were collected. Second, and a much more prevalent issue, the zircon crystals seem to have formed more or less contemporaneously with most of the other minerals in the deposit – feldspar, biotite mica, and pyroxene – and as a result, most of the zircon crystals are not fully developed. Instead, most zircon crystal growth was interrupted by the growth of these other minerals, and therefore most zircons are simply incomplete, or malformed. And yet, among the well-over 1000 pieces I went through, there were some super crystals. The colour ranges from hues of wine-red to intense, vivid deep red, with some occasional gradation to much lighter hues, almost colourless.

Red Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan
Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 3.0 cm crystal

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

 Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 2.0 cm crystal

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 2.0 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 2.0 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 3.0 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 6.2 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 5.5 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 4.8 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 1.7 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 2.0 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 3.1 cm

Note the interesting colour-zoning/gradation in this next one – it is almost colourless at the termination.

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 1.3 cm crystal

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 2.7 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – crystals to 0.9 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 0.7 cm crystal

These zircon crystals fluoresce yellow under short-wave ultraviolet light.

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 3.0 cm crystal
Photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 2.0 cm crystal
Photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 3.5 cm
Photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 2.5 cm
Photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 4.8 cm
Photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 3.5 cm
Photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan, photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 2.5 cm
Photographed in short-wave ultraviolet light

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.17.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added a small group of beautiful elbaite tourmaline specimens in this Stak Nala Tourmaline Update (click here). Since the 1980s, elbaite toumaline crystals from the pegmatites at Stak Nala, in Pakistan’s Northern Areas, have been known worldwide. Particularly distinctive and prized when associated with albite crystals, these tourmalines are usually colour-zoned, with dark green to black-appearing centre sections, with zones of green, and sometimes pink, blue or colourless zones at the terminations. Often, a closer inspection with strong light or a strong reflective background is needed to fully show these zones. The doubly-terminated crystals from Stak Nala are super examples of hemimorphism (the crystal forms present at one termination are different from those at the other termination). You’ll see that this update also includes one great lepidolite crystal.

I was fortunate to acquire these from a member of the family that mines them.

Elbaite Tourmaline, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, PakistanElbaite tourmaline with albite and microcline, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.5 cm

Elbaite tourmaline with albite and microcline, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan - 4.5 cmElbaite tourmaline with albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.8 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan Elbaite tourmaline with albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.4 cm

Elbaite tourmaline with albite and microcline, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan - 4.5 cm

Elbaite tourmaline with albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 5.8 cm

Elbaite tourmaline with albite , Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan Elbaite tourmaline with albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.1 cm

Elbaite tourmaline with albite , Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan Elbaite tourmaline with albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan
Field of view approximately 3 cm

Elbaite tourmaline with albite , Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite tourmaline with albite and microcline, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 5.9 cm

Elbaite tourmaline with albite , Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite tourmaline with albite , Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 3.8 cm

Elbaite tourmaline with albite , Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Elbaite tourmaline with albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.6 cm

Lepidolite mica, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan

Lepidolite mica, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.6 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

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 11.06.2014 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

This Pakistan-Afghanistan Update (click here) features a small number of excellent specimens, from tourmalines and a gorgeous cabinet specimen of spessartine garnet, to some much more unusual specimens, including scapolite and pseudomorphs from Sar-e-Sang.

Spessartine Garnet Crystals

Spessartine Garnet, Albite, Apaligun, Braldu Valley, Baltistan, N.A., Pakistan – 10.2 cm

Elbaite Tourmaline Crystals

Elbaite Tourmaline, Albite, Stak Nala, Gilgit-Skardu Road, Northern Areas, Pakistan – 4.1 cm

Schorl Tourmaline Crystal, Laila Peak, Pakistan

Schorl Tourmaline, Laila Peak, Haramosh Range, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 2.9 cm