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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!