There really is no event in the Mineral World year exactly like the Rochester Mineralogical Symposium. It may sound scientific and formal, but Rochester is perhaps the most welcoming and inclusive mineral gathering I know.
Rochester is not meant to be a strictly scientific symposium – it is meant for anyone who wants to learn more about topics in mineralogy. At Rochester, many of the best-known mineral people of our time, mineralogists, curators, collectors (including beginners) and students, all share and learn together. And we have a good time together too. How often, in any field of study, does one find this kind of collaboration and true camaraderie among people from the top of the profession through to early-stage amateur enthusiasts? It’s a great experience.
So if you’ve never come, why not plan to come next year? Rochester is meant for you as much as anyone! You can reserve the dates right now: April 20-23, 2017. The great 2017 speakers list is below…
2016 RMS Presentations
Our presentations this year spanned a real range of speakers and topics.
Thursday night we began with a talk about mineral adventure, to the southern coastline of Baffin Island, Nunavut, in Canada’s far north. This is the kind of adventure few of us will ever be able to (or would dare to) undertake. Our speaker was Brad Wilson. Brad is perhaps best known as a superb faceter of gemstones, from traditional coloured gemstones to rare and soft collector stones. He describes his trips as “part of my fearless love of nature”.
Have you ever seen anything like this from Baffin? (!)
Fluorapatite, Kimmirut, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada – 12 cm
B. Wilson specimen and photo
Over the years, during many trips, Brad has adventured for minerals in the far north of Canada – each of these trips is amazing. This is truly remote territory, with no settlements beyond Brad’s starting point, and he must fly his Zodiac watercraft from his home in Ontario to Baffin Island, so that he has a way to navigate the water. Once he’s out on his trip, he has no-one to rely on beyond himself, and he has nothing except what he takes with him! And when there are polar bears around, things can become less than ideal…
Brad Wilson, mineral adventuring solo along the southern coast of Baffin Island
B. Wilson photo
There is only limited literature and information about the geology and mineralogy of this region, so Brad has developed much of his knowledge from his travels. His discoveries have included superbly crystallized black spinel crystals, along with various minerals one might also find in calcite vein-dyke environments, such as titanite (to large-sized crystals).
Superb, complex spinel crystals with diopside, MacDonald Island, Nunavut, Canada – 7.5 cm
B. Wilson specimen and photo
Many of Brad’s finds to date have been indicative of enticing potential… what a colour…
Spinel (intense blue), Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada
B. Wilson photo
Brad plans to continue to travel to Baffin in the future, and he hopes to bring back more amazing specimens – without any more polar bear encounters.
Changing gears entirely, Friday morning’s talks were about uranium minerals.
Dr. Peter Burns, is the current president of the IMA (International Mineralogical Association), Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy at University of Notre Dame, director of an energy frontier research centre, Materials Science of Actinides and a professor in several disciplines at Notre Dame. Upon reading that in the program, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to understand anything. How wrong I was to wonder! “The Societal Importance of Uranium Minerals and Mineral-Inspired Materials” explained many things about which I knew nothing, including uranium mineral structure. The compounds that combine in uranium minerals are limited by the unusual large size of the UO2 molecule. This molecule only combines with certain others in certain ways and this limits the diversity of uranium mineral compositions. We were treated to photographs of uranium minerals few of us find familiar.
Ewingite – Mg8Ca8(UO2)24(CO3)30O4(OH)12(H2O)138 – is a newly-described mineral from the Czech Republic, and its structure contains the largest cluster known in a mineral, at about 2.4 nm across with 24 U atoms per cluster.
Ewingite, Plavno Mine, Plavno, Krušné Hory Mts (Erzgebirge) Bohemia, Czech Republic.
Field of view 1 mm. Travis Olds photo.
Leoszilardite, Markey Mine, Red Canyon, White Canyon District, San Juan Co., Utah, USA
Field of view 1.5 mm. Travis Olds photo.
Gauthierite, Shinkolobwe Mine, Shinkolobwe, Katanga Copper Crescent, Katanga, Democratic Republic of Congo
Field of view 1.2 mm. Travis Olds photo.
We also learned that the study of uranium mineral structures and uranium compounds is producing results that may lead to significant new applications. One particularly interesting example is the manipulation of actinide (including uranium) cluster structures and creation of compound structures that may be used in uranium reprocessing, to recover uranium from spent fuel at nuclear facilities.
Next, Dr. Robert Lauf spoke on the Mineralogy of Uranium and Thorium. You likely know he is a well-known author of books on specimen mineralogy (the Collector’s Guide series). His presentation included explanations and many mineral photographs, excellent specimens in stunning colours, and some rather uncommon minerals.
Francevillite, Mounana Mine, Franceville, Haut-Ogooué Province, Gabon – 4 cm
R. Lauf specimen and photo
The minerals were discussed with emphasis on different groups and structures. If this area is of interest to you, you might like to know that he has just published a new book, “Introduction to Radioactive Minerals”. (Please see the link below, under Links)
Torbernite, Margabal Mine, Entraygues-sur-Truyère, Aveyron, Midi-Pyrénées, France
R. Lauf specimen and photo
Gummite and uraninite, Ruggles Mine, Grafton,
Grafton Co., New Hampshire, USA.
Visible light (left) and radiograph, exposed 8 hours (right).
R. Lauf specimen and photos
Friday night, John Koivula presented “Crystalline Showcases”. John is a renowned photographer of micro features of gemstones, particularly inclusions – he has been active for fifty years, with over 800 published articles and notes.
Needless to say, the photographic journey over the course of this talk included many amazing images. Wild!
Axinite – (Fe) inside Quartz, New Melones Lake, Calaveras County, California, USA
Field of view 0.9 cm. J. Koivula specimen and photo.
On Friday afternoon of the Symposium each year, Dr. Carl Francis moderates our technical session, “Contributed Papers in Specimen Mineralogy”. This is a packed afternoon, with talks strictly limited to 15 minutes. Abstracts from these talks are included in the Symposium program notes (link below), and they will also be published during the year in Rocks and Minerals magazine, so keep an eye out for them!
Saturday – Annual What’s New
After a second late night of folks having fun with mineral friends, one might expect a thinner crowd for the first talk Saturday morning… but Jeff Scovil leads off Saturday morning with What’s New in Minerals, so it’s a full house.
Not only is Jeff the world’s most published mineral photographer, but because he spends the year travelling the world to shoot some of the best mineral specimens there are, he is in a unique position to share. Jeff’s annual What’s New in Minerals each year at Rochester is a spectacular presentation not to be missed.
Copper, Bou Nahas, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 2.9 cm wide.
Spirifer Minerals specimen, J. Scovil photo.
Spodumene var. kunzite. Mawi pegmatite Nuristan Prov., Afghanistan. 9.8 cm high.
Shafiee Muhammad specimen, J. Scovil photo.
Crocoite. Red Lead mine, Dundas, Tasmania, Australia – 9.3 cm.
Keith & Mauna Proctor specimen, J. Scovil photo.
Elbaite, Cruzeiro Mine, Sao Jose da Safira, Minas Gerais, Brazil – 15.1 cm.
Wayne Sorensen specimen, J. Scovil photo.
This is only a small taste of Jeff’s What’s New in Minerals presentation – it was an hour of photos like this! Each year, people hyperventilate, pass out on the floor and all that. (Ok, maybe they don’t really, but literally there are gasps, oohs and ahhs…)
All of Saturday morning is dedicated to what has been new in the past year in minerals. After Jeff, we have What’s New II, with other short contributions about finds and developments from Mineral World over the past year.
Since I am now spending a lot of time in a year pursuing minerals and then photographing them in a dark room, I included a few in a brief presentation. If you have been following along with the website over the past year, you’ll already be familiar with many of the specimens I included in my talk so I won’t belabour them here, but I’ll include three stories in case you missed any of them – two are not only cool but clarify the correct labeling for many incorrectly labelled specimens (and I’m including the third simply because it’s gorgeous).
Vibrant specimens from the Luputo Mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo were initially labelled as chrysocolla when they first came out in early 2015. Subsequently, a posting on mindat by a mineral dealer, citing a vary authoritative source, labelled them ajoite. Labels all over the place were changed, to accord with the work done by the authoritative source. In fact, that person’s work was improperly represented. In completing the work subsequently, it was confirmed that they are in fact chrysocolla. They are chrysocolla pseudomorphs after malachite, after azurite, and they are covered with tiny pseudomorphs of chrysocolla after malachite.
Another find from 2015 was the subject of more comprehensive identification work – the very cool pseudomorphs after marcasite and pyrite from the White Desert in Egypt. These were first offered on the mineral market in the mid-1990s, and have been brought out sporadically since then. They have repeatedly been labeled “hematite” (I can’t say on what basis, since the high-tech test I conducted with a streak plate does not produce a hematite result). Some have also been labeled goethite and others “limonite”(the latter no longer a valid mineral species name, but is a term still used in reference to unidentified iron hydroxides, so its past use has not been technically incorrect). In any event, recent substantial work by Hannah Allen at Hamilton College has confirmed that the White Desert pseudomorphs are predominantly goethite.
A new find at the El Hammam Mine this past year produced striking beautiful, glassy, yellow fluorite specimens. El Hammam is not known for yellow fluorite, rather it is most known for fluorite in hues of green, with associated dustings of pyrite.
An Unfortunate Development
Unfortunately, not all of What’s New is good news.
A piece of highly disappointing (the polite way to say it) news from Mineral World was presented by Frank Melanson. One of Canada’s most famous mineral collecting localities is finished. The Bear Lake diggings, in Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario was a location for superb crystals of titanite, fluorapatite, phlogopite, orthoclase and amphibole minerals, along with many other minerals. Bear Lake was the type locality for the black amphibole now classified as ferri-fluoro-katophorite. An important part of Canada’s mineral heritage, thousands of people collected there, many as children, and many were inspired by Bear Lake to become more interested in mineral collecting. The locality was maintained, with significant help from the local collecting community, as a collecting site by the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce. We have learned that the Chamber of Commerce sold the property to a new private owner who prohibits any collecting. No-one in the collecting community had any word of this until it was a done deal, so there was no opportunity to save Bear Lake. The technical term of art for this kind of mineral locality development: it bites. Totally.
In case you are not familiar with Bear Lake minerals, here are a couple of of the many specimens I collected there over the years:
Titanite, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario, Canada – 5 cm
R. McDougall specimen
More Saturday Presentations
Saturday afternoon began with Dr. Robert Martin, professor emeritus in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at McGill University, and past editor of the Canadian Mineralogist – a role he undertook for 35 years (!).
As a small aside… once upon a time (a surprising number of years ago, now) there was a young history major starting at McGill. He was told by the university registrar that because his major was in the Faculty of Arts, the mineralogy course taught by Professor Martin was too hard and simply wasn’t for him. He took it anyway. Bob Martin taught me a lot about mineralogy during my time at McGill. I’ve always been grateful to have had that opportunity, and today I remember more of what he taught me than any of the history and other subjects I studied during those years.
Saturday afternoon, Bob presented The Minerals and Mineralogists of France. (Alas, no Bordeaux was served to accompany the talk.) This presentation was based upon Bob’s upcoming book, Canadian Mineralogist Special Publication 13 – Minerals Having a French Connection. It was a great talk that highlighted some lesser known minerals, locality photos and fascinating histories. For example, I was struck by some history about aerinite.
This is a rare, complex carbonate-bearing silicate of a strong blue colour, from which it derives its name (named after the Greek aerinos, for sky-blue). The colour was so valued that, even though aerinite was not available in great supply, it was used in pigments in Romanesque paintings and frescoes in chapels along the Pyrenees. A truly barbaric thing to do to a rare mineral, but anyway…
Aerinite, used as a pigment by several Romanesque master painters. It is the blue of the Pantocrator from the apse of Sant Climent de Taüll church (early 12th century). This Romanesque fresco is now on display at the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya in Barcelona.
I think everyone was wowed by the photos (from the upcoming book) of the rare mineral, tubulite. Tubulite was discovered at Le Rivet quarry, Peyrebrune ore field (Tarn), 6 km east-southeast of Réalmont, France. I’m including them both – is this a cool mineral or what? (Great photos!)
For our second Saturday afternoon talk, Elise Skawold, graduate gemologist (GG) and Fellow of the Gemological Association of Great Britain (F.G.A), presented “From Gemology to Mineral Physics and Back Again”. This talk provided a completely accessible glimpse into the realm of some rather high-level mineral physics applied to solve mineralogical mysteries. (The work featured in this presentation was done with Bill Bassett, Steve Jacobsen and John Koivula.) The central question in this particular mystery was the identification of an inclusion in a diamond crystal. One possibility was that the inclusion might be ringwoodite. Addressing the issue necessitated trips to various labs for different kinds of analyses.
Ringwoodite is not a mineral seen in mineral collections. It is a polymorph of forsterite, which is able to contain hydroxide within its structure. It is stable only at high pressure, such as in the Earth’s upper mantle, at depths from the surface between 400 km and 650 km. It is actually thought to be a highly abundant mineral in this zone of the mantle, but because it is not stable at the prevailing pressure at the Earth’s surface, finds of naturally-occurring ringwoodite is incredibly rare (sometimes found in meteorites). Ringwoodite is known in an inclusion in one Brazilian diamond – it was trapped in the diamond deep in the Earth and then blasted up from the depths during a diatreme explosion. The reason ringwoodite is of such interest is that the presence of ringwoodite in the mantle in such abundance is thought to indicate large amounts of water at depth (in the form of hydroxide) , below the Earth’s surface. Researchers are keen to find more ringwoodite inclusions in diamonds to help us to learn all we can about the water that may be harboured in the mantle.
In the end, this inclusion was determined to be forsterite.
Sunday – A Truly Grand Finale
Sunday morning’s program this year was special.
In some past years, by Sunday morning, the numbers have thinned a little. Survivors of three late nights of fun are few, and so we have sometimes seen smaller numbers Sunday morning. (You may be noticing a theme about late nights…) However, at recent Symposia, this has not been the trend – and this particular Sunday, the room was packed!
First up was a superb talk on the Vermont asbestos quarries at Belvidere Mountain (often erroneously referred to as “Eden Mills”, a town that isn’t the nearest and certainly isn’t at the locality). Ken Carlsen and Dr. Woodrow Thompson presented a history, explanation and mineralogy that was thorough and fascinating – I don’t know where the hour went (!). This presentation expanded upon their excellent article in the November-December 2015 issue of Rocks and Minerals magazine, “Belvidere Mountain Asbestos Quarries, Lowell/Eden, Vermont”. (If you haven’t yet red this article, it’s a great one – I highly recommend it!)
The earliest history was pieced together through some detective work and some great old photographs, including these two:
Lowell, Vermont, circa 1909. This settlement was originally known as “Chrysotile.”
The early Gallagher Mine at Belvidere Mountain, Vermont, circa 1909
There were also great photos from a more contemporary period, including some showing the pit areas where fine specimens were found at various times.
1980 photo of the mines, Belvidere Mountain, Vermont
State of Vermont Archives photo
The full photographic tour of the minerals of Belvidere Mountain is in the Rocks and Minerals article – here are a couple of teasers:
Grossular on diopside, Lowell quarry, Lowell, Vermont, Collected in the 1950s – 3.5 cm wide
Ken Carlsen specimen, J. Scovil photo.
Vesuvianite, Lowell Quarry, Lowell, Vermont – 2.5 cm
Ken Carlsen specimen, J. Scovil photo.
And last, but absolutely not least, the final talk of the 43rd Rochester Mineralogical Symposium was one that will always be remembered.
Our speaker was Canadian mineral photographer Michael Bainbridge. He is wrapping up the end of a major project with the Canadian Museum of Nature, a book on the truly unbelievable mineral collection assembled by Bill Pinch from the beginning of his collecting career and through the late 1980s, acquired by the Museum.
From the beginning of his collecting days, through to the late 1980s, Bill built a mineral collection like no other. It had incredible breadth of species, and top specimens of so many – many best of species. John White, former curator at the Smithsonian, has stated that Bill’s was the best private collection ever assembled. Many feel the same way. The Pinch Collection includes jaw-dropping specimens, one after another, after another… like this one…
Wakabayashilite, White Caps mine, Manhattan, Nye County, Nevada, USA – 13 cm (!)
Bill Pinch Collection, now in the Canadian Museum of Nature.
M. Bainbridge photo.
And, given the material itself, it would have been a relatively straightforward undertaking to present a slideshow of highlights among the great specimens from Bill’s first collection. (Bill has been assembling another collection ever since…) However, although many of those highlights were of course included in the photographs accompanying the talk, Michael took a different, deeper approach, presenting stories of assembling the collection, surrounding the thesis that Bill, and the Pinch Collection, redefined mineral collecting and mineral appreciation at the time, and for all who followed.
Michael placed this story in the context of the era, the dynamics, and the influential players at the time, notably Paul Desautels. During the time period in which Bill built the collection, mineral specimens and collections came to be appreciated differently than they had in the past, and Michael highlighted Bill’s influence and the influence of Paul Desautels. The world of mineral collecting was forever changed during this era, and Bill’s role was fundamental. I don’t want to spoil the stories or the specimens for you – the book will be out soon and it will be an essential addition to mineral libraries worldwide.
Hauerite, Radussa, Italy – largest crystal 5 cm, largest octahedron 3.5 cm
Bill Pinch Collection, now in the Canadian Museum of Nature.
M. Bainbridge photo.
Bill has always been the keenest observer of minerals, and the emphasis in his collections has been on both (1) the best, and (2) specimens with significance in mineralogy.
Rosasite, Tsumeb Mine, Tsumeb, Namibia – 2 cm
Bill Pinch Collection, now in the Canadian Museum of Nature.
M. Bainbridge photo.
As life would have it, Bill had not been present at the Symposium for many years. It is no exaggeration to say that it was a moving morning, as Bill, his wife Jackie and their son Michael attended the talk. They were greeted with the warmth that has come to be part of the Symposium – the Symposium that Bill himself has had such a major hand in creating and contributing to, over the years.
Bill Pinch, doing what he loves – carefully examining a mineral specimen and seeing something unusual
(often something no-one else sees at first!)
The book, The William W. Pinch Collection, will be published by Lithographie LLC and is expected to be 2017 – can’t wait!
As happens every year at Rochester, the Exhibit Room was full of great cases and beautiful minerals, some from individual collectors and some from museums.
The New York State Museum always has a great display. This year, the case was dedicated to the late Charles F. Hiler – the Museum recently acquired his collection. Chuck was a regular member of our Rochester Symposium family and will be missed. He specialized in the minerals of the Lockport dolostones of the region, and the case featured some superb specimens from the Penfield Quarry, just east of Rochester. Here are a couple:
Fluorite, Penfield Quarry, Penfield, Monroe Co., New York – crystal approx. 4 cm
Gypsum, var. selenite, Penfield Quarry, Penfield, Monroe Co., New York – approx. 6 cm
Maine Mineral and Gem Museum case, Minerals Mined by Frank Perham
The schorl specimen in this case, collected in 1958, was particularly sharp – a great piece –
The Cincinnati Museum of Natural History and Science had a great case of geodes from the midwest, with some particularly fine Indiana specimens from the collections of Terry Huizing and Gene Tribbey. This is a gorgeous golden barite in a geode:
Barite, Monroe Co., Indiana, crystal approximately 4 cm
John Betts put together a case of beautiful specimens from his collection:
George Thompson’s case this year was dedicated to amethyst and associated minerals from the Thunder Bay District in northern Ontario:
George included pieces from small find a few years ago that produced sharp, glassy, pale green fluorite crystals on hematite-included amethyst – these are excellent, colourful specimens (more so, in better light!):
David Joyce had a great case of Canadian minerals, including a spectacular one from a new find in British Columbia – quartz crystals with amethyst sceptres. The sceptres have glassy, lustrous faces, even though that doesn’t come through in this photo. An amazing specimen!
Quartz, var. Amethyst, Sanca Creek, Kootenay Lake, British Columbia, Canada – approximately 10 cm
The Rest of the Fun
As much as anything on the official program, lots of the fun occurs throughout the weekend as we all have a chance to socialize in the halls, over meals, and especially on the 4th Floor. This is the floor on which all of the dealers are set up – it is only open when the program is not on, but of course activities on the 4th Floor continue into past midnight and into the morning hours. It’s been a while since the 4th floor has seen Topaz Bowling (which apparently was not popular with all guests), but other fun continues…
An annual highlight is the Saturday night mineral song session with David Joyce.
John Betts photo.
By now I assume you all know Dave has a CD of mineral collecting and mining tunes… if you are not yet familiar with these them, they are popular collecting trip and mineral show fare. And if you aren’t sure what I mean by mineral collecting and mining tunes, you can check them out on his website at the link below. (Have an online listen to song # 9, The Mineral Dealer). By now, many of us know all the words, so Saturday night at Rochester is like a large campfire singalong. Except that it’s on the 4th Floor of the Radisson Rochester Airport Hotel, where fires aren’t welcome.
Until Next Year…
The Rochester Symposium is a great event. It has a rich history over its first 43 years, and it 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
2017 RMS Speakers:
We have a super group of speakers to look forward to at the next RMS (except that very last guy might be a bit of a dud):
John Cornish, Frank Hawthorne, Bob Lauf, Renato Pagano, Herwig Pelckmans, Les Presmyk, Jolyon Ralph, Jeff Scovil, and me.
If you are seeking links for anything mentioned above, some of these may be of interest:
Brad Wilson’s gemstones, including cut stones from Baffin Island, are here.
The new Canadian Mineralogist Special Publication 13, Minerals Having a French Connection, is expected to be published in early 2017. It will be available from the Mineralogical Association of Canada’s bookstore.
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.
I’ve added a new Morocco Update (click here) with some particularly fine specimens. I have managed to obtain five more blue barites from the Sidi Lahcen Mine in Nador that are worthy of including on the site. Although almost all barites from Sidi Lahcen have some amount of damage (many are badly damaged) these ones are in excellent condition – they are great high-quality pieces.
Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – 10.7 cm
Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Morocco – field of view approximately 10 cm
This update includes several wonderful individual specimens. A startling hot pink cabinet specimen of cobaltoan dolomite from Bou Azzer, a super sharp thumbnail-sized specimen of, and also a great glassy miniature of green fluorapatite from Imilchil, a sharp, gemmy brown titanite from Imilchil, a Tounfit fluorite that will have you looking a while to sort out the morphology, and an unusually fine specimen of sprays of goethite crystals included in quartz crystals from Tizi-n-Tichka.
Dolomite, var. Cobaltoan Dolomite, Agoudal Mine, Bou Azzer District, Ouarzazate Province, Morocco – 10.8 cm
Fluorapatite, Anezmy, Imilchil, Morocco – 4.3 cm
Fluorapatite, Anezmy, Imilchil, Morocco – 3.0 cm
Titanite, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco – largest crystal 1.5 cm
Goethite in Quartz crystals, Tizi-n-Tichka, Ouarzazate, Morocco
Fluorite, Tounfit, Boumia, Khenifra, Morocco – crystal approximately 1 cm
Finally in this update, I have included a group of new specimens of yellow fluorite cubes with barite and quartz. Although Moroccan yellow fluorite is often attributed to “Aouli”, an abandoned historical mining complex which is not producing specimens, contemporary specimens are in fact from an area near Sidi Ayed. It is road-accessible, but it is relatively remote in a barren, windswept area, which sees sandstorms in the dry weather and roads washed out in the rain. These fluorites are nice for Sidi Ayed specimens, for a few reasons – they are isolated on quartz crystals rather than massed together, some of the quartz has some nice red colouring from hematite, and a few of the crystals show tiny irregular zones of greenish blue colour.
Fluorite, Sidi Ayed, Boulemane, Morocco – crystal 0.8 cm
Fluorite, Sidi Ayed, Boulemane, Morocco – crystal 1 cm
I have added a group of excellent new specimens in the Canadian Titanite Update (click here). These crystals are remarkable for their quality and sharpness.
Titanite is among the most highly-prized minerals in the Bancroft Area and other regions of the Grenville Province. And yet, truly excellent quality specimens are elusive, both locally and on the international market. One reason is that titanite is very brittle. Its wedge-shaped crystals feature long, thin edges that are easily broken, cracked and chipped, by natural processes and also by collectors. Another issue is that titanite crystals from the Grenville are very often incompletely formed or heavily contacted, having often formed contemporaneously with other neighbouring minerals.
The crystals in this update have a black appearance, but on close inspection of the crystal edges under bright light you can see that they are in fact the deepest reddish-brown colour.
Titanite, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 5.5 cm
Titanite, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 3.4 cm
Titanite, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Quebec, Canada – 6.5 cm
Bancroft, Ontario is well known among mineral collectors. For over 100 years, specimens from the “Bancroft Area*” have been added to collections around the world, gracing the display cases of museums and private collectors. Photographs of minerals from the Bancroft Area often feature in 20th century North American mineral literature. However, these days, so many of these minerals are classics and can be super hard to obtain – they are seldom available on the international market. Nonetheless, they can be field collected. Although some localities in the region will never produce again, Bancroft mineral collecting continues each year. Of course, finding amazing specimens usually requires tons of hard work and some good luck (knowledge helps too). We sure don’t always come home with awesome display pieces! But every year new great specimens are found in the Bancroft Area.
And fall is a beautiful time here… I thought you might like some glimpses of fall and recent mineral collecting in the Bancroft Area.
Fall colours, Bancroft Area, Ontario
(* For mineral collectors, the term “Bancroft Area” has been used informally and inconsistently over the years to refer to a broad region that extends in a radius of perhaps 50-100km from the town of Bancroft itself. The “Bancroft Area” has variously been considered to include parts of the Haliburton Highlands, Algonquin Highlands, Hastings Highlands and Madawaska Highlands, and I use it inclusively, as many of us do.)
North and Northwest of Bancroft
The regions to the north and northwest of Bancroft are stunning, but we have not seen too many spectacular mineral finds here in recent years. To the further northwest lies Algonquin Park, which is an amazing place (it’s also huge, at 7,653 sq km). It is not a mineral collecting area, but just to deviate from the minerals for a short moment, if you are a first time visitor to this part of Ontario, a drive through the park (and a stop at the interpretive centre) provides great scenery and a super introduction to the wildlife native to the region.
Autumn Blue Jay
By fall, the mosquitoes and black flies are no longer an issue. However, part of the reason the bugs are gone is the cold – by fall, it can be pretty chilly in the mornings. On the bright side, the frost can be a nice compliment to the scenery.
Frosty scene near Lake Opeongo, Algonquin Park, Ontario
At times, some of the fall colours can be so bright that they appear almost unnatural. (If only our minerals were equally colourful!)
Lake of Two Rivers, Algonquin Park, Ontario
The intense colours also make for beautiful more intimate scenes.
And there are lots of great wild animals and birds throughout the larger “Bancroft Area” region.
Curious White-Tailed Deer
Ok, ok, now back to the minerals.
North Baptiste Lake Road
In the area north of Bancroft, and not as far as Algonquin Park, one spot that has produced interesting mineral specimens in very recent times is a forested locality known as the North Baptiste Lake Road occurrence (on private land, permission/arrangements are required). My collecting partner David Joyce and I did some scouting at this locality this year for a couple of days. We found many mineralized zones with scapolite crystals, pyroxene (augite/diopside) crystals, and minor titanite crystals, but they were all in tight seams with poor crystal development and did not yield fine specimens. The most intriguing find from this excursion was a cool molybdenite crystal.
Molybdenite, 3.5 cm blocky prismatic crystal from North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario. D.K. Joyce collection and photo.
Out of interest, here are two specimens I acquired from the collector who inspired us to go scouting at this locality in the first place. These specimens were collected in 2013.
Titanite (1.8 cm crystal) with Diopside and Scapolite, North Baptiste Lake Road, Hastings Highlands, Hastings Co., Ontario
Certainly an interesting and prospective area. However, time, hard work and knowledge must be supplemented with good luck too… maybe next time we’ll do a little better!
West of Bancroft
To the west of Bancroft, some of the area’s best localities continue to produce fine specimens and others are prospected in hopes of new finds.
[*Important Note: As of May 2016, the Bancroft Chamber of Commerce has sold the property on which the Bear Lake Diggings are situated. This property is now privately owned, and all collecting and visiting are absolutely prohibited by the new owners.]
One of the Bancroft Area’s most prolific localities from the 1980s through to 2015 was “Bear Lake”, also referred to as “the Bear Lake Diggings” and “Bear Lake Road”. For much of this time, the locality was operated on a permit basis for collecting by the public by the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce.
Bear Lake is a classic “calcite vein-dyke” occurrence that produced specimens of many minerals but it is best known for excellent lustrous brown titanite crystals (formerly named “sphene” – crystals can reach sizes over 20 cm), green to reddish fluorapatite crystals (in some cases Beak Lake fluorapatite has been faceted into beautiful green stones), very fine crystals of biotite, and the world’s finest crystals of ferri-fluoro-katophorite, for which Bear Lake is the type locality. (Note: ferri-fluoro-katophorite is a black amphibole, sometimes locally just called “hornblende”, but confirmed by electron microprobe analysis (Robert Martin and I did at McGill University) to be ferri-fluoro-katophorite. It has in the past been classified as fluor-magnesiokatophorite. (Tempting to offer editorial thoughts on amphibole nomenclature, but I digress… we’re all going to be tempted to revert to the incorrect “hornblende” pretty soon!) Some of the individual euhedral crystals at Bear Lake were huge: fluorapatite to 45 cm, biotite to 60 cm, orthoclase to 30 cm and ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals to 30 cm. However, the larger they are, usually the prettier they are not (!), and the fine mineral specimens are usually crystals under 10 cm.
I was out to Bear Lake a few times in 2014, but I confess with very limited success. I’ve been collecting at this locality since I was a kid, and have found many great things there over the years, but this year was more about scouting and test trenches – it did not yield much in the way of fine specimens. It was fun though!
David Joyce as we commence digging on a vein-dyke with promising ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals at surface. Photo of final trench is near the end of this post.
After two days of major digging (by hand), we had exposed walls of sharp ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals up to about 10 cm. Unfortunately, even down to depths of about 2 metres from surface, the crystals were either frost-fractured or otherwise weathered/damaged, and so although it was a cool crystal cavity to see, it did not yield fine specimens.
Ferri-fluoro-katophorite crystals to 10 cm exposed on calcite vein-dyke wall after two days of excavation.
Herwig Pelckmans, about to start in on a Bear Lake vein dyke. This one ultimately produced a nice large cabinet specimen of sharply terminated biotite crystals.
Bear Lake was a fine example of a place where Mother Nature reclaims the forest incredibly quickly. Even though collectors had been digging trenches here since the 1960s, the forest is quite beautiful and the old workings are sometimes truly no longer apparent.
Of course, this meant that we had to be careful not to fall into any holes that had become obscured from view. But it also meant that there is one thing that all experienced Bear Lake collectors would dread. Nope, not the black bears that roam these woods. We would fear that after hours excavating a vein-dyke, we would find incontrovertible evidence that someone already excavated it years ago (and Mother Nature had reclaimed it just enough to mask that fact… and make look like a good fresh spot to dig…).
I don’t want to leave Bear Lake without doing it at least a tiny bit of justice – even if this was a low year, this locality has produced some great specimens in the past – here is a glimpse of examples of Bear Lake minerals from prior years.
Biotite (doubly terminated, floater), Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 5.8 cm
Titanite, Orthoclase and frosty little tracks of Anatase, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 5 cm
Desmont Mine Property
Not too far from Bear Lake, another locality is generating interest – this is the Desmont Mine property, near the town of Wilberforce. Originally explored for uranium mineralization in 1954-55, this property includes more than one area of test workings which expose interesting minerals for the collector. We had a great day for an outing – I was there with local collector and Canadian mineral photographer Michael Bainbridge, Bancroft collector and geologist Chris Fouts and collector Herwig Pelckmans, as we scouted various zones of the property.
Small adit at the Desmont Mine property (me for scale). H. Pelckmans photo.
Herwig Pelckmans and Michael Bainbridge at the Desmont Mine property
At the Desmont, there are many unusual minerals and although many do not form euhedral crystals, there are some: particularly intriguing diopside crystals (including chromian diopside), sharp molybdenite crystals (apparently crystals to several cm in diameter) and most of all the locality is known for small maroon stillwellite crystals (up to approximately 0.5 cm known so far). Granted, the stillwellites are not easy to find, but they are cool for the mineral.
Stillwellite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 0.3 cm crystal (Note hexagonal pinacoid face)
Well-known Canadian mineral photographer and collector Michael Bainbridge has had some good recent trips to the Desmont Mine, having found stillwellite crystals up to 1 cm, larger than previously reported for the property.
Stillwellite (0.6 cm crystal) with Diopside in Calcite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario. M. Bainbridge specimen and photo.
I had an additional interesting find at the Desmont this year – a beautiful, sharp, complete euhedral crystal of albite, variety peristerite, with as bright a schiller as I have ever seen in an Ontario peristerite. It’s small, but sweet!
Albite, variety Peristerite, Desmont Mine Property, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario – 1.5 cm crystal
The Desmont Mine locality is open to the public on a permit collecting basis – permits are obtained at the offices of the Highlands East municipality in Wilberforce. This municipality is very progressive and actively working to help mineral collectors access and open more localities in the Wiberforce area, so stay tuned! (The municipality also now administers permit-collecting access to the recently re-opened Schickler fluorite occurrence, where reddish and greenish fluorapatite crystals occur in calcite associated with deep purple granular fluorite.) Seems like the Wilberforce area will be a good one to visit over the coming years.
Northeast of Bancroft
Elk, near Hartsmere, Ontario
One of the most famous classic Canadian localities is often referred to in the literature or on old mineral labels simply as “Lake Clear, Renfrew Co.” The Lake Clear area, northeast of Bancroft, is actually not a single locality, but rather it includes several famous old mineral localities, including Turner’s Island, the Smart Mine, the Meany Mine, and the “Lost Mine”. (Lake Clear is approximately 100km northeast of the town of Bancroft – not so close – and is often considered by mineral collectors to be part of the “Bancroft Area”. In part, this is because of the geological and mineralogical similarities with other Bancroft Area localities, all part of the Grenville Geological Province). In recent years, in the forests east of Lake Clear, the Miller Property – in the immediate vicinity of the Smart Mine and which in fact encompasses the deposit formerly known as the “Lost Mine” – has produced some truly excellent specimens. This is another calcite vein-dyke locality, and this one is particularly known for the classic large red-brown fluorapatite crystals and excellent titanite crystals. Large augite crystals, orthoclase-microcline crystals and biotite crystals have also been found. Very rarely in the past this property also produced nice zircon crystals.
This year the Miller Property was the destination for a well-attended club field trip by the Walker Mineralogical Club and the Kawartha Mineral Club. A small group of us opened up a good vein dyke containing a large number of fluorapatite crystals.
Prominent Canadian collector Bob Beckett moved a lot of ground as we worked together at the fluorapatite trench. He did a good job hiding his disappointment we weren’t finding more biotite crystals.
As is often the case, we got very dirty excavating the fluorapatite crystals. This vein-dyke was narrow and tough to collect. R. Beckett photo.
The large complete crystal from this trench is now in the collection of Herwig Pelckmans. He parked his car beside the crystal for scale before taking this photograph.
Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario.
H. Pelckmans specimen, photo and car.
Partially excavated calcite vein dyke containing fluorapatite crystals. The large crystal here is the same one in the photo above, now in Herwig’s collection. It is 25.5 cm long. Note the crystals on the hanging wall. Most were attached and could not be collected (they shatter).
Many of the crystals in this trench were not so sharp and lots were frost-damaged, but there were some nice ones too. This one is quite typical for Lake Clear fluorapatite, if perhaps a little more pinkish than usual:
Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Twp., Renfrew Co., Ontario – 6.3 cm
Keith Miller, this property’s owner, is as generous and gracious about mineral collecting as I have ever seen – for club trips, he has opened the property up, including with heavy equipment, and the fees he collects per person are then donated to a local children’s hospital. Please note that one must absolutely not go to this locality (any locality, for that matter) without proper arrangements. This may include the specifically organized field trips that are set up by mineral clubs from time to time. It would be tragic should anyone undermine the goodwill and kindness between the collecting community and this remarkable property owner. How rare it is in this day and age that we (collectors) are fortunate enough to be accommodated, with specimens from a classic locality being preserved like this!
Excavator at the Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario.
One particularly interesting note from the club trip at the Miller Property this year – in the same area where the calcite vein-dykes occur, a pegmatite was excavated. The pegmatite included a few euhedral microcline var. amazonite crystals up to over 10 cm. Given the nature of the hard-rock occurrence, I am not sure how many of these were successfully removed intact but some certainly were. This is very unusual – I believe these would be considered the best amazonite crystals ever found in the Bancroft Area. We’ll have to keep our ears open to learn what other collectors managed to find in the pegmatite excavation during the field trip.
Microcline var. Amazonite in situ, with Canadian “Toonie” coin (2.8 cm diameter) for scale. Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario. R. Beckett photo.
Here are a couple of specimens found at the Miller Property in recent years:
Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Twp., Renfrew Co., Ontario – 8.0 cm
Titanite with Fluorapatite, Miller Property, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario – 5.1 cm
Bancroft Mineral Collecting, 2014
Although awesome mineral specimens continue to come from many different mineral localities in the Bancroft Area, my own 2014 experiences produced only a very few interesting specimens. The large fluorapatite we found at the Miller Property is a remarkable specimen and a true classic, and there were certainly other cool pieces here and there this year. And yet, quite often, all that hard work and knowledge still leaves you at the bottom of a big freshly-dug hole without anything brilliant for the display cabinet.
At the bottom of a two-day hole at Bear Lake, dug together with David Joyce. No collection-worthy specimens from this effort. And no help from an excavator. Emery (at upper left) supervised.
D.K. Joyce photo.
So, this was not a year full of endless spectacular specimens, and I appreciate what we did manage to find. In any event, my excursions this year could not have been better for scenery, wildlife and good times with good friends.
It’s always worth going out in the woods, and you never know what lies around the next corner.
White-Tailed Deer – Doe and Fawn
Ice Crystals on Wild Strawberry Leaf
Chipmunk, Collecting Food for the Winter
White-Tailed Deer – Fawn
Bay Lake, Faraday Township
Thank you to Keith Miller, for graciously making the Miller Property accessible to the mineral collecting community, and also to the folks at Highlands East, who are working hard to bring more properties in the Wilberforce area online for collectors. And thanks to the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce for all that is done to keep Bear Lake open and accessible to all. I am grateful to Joe Neuhold for all that he does for the elk and the deer in the Hartsmere area. Thanks to Michael Bainbridge and Bob Beckett for the great photos, and thanks to both of you and Herwig Pelckmans for great times out in the woods this year. Huge thanks to my long-time collecting partner David Joyce, for all the fun and collaboration on our many collecting adventures (also the moly photo).
About the Minerals Photographed in this Post
Except as otherwise attributed, the minerals photographed in this post are included here because I love sharing them, not for sale. (Some of the ones that I personally collected are my children…)
About the Website
If you have landed on this post without having explored our website, please have fun looking around – there are tons of photographs of minerals from all over the world that are available for purchase (you can surf through by using the “Browse” options (click here , and you’ll see the Browse options at left). Other blog articles are under the tabs Adventurers and What’s New Blog (you may wish to scroll a bit to explore within the What’s New Blog, as all of the weekly specimen updates are under this tab too).
If you are interested in more information relating specifically to Bancroft, Ontario and minerals, have a look – there is a post about the Bancroft Mineral Museum (the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum) and also one about our annual Bancroft Mineral Shows. A brief more general introduction to Bancroft is under About Bancroft.
If you’ve ever wondered about mineral shows as they used to be, the smaller-town affairs meant for all sorts of people – serious collectors, beginners and families alike – the Bancroft Shows offer a glimpse, going back to the first show, over 50 years ago. Even the name of our original show, the Bancroft Rockhound Gemboree (at first, named the Gem-Boree), harks to an earlier era in the evolution of mineral collecting. In an older incarnation, the Bancroft Gemboree was held a few kilometres north of town at the old Bird’s Creek fairgrounds…
Gemboree, August 1964 (Archives of Ontario, RG 65-35-1, 8-H-1964)
Now the show is in Bancroft, with mineral-related activities to make up for the fact that there is no longer a ferris wheel.
There is a lot to be said for these kinds of mineral shows, based in smaller towns – the Bancroft Area has beautiful scenery, wildlife and, of course, rocks!
Common Loon on nest (Bay Lake, just outside of Bancroft)
The Bancroft Shows
Although Bancroft on a snowy day in early December or late March is a very quiet little town, at many other times of year Bancroft is an outdoor destination, and the height of it all is the week of the Bancroft Shows!
Bridge Street, Bancroft, during Gemboree weekend
When I say the “Bancroft Shows”, we have two separate annual gem and mineral shows, within one week. The large Rockhound Gemboree, in its 51st year, is held for four days, Thursday-Sunday, every year on the first weekend of August. The Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club also hosts a smaller show, on the last July Sunday that falls one week prior to the Gemboree – next year will already be our 20th year for the show.
It’s hard to come up with three more truly Canadian venues: the Bancroft Shows are hosted inside the Canadian Legion (the Club Show), the hockey arena and the curling rink (the Gemboree).
Starting the week off each year, the Club Show is a small non-commercial show, organized and run buy the members of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club. All proceeds go to funding the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum. Usual Suspects Wendy and Frank Melanson are key organizers of this fine local show.
It isn’t too hard to see what’s wrong in this photograph. (Not staged – he really was walking around like that for a couple of hours.)
The exhibitors at the Club Show are mostly local Ontario dealers and collectors, with some from further afield as well. As a result, this show often offers a “sneak peak” availability of what’s new and interesting in Canadian minerals. Over the years, lots of interesting things have shown up here!
Club Show, before morning opening
Club members contribute to very fine mineral displays – this year featuring quartz.
George Thompson contirbuted an excellent display of Canadian Quartz, all the more impressive since several of George’s Canadian quartz specimens are already on display in his separate Minerals of Ontario display across the river in the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Museum! (For more about our new museum, click here.) His show display, anchored by the giant Diamond Willow Mine amethyst (near Thunder Bay, Ontario), showcased fine quartz specimens from localities across the country, including Bathurst, New Brunswick, Boylston, Nova Scotia, Black Lake, Quebec, Kamloops, British Columbia and Emerald Lake, Yukon, among others.
Canadian quartz specimens from the collection of George Thompson.
Wendy Melanson put together a case of quartz from all over the world, with a central riser of beautiful amethyst specimens. The large one at back centre is from the Anahi Mine, La Giaba Distsrict, Sandoval Province, Santa Cruz Dept., Bolivia.
Quartz specimens from the collection of Wendy Melanson.
The Club show ends in the late afternoon with an event that is not to be missed if you can help it – Club member and professional auctioneer Mark Stanley conducts a mineral auction to benefit the Museum, and he is awesome! Always a lot of laughs, it is a good time.
A few days later, the town is host to the Rockhound Gemboree. The Gemboree is Canada’s largest commercial gem and mineral show, with displays of minerals, jewellery, and other mineral-related items (books, tools, historical mining artifacts). Of course, the Gemboree has a large indoor setup featuring many dealers at both venues (a very short walk apart from one another).
For those of you who appreciate details, in the photo above, you’ll see the fine netting to stop hockey pucks from hitting spectators, and also the row of colourful hockey victory banners hanging from the rafters. The boards around the perimeter of the ice surface are all hidden by the nice curtains (all in, you don’t feel like you should be wearing skates).
A great part of the Gemboree experience is that it also has the old-style, outdoor tailgating section for dealers. That’s where you’ll find a few familiar faces, including George Thompson, David K. Joyce and me.
A quiet moment after two drops of rain had chased everyone inside for a few minutes
Yes, we’re at the mercy of the weather (which was fantastic this year!) but it’s worth the risk – what could be better than summer sun, fine minerals, friends, mineral talk and of course mineral music?
One morning while innocently talking with people looking at my table, a woman stopped and asked me if I had any “Mystery Mineral”. A smart aleck might have replied “you tell me”.
But I could see that it was an earnest request and I explained that “Mystery Mineral” is not a mineral name, but rather a marketing name of some kind, so I was not sure what mineral she was looking for.
Mystery Mineral Woman: “No, that IS the mineral name: Mystery Mineral.”
MMW: “Aren’t you based in Bancroft?”
MMW (now with edge of annoyance): “Well you SHOULD know all about it. It’s a new find, from very near Bancroft itself. If anyone should know, it’s YOU.”
R: “I promise you it is not a mineral name. Can you tell me what it looks like? Is it white or colourless and clear?”
MMW: “Oh so you DO know of it!”
R: “Does it form slender, pointed six-sided crystals?”
R: “And can you tell me where you saw them?”
MMW: “At a store… [Ed. Note: the name of which suggested something to do with spiritual odysseys]”
I don’t think she believed my diagnosis. People really do give common quartz all sorts of names in order to sell it.
I didn’t tell her “Mystery Mineral” might be my favourite to date.
It’s been a quiet run in Canadian minerals lately, but it is always possible to find interesting things at the Bancroft Shows.
From Nova Scotia, beautiful zeolites and associated minerals are still found from time to time.
Stilbite on Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia – 4.5 cm
Natrolite ball (2 cm) on Analcime, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia
Classics from Quebec are becoming increasingly hard to obtain, but there are usually a small number of good ones at these shows.
Vesuvianite with Diopside, Jeffrey Quarry, Asbestos, Quebec – 7.5 cm
Prehnite crystals (to 1.2 cm), Jeffrey Quarry, Asbestos, Quebec
Rutile crystals to 1.2 cm, McGregor Lake, Outaouais, Quebec
Rhodochrosite and Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec – 6.5 cm
Titanite with diopside, Zec Bras-Coupé-Désert, Moncerf-Lytton, Outaouais, Québec – 5.5 cm
Stay tuned for Canadian mineral updates over the coming weeks.
Well, the Bancroft Shows are over until next year, but they usher in our late summer and early fall – the time of year that often affords some of the Bancroft Area’s best field collecting weather. Hope to see you in the trenches!