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Costa Mesa show 2003.

[May 16-18]

Try new things, I always say, and the Costa Mesa show (in fact, southern California in general) was very much a New Thing for me, and thus it was cheerfully and expectantly that I accompanied Wendell Wilson to Marty Zinn's Costa Mesa hotel show, with its dealers' rooms and well-mineralized ballroom clustered compactly about the downstairs lobby of the Costa Mesa Holiday Inn. On its little triangle of urban ground surrounded on all sides by roaring freeways, the hotel becomes, for those three days in May, a welcoming crystal-oasis; business seemed brisk enough, and Jeff Scovil seemed happy to be relieved of his usual duties as show reporter. Several visits to the private collections of Los Angelesarea mineral people, and to some of the city's museums (particularly the temporary exhibit of amazing gemstones at the nearby Bowers Museum) helped make the trip one of the more enjoyable New Things I have done lately--despite all the driving, or creeping, or missing essential exits, on those notorious 14-lane L.A. freeways. Even my fiercest memories of German Autobahns seem dreams of innocence by comparison.

For a relatively small show, Costa Mesa had substantial numbers of What's-New items to offer (as my devastated budget attests). To begin close to "home," let's consider first the excellent clusters of amethyst crystals from an outcrop of Precambrian gneiss in the Kingston Range, San Bernardino County, California. According to the specimens' handler, John Seibel (of Seibel Minerals, P.O. Box 95, Tehachapi, CA 93581), this locality has been known for many decades to California field collectors, but it outdid itself in March 2003, when John Miatech dug about 40 large crystal groups (John Seibel himself taking out a few more in April) from a very large pocket. The transparent, medium-lustered amethyst crystals are typical prisms to 7.5 cm long, ranging in color from pale to deep purple, the more deeply colored crystals having occurred near the pocket's center. Some individual crystals are color-zoned: pale at the bases, rich purple near the terminations. Great plates weighing up to 90 pounds were recovered; John's stand in the ballroom at Costa Mesa was graced by about a dozen very handsome cabinet-sized specimens.

James and Yolanda McEwen of Lehigh Minerals ( had a little stock of loose, thumbnail-sized crystals of magnetite from a discovery made in 2002 in the Iron Springs district, Iron County, Utah. According to Jim, a bucketful or so of the singles and small floater groups were collected, with individual crystals to 3.5 cm. The magnetite crystals are deeply striated dodecahedrons, jet-black and quite sharp. They are almost complete, though most are somewhat flattened, with small roughened areas representing former contacts with matrix. A typical one of these interesting magnetite thumbnails could be had for around $15.


Next, and staying with the motif of loose, mostly thumbnail-sized single crystals, consider the very pretty, gemmy yellow-green fluorapatite crystals being offered by Scott Kleine of Great Basin Minerals ( The locality is an exposure in a creek bed (at 10,000 feet elevation) of the "Crystal Lode pegmatite" near Fulford, Eagle County, Colorado, where about 200 good crystals were dug in 2002, of which the top 35 or so were with Scott at Costa Mesa. A very thin alteration rind, unfortunately, renders some surfaces of all of these crystals, and all surfaces of some of them, an opaque chalky white, but the internal yellow gemminess dominates in the best specimens. All of the crystals are free of matrix and singly terminated, the terminal faces varying from dominant basal pinacoids with very small, shallow-pyramidal modifications, to large, sloping pyramids and very small basal tops; they are thick-prismatic, 1.5 to 5 cm long, and are priced between $25 and $150.

Doug Wallace of Mineral Search, Inc. (11882 Greenville Ave., Suite 123, Dallas, TX 75243) edified me regarding a few outstanding celestine specimens he was offering, not from the old Dana locality of Lampasas, Texas, but from a presently productive collecting site in the bed of Bull Creek, inside the city limits of Austin, Travis County. These are quite beautiful celestine specimens: translucent to transparent, lustrous, thick-prismatic crystals with flat terminations, bicolored gray and a limpid smoky blue, in lengths to 10 cm. The crystals form as floater singles and groups in a pale brown muddy sandstone of the Austin Chalk Formation, and bits of the mud-like material cling rather aesthetically to some surfaces. Matrix specimens also exist, with celestine crystals rising from lumps of the sandstone. Doug had only six miniature-size specimens, but advises us that more generous quantities may emerge at any time.

It is always fun to hear of the latest Bolivian exploits of Alfredo Petrov. At Costa Mesa, Alfredo was offering a few results of some specimen-hunters' recent activities at the famous San Jose mine, near Oruro. The San Jose mine officially closed in late 1991, but recent searches for more of its world-class andorite specimens have produced, instead, a few very fine examples of the rare lead-tin-iron sulfosalt franckeite, these found early in 2003 on the 380 level. The franckeite crystals are highly lustrous, metallic black blades to 5 mm individually, and they group in spheres and fanlike sprays to several cm. This new material is much brighter than the usual run of dull gray, feathery franckeite from earlier days; Alfredo's specimens are all thumbnail and miniature-sized.

But it was Minas Gerais, Brazil which turned out the two new discoveries which were, in most people's estimations, this show's most interesting (and least expected) What's New--and it was the tireless Luiz Menezes ( who brought them to market. Fresh from surprising us at Tucson with his recent discovery of the world's finest kosnarite crystals. Luiz this time came up with some truly significant specimens of helvite and anatase/rutile from the fertile pegmatites of Minas Gerais--take the helvite first.

In March 2003, a 3 X 10 X 10-meter pocket yielded specimens of very large albite and milky quartz crystals with patches of fibrous white palygorskite; on this matrix rest beautiful orange-red, gemmy, heavily etched crystals of spessartine to 5 cm, and very sharp, isolated, silvery greenish yellow tetrahedrons of helvite to 5 mm. Actually the helvite crystals appear to be pseudomorphs: broken surfaces of some crystals show them to consist of a dull black managanese oxide internally, this having later been overgrown with thin rinds of fresh helvite. The sharp little crystals are liberally strewn over matrix pieces to 30 cm across, but the most appealing specimens are the miniature-sized ones, showing the crisp little helvite tetrahedrons perched on edge, or gently touching in delicate, loose intergrowths, on sparkling white quartz or albite. The locality is the Navegador mine (sometimes called the Orozimbo mine, after the name of the farmer who owns the land), Penha do Norte district, Conselheiro Pena, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

The new anatase/rutile specimens offered by Luiz are just as oddly attractive; about 1000 of them were found, during January and February 2003, in an alluvial deposit in the Cuiaba district, Gouveia, Minas Gerais. At Costa Mesa Luiz had about 50 of the loose crystal groups, between 2 and 3.5 cm tall, all arrayed seductively on the top shelf of his glass showcase, luring people in from the hallway. These specimens are fragile parallel clusters of bipyramidal anatase crystals, all points pointing up, sides lightly touching, to create a cathedral-like aspect. About half of the specimens are simply anatase of a greenish tan, caramel-like color and fairly high luster, while the other half show complete or partial, thin coatings, as if spray-painted, of very bright bronze-colored rutile; some may be partial pseudomorphs of rutile after anatase. All are winning thumbnails or toenails of a style of Ti[O.sub.2] never seen before (to my knowledge, or Luiz's) from any locality in Brazil or elsewhere.

A few Russian dealers were in attendance at Costa Mesa, including the erudite Dmitriy Belakovskiy of the Fersman Mineralogical Museum ( Here, as usual, were many exotic (though generally beauty-challenged) rarities from the ex-Soviet Union. Most interesting, and not so beauty-challenged after all, were a few cabinet-sized matrix specimens with glistening pale purple coverages of chromian amesite crystals, from the Saranoskii mine in the Urals. The sharp, transparent, hexagonal-prismatic crystals of this rare member of the kaolinite-serpentine group reach 5 mm, and form solid seam linings in massive black chromite, occasionally with pale brown cubes of rutile pseudomorphous after perovskite. Like the much better known, deep green crystals of uvarovite and chromian titanite from this giant chromite deposit, the chromian amesite druses are exposed by the etching-away of the calcite which fills the seams and veins. Dr. Belakovskiy says that he has seen chromian amesite specimens from this occurrence with individual crystals to 2 cm long.

Gem-quality forsterite ("peridot") crystals from Suppat, Pakistan are nothing new by now, but Jim Parrish of C.S. Enterprises ( showed me several very sharp, long-prismatic gemmy crystals, to 4 cm, displaying inclusions of long, black, hairlike crystals of ludwigite and vonsenite (verified as such by John Koivala), running vertically in horsetail formations from base to tip. Such included forsterite crystals, Jim said, are very rare from the occurrence; they should be watched for by devotees of the out-of-the-way in gem and/or Pakistani material.

I conclude with another new variation on an old theme: lustrous, transparent, pale green fluorapophyllite crystals from India--these from a new well-digging (April 2003) at Rahuri, Maharashtra. The last fluorapophyllite excitement from Rahuri, you will recall, took the form of enormous spheres of green crystals with flat basal-pinacoid terminations implanted on blankets of white stilbite. The specimens from the new discovery are mostly loose, thumbnail through small-miniature-sized sprays of crystals with the more familiar high-angle pyramid faces and no pinacoids, i.e. each fluorapophyllite crystal comes to a point. The very lustrous, spiky crystals are pale gemmy green, and have grown in subparallel fan-like arrangements which are truly gorgeous; on small cabinet-size pieces the sprays and fans rise from masses of glistening white, platy stilbite crystals. K. C. Pandey of Superb Minerals India Pvt. Ltd. ( illustrates a fantastic specimen (he let me handle it too!) on the most recently published flyer for his "Gargoti" mineral museum in India.

Such, then, was my California experience--try it sometime, especially if it will be a New Thing for you, too.

NOTE: These show reports are sometimes necessarily delayed because of publishing schedules, special issues, etc., but we feel they have great value nevertheless as documentation of what and how much came out and who had it at the time. Many of the specimens discussed will continue to circulate between dealers for months or years to come. Furthermore, in cases where the very best specimens from a find come out first and do not later reappear on the market (having sometimes become a part of important collections), it is useful to have a record of what they looked like for later comparison and correct perspective in the evaluation of subsequently found specimens. This collection of show reports is quite long--a fact which should be cause for rejoicing. The remarkable length is further evidence that we are indeed still enjoying what I have characterized before as a "golden age" of mineral collecting.

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Title Annotation:What's New in Minerals
Author:Moore, Tom
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Date:Mar 1, 2004
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