Denver Show 1998.
The scuttlebutt this time concerned such matters as mineral-marketing websites, dichroic Pakistani lazulite crystals 5 cm long, and the news that major collector Steve Neely of Tennessee has now sold his fabulous collection of cabinet specimens. Yes, Dr. Neely's assemblage of some 500 midwestern and 200 worldwide (and world-class) large specimens is being marketed by Bryan Lees, while Steve meanwhile is switching to miniatures, Most of the major specimens have already been placed with new owners by Bryan, but even those which remain made a mighty impressive showing by not being upstaged by rhodochrosite at the Collector's Edge booth at the Main Show.
About that activity on the web: on p. 186 of the Sweet Home Issue you'll find the ad of Rob Lavinsky and John Veevaert, two dealers who have hit on the fine idea of marketing specimens, both for themselves and for "outside" dealers, on the website www.thevirtualshow.com, which hosted over 5,000 visitors from 40 countries just last week (according to Rob of the dealership The Arkenstone). The site will attempt from now on to monitor offerings at the Tucson and Denver shows, and indeed will be served continuously from an office at the 1999 Tucson show. And now many folks will be happier than before: dealers who sell the specimens, buyers who buy online because they can't make it to major shows, beginners just learning minerals, and even non-Mineralogical Record subscribers (awk!) who will find, on the site, citations of Mineralogical Record columns and articles giving background on specimens offered (and who thus may turn, as God intended, into subscribers at last). It is all looking like another Cyber Age success story. And no, shopping for minerals online will never, can never, replace going to mineral shows when one can; it will only tempt more people to do just that, and thus encourage continued lush growth in our steamy little hothouse.
The Main Show's theme this year was - um . . . well . . . actually, it was fossils. Do not entirely despair: the theme did provide some real perks and diversions (see later), but for whatever reasons, the what's-new-in-minerals market seemed to be taking a bit of a breather. There's still, for example, that scary paucity of Russian things: this is the first American show report I have written without a single new occurrence from Russia to gab about. And much of what I will report on from elsewhere is, in truth, second-wave material, although some of it is still exciting for being by far the best wave yet, and although some true and major what's-new items do exist, as we'll see. So fasten seatbelts, update passports, and we will go seeing right now.
George Fisher of The Crystal Group (511 Foothills Road, Colorado Springs, CO 80906) had a Holiday Inn room pretty much filled up with specimens of hematite on microcline which he dug in February of 1997 from a hydrothermal vein in a pegmatite some 5 miles northeast of Lake George, in Teller County, Colorado. The hematite crystals perch on flesh-colored masses of small, curved microcline crystals; other associations may be smoky quartz and translucent, pale violet fluorite cubes to 3 cm on edge. The hematite (identity firmly verified) comes in sharp compound rhombohedrons with slightly rough, stepped faces, of 3 cm average size. The luster is submetallic to dull, but the overall composition makes the best of these pieces very attractive, as the hematite rhombs flare up in proud clusters from the feldspar matrix. About 60 specimens, ranging in size from small miniatures to matrix pieces 15 cm across, were taken from one huge pocket.
Colorado dealer Dave Bunk's room this time was enriched in old specimens of rare gold tellurides, from Dave's having bought up three different old stashes of these. From the classic Cripple Creek mines, small flat plates of granite or phonolite show gray or golden metallic smears, cleavage sections and little vugs of bright microcrystals of calaverite, syivanite and krennerite; one miniature shows liberal numbers or calaverite crystal blades to 3 mm on off-white drusy quartz. Then, from Level 2 of the Rex mine, Boulder County, brilliant tin-white altaite, coloradoite, petzite and hessite are intermixed with duller gray massive galena on gray-white miniature-size rock matrix. And from the Eagle mine at Gilman, Dave had a few thumbnails and small miniatures showing crude gray 4-mm hessite crystals with gold, and, remarkably for this locality, two small thumbnails entirely of gold, one a little, dull-lustered ram's horn, the other a loose, bright wire.
For a very large change of pace, Dave had also a few giant specimens from a new pocket of barite hit recently at the Barrick Meikle mine, Elko County, Nevada. These barite crystals are not of the usual pale to lemon-yellow color, but of a rich, gemmy yellowish orange; they average 5 cm long and 1.5 cm thick, and occur in glistening handfuls over yellowish crystalline calcite seam linings on rock matrix to 10 x 16 cm. More generally, the Barrick Meikle (or just "Meikle") mine seems still to be going strong: very beautiful, often enormous clusters of gemmy lemon-yellow barite crystals from here were widespread around the show, with special barite-type kudos to Casey and Jane Jones (the mine's first exploiters for specimens) and Harvey Gordon.
Razor-sharp, metallic black, simple small cubes of bixbyite in association with orange topaz from the Thomas Mountains, Utah, has long been a staple in the mineral world - but a very few bixbyite thumbnails dug last February by John Holfert of Utah Mineral and Fossil (997 North Chapel Dr. #4, Bountiful, UT 84010) seem to me to qualify as a new item altogether. This is because of their forms - not simple cubes but complex isometric combinations, often with slightly curved faces and serrated edges - and because of their size, a record-breaking 1.5 to 2.5 cm. These bright, lustrous black crystals are so big that it's not a case of the usual bixbyite-on-topaz but rather of topaz-on-bixbyite: on the best thumbnail I saw (for $900), a single, blocky hematite-like black crystal seems in the process of swallowing the little topaz in its middle. And as for form, well, on a thumbnail grabbed up early in the show by Ralph Clark, a lone bixbyite crystal 2 cm high looks just like a big black modified-dodecahedral gamer. John Holfert says that only seven thumbnails in all were found, and he's understandably "guarded" about just where in the Thomas Range they were found.
A few shows ago I reported (enthusiastically, since this is my home state we're talking about here) on the celestine specimens from Pennsylvania then just being brought out by Doug Wallace of Mineral Search, Inc. (11882 Greenville Ave., Suite 123, Dallas, TX 75243). After a dry spell, a fertile pocket zone was again struck a few months ago at the locality which I can now name more precisely than earlier: Meckley's quarry, Mandata, Northumberland County, Pennsylvania. The new lot, three flats of pieces from small miniature to large cabinet sizes, features translucent blue-white celestine crystals to 1.5 cm growing in deep, drusy quartz-lined vugs in grayish brown limestone. The crystals are of a different habit than before - sharp pseudo-rhombohedrons, not blocky prisms - and are, regrettably, less lustrous than before. Let's hope that Doug's third strike at this potentially major celestine occurrence will be the big one.
The Jeffrey mine at Asbestos, Quebec, is always good for a nice surprise, very often involving new colorations of the gorgeous gemmy grossular dodecahedrons for which the place is renowned. The usual oranges and a few deep greens were around again this time, but the new item is a lovely pale pink grossular, with lustrous crystals, transparent almost to the point of vanishing, on gray matrix with nice drusy green diopside. The smaller crystals (to 6 mm or so) are purely pink, but as they get larger they increasingly take on salmon tones, enroute to the classic rich orange color; intermediate pink-orange crystals also exist. The best lot, in miniature-matrix sizes, was being offered at the Main Show by Tyson's Minerals, and Mike Bergmann at the Holiday Inn had some too.
Now while we have paused at the Tysons' always-enticing Main Show stand with its mainly Canadian offerings, let's look too at a couple of kinds of apatite specimens on view here. First, and more familiarly, there are the classic dark brownish green, gemmy, internally crackled, lustrous, fat hexagonal prisms (with pyramids and pinacoids, usually on both ends) of apatite from the Yates uranium mine, Otter Lake, Quebec. The apatite prisms on these 8 or so specimens are from 2 to 9 cm long, and they sit lightly on/in a salmon-colored massive calcite. The Tysons' really new apatites, though, are some beautiful yellow-green specimens from the Liscombe deposit, Monmouth Township, Wilberforce, Ontario - where skarnlike pods of coarse-grained calcite, Rod Tyson says, occur randomly in heavily metamorphosed intrusive bodies. The pods tend to be found in test pits dug near an old mica mine. Anyway, the yellow-green apatite crystals here are also doubly terminated, very slightly rounded hexagonal prisms, from 1 x 2 to 2 x 5 cm; lusciously lustrous and gemmy, they sit lightly embedded (like their Quebec brethren) in massive salmon calcite: the ten or so thumbnails and miniatures Rod had are pretty indeed. I must also salute the honesty of the labels, which all add a good-humored "with glue and Vinac" after the word "apatite." The Vinac is a stabilizing material with which the apatite crystals are coated, so they don't shatter while being trimmed; the stuff seeps into the cracks in the crystals to keep them together. It is then dissolved away, leaving the crystals' color and luster unchanged. As for the glue, most of the matrix specimens are "repaired." The point is that putting these data on labels is not only honest but smart, as it guards in advance against any outrage from buyers who find out the "secret," which of course there's no reason to make a secret of in the first place. Would that more dealers looked at the matter this way.
On the evening of my last night in Denver I had one of those little discovery-adventures that are always a cherished feature of mineral shows. Heading down the hallway to get my laundry out of the hotel's dryer, I was waylaid by two gentlemen, Mike Menzies of Calgary and Mark Mauthner of Vancouver, the latter carrying a small box. Inside, they said, were two specimens of the best gormanite ever found in the world, and might I mention it in the report? We had the Opening in the laundry room. Well . . . on the smaller of the two specimens, two 2-cm acicular tufts of satiny olive-green gormanite sit like puffballs on a flat piece of black shale; and on the other, a 7-cm strip of the same shale is covered completely with beautiful green upstanding acicular gormanite. This rare phosphate occurs at the Rapid Creek/Big Fish River locality in the northernmost Yukon; you might check your Yukon Phosphates Special Issue about it. Normally it is unattractive - but surely these gentlemen were right; these specimens set a new standard for the species. The find was made this past July by Gunther Kuhnlein of Calgary, who collected dozens of pieces in varying sizes. None were for sale at this show, but I'm told to tell you that Gunther (phone 403-273-4757) might have some "available." Best trip to the laundry room I have ever had.
The only new Mexican item that makes the news this time was seen in the Hereford Ballroom of the Holiday Inn with Doug Wallace: celestine. A so-far anonymous place in the Musquiz district, Coahuila, Mexico, has just lately produced some beautiful large celestine "spears" with fluorite. These are great twinned blades, with the twinning plane down the long axis. The colorless, transparent crystals are arrayed in toothed rows to 28 cm long and just 1.5 cm thick, on which pose transparent medium-purple compound cubes of fluorite to 2 cm on edge, Doug had about ten cabinet specimens of this handsome association, and hopes to have more on another day.
Out of Huanuni, Bolivia, has come a new surge of some of the world's finest ludlamite: sharp-pointed parallel-growth sheaves of crystals, the sheaves to 2 cm high, smoky green and translucent to transparent, sitting up well on a matrix of drusy pyrite. Gary Nagin of Crystal Springs Mining & Jewelry (P.O. Box 40, Royal, AR 71968) has just brought out 100 or so fine specimens, collected several years ago and saved in Bolivia until now. It seems that the Huanuni tin mine is closed for commercial mining purposes, and is being worked for specimens by individual miners, so that we may expect, at best, just a trickle of these fine ludlamites until such time as the government re-opens the mine. Gary's specimens range from thumbnails up to 7-cm matrix pieces, and prices for the best thumbnails are in the mid-three figures.
Having seen the ludlamites in their earlier runs, though, I found it more fun to ogle some new Bolivian things being offered at the Main Show by Alfredo Petrov (Casilla 1729, Cochabamba, Bolivia). Here were about a dozen floater sulfur crystals and groups from a volcanic fumarole at Napa, Potosi Dept., just about 150 yards (Alfredo says) from the Chilean border. The fumarole itself has been known for years (even though there's no road to the place; one drives across a vast salt flat 13,000 feet above sea level), but just a month ago these big sulfur specimens were found loose in an ash bed. The crystals are slightly hoppered bipyramids to 5 cm high, occurring as singles and in groups of two or three, bright yellow, partly transparent, and fairly pretty. Also, from the same weird place, there are miniature to small cabinet-size matrix specimens with rounded, gemmy sulfur crystals to 1 cm standing up straight all over - very much like the ones of recent note from Baja California, Mexico. There were about a dozen of these as well, priced at $20 to $40.
Among other, "old" but intriguing, Bolivian things (such as blue-gray floater danburite crystals from Alto Chapara; sulfosalts from the San Jose mine; even a fine thumbnail with 1.5-cm wurtzite crystals, from the Siglo XX mine), Alfredo had a small swarm of thumbnails and small miniatures of bournonite from a new find at Machacamarca, Potosi Dept. These are wonderfully sharp single cogwheels and clusters of two or three, but unfortunately they are a lusterless flat black, and heavily stained (in some areas coated) with brown limonite. If they were brighter they would be utterly outstanding bournonite specimens - and (look at it this way) they would cost a lot more than the $10 or $20 Alfredo was asking.
Brazil is much in the news this time out. Let's start with Carlos Barbosa, the ever-young Grand Old Man of Brazilian minerals (Rue Cell Roberto Soares Ferreira 586, Bairro Vila Bretas 35032-590, Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil), who had perhaps 50 brilliantly black, lustrous toenails and small miniatures of a tourmaline-group mineral he was calling "dravite-schorl," from a new find at Vargem Alegre, Espirito Santo. One dramatic cluster of these crystals is 5 x 7 cm, and two other pieces have single dravite-schorl crystals sitting on prism faces of 8-cm milky quartz crystals. Most of the specimens, though, are 3-cm single crystals with short prism faces, low-angle trigonal terminations on one end, and a slightly rough and less lustrous simple flat pedion as a base. A few of the crystals have powdery white feldspar (?) patches.
Along similar lines, Carlos Vasconcelos of the dealership of Vasconcelos (Rue Alfonso Pena 3053, Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil) has brought out about 1000 kilograms of schori crystals from the Jaqueto area of Bahia (near the border with Minas Gerais). The top range of that tonnage was represented by about 100 beautiful crystal groups (Helmut Bruckner having earlier gotten the best one) in a room at the Holiday Inn. The schorl crystals are brilliantly glassy black, striated prisms with trigonal terminations, reaching 2 x 4 cm individually, but clustered fairly tightly in groups of which the biggest I saw was fully 15 x 30 cm. Sizes range down from there through toenails. Sparse associations consist of pale brown muscovite books and snow-dustings of white feldspar microcrystals.
Champion among the Brazilian dealers for variety and sheer surprise, this time, was Luis Menezes (R. Esmeralda 534, Belo Horizonte 30410-080, Brazil). In this Holiday Inn room one found, first, a dozen dramatically large crystals of wodginite from a new locality: Sapucaia do Norte, Galileia, Minas Gerais. These are somewhat rough-faced, submetallic black twins from 2 x 3 to 4 x 6 cm: wide flat blades with the twin planes parallel to the c axes, standing tall without matrixes, though with small smears of a brownish mica on some surfaces. Not lustrous or particularly attractive, these nevertheless are sharp, enormous crystals for this rare species.
Next, a small, unnamed pegmatite near the Morro Redondo mine, Coronel Murta, Minas Gerais, has lately produced about 50 specimens of lavender twins of hydroxyiherderite, from thumbnail-size to 5.5 cm high. The luster is bright, the form excellent, with sharp twinning notches on top, but the lavender color tends to be on the pale side; all crystals are transparent, with much internal crazing and crackling.
Next, some exquisite small thumbnails consisting of loose penetration twins of manganotantalite have very recently come from Parelhas in Rio Grande do None. The crystals are lightly striated, lustrous and sharp, with a vivid, meaty interior redness shining through the submetallic black surface sheen. Luis Menezes only had six of these (with, again, Ralph Clark snapping up the best, about six hours before breakfast).
And finally, watch for developments regarding the new, bright satiny pinkish red aggregates of parallel bladed crystals of what the labels indifferently call either rhodonite or pyroxmangite, and which may in fact be a new species; study is under way. This material resembles Peruvian rhodonite, but the locality, Luis is sure, is Conselheiro Lafaiette, Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Rocko Rosenblatt of Rocko Minerals & Jewelry (Box 3A, Route 3, Margaretville, NY 12455) comes in for notice again, not for his profusion of scepter quartz crystals from his mine in upstate New York, nor yet for the South African items he markets for Clive Queit, but for an abundance of excellent English fluorite, both of the smoky purple and deep sea-green kinds. The purple groups have been very recently dug from the Frazor's Hush mine, 360-fathom level, Westgate, Durham. Rocko had five flats of plates, to 10 x 20 cm, with massive green fluorite as vein linings over rock matrix but with further blanketings, over the green, of transparent purple cubes averaging 1 cm on edge, with some penetration twins, the thick fluorite crusts and mounds punctuated by 1-cm galena cuboctahedrons. The fluorite crystals are vividly fluorescent - as are the deep green crystals in Rocko's other flats, containing nice small cabinet specimens from the Rogerley mine, Weardale.
Perhaps you'll recall my 1997 Tucson ravings about the specimens of arborescent gold dug one lucky day from the "Speranza Pocket" on Monte Ciamusera, Brusson, Aosta, Italy. Well, at Ernesto Ossola's booth at the Main Show, Lino Caserini (via Don Giuseppe Del Como 1, 20132 Milano, Italy) was offering for sale five cabinet specimens from this find, the best one a 6 x 6-cm gray quartzitic matrix with branching, brilliant gold standing up all over its top. These are truly extraordinary golds for an Italian Alpine locality, and Lino showed me a photo of the most amazing one extant, a 25 x 30-cm plate at least half blanketed with bright gold (etched out of the quartz seam filling), now in a Milan museum.
Ernesto Ossola himself (8 rue du Luxembourg, 30140 Anduze, France) had about 20 very odd gypsum specimens from Gocate, 25 km from Midelt, Morocco. These are highly etched, transparent lumps (a few crystal faces partially surviving) of absolutely transparent and colorless gypsum; apparently they were fillings of calcite geodes. The lustrous, waxy-smooth specimens range from 3 x 3 to 6 x 6 cm.
As usual, Gilbert Gauthier's stand at the Main Show was all forest-green with Congo malachite specimens, but some of the darkest and lushest of the greens were contributed by a few miniature and cabinet-sized specimens of malachite-stained heterogenite (a cobalt oxide/hydroxide) on chrysocolla on altered rock, from the Star of the Congo mine near the city of Lubumbashi, Katanga, Congo. This old mine was known in Belgian colonial days as the Mine de l'Etoile, but the nifty new name was bestowed by the British concern now dewatering the old workings, where miners with primitive tools have been finding the heterogenite specimens in re-exposed veins as the water level falls. They are weird-looking: seam linings of sky-blue chrysocolla with asphalt-black heterogenite in mounds of mammillary spheres boiling up from them, the heterogenite stained deepest green by malachite films. Gilbert wanted $25 for a nice-looking 5 cm specimen.
As I've said, I saw nothing new from Russia. From Springfield I mentioned the new stromeyerite crystal clusters from Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, and there were, sure enough, a few more of these around; and Herb Obodda had two small cabinet specimens of what is surely the finest betekhtinite yet produced from Dzhezkazgan or anywhere else. But there is one major revisitation from an ex-Soviet republic, little Tajikistan in Central Asia, worth lingering on for awhile. I refer to the wonderful top-gem-quality crystals of heliodor beryl from the Zelatoya Vada mine, which have been seen before in small lots. Imagine my dazzlement to find several hundred crystals in the Holiday Inn room of Mine-Run Enterprises (13337 E. South St., Suite 310, Cerritos, CA 907037308). Here, exporter Joe Garcia chatted amiably at me while I looked at length on these lovely loose heliodor crystals which ranged in color from pale yellow through deep yellow-orange, and in size from small thumbnails up to prisms 15 cm high. Export pipelines apparently are now opening up, and with greater numbers of specimens, of course, comes greater variety. Some of these hexagonal prisms terminate in simple basal faces, while others feature complexities of secondary pyramidal faces; some crystals are doubly terminated; some have color zoning; some occur in parallel-growth groups of two or more; some have bits of white matrix adhering; some have inclusions of tiny elbaite needles. And, if you're into gems (as Joe Garcia is; he cuts them), you'd have enjoyed the dozens of faceted yellow brilliants on display here. I must say I'm highly pleased with the three thumbnail crystals I picked up for much less than I'd have expected to pay: the robust orangish yellow color, sharp faces, and flawless gemminess make these loose crystals winning beryl specimens.
A very new and promising development out of Pakistan is a small number of loose, very large lazulite crystals reportedly found this year in an Alpine-type pocket in the Chilas area, near Nanga Parbat. Herb Obodda had just three crystals: the biggest, a largely complete bipyramid, is 5 x 7 cm, while a 90% complete crystal is 3 x 5 cm, and a thumbnail-sized fragment puts itself forward as prime gem rough. These lazulite crystals, though grayish and drab-looking in surface aspect, are totally gemmy inside, and dichroic; a pencil-flashlight beam shone into a face reveals that the color one way is brownish yellow, another way a stunning deep greenish blue. It's unclear how many such crystals were taken out, or who, if anyone, may have more.
Herb Obodda was also one of several dealers with large supplies of faden quartz floater groups from Toyee, South Waziristan, North West Frontier Province, Pakistan. Specifically, he had five flats with about 100 miniatures and small cabinet specimens of this fine, clean, lustrous laden quartz: much-flattened prisms strung out in chains or flaring in butterfly patterns. All of the quartz faces are complete, and frosty white faden lines run distinctly clown the long axes of specimens - just like the pictures in the article on fadens in vol. 21, no. 3. Word is that the specimens were found loose in sand-filled or clay-filled fissures in five little prospects about two years ago. Andreas Weerth (Hochfeldstr. 37, 83684 Tegernsee, Germany) had nearly as many pieces as Herb, including two magnificent examples 18 cm high, which, when I last looked, were being browsed over by some major museum buyers. Considering what other dealers had too, it's probably true that there have never been as many fine faden quartz pieces as this available at one time, at one mineral show.
I can't resist mentioning a one-of-a-kind specimen which Andreas Weerth was handling on consignment for someone in Sri Lanka: a 2.5 x 4.5 x 14-cm Sri Lanka sapphire crystal, complete all around, lustrous, gemmy through much of its interior, and of an odd smoky greenish blue color. The owner wanted $45,000 for this astounding crystal.
The tour will conclude in China, but will linger awhile there, as there are several exciting things to be seen. First, Danny Trinchillo of DeTrin Minerals, Inc. (14-48 128th Street, College Point, NY 11356) has at least one reason to be glad of his recent shift from Russian minerals to Chinese: about 10 excellent cabinet specimens of stibiconite pseudomorphs after stibnite, from the Lushi mine, Hunan Province. By now this mine is a well-known locality for top-quality stibnite groups, but these pseudomorphs are newly mined; Danny obtained them on his most recent trip to China. They are spindly, large loose sprays of prisms to 20 cm long by only about 1.5 cm wide and thick, and each crystal shows clearly all the characteristically complex terminal faces and striation ridges of what was once stibnite. Some broken areas show that the replacement by stibiconite goes all the way through the prisms. In short, these are very effective pieces, despite being colored dull, earthy, yellowish brown. Prices ranged from $50 up to $200 for a handsome spray 18 cm high.
Debbie Meng of Debbie Meng's Minerals (P.O. Box 117, Marina, CA 93933) is as knowledgeable about Chinese minerals as she is patient in explaining about them, and in her Holiday Inn room she had a couple of very fine things to explain: a handful of specimens of the new Chinese apophyllite that I mentioned sighting in Springfield, and a new manganocalcite hoard from the Chenzhou area of Hunan Province. The manganocalcite crystal groups formed in a limestone cave, and this lot was collected by local seekers who washed out the cave sometime around Christmas of 1996. Debbie had about 40 big specimens, from 7 x 7 cm up to 20 x 20 cm, consisting of vertical stacked-platelike piles of flattened rhombohedral crystals of manganocalcite rising all over, from matrix bases of gray limestone. The manganocalcite is translucent, lustrous, and palest pink to white; individual sharp discoids in the stacks are up to 2 cm across. These specimens, beautiful enough in natural light, are fluorescent a glowing deep orange. There have been no new such finds, Debbie says, for the past 20 months.
The apophyllite comes from an old copper mine at Huangshi, Hubei Province. Crystals are very thin and tabular, colorless and transparent, in perfect little square windows which, in the best specimens, grow in wing-fluttering little offset clusters, with individual crystals to 2.5 cm: at the centers of clusters, where all the wings or windows meet, there's often a delicate pale salmon tint. These creative formations sit on coatings of subhedral crystals of some carbonate (not calcite: Debbie is working on it), with tiny black spots of manganbabinglonite There were half a dozen miniature to small-cabinet-size pieces, and there was one 3 x 6 cm piece which is different: a loosely interlocked cluster of much thicker tabs of apophyllite, milky to colorless and transparent.
The item falling last in my organizational plan (such as it is) happens to be arguably the most exciting what's-new of this show: brilliant gemmy cassiterite from Ximong, Yunnan Province, China, offered at the Main Show by Ken Roberts, who had one flat of thumbnails and miniatures. On white matrix of granular quartz (with some 5-mm quartz crystals), textbook sixling twins of cassilerite, many complete around all 360 degrees, from 1 to 3 cm across. sit vividly perched, flashing brilliant mirror-faces at the onlooker. But what's most amazing is the transparency: a gemmy dark brown with yellowish highlights down through which you can look, almost to the centers of the twinned clusters, where clouds finally set in. The finest thumbnail went for a low 4-figure price to Tom Gressman, who agonized for fully five seconds before busting his show budget on it. Ken Roberts says that these specimens came out six months ago from an old mine now being dug and scraped around in by local people: hence it is not surprising that only 1% of the specimens found made it out to market undamaged. These were among them - and most are by now sold.
I have already broken the news that the theme of the Main Show this year was fossils. What can we make of this? One obvious downside was that a far greater number than usual of the display cases were filled with fossils, not minerals . . . but then there was "Mr. Bones," a walking 10-foot-tall lightweight foam-plastic skeleton of a carnivorous dinosaur of the Velociraptor type, made mobile by a nearly invisible man in black fitted into a position between the beast's hips. This dinosauroid kept strolling around the show floor in a reptilian sort of way, tail waving, ribs flapping, skull frequently dipping to threaten to bite off the heads of small children. A foghorn-like "roaring" sound vaguely accompanied the performance, and I couldn't at first locate the sound's source; but I eventually discovered that it issued from one of the displays - an inventive exhibit by the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science, in which, by pressing a button, one could elicit an approximation of how a crested Parasaurolophus sounded when it huffed through the trombone-like tube of bone on top of its skull.
At the usually deserted far end of one of the Main Show's "tunnels" of dealers' booths was the entrance to another huge chamber, this one entirely filled with fossil dealers and fossil displays. Entering, you saw that this room was sentried by another brown floppy skeletal specimen, a Stegosaurus; at the far end of the hall a Tyrannosaurus skeleton loomed, this one a more serious critter, as it was not made of toy-plastic but was a serious reconstruction in dense urethane. The average age of the people thronging this fossil hall was a decade or so lower than that of folks who preferred to throng among minerals - not that eager kids were scarce anywhere in the complex.
In a pedestal/showcase all by itself in the show floor's middle, Bryan Lees also put out the specimen of Colorado Quartz mine, California, gold which he calls "The Dragon," mined in January of 1998. On a reinforced 17-cm gray and white quartz breccia matrix, the dragon of solid gold rises, a full 15 cm of the brightest, best crystallized gold imaginable, all flattened and/or hoppered octahedrons, some of these 1 cm on edge and extremely sharp. Crowds of people of all levels of sophistication lingered long in awe around this specimen (though Mr. Bones did once threaten to bite its glass case off).
I can hope only to mention in the briefest way some impressive displays. The American Museum of Natural History, New York, had a very large case with about 40 Guanajuato, Mexico, calcites from the Bement Collection; Harvard showed classic American minerals from the collection of Elwood Hancock (1834-1916); the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History showed calcite pseudomorphs from the collection of Terry Huizing; the Los Angeles County Museum showed some recent acquisitions, including a 45cm Japanese stibnite cluster and a 20-cm-high, richly gemmy Pakistan peridot.
Among cases by private collectors, there was a Ralph Clark update case. heavy in new superlative thumbnails; a fine case by Bill and Carol Smith on native elements; and, spectacularly, Clara and Steve Smale's two cases of Chinese specimens, many of them real mind-expanders, which Steve has acquired during these past three years of living in Hong Kong on a research/teaching grant. His giant cassiterite is of a different type and locality, and is much larger than the new specimens Ken Roberts offered, but seeing both will probably engrave this show in my mind as The Chinese Cassiterite Experience.
Or maybe the Sleep Deficit Show . . . having now at last finished this report, I must pack up for tomorrow's early flight home, getting maybe three hours of sleep. But I should revive by the time everyone meets again in the hothouse called Tucson.
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|Title Annotation:||mineral exhibition|
|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1999|
|Previous Article:||The Carnegie Show 1998.|
|Next Article:||Silver mineralogy of Guanajuato mining district, Guanajuato, Mexico.|