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

 

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

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

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 6.1 cm

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 3.1 cm

102113(1)(8.0)

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

Titanite, Alchuri, Shigar Valley, Baltistan, Pakistan

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

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

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

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

 

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

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

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

DaveRiley2

 Dave and Riley on their sitting rock

In the foothills

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

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

Saguaro SceneSaguaro Cacti

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

Deer 1

Deer paying a visit to Dave and Carol’s place

Cactus flower

Cactus bloom

Saguaro armSaguaro arm

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

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

The Minerals

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

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

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

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

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan

Brucite, Killa Saifullah, Balochistan, Pakistan – 7.2 cm

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

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

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

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

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

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

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

Quartz, var. amethyst, Potosí, Bolivia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pyrite Iron Cross Twin, Gachalá, Cundinamarca, Colombia

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

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

Merelani Diopside

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

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

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

Alabandite, Merelani Hills, Lelatima Mountains, Manyara, Tanzania

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

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

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

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

Almandine, Vorondolo, Antananarivo, Madagascar

 Almandine, Vorondolo, Antananarivo, Madagascar – 4.5 cm

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

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

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

Andradite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

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

Magnetite, Anemzi, Imilchil, Er Rachidia, Morocco

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

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

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

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

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

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

Fluorite, Xiayang, Yonchun Co., Fujian, China

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

A Remarkable Emerald

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

Beryl var. Emerald - Pakistan 28-1-25

 

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

Friends

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

3 shadows

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

Mineral Song Campfire

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

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

Carol Dave Riley

Until next year, so long, Tucson…

Palo Verde Sunset

Home! And… Rudy!

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

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

SnowWoods 2

Sunny winter morning, Bancroft, Ontario

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

Rudy McDougallDad, can I join you on the couch?

Rudy McDougall

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

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

Rudy McDougallSnow? Love it!

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

Rudy McDougall

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

Zircon, Astor Valley, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.26.2017 | 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 05.14.2017 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve added some super specimens from Mount Malosa in this new Malawi Update (click here). These include excellent crystals of aegirine, arfvedsonite, smoky quartz with epididymite inclusions, microcline and zircon. Under shortwave ultraviolet light, the microcline is a striking deep pink-red colour, and the zircons exhibit various hues of yellow.

Aegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Aegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 8.0 cm

Aegirine with Zircon and Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Aegirine with Zircon and Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 8.3 cm

Quartz, var. Smoky Quartz with Epididymite on Albite, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Quartz, var. Smoky Quartz with Epididymite on Albite, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 8.2 cm

Zircon on Quartz, var. Smoky Quartz , Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Zircon on Quartz, var. Smoky Quartz , Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 5.7 cm

Microcline (Baveno Twin), photographed in shortwave ultraviolet light,  Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Microcline (Baveno Twin), photographed in shortwave ultraviolet light
Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 4.0 cm

Arfvedsonite, Mount Malosa, Zomba, Malawi

Arfvedsonite, Mount Malosa, Zomba, Malawi
Field of view – 3.5 cm

Epidiymite and Eudidymite in Smoky Quartz, Mount Malosa, Zomba, Malawi

Epididymite and Eudidymite in Smoky Quartz, Mount Malosa, Zomba, Malawi
Field of view – 1.7 cm

Epididymite in Quartz, Mount Malosa, Zomba, Malawi

Epididymite in Quartz, Mount Malosa, Zomba, Malawi
Field of view 3.0 cm

Arfvedsonite, Zircon on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Arfvedsonite, Zircon on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 5.4 cm
Photographed in shortwave ultraviolet light

 Aegirine, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi
Aegirine, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 7.3 cm

Albite on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Albite on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 3.8 cm

Aegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Aegirine on Microcline, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 3.3 cm

Quartz with Riebeckite inclusions, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi

Quartz with Riebeckite inclusions, Mount Malosa, Zomba District, Malawi – 5.0 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 10.06.2016 | Filed under: Latest, Recent Mineral Updates | Comments (0)

 

I’ve posted a small number of great new specimens in this new Afghanistan Update (click here).  This update includes brilliant lustrous andradite crystals from the Spin Ghar range, and red zircon from the Dara-i-Pech District.

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 3.7 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 3.3 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 4.5 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet,  Diopside and Epidote, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range,
Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – field of view 4.0 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet and Epidote with Clinochlore, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range,
Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – field of view 2.5 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 5.5 cm

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan

Andradite Garnet, Marki Khel, Spin Ghar Range, Khogyani District, Nangharhar, Afghanistan – 6.0 cm

Zircon, Dara-i-Pech District, Konar Province, Afghanistan

Zircon, Dara-i-Pech District, Konar Province, Afghanistan – 3.7 cm

Posted by: Raymond McDougall on 07.23.2014 | Filed under: Bancroft, Ontario, Latest | Comments (0)

 

When you arrive in the town of Bancroft, Ontario, it’s easy to find Tim Horton’s and McDonalds, but the area’s world-famous mineral riches are not so obvious.

In fact, in recent years it has been hard to find local minerals on display. The good news is that we have a great new display. The new Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum (the Bancroft Mineral Museum) is open. When you come to Bancroft and want to see and learn about local minerals, this is where to start!

Historic Bancroft Train Station

Historically, during settlement days, the Bancroft region was primarily logging country (as it still is, in part, to this day) and it was served by the Central Ontario Railway. The land is rugged and the good direct highways did not come until much later! At the heart of Bancroft, the old train station sits above the banks of the York River. Constructed in 1899, the first train arrived in November 1900.

Station1

Arriving at Bancroft Station, 1914 (R. Plumley Collection)

Station2

Leaving Bancroft Station (undated, North Hastings Heritage Museum Collection)

As is common among many of Ontario’s smaller communities, the railway ceased to operate, and the tracks are long gone, but the train station building remains. By the 1990s, the town’s railway station hosted the Bancroft and District Chamber of Commerce, a small addition/room dedicated to displaying the mineral collection of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club collection, and a fine local art gallery.

Station3

Bancroft Station, 1970s (Drawing by R. Perkins, 1978)

Sadly, the train station building fell into disrepair and was condemned. As a result, all were compelled to vacate the premises and there was serious doubt as to whether it would be saved. Saving the train station would be too expensive for the Town of Bancroft to fund. For a few years, the train station stood empty and on the verge of demolition.

This story does have a happy ending. Through community fundraising and hundreds of hours of volunteer work, the Bancroft Train Station has been saved and restored.

It was no small effort, saving the Train Station! Among other difficulties, the Train Station needed an entirely new foundation, as dry-rot affected the base of the structure. Needless to say, it’s a lot easier to put in a new foundation when you don’t have a building there already, in the way…

StationConstr

Bancroft Train Station, September 2011

Office

Where would I rather sit at a desk, than under a 19th century train station suspended in the air? (Photo: F. Melanson)

The completed Train Station is beautiful!

Station4

Bancroft Station, July 2014

The New Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club Mineral Museum

Members of the Bancroft Gem and Mineral Club were instrumental in the Train Station project and the museum project, and part of the construction involved an addition at the southern end of the building, to house the Club’s new museum. The collection on display is the Club’s collection, built through the efforts, fundraising and ongoing contribution of the Club’s members. We’re a small club, but our members are active and contribute their time and efforts generously. If you are a member of the international mineral collecting community and reading this, you may very well know Frank and Wendy Melanson – they were fundamental to the Train Station project and the museum project – this could not have happened without them. Wendy Melanson is the curator of the Club’s collection.

The Mineral Displays

The museum’s regular displays, comprised mainly of the Club’s collection and some individually loaned specimens, features the minerals of the greater “Bancroft Area” (in this case, 150km radius of Bancroft). 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 50-150km from the town of Bancroft itself. The “Bancroft Area” has variously been considered to include parts of the Haliburton Highlands, Algonquin Highlands and Madawaska Highlands. The mineral cabinets are organized by localities and districts within the Bancroft Area, to feature the mineral specimens in a way that is easy to see where they were found.

Inside the main entry, the central display case provides an overview, with a large map of the larger “Bancroft Area” featuring specimens from 90 Bancroft Area localities, all numbered so that it’s easy to see which specimens were found where.

Museum1

The museum includes cases each dedicated to areas around the Bancroft Area, and some dedicated cases for major individual localities.

Museum2Bear Lake has produced fine and huge crystals. The large crystals here include fluorapatite, titanite and katophorite.

Museum5

The Faraday/Madawaska Mine was Bancroft’s most famous locality – in its day, it produced fine specimens of many minerals – some huge ones here too.

Speaking of the Faraday Mine, of all the displays in the museum, one of my favourites is in the next photo. In the days before 3-D computer modelling of underground deposits and mines, one way of modelling deposits was the use of a wooden box frame, with plates of glass with hand-drawn graphics representing the workings and mineralization on each level.  This is the original such model from the Faraday Mine offices.

Museum4

I am not going to spoil what is waiting for you here when you come to visit Bancroft. But here is a quick teaser from the multitude of specimens you can see in person when you come to the Museum. The collection contains some remarkable specimens, including some true Canadian classics from the Bancroft Area – if you want to see the fluorapatites, titanites and others, come! 

Zircon is one of the coolest minerals found in excellent specimens in the Bancroft Area. Here are two – the first is about as classic as a Canadian locality gets, and the other is an entirely obscure old mine from which specimens are rare.

ZirconMiller

Zircon, Miller Property, Lake Clear, Sebastopol Township, Renfrew Co., Ontario – 11.2 cm, crystal is 6.0cm.  Collected by Mike Irwin.

ZirconWElephant

Zircon, White Elephant Mine, near Wilberforce, Cardiff Township, Haliburton Co., Ontario – dark wine-coloured crystal, 2.0 cm.

The Silver Crater Mine has long been known as one of the world’s premier localities for good crystals of betafite. The betafite crystals occur in calcite, and owing to their nature, the calcite is usually very weak around them – good matrix specimens are very scarce.

Betafite

Betafite in Calcite, Silver Crater Mine, Faraday Township, Hastings Co., Ontario – 6.2 cm, with crystals to 2.0 cm.

The Faraday Mine produced excellent specimens of many minerals. Although it is perhaps best known for the large complex calcite twins and also for radiating sprays of bright yellow uranophane crystals, other minerals of note include sharp clear datolite crystals and beautiful vivid green fluorite crystals.

Fluorite

Fluorite, Faraday (Madawaksa) Mine, Faraday Township, Hastings Co., Ontario – 2.6 cm. On loan from the collection of Wendy Melanson.

A bit further afield, to the south of Bancroft are the historic fluorite mines in the vicinity of the town of Madoc. These produced spectacular fluorite crystals and occasionally beautiful specimens of barite. If this piece looks familiar, it is photographed in the Ontario issue of the Mineralogical Record (Vol 13, No. 2 (1982), p. 89.

Barite

Barite on Pyrite-coated Fluorite, believed to be from the Bailey Mine, Madoc Township, Hastings Co., Ontario – 3.2 cm. On loan from the collection of Frank and Wendy Melanson.

Guest Exhibit Cases

The museum includes display cases for special guest exhibits, which will change over time. Right now we have two superb cases from Club members. We have Minerals of Ontario, from the collection of George Thompson, of Stirling, Ontario. George is a dedicated and talented field collector and many of the specimens were personally collected by him. This is an excellent display!

Sperrylite

Sperrylite, Broken Hammer Deposit, Wisner Township, Sudbury District, Ontari0 – 4.0 cm, crystal 0.9 cm. George Thompson collection.

 CalciteGeorge

Calcite with Fluorite, Amherstburg Quarry, Malden Township, Essex Co., Ontario – 7.0 cm. George Thompson collection.

The second guest exhibit is Canadian Gemstones from the collection of Robert and Brenda Beckett, of Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ontario. Spectacular cut stones of minerals one does not normally see – amazing collection.

Museum3

Fluorapatite from localities in the Bancroft Area, Robert and Brenda Beckett Collection

Cool Displays for All Ages

The Museum has a life-sized underground mining scene and a brand-new display of fluorescent minerals – these are neat for everyone (even those who just want to see if their clothes glow under ultraviolet lighting…)

And for those who love mining and history, there are great artifacts from Bancroft Area mines.

Museum Information

The Museum hours are Monday through Saturday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Sunday 9:00 am – 2:00 pm.

The Museum welcomes visits by university groups, public school groups, clubs and other groups. If you would like to make arrangements, you can contact Wendy at 1-888-443-9999 or by e-mail at wfmelanson@sympatico.ca.

The Club’s collection is growing and developing, and the special exhibits will change periodically, so you never know what will be new, next time you visit!