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Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 05.17.2019 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted Indian specimens from the personal collection of Rock Currier in this new update – Rock Currier, India (click here).

Rock Currier was a remarkable person and highly influential force in the world of mineral collecting for decades. Beginning in the early 1970s, he travelled the world in search of mineral specimens and he was a pioneering mineral dealer in many countries. He grew his mineral business while at the same time building an impressive personal mineral collection. Rock was also a manager of – and a prolific contributor to – mindat.org, sharing his knowledge and expertise with the mineral community worldwide.

After Rock had begun his company (named Jewel Tunnel Imports, after the famous British railway “Jewel Tunnel” on the route from Mumbai to Pune, cutting through the zeolite “jewel” pockets), he travelled to India for mineral specimens. Over the years, he acquired and sold large volumes of Indian specimens, and he kept a few for his collection along the way.

Rock’s first trip to India was in 1972. The specimens in this update are just a few from Rock’s personal India collection and most date to the early years of his dealing in Indian minerals. Rock was a conscientious keeper of labels and information, such that all of his collection specimens were labeled with as much information as he had about them and they all bear catalogue numbers. Many also include a tiny label with the information affixed right to the specimen. Rock also wrote additionally about each specimen, and many typed specimen labels include this information.

This update includes beautiful specimens from India, many of which are from his early days buying and collecting there. Here are a few:

Scolecite twin, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

 Scolecite twin with calcite crystals, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India – 11.0 cm

Scolecite twin, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Scolecite twin with calcite crystals, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India – 10.8 cm

Heulandite, Uran Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Heulandite, Uran Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India – 6.2 cm

Heulandite, Quartz, Panvil Quarry, Panvil, Maharashtra, India

Heulandite on quartz, Panvil Quarry, Panvil, Maharashtra, India – 10.5 cm

Heulandite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Heulandite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India – 5.8 cm

Stilbite, Patharday Quarry, Nashik, Maharashtra, India

Stilbite, Patharday Quarry, Nashik, Maharashtra, India – 11.2 cm
Personally collected by Rock Currier in 1974

Hydroxyapophyllite, Prehnite, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, IndiaHydroxyapophyllite on prehnite, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India – 4.6 cm

Babingtonite, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Babingtonite (7 mm crystal) with hydroxyapophyllite, prehnite, laumontite, gyrolite, okenite and quartz
(seven well-crystallized minerals in this photo)
Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Stilbite, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Stilbite, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India – 8.9 cm
Personally collected by Rock Currier in 1974

Stilbite, Fluorapophyllite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Stilbite on fluorapophyllite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India – 7.4 cm

Stilbite, Heulandite, Quartz, Nashik, Maharashtra, India

Stilbite and heulandite on quartz, Nashik, Maharashtra, India – 10.4 cm

Scolecite, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Scolecite, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India – 3.8 cm tall

Stilbite, Fluorapophyllite, Patharday Quarry, Nashik, Maharashtra, India
Stilbite, Fluorapophyllite, Patharday Quarry, Nashik, Maharashtra, India – 7.0 cm

Stilbite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Stilbite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India – 5.2 cm

Stilbite, Fluorapophyllite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Stilbite, Fluorapophyllite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India – 8.2 cm

Stilbite, Cast after Calcite, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Stilbite cast after calcite, Pune, Maharashtra, India – 9.2 cm
Personally collected by Rock Currier in 1973.

Many of Rock’s specimens have extra background information with them, and those stories are included with each specimen. For those specimens I have included the information in each specimen’s description on the website.  But this one is too good to leave out of this blog post:

“A 9 cm hollow cast after a calcite crystal. Never been cleaned. The cast is faithful to the point of showing some striations that were on the calcite near its tip.Collected the specimens. Was feeling way back in the pocket and felt sometime alive twitch. Thought it was a cobra and jumped back, fell ass over teacups. Turned out it was a frog. Shoveled pounds of dirty stilbite druse plates onto the ground. The casts were the only things in the pocket worth keeping.”

Fluorapophyllite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Fluorapophyllite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India – 4.0 cm

Rock was meticulous about labeling his specimens, and many (particularly the earlier ones) include both a painted number and a label with actual label information in a tiny printed font. Where a specimen did not readily have an easy place for a label of this kind, Rock attached a thread and label, as with the underside of the fluorapophyllite specimen above:

Fluorapophyllite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Fluorapophyllite, Pashan Quarries, Pashan Hills, Pune, Maharashtra, India – 4.0 cm
Same specimen as previous photo

Prehnite, Quartz, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Prehnite, with gyrolite on top, on quartz, Kandivali Quarry, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Field of view approx. 2 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 09.11.2015 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added some excellent yellow stilbites on the website in the new Mali Update (click here).

Beautiful yellow stilbite balls from Mali made their debut at Ste. Marie 2014. Although there has only been a small trickle of fine specimens since then, the deposit at Diamonkara has now once again produced a number of very fine pieces. As in 2014, moderate-to-significant damage was almost ubiquitous, and high-quality specimens like the ones in this lot are very uncommon. As a side note, although there has been a push to sell these as specimens of stellerite, none of the analytical work done to date has confirmed any stellerite identification, to my knowledge (and I am aware some analytical work has been done).

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, colourful display specimens of a mineral that is often pale and drab.

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite with prehnite and epidote, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 6 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 6.2 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 6.8 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite on epidote, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali
Field of view – 5 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite on pargasite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.6 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite on prehnite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali
Field of view 4.5 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.8 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 4 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.1 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.1 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite (deep colour) Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.1 cm

Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliStilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.1 cm

Prehnite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, MaliPrehnite, Arrondissement Diako, Kayes Region, Mali – field of view 5.5 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