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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 10.01.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)



I’ve added new specimens in this Mali Update (click here), including excellent prehnite, epidote, grossular and vesuvianite.

Prehnite on Epidote, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali

Prehnite on Epidote, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 6.5 cm

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

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

Prehnite, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.8 cm

Prehnite, Epidote, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali

Prehnite on Epidote, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 5.1 cm

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

Prehnite, Arrondissement Diako, Cercle de Bafoulabé, Kayes Region, Mali – 1.8 cm ball

Grossular Garnet, Sandaré, Cercle de Nioro, Kayes Region, Mali

Grossular Garnet, Sandaré, Cercle de Nioro, Kayes Region, Mali – 4.7 cm

Vesuvianite, Sandaré, Cercle de Nioro, Kayes Region, Mali

Vesuvianite, Sandaré, Cercle de Nioro, Kayes Region, Mali – 2.6 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 08.06.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)

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, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

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…

Baffin Island Minerals - Brad Wilson

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).

Spinel with diopside, MacDonald Island, Nunavut, Canada

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, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada

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

Ewingite, Plavno Mine, Plavno, Krušné Hory Mts (Erzgebirge) Bohemia, Czech Republic.
Field of view 1 mm. Travis Olds photo.

Leoszilardite

Leoszilardite, Markey Mine, Red Canyon, White Canyon District, San Juan Co., Utah, USA
Field of view 1.5 mm. Travis Olds photo.

Gauthierite

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

 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

Torbernite, Margabal Mine, Entraygues-sur-Truyère, Aveyron, Midi-Pyrénées, France
R. Lauf specimen and photo

Gummite(1)

Gummite(2)Radiograph

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 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!

KoivulaCassiterite Cross-section through a Bolivian cassiterite showing fine growth. Field of view 2 cm (!)
J. Koivula specimen and photo

Axinite - (Fe) in Quartz, New Melones Lake, Calaveras County, California, USA

Axinite – (Fe) inside Quartz, New Melones Lake, Calaveras County, California, USA
Field of view 0.9 cm. J. Koivula specimen and photo.

Technical Session

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, Oumjrane, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco

Copper, Bou Nahas, Alnif, Er Rachidia, Morocco – 2.9 cm wide.
Spirifer Minerals specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Vivianite, Huanuni Mine, Bolivia
Vivianite. Huanuni mine, Potosi Dept., Bolivia – 12 cm.
Unique Minerals specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Kunzite, Mawi pegmatite, Nuristan, Afghanistan

Spodumene var. kunzite. Mawi pegmatite Nuristan Prov., Afghanistan. 9.8 cm high.
Shafiee Muhammad specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Crocoite, Red Lead Mine, Tasmania

Crocoite. Red Lead mine, Dundas, Tasmania, Australia – 9.3 cm.
Keith & Mauna Proctor specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Elbaite Tourmaline, Cruzeiro Mine, Minas Gerais, Brazil

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.

Chrysocolla, Luputo Mine, Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Chrysocolla pseudomorph after malachite after azurite, Luputo Mine,
Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo – 8.1 cm

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.

Goethite pseudomorph after marcasite, White Desert, north of Farafra Oasis, New Valley Governorate, Egypt

Goethite pseudomorph after Marcasite, White Desert, North of Farafra Oasis,
New Valley Governorate, Egypt – 3.6 cm
 

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.

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

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

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:

Ferri-Fluoro-Katophorite, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario, Canada
Ferri-Fluoro-Katophorite, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario, Canada – 6.8 cm
R. McDougall specimen.

Titanite, Bear Lake, Highlands East, Haliburton Co., Ontario, Canada

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.

 Aerinite, northern Spain
Aerinite, Estopanyà, Catalunya, Spain – 7 cm
R. Martin specimen, Russell Proulx photo.

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…

 AeriniteRomanesque

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!)

Tubulite1

Tubulite, Rivet quarry, Peyrebrune ore field, Tarn, France – 0.4 mm
Robert Pecorini collection, Jean-Marc Johannet photo

Tubulite2

 Tubulite, Rivet quarry, Peyrebrune ore field, Tarn, France
Field of view 2 mm
Robert Pecorini collection, Jean-Marc Johannet photo

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

Lowell, Vermont, circa 1909. This settlement was originally known as “Chrysotile.”

Vermont Gallagher Mine Pit

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.

Belvidere Mtn

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:

Vermont Grossular

Grossular on diopside, Lowell quarry, Lowell, Vermont, Collected in the 1950s – 3.5 cm wide
Ken Carlsen specimen, J. Scovil photo.

Vermont Vesuvianite

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…

Size

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.

Size

 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.

2cm wide

 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

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!

Displays

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, New York

Fluorite, Penfield Quarry, Penfield, Monroe Co.,  New York – crystal approx. 4 cm

Gypsum, var. selenite, Penfield Quarry, New York

 Gypsum, var. selenite, Penfield Quarry, Penfield, Monroe Co., New York – approx. 6 cm

Maine Mineral and Gem Museum Case, Rochester Mineralogical Symposium

Maine Mineral and Gem Museum case, Minerals Mined by Frank Perham

Maine Mineral and Gem Museum Case, Rochester Mineralogical Symposium

 The schorl specimen in this case, collected in 1958, was particularly sharp – a great piece –

PerhamSchorl Schorl, Nubble Quarry, Greenwood, Maine
Crystal approximately 4 cm

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:

GeodeBarite

Barite, Monroe Co., Indiana, crystal approximately 4 cm

John Betts put together a case of beautiful specimens from his collection:

John Betts Mineral Collection Display Case, Rochester Symposium 2016

 

George Thompson’s case this year was dedicated to amethyst and associated minerals from the Thunder Bay District in northern Ontario:

GeorgeThompsonCase

 

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!):

Amethyst-Fluorite

 

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!

DaveAmethyst

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…

RochesterEve

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.

Links

If you are seeking links for anything mentioned above, some of these may be of interest:

The 43rd Rochester Mineralogical Symposium – Program Notes – April 14-17, 2016

Brad Wilson’s gemstones, including cut stones from Baffin Island, are here.

The new book by Robert J. Lauf: Mineralogy of Uranium and Thorium

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.

Our amazing professional mineral photographers (who – of course – take photos of private collection specimens for individual collectors): Jeff Scovil and Michael Bainbridge 

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.

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 08.13.2014 | Filed under: Bancroft, Ontario, Latest, Mineral Shows | Comments (0)


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…

Gemboree64

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!

LoonNest

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

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.

F&W

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

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.

GeorgeDisplay

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.

WendyDisplay

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).

GemboreeGemboree, hockey arena venue, before the morning open

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.

GemboreeOutside

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?

DaveSerenadeDave Joyce serenades some of his non-website minerals with an as-yet unnamed tune.  (Something about love and red dots.)

Mystery Mineral

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.”
R: [Pause]
MMW: “Aren’t you based in Bancroft?”
R: “Yes.”
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?”
MMW: “Yes!”
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]”
R: “Hmmn…”

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.

Real Minerals

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.

 StilbiteChab

 Stilbite on Chabazite, Wasson’s Bluff, Cumberland County, Nova Scotia – 4.5 cm

Natrolite

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

Vesuvianite with Diopside, Jeffrey Quarry, Asbestos, Quebec – 7.5 cm

Prhnite

Prehnite crystals (to 1.2 cm), Jeffrey Quarry, Asbestos, Quebec

Rutile

Rutile crystals to 1.2 cm, McGregor Lake, Outaouais, Quebec

Rhodo

Rhodochrosite and Elpidite, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec – 6.5 cm

Titanite

 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!