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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.26.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

In the heart of France’s Vosges Mountains, each June, Mineral World assembles at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Alsace, for what is always a great mineral show.

Alsace is a beautiful place, and this sure is a beautiful time of year.

Saint-Hippolyte, Alsace, France

Saint-Hippolyte, Alsace, with the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg on the crest of the hill in the background.

SteMarie

Everywhere you look, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines is full of blooms in late June.

Lavender

Lavender is a common sight and scent in Alsace at this time of year.

Ste. Marie’s mining history dates to the 16th century. Located in the Val’D’Argent (“Valley of Silver”), the town was the hub for a vast number of mining operations over a few hundred years that ultimately left approximately 20,000 km of tunnels under and inside these valley hills.

SteMarieHistory

Depiction of historic mining practices in the area of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

If you are newer to the website and might not have seen prior Ste. Marie reports, I’ve written a bit more on the history in other years’ posts – there are some good photos as well, for example in the Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2015 post (click here).

The Show

For a few days each year, this town is transformed, as mineral and gem people from every corner of the globe get together. The centre of town becomes its own little community with tent “streets” and alleyways in all directions.

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines Mineral Show

One of the many tent streets, with the Theatre venue in the background.

Although it is a gorgeous time of year in Alsace, 2017’s European heat wave made for some scorching days at the show. One popular way to beat the afternoon heat was the misting station they had installed for the show at the central hub-intersection, by the theatre.

Misting Towers

It was a great idea. Unfortunately for me, I was always carrying flats full of minerals when I passed this intersection… (cardboard mineral boxes and misting don’t mix!)

Of course, hot days can’t stop the quest… and there were some great finds this year.

There has been a large new find of red zircons from the Astor Valley, in Pakistan. A locality that has sporadically produced small amounts of 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 a few 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.

I’m including a few photos here, and to see more, I’m including a link below these.

Red Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – crystal 3 cm across

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – 2 cm crystal

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 2 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 3 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan – field of view 2 cm

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

These zircon crystals fluoresce yellow under shortwave ultraviolet light.

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

To see more of these zircon specimens, click here.

As a related aside, if you’ve read my mineral show posts before, you will likely have seen that I joke about shows as “urban field collecting”. So here is an example of one kind of urban field collecting. The Astor Valley red zircons arrived in metal shipping containers, and large numbers were as yet still packed up. Meaning… a few hours in the hot sun… I unpacked each and every zircon from this shipment, never knowing whether the next piece in hand might be a worthy specimen (and usually it was not!).

Urban Field Collecting

This sure isn’t so different from collecting on mine dumps: (1) Each piece you have in hand has no direct relationship to the one next to it. (2) Any piece can be great. and (3) If you don’t keep going through as much material as humanly possible, you will miss the good specimens. So, on you go…

Next, from the well-known locality, Paprok, Afghanistan, there has been new production of some excellent spodumene crystals. Many are bicoloured, light pink and green, while some are one colour or the other. Some of these are very nicely formed!

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan – 5.0 cm (photographed section)

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan – 4.5 cm (photographed section)

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan – 5.0 cm

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan – 4.0 cm (photographed section)

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan

Spodumene, Paprok, Kamdesh District, Nuristan Province, Afghanistan – 2.5 cm (photographed section)

A “new” find of clinochlore has come from Arrondissement Diako, Mali. I say “new” because they are new to us, but were actually collected a while back. The information relayed to me is that these were found six years ago by a geologist prospecting for economic ore minerals. The clinochlores were not considered specimens by the prospector, but have now been tracked down. A very soft mineral, excavated by a commercial prospector, you can imagine that most from the lot are not fine mineral specimens at all, but a very few are really nice, particularly under good lights, where the green becomes visible. Good clinochlore specimens are really not easy to come by, so I was really pleased to find these.

Clinochlore, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali

Clinochlore, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.3 cm

Clinochlore, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali

Clinochlore, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.0 cm

Clinochlore, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali

Clinochlore, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 2.5 cm crystal

A few years ago, I managed to acquire a few hematite specimens from just outside the town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines itself. These are the hematites from  Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. I’ve tracked down a few more. Specimens from this locality were collected in the 1970s and 1980s. These are really great, distinctive hematite specimens, from a now classic locality.

Hematite, Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France

Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France – field of view 4.0 cm

Hematite, Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France

Hematite with quartz, Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France – 5.8 cm

Hematite, Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France

Hematite, Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France – 8.7 cm

Hematite, Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France

Hematite, Brezouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France – field of view 5.0 cm

The Show Exhibits

As always, the exhibits were fantastic. This year’s theme was Minerals and Volcanism, with cases dedicated to mineral specimens from volcanic deposits around the world. Of course, they featured many basalt-hosted specimens from localities around the world. Some of these are very well represented by specimens and photographs throughout the world – examples include the Deccan Traps in India and the beautiful amethysts from Artigas, Uruguay – while others are localities and minerals that we rarely see represented. With one exception, I’ve chosen to include photos of a few of the latter for this post. To me, that is often the most amazing part of the Ste. Marie exhibit experience.

Beginning with France, I loved the way this particular display was set up. It was dim, with LED illumination under the five specimens (four corundum crystals and an orange zircon), and did they ever jump to life!

Exhibit 1

From top left, clockwise: Two green-blue corundum crystals from Espaly-Saint-Marcel, Haute Loire (Collection of the Museum of Natural History, London);
Orange zircon from Riou Pezzouliou, Espaly-Saint-Marcel, Haute Loire (Collection of Alain Martaud);
Blue corundum, var. sapphire, from Riou Pezzouliou, Espaly-Saint-Marcel, Haute Loire (Collection of Alain Martaud); and
Blue corundum, var. sapphire, from le Coupet, Haute Loire (Collection of Louis-Dominique Bayle)

This is one of the world’s finest (if not the single finest) specimens of phillipsite. The cruciform twin at the top is about 2.5 cm, and the crystals are sharp and lustrous.

Phillipsite, Alter Stein Quarry, Allendorf, Hessen, Germany - Andreas Leinweber Collection.

Phillipsite, Alter Stein Quarry, Allendorf, Hessen, Germany (Collection of Andreas Leinweber)

This next one is not a rare mineral, but a really classy specimen from an unfamiliar locality.

Aragonite

Aragonite, Gergovy, Puy de Dome, France (Collection of Alain Martaud)

While we’re in Europe, a couple of true classics from Italy:

These are just gorgeous crystals for nepheline.

Nepheline

Nepheline, Mt. Somma, Campania, Italy – crystals to about 1 cm
(From the Struver Collection, 1888, in the Collection of the Museo Universitaria di Scienze della Terra, Italy)

And this vesuvianite is sharp with great lustre.

Vesuvianite

Vesuvianite, Latium, Italy – crystal about 1 cm
(From the Spada Collection, in the Collection of the Museo Universitaria di Scienze della Terra, Italy)

With apologies for the very poor photograph quality (white zeolites really need extra lights and/or reflectors), I wanted to include this specimen despite the photo, because the piece blew me away. It’s a superb analcime from any locality, but check out this locality!

Analcime

Analcime, Kerguelen Islands, French Southern and Antarctic Lands – crystals to 5 cm
Collection of the Museum of Natural History, London

I mentioned one exception for a specimen from a more commonly represented locality, and this is from the abundant deposits in Rio Grande do Sul. It is spectacular! It glistens and sparkles throughout the cavity and was a favourite for many at the show.

Amethyst

Quartz, var. amethyst, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil – approximately 30 cm
Collection of the National Museum of Natural History, Paris.

And finally I’ll end with what was a great case, a display of specimens from volcanic deposits from the collection of French mineralogist René Just Haüy, generally regarded as the “father of modern crystallography”. These specimens are from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.

ReneJustHauy

Until next year, so long for now to the beautiful towns and gardens of Alsace…

 Window boxesSaint-Hippolyte, Alsace

Hollyhock

Saint-Hippolyte, Alsace

TwoTowers

Saint-Hippolyte, Alsace

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.02.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

 

In a valley in the Vosges region of France, the quiet town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines transforms into a bustling mineral and gem extravaganza every June. This is the most beautiful setting for any of the world’s major annual mineral shows, and attending is a great experience.

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2016 mineral show

Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, 2016

Although there was much stormy and unsettled weather across France and Germany this year, the towns of this area escaped the more significant flooding damage that affected so many communities elsewhere. The Rhine was certainly swollen with much more water than usual – and thunderstorms left debris on the roads – but for the most part, the rains just meant lots of green across the countryside.

Orschwiller, France

Vineyards, near Orschwiller. Chateau Haut Koenigsbourg is perched above, in the Vosges mountains.

I love the region’s idyllic small towns – quiet, with the calls of blackbirds overhead.

Saint Hippolyte, France

Saint Hippolyte, Haut-Rhin, France

Saint Hippolyte, France

Beautiful Alsace architecture bathed in a warm evening light

In the town of Ste. Marie itself, one of my favourite things about its setting is that the valley is quite steep, and so the forests and pastures form a backdrop for many of the views from down in the middle of the town.

Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, France

Saint-Marie-aux-Mines, Val D’Argent, France

The river and waterways of the town are channeled behind the houses and other buildings – and normally at this time of year there isn’t much water. This year, there was lots!

Ste. Marie-aux-Mines, France

Bubbling water channel running through Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

One thing that really stood out this year was the temperature – it was HOT! Humid too. Lots of sun and haze… and you also had to watch for the late-afternoon thunderstorms.

Storm3

Signs of impending rain at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2016

So I did see this one coming…

Storm1

Thunderstorm coming from up the Val D’Argent

…and I thought I had time to make it back to the car, but… ended up sheltering part way there, when the skies opened up!

Storm2

Rainwater streaming from waterspouts directly into the water channel that runs behind the houses – efficient!

The storms were short and did not make life uncomfortable for long – they were actually refreshing. In fact, there was something that made things far more uncomfortable at the show…

Halogen

300W halogen lights on stands. It is hard to find a hotter mainstream light source (!) – these were all over the indoor dealer displays.
I love the colour quality of halogen lights, but these things are stoves on sticks.

Sainte-Marie-aux_Mines, France

One of the tent-lined streets at Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines

For me the most exciting new find at Ste. Marie was actually not on public display. Tomasz Praszkier brought out the top new Moroccan aragonite specimens and they are truly superb! Aragonite is not a rare mineral, of course, and some aragonite localities are rather abundant producers, so, for example, we typically see lots of aragonite available from Tazouta, Morocco, and also from Minglanilla, Spain. (Even in those instances, truly fine specimens are not the rule, as the vast majority are damaged). These specimens exhibit twinning, with pseudo-hexagonal cyclic twins of aragonite. However, these new specimens from Mamsa are classic, elongated, tapered orthorhombic crystals in groups of radiating spikes and make for dramatic specimens.  Even though aragonite itself is uncommon, it is very hard to acquire high-quality specimens of this most classic habit.

In this case, Tomasz went through hundreds of flats (yes flats (!)) of material in Morocco, and the specimens I acquired from him are all in the top 20 to date (top 20 pieces, not flats!). Almost everything he saw was badly damaged. This bulk of lower quality material will undoubtedly begin to show up at future mineral shows, but – interesting – it was almost entirely absent among the Moroccan dealers in Ste. Marie.

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

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 cm

It is notable that the aragonite at this locality does also occur in other habits, including as elongated pseudo-hexagonal twins, so we may see those in future. The locality itself is well-exposed in a barren area north of Sidi Ayed. The difficulty is that the material closer to the surface has been extracted, and this was the matrix that was easier to collect – as they’ve gone deeper, the matrix has been tougher, and the material from these deeper excavations has been damaged. Most collecting there has been by local collectors who are more often digging agates, and of course collecting these delicate aragonite sprays required different techniques and care – hence the high level of damage with most of this material.

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

As usual, there were many Moroccan dealers with the usual – most had very typical material, in moderate condition. One interesting new find was some purple fluorite, from very narrow seams at a locality Elyachi, near Tatouine.

TatouineFluorite

 

Fluorite, Elyachi, nr. Tatouine, Meknes-Tafilalet, Morocco – 8.2 cm

One last note from Morocco is that the production of the beautiful blue barites from Sidi Lahcen (these ones) is reportedly finished. Although we always have to be skeptical when we are told that a locality is exhausted, the marketplace confirmed it in Ste. Marie this year, with almost no truly high-quality specimens available.

Speaking of high-quality specimens one cannot track down… I had hoped to bring back a few more of the bright yellow stilbite ball specimens from Mali (if you aren’t familiar with them, some are here). Although there were some at the show, they were all too damaged for our collections – I’m not sure that any were new. I suspect that most were the low-quality pieces from the original collecting of this material. I continue to keep an eye out for them, as they are some of the nicest yellow stilbite specimens I’ve ever seen, and they look so great in the cabinet. We’ll see what the future brings. In the meantime, I was able to pick up some excellent prehnite/epidote specimens from Mali, along with a sharp, lustrous vesuvianite.

Prehnite Mali

 Prehnite, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.3 cm

New from France, French collector Grégoire de Bodinat recently collected some beautiful specimens at the Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France. The Mésage Mine was originally explored in the early-nineteenth century for iron, and the underground workings have been abandoned since the late-nineteenth century. Grégoire had a nice selection of high quality specimens from this classic region – siderite with quartz, ankerite crystals, and sharp bournonite crystals with white barite.

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Ankerite and Pyrite on Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 6.6 cm

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Pyrite and Quartz on Siderite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Siderite with Quartz, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France – 4.9 cm

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

Bournonite, Barite, Mésage Mine, Saint-Pierre-de-Mésage, Isère, France

The Mésage Mine specimens are on the website here.

Finally, another great new find is from the Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland. This is of gypsum, var. selenite, with inclusions of herbertsmithite (a rare copper chloride mineral), making the specimens a vibrant green colour. These are gorgeous cabinet specimens! There were not many of these, and only a handful were top quality – I acquired all of the top quality ones.

Gypsum, var. Selenite, Herbertsmithite, Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland

Gypsum, var. Selenite, with inclusions of Herbertsmithite, Rudna Mine, Lubin District, Lower Silesia, Poland
Crystals up to approximately 3 cm

Displays

The Saint-Marie-aux-Mines show has hosted super displays in recent years.

This year, the main theme was Minerals and Wines (“Origines Pierres et Vins”), with some cases dedicated to matching mineral colours and wine colours, and others featuring the wines and minerals of a particular region.

DisplayRioja
Rioja, Spain – home of great wines and the incomparable pyrites of Navajun
Display by Pedro Conde

DisplayChessy4
The minerals and wines of the Chessy-les-Mines, Rhône

The Chessy case had some amazing specimens – here is a closer look at a few:

DisplayChessy1

Cuprite crystals, Chessy-les-Mines

DisplayChessy2

Azurite, Chessy-les-Mines – a gorgeous specimen,approximately 9 cm

From the Origines Pierres et Vins cases, I loved this Chanarcillo Prousite from the Collection of the Museum National d’Histoire Natural in Paris.

DisplayProustite

Proustite, Chanarcillo, Atacama, Chile – approximately 4 cm

The exposition also included a few cases dedicated to colours in minerals, explaining what causes the colours in certain minerals. These cases included many stunning specimens and here are a few.

DisplayAdamite

This adamite was an amazing hue – approximately 5 cm

This next one looks at a glance like it’s a classic from Amatitlan, Guererro, Mexico, but look at the label… (!)

DisplayAmethyst

Amethyst, Traversella, Piedmont, Italy, approximately 20 cm

This photo doesn’t do this crystal justice – an astounding, lustrous, old-time Red Cloud wulfenite, pristine…

DisplayWulfenite
Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine, La Paz Co., Arizona – crystal approximatey 4 cm
Collection of the Musée Mineralogie de Mines, Paris Tech

And finally, while we’re on the subject of the causes of colour in minerals, and leaving the displays… I wandered into one dealer with new crystals of “Amegreen” (!). These are Uruguayan amethysts that have been subjected to radiation in a lab, to turn them green. Blech!! (At least the dealer was openly disclosing the origins of the colour.)

Amegreen

Quartz, originally var. amethyst, tortured and turned green in a lab using radiation – marketed as “Amegreen”
Artigas, Uruguay

 Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines is such a great show. I already can’t wait for next year, and hope to see you there!

St. Hippolyte, France

 Beautiful summer evening in Alsace