Denver Show 2009.
This year I got to the Denver Show the long way, albeit the wonderfully scenic way: Tom Gressman, our new Associate Publisher, and I drove his van full of books and magazines up to Denver from Tucson, and Wendell Wilson followed two days later by plane. Good weather prevailed throughout the road trip--a 16-hour-long, granola-bar-fueled, gawp-out-the-windows experience, starring the most luminous, glamorous jubilee arc of a double rainbow I've ever seen, vaunting over the plains somewhere in New Mexico. We rolled up at last to the Holiday Inn (Denver Central) at 2:00 o'clock on Tuesday morning, and just a few hours later were cruising Marty Zinn's "hotel" show at the Inn. Some dealers had opened their doors on the previous Sunday, and the traffic of visitors was already at full tide despite the fact that the show was not scheduled to open "officially" until Wednesday. In subsequent days at the Holiday Inn and at the "Main Show" in the Denver Merchandise Mart, substantial crowds held sway, and Mr. Bones, the famous skeletal dinosaur who prowls the Main Show every year, found a target-rich environment of schoolchildren's heads to pretend to chomp off.
In both show venues the prices of mineral specimens seemed in general to have leveled off or even declined a bit from what they had been in Tucson in February and in Denver in 2008. As in Tucson, some dealers complained of slow sales while others boasted of breaking sales records; no overall trends regarding market dynamics could be made out. But on my last night in the Holiday Inn, gazing out through the dusk at the nearby expressway and its highly motivated rush-hour traffic, I savored the feeling that in general this had been an excellent show, and that the mineral-collecting world continues in good health, and will come through the present economic hard times just fine, thank you.
All aboard, now, for the Denver 2009 what's-new tour:
Steve Perry (www.steveperrygems.com) had two flats of nice thumbnail and small-miniature specimens of California axinite-(Mg) (formerly magnesio-axinite) at his stand at the Main Show, and John Veevaert now is offering more specimens from the same find on his website (www.trinityminerals.com). It seems that back in the 1960s, roadwork on Highway 70 exposed a small area of Alpine cleft-type mineralization near Yankee Hill, Butte County, California. It was at that time that the axinite-(Mg) specimens now being sold were collected--the find has long since been exhausted, so now is the time to procure a piece from Steve or John. Analysis by Bart Cannon has shown that the crystals have slightly more than 4% MgO, and since any axinite with more than 3.6% MgO qualifies as axinite-(Mg), the California specimens are, for sure, representatives of this rare member of the axinite group. Steve Perry's specimens are clusters, on and off matrix, of sharp, lustrous, partially gemmy, typically axe-blade-shaped crystals, with individuals reaching 2 cm; some matrix specimens show associations of tiny albite and quartz crystals, and sparse fibers of palygorskite. The axinite-(Mg) crystals are weakly fluorescent red in shortwave ultraviolet light, and change color from pale beige in sunlight to pale plum-purple in incandescent light.
The glory days of collecting at the 79 mine, Gila County, Arizona, came in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but in May 2009, George Godas and John Callahan hit a large and exceptional pocket of green smithsonite on the old mine's 470 level, and spent about two months taking out fine specimens ranging in size from small-miniature to large-cabinet. The botryoidal matrix coatings of smithsonite are strikingly two-toned, with lustrous, wet-looking, pale green to dark forest-green regions, in bands to 2 cm thick over grayish limestone. At the Main Show, Evan Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org) had about 20 pretty specimens, from 4 to 10 cm across.
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The late Ernie Schlichter of Massachusetts was an expert field collector (and cabinetmaker) who amassed a fine private collection, mostly of thumbnails, the greater part of which is now being marketed by Don and Gloria Olson (email@example.com). In their room in the Holiday Inn the Olsons were offering many good ex-Schlichter thumbnails of worldwide provenance, as well as most of Ernie's large stash of self-collected albite ("pericline") specimens from the Aggregate Industries (Tilcon, Bluestone) quarry, Acushnet, Bristol County, Massachusetts. In this old quarry just northeast of New Bedford, a series of Alpine-type clefts produced fine specimens of titanite, apatite, feldspars and other things for a brief period in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but in 1983 the quarry was declared off-limits to collectors, and no further significant finds have emerged since then. The albite specimens now with the Olsons are miniature and small cabinet-size clusters of thick, sharp, twinned crystals to 4 cm, all coated uniformly with chlorite, hence glitteringly dark green (although, come to think of it, there are also a couple of uncoated specimens which are ivory-white). More of Ernie's Acushnet material is "in reserve" with the Olsons, and will be appearing at later shows.
It is pleasant to note that very fine specimens of azurite and pseudomorphous malachite are still coming at intervals from the Milpillas mine, Sonora, Mexico (see the article in our "Mexico V" issue, November-December 2008). A Mexican dealer, Jesus Valenzuela (firstname.lastname@example.org), filled a whole room in the Holiday Inn with Milpillas mine specimens, and Evan Jones, at the Main Show, had some outstanding Milpillas azurite specimens, with lustrous bladed crystals to almost 3 cm. Also, promisingly, Evan had a couple of Milpillas specimens showing brilliant red crystal druses of cuprite, with individual crystals pushing 1 cm. And bright copper crystal clusters to small-cabinet size from Milpillas are no longer as uncommon as they once were.
Not by any means "new," but entirely distinctive and always dramatic, are the great spherical groups of transparent, colorless (but invariably brown-orange stained) creedite crystals from the Navidad mine, Durango, Mexico. Three weeks before the Denver Show, a mighty strike of creedite specimens took place in an ore chimney in the Navidad mine, and Mike New says that this lode is already exhausted. In their big white tent in the courtyard of the Holiday Inn, Mike and his son Jason, of Top Gem Minerals (www.topgem.com) offered humongous (Durangese for "very large") creedite specimens from the Navidad mine, with bristling spheres to 12 cm in diameter lightly attached to make specimens reaching 60 cm across; individual creedite crystals are lustrous, transparent, and sharply terminated. By the time of the Main Show, some of the new creedite pieces had migrated to the booth of Rob Lavinsky's The Arkenstone (www.irocks.com).
Excited updates on new finds at the Ojuela mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico have become regular features of these show reports, as the great locality, where Spanish mining dates back to 1598, is still yielding beautiful mineral specimens. An upper level of the old workings has lately been producing fluorite, in transparent deep purple crystals, with wulfenite, barite and calcite. Unlike many earlier Ojuela mine purple fluorite crystals, these are simple cubes (not cubo-dodecahedrons), and they reach 4.5 cm on edge; the best person to see about them in Denver was Dennis Beals of Xtal (www.xtal-dbeals.com). Another zone of the mine, now being exploited for copper ore, has been turning out lovely baby-blue to turquoise-blue specimens of calcite included by aurichalcite, with sharp rhombohedral crystals to 3.5 cm on dark brown gossan matrix. The best selection of these in Denver was Rob Lavinsky's--a shelf-full of snazzy small miniatures. Specimens showing dusty green, smooth-surfaced malachite blobs reaching 3 cm in diameter have recently been offered by Mike New and our new Tucson neighbor Isaias Casanova of IC Minerals (www.icminerals.com). Outstanding wulfenite from the Ojuela mine, with caramel-colored, blocky crystals to 3 cm on beds of green mimetite, may now be seen at dozens of dealerships. And exactly four specimens of the very rare copper hydroxyl chloride claringbullite, with deep blue, micaceous claringbullite crystals to 3.5 cm rising from massive red cuprite, have recently emerged as well. The best of the four went to Tom Loomis of Dakota Matrix (www.dakotamatrix.com), and it is pictured in the August 3 installment of "What's new in the mineral world," at www.MineralogicalRecord.com. In the same small zone in the Cumbres lugar of the Ojuela mine which produced the claringbullite, a few specimens of tenorite pseudomoiphs after paramelaconite were found as microcrystals, as well as brochantite.
In the 2009 Tucson Show report (May-June 2009 issue), I mentioned the single pocket of nifontovite crystals discovered early in 2008 at Charcas, San Luis Potosi, Mexico--and Peter Megaw's superb 5.2-cm specimen from the strike is pictured. Well, this year in Denver, Marcus Origlieri of Mineral Zone (www.mineralzone.com) offered several loose crystals of nifontovite from a new pocket, opened in summer 2009 on Level 16 of the Rey y Reina mine, Charcas. These are elegant, lustrous, totally colorless and transparent prisms with sharp, sloping terminations, to 6 cm long. And Marcus also had an amazing platy specimen, 22 cm across. composed almost entirely of nifontovite crystals to 5 cm suffused by a gray, sandy or clay-like material, on a bit of sandy gray matrix.
Gemmy blue euclase crystals from the emerald mines of Colombia also are not "new," but who can resist taking note of any hoard, however small, of these gorgeous objects? In the Holiday Inn, Thomas Nagin of Crystal Springs Mining Company and Gallery (www.crystalspringsmining.com) had five loose crystals of euclase, all between 2 and 3 cm, from the La Marina mine, Boyaca Department, Colombia; they are gemmy, pale to medium-blue, highly lustrous, and (best of all) not cleaved along their sides as euclase crystals tend to be.
Count on Brian and Brett Kosnar of Mineral Classics (www.minclassics.com) to come up with interesting minerals from the Bolivian Andes. This time the brothers had, for starters, some excellent specimens of siderite from the Siete Suyos mine, Atocha-Quechisla district, Sud Chicas Province, Potosi Department, Bolivia. The short-prismatic, face-rich, vaguely barrel-shaped siderite crystals, reaching 2 cm, are gemmy and yellow-brown, and rest on brassy yellow, discoidal crystals of pyrite pseudomorphous after (a first generation of) siderite, with lustrous black crystals of stannite to 3 mm around the points of attachment--making for impressive toenail and small miniature-size specimens. Then, from the Himalaya mine, just outside the city of La Paz, there was hubnerite, as loose, compound, bladed crystals from 5 to 12 cm, bright shiny black, with red flashes infrequently showing (these crystals have been verified as hubnerite, not ferberite, and as such are a rarity for Bolivia). Finally, most collectors are familiar with the long-time occurrence of blocky sixling copper pseudomorphs after aragonite from the Corocoro district, Pacajes Province, La Paz Department--the loose twins resemble coppery, green-stained lug nuts. But have you ever seen these pseudomorphs on matrix? Neither had I, until just now in Denver, when Brian Kosnar showed me some pieces recovered in summer 2009. The ten or so small-cabinet specimens feature fairly sharp pseudomorphous copper sixlings to 3.5 cm on thin, flat sheets of tarnished native copper to 15 cm across.
Surprisingly, neither Brazil nor any country in Europe had much of anything mineralogical to say for itself at Denver this time ... but Africa shone seductively in the dark, flashing diverse, dazzling treasures. Let's begin with the newly discovered occurrence of dyscrasite, in spiky, metallic tin-white crystals enclosed in white calcite, from the Bouismas mine, Bou Azzer district, Morocco. As late as our special issue on Bou Azzer (September-October 2007), dyscrasite had not been known to occur there; however, earlier this year, members of the Spirifer group of Warsaw, Poland brought back a few specimens of the silver antimonide which had just been found in the Bouismas mine, in the district's center (see my August 3 online report). Thus I had come to Denver looking, hoping, to find some Bou Azzer dyscrasite specimens, and, sure enough, experienced Morocco hand Horst Burkart (Dornheckenstr. 20, D-53227 Bonn, Germany) was there to provide. The specimens are lumps of white calcite from 4 to 6 cm, their etched surfaces about half covered by branching groups of distorted, lustrous dyscrasite crystals with individuals to 2 cm. If discoveries continue, Bou Azzer dyscrasites may very well equal or surpass the famous ones found in the mid-1980s at Pribram, Czech Republic (during the very last days of the centuries-long history of mining there), and at the two or three antique German occurrences of the rare species.
Loose, heavily etched and rounded but totally gemmy crystals of colorless phenakite are now emerging from pegmatites somewhere near Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria. Jos is a central Nigerian town long known as a "locality" (more accurately it's a marketing center) for gemmy topaz, elbaite and blue to green beryl crystals, but phenakite had been unknown from the region until August 2009, when Bill Larson encountered some of the newly dug crystals. Actually Bill came across them in Thailand, whence they had been sent for cutting; he rescued a small handful and brought them to Denver, where, meanwhile, Herb Obodda was scoring the champion crystal, a wonderful, colorless, totally gemmy floater about 6 cm across and about 100% complete, with mirror-smooth faces and no chips or points of attachment. Then there was the Nigerian dealer who came to Denver to sell the phenakite as gem rough, but was persuaded to release a flat of about 30 crystals, each around 3.5 cm, to Rob Lavinsky, who'd also picked up Bill Larson's stock (any questions so far?) to offer at the Main Show. Anyway, these are fine and unusual phenakite specimens, like sparkling lumps of colorless glass with smooth plane faces in alternation with etched areas. Bill Larson thinks that he may soon be able to offer more precise locality information.
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Thomas Nagin of Crystal Springs Mining Company and Gallery (see above under Colombian euclase) has just begun gathering amethyst specimens at his new open-pit working in Kenya, two hours' drive east of Nairobi, called the Baobab mine, Kitui, Kitni Province. Thomas and his Kenyan partner have thus far taken out about 450 kg of amethyst, from thumbnail-size single crystals to singles and groups reaching 25 cm, and specimens of these and all intermediate sizes sold briskly throughout the time of the hotel show, in one of the tents in the Holiday Inn courtyard. The stout amethyst crystals (terminal rhombohedron faces dominating) are medium-lustrous and color-zoned, with the best, gemmiest purple tones near their tips. Many show "fenster" growth (thin faces covering hopper-growth voids), and many show amethystine scepters topping short prisms of quartz of pale-smoky color.
Hardly for the first time, Collector's Edge Minerals (www.collectorsedge.com) staged a major debut in their booth at the Main Show. The spotlighted mineral was something new: large emerald crystals protruding from white quartz matrix from the Kagem emeraid mine, Kafubu district, Copperbelt Province, Zambia. Gem-quality emeralds have been found in the Kafubu district since 1928, and mining has been energetic since the 1970s, with the result that Zambia now ranks second in the world (behind only Colombia) in the production of gem emeralds. The Kagem mine is one of the newer and most important of several mines in the district (others include the Miku, Kamakanga, Pirala, and Chantete mines), but neither it nor any of the other mines has ever before yielded important emerald specimen crystals for the collector market.
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As a running video in the Collector's Edge booth in Denver kept explaining to all who would stop to watch, the Zambian emeralds are found in mica-rich reaction zones along contacts between pegmatites and quartz-tourmaline veins within host belts of talc-magnetite schist. The crystals are of two types: "mica schist-hosted" crystals are heavily infused with dark phlogopite and tend to be blackish, at least in their outer zones, resembling old Russian emerald crystals; "quartz-hosted" emeralds occur in very rare pockets and, more commonly, in boudin structures which have been flooded with silica. Emeralds of the latter type are enclosed and protected by white quartz, and consequently tend to be gemmier. The emerald crystals (of both types) attain lengths to 10 cm and thicknesses to 2.5 cm; the crystals are sharp-edged with medium luster and a deep green color with a very slight bluish tint. The best of the "quartz-type" matrix pieces offered for sale by Collector's Edge measure between 3.5 and 15 cm or so; typically they show gemmy green, long-prismatic emerald crystals with lower terminations still embedded in white quartz and upper parts rising free. Of course, a frightful amount of work has gone into mechanically chipping away the quartz from around the upper parts of the crystals, and for most of this work we have to thank Rob Lorda, presiding wizard of the Collector's Edge lab, for his skill and phenomenal patience in preparing the specimens.
Present plans are for Collector's Edge to continue assisting the mining company, Gemfields PLC, in its commendable effort to preserve and market emerald specimens from the Kagem mine. In June 2008, Gemfields PLC acquired a 75% stake in the mine, and to all appearances this was a good investment: during the year ending June 30, 2009, the company extracted an average production of 2.3 million carats of emerald rough per month, primarily through heavily mechanized mining and crushing of the emerald-bearing schist. The occasional emerald-riddled white quartz boulders encountered are turned over to Collector's Edge for preparation and sale.
Another blockbuster new item from this show was on view in the third-floor Holiday Inn room of Tsumeb collector Marshall Sussman--now a Tucson resident. Just in time for the show, Marshall received a shipment of about 20 flats of beautiful specimens of aquamarine/schorl/feldspar, newly dug from miarolitic cavities in the granite of the Erongo Mountains, Namibia. Erongo aquamarines have been familiar enough for about a decade now, but Marshall's best specimens set new records for size, aesthetics and sheer spectacular beauty. The gorgeously sharp, gemmy, medium-blue crystals of aquamarine to 12 cm stand up at all angles from clusters of blocky, glossy black schorl crystals and chalky white, partially corroded (but still quite clean-looking) K-feldspar crystals. For prices ranging from $200 to $15,000 or so, one could pick up from Marshall a true "killer" specimen in almost any size one might want, from toenail to very-large-cabinet. A portion of the new Erongo lot later showed up with Rob Lavinsky at the Main Show, and selections have appeared on Rob's www.irocks.com website.
Nor were the aquamarine super-specimens the only new Namibian items offered by Marshall Sussman: two new prospects now being worked by Charles Key in the north of the country have begun yielding modest but promising specimens of secondary lead and copper species. From a prospect begun in summer 2009 at Onderra, Kaokoveld, comes wulfenite in thick, tabular orange and yellow-orange crystals to 4 cm with prominent pyramid faces (in some cases almost obliterating the normally dominant basal pinacoid faces). Loose single crystals and small crystal clusters of this wulfenite are of thumbnail and small-miniature size. Most of the wulfenite crystals unfortunately are chattered around the edges, but this ought to change once Charlie succeeds in educating the more impatient of those local folk who are doing the digging.
From the Christoff prospect, Kaokoveld--also inaugurated by Key in summer 2009--come loose, sharp V-twins of cerussite measuring from 2 to 4 cm, with medium luster and translucency, rendered silky gray by sulfide inclusions. The same prospect also produces clusters of very bright green dioptase crystals, with individuals to 5 cm. These crystals are elongated, i.e. prismatic in habit, with sharp rhombohedral terminations, and some, when backlit, are seen to be transparent near their tips. Marshall had several dozen thumbnails and miniatures of cerussite and dioptase (no specimens in his lot show the two species together) from the Christoff prospect.
For an attractive new item from South Africa we return again to Rob Lavinsky's The Arkenstone. In his Main Show booth Rob had a single flat of miniature-size specimens of aragonite collected about 20 years ago from a cave near Sterkfontein in Guateng Province. The specimens consist of gleaming white sprays of pointed crystals, to 2 cm individually, rising like hungry anemones from the tips of thicker, stalk-like aragonite crystals. These lustrous, bristling specimens reach 7 cm in longest dimension.
Leaving the African treasure-chest and heading for Asia by way of Madagascar, we pause to note the very exciting new andradite specimens (marketed as the variety "demantoid") now being gathered from open-pit workings in skarn rock near the village of Antezambato, near the town of Ambanja, in Antsiranana Province. The locality lies near Madagascar's northwesternmost coast, and the pits are often flooded by waters from a coastal mangrove swamp, but soon after the first specimens were discovered by fishermen in late 2008 a "garnet rush" commenced anyway, and now hundreds of people are busy digging beautiful green gem rough for the--hrrumpf!--gem-cutting community. Nevertheless a fair number of crystal specimens have been saved: Jordi Fabre has already offered some on his website (as noted in my August 3 online report), and two dealers came quite well-stocked to Denver. At the Main Show, Daniel Trinchillo of Fine Minerals International (DanielTr@FineMineral.com) had a shelf-full of top-quality andradites from Madagascar, while at the Holiday Inn, Frederic Gautier of Little Big Stone (email@example.com) was proudly displaying hundreds of specimens, mostly superb thumbnails and miniatures but also some cabinet-size matrix pieces, to 20 cm across, studded liberally with the bright green gem crystals. Brilliant dodecahedral, trapezohedral and combined-form andradite crystals to 3 cm occur as sparkling blankets and isolated individuals on pale green matrix consisting mostly of massive andradite. A few of the matrix specimens show associations of quartz, calcite and stilbite. For the most part the andradite crystals are gemmy and of a luscious grass-green hue, although a few are greenish brown to yellowish brown. Of course, the specimens are not exactly cheap--M. Gautier would want from $250 to $400 for one of his best crystal clusters of thumbnail or toenail size--but they amount to a major garnet discovery, and supplies should continue for at least as long as the "garnet rush" lasts, and the--ghraaack!--gem cutters stay interested.
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The excellent cuprite and copper specimens from the Rubtskoye copper mine, Altayskiy Kraj, western Siberia, Russia, provided one of the hits of the 2009 Tucson Show (see my report in May-June 2009), and good supplies of these specimens showed up in Denver in 2009 as well. Big, bright, well crystallized specimens of native copper, very dark red octahedral crystals and crystal clusters of cuprite, and beguiling specimens wherein the cuprite crystals hang like fruit on "trees" of copper were offered by nearly all Russian dealers on hand, and by some Westerners also, with honorable mention for Very Best Specimens and/or Largest Selections going to Mikhail Anosov's Russian Minerals Company (www.rusmineral.ru); The Fersman Mineralogical Museum (www.fmm.ru); and the Czech dealership KARP Minerals (firstname.lastname@example.org). In the KARP room in the Holiday Inn, Ivo Svegeny showed me some decent azurite specimens which are also now coming from the Rubtskoye mine, with sharp, lustrous blue crystals to 1 cm lining vugs in gossan. Mikhail Anosov had some chalky blue azurite nodules to 8 cm in diameter from this locality, and on some of these nodules are powdery yellow-green patches of microcrystals of the rare copper iodide species marshite. Segue here to Marcus Origlieri's Mineral Zone, and some 5 to 10-mm loose clusters of subhedral marshite crystals from Rubtskoye. A one-page article on the Rubtskoye mine appears in the latest issue (vol. 14 no. 3) of the Russian publication Mineralogical Almanac, with pictures of sharp, translucent, waxy yellow-brown crystals of marshite reaching 3 cm that were recently found in the Rubtskoye mine. This is a locality to keep an eye on, especially for rare species.
The early 1990s are over and done with, but we have not yet seen the last surprises from remote localities in the former Soviet Union. Dmitriy Belakovskiy of the Fersman Museum had a fine selection of chalcopyrite and epidote specimens from the huge open-pit Dashkesan iron mine near Gyanzha in the southern Caucasus Mountains, Republic of Azerbaijan. The chalcopyrite specimens are loose clusters of sharp crystals, compound and face-rich, with individuals to 4 cm--all tarnished dull greenish black and thus more notable for form than color. Epidote from the Dashkesan mine forms lustrous, pistachio-green fan-sprays of prismatic to acicular crystals, and some of the Fersman specimens on hand at Denver are sturdy plates to 10 cm of such sprays tightly intergrown.
In the Holiday Inn, Ivo Svegeny of KARP had a few fine specimens from a new pocket of tennantite opened in spring 2009 in an unnamed mine in the great and famous Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan copper-mining district. Very sharp, lustrous, metallic gray tetra-hedral crystals of tennantite reaching 2 cm sit up well on drusy quartz and calcite coatings on pale gray matrix. Tennantite (and/or tetrahedrite) is rare at Dzhezkazgan, and probably these are the best specimens yet recovered.
Other, entirely different, even more exotic little pieces of Kazakhstan appeared at the Main Show, some in the keeping of Alfredo Petrov (email@example.com), others with Howard and Janet Van Iderstine of Cardinal Minerals (www.cardinalminerals.com). These are thumbnail-size loose crystals of the complex rare-earth oxide davidite (whether davidite-(Ce) or davidite-(La) or davidite-(Y) no one seems to know), hailing from what is said to be a new prospect in a rare earth-bearing pegmatite at Bektau-Ata, Karaganda, Kazakhstan. The tabular, incomplete davidite crystals are opaque tannish brown and actually fairly lustrous; they reach 2.5 cm. Beige-colored spots and films on some of their surfaces are probably the remains of feldspar crystals blasted by radiation from the uranium in davidite.
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Two weeks before the 2009 Denver Show, a prospect pit in a forest near Aurangabad, Maharashtra, India yielded about 400 very attractive specimens of what the Indian dealers were quite sure was thomsonite, although some eyeballing experts (e.g. Rudy Tschernich) were inclined to guess natrolite. X-ray and Raman analyses by Bob Downs at the Universty of Arizona have just recently shown the material to be mesolite. In these large-cabinet specimens, pale yellow-brown spherical aggregates of radiating acicular crystals rest, singly and in clusters, on basalt matrix. The spheres reach 10 cm in diameter, and the matrix specimens reach 30 cm across; some specimens are lightly intergrown groups of two or three spheres without matrix, reaching 10 cm or so. Very thin, silky white whiskers of mesolite can be seen reaching between some of the mesolite spheres, as if trying to bind them together. Unlike Indian specimens showing dirty white, smooth-surfaced thomsonite spheres which appeared a few years ago, these specimens are quite pretty. The radiating acicular crystals are coarse enough to have terminal faces, and thus the spheres sparkle gaily, in creamy yellow, besides being set off nicely by the white mesolite filaments spanning between them. Several Indian dealers had specimens of this material, but the best and largest selection resided with K. C. Pandey's Superb Minerals India (www.superbminerals.com).
Somewhere near Karur, Tamil Nadu State, southern India, at least three impressive specimens of scapolite have recently come to light. I was shown the three loose crystals in a Holiday Inn room harboring the wholesale stock of Dudley Blauwet's Mountain Minerals International (firstname.lastname@example.org). The loose, thin, singly terminated scapolite crystals (with rehealed bottoms) have a pale yellow color and are completely gemmy. They reach 10 cm long and are dichroic, appearing much deeper yellow when viewed down the c axis.
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In his booth at the Main Show Dudley had even more interesting--and utterly different--scapolite specimens, not from India but rather from Iszkazer, Badakhshan, Afghanistan. He is proud of the miniature to small cabinet-size pieces of typical (for the area) white marble matrix from which rise totally gemmy, pale lavender, well terminated prismatic crystals of scapolite to 4 cm long, with some of the same matrix pieces also bearing rounded, translucent pine-green diopside crystals, also to 4 cm. Until now it has been highly unusual to see so many specimens of gemmy Afghan lilac scapolite crystals on matrix, and the association with excellent diopside crystals constitutes a bonus.
From Ladjuar Madan, Sar-e-Sang district, Badakhshan, Afghanistan, Dudley had about 30 matrix specimens, 5 to 12 cm across, in which the standard white marble is richly bedecked by fairly sharp blocky crystals, to 2.5 cm, of nepheline. These unusually well-formed nepheline crystals are colorless and transparent within, but they are coated nearly completely by films of blue to white sodalite, and thus are opaque and mottled blue/white--like little swatches of sky laid over the white matrix background. According to Dudley the specimens were found between fall 2008 and summer 2009 in northern Afghanistan's "lapis country."
At a new locality called the Gowinggo mine, Kail Azad, Jammu and Kashmir, in the Pakistani-occupied part of disputed Kashmir (talk about a dangerous place to dig rocks!), about 20 superb compound crystals of partially gemmy pink elbaite have lately been found, and Rob Lavinsky had three of them at the Main Show. Respectively 8, 12 and 14 cm tall, the crystals are well developed, trigonally terminated and lustrous, and they may be harbingers of dramatic things (other than war) which Kashmir may soon have to offer.
Coming down into Myanmar (Burma), let us salute the generous pegmatite exploited by the Paleini mine, Khetchel (or Khat Che) village, Molo quarter, Momeik Township, Mogok area, Mandalay Division. During the 2000s this mine (sometimes incorrectly referred to as the "Khat Che" or "Khat Chay" mine) has given the world superb and distinctive crystals of phenakite, petalite and hambergite; white to colorless though they are, these species from the Paleini mine can be quite beautiful. At this Denver Show, KARP Minerals had some excellent loose crystals of hambergite from the Paleini mine. The selection ranged from splinters of rough piled into sandwich bags to sharp, terminated crystals, milky white to colorless and transparent, reaching 3 cm long (the very best of the latter priced at $300). But really I'm bringing up the Paleini mine because I'm still regaining sensory equilibrium after viewing the extraordinary Paleini phenakite that Ohio collector Carolyn Manchester acquired at the show. The specimen is a cluster of connected, brilliantly glassy, totally colorless and transparent phenakite crystals, all doubly terminated and without visible damage, with about five crystals, all around 2 cm, attached at varying angles to prism faces of a central crystal more than 4 cm long. There is no matrix, and the terminations bear only the tiniest re-entrant angles as evidence of the penetration twinning that produces the appearance of a hexagonal prism. This is far and away the finest example of Paleini mine phenakite I have ever seen, and must certainly be one of the finest phenakite specimens in existence.
China was pretty quiet this time around--although I must not neglect to mention that Evan Jones and Marcus Origlieri had many spectacular cabinet-size plates of red-orange wulfenite crystals, newly brought in from the still mysterious mine in the Kuruktag Mountains, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, noted in an article in our "China II" issue (January-February 2007). The specimens, reaching 30 cm across and sporting thin, tabular wulfenite crystals to 3 cm, are all from the original find and had been kept in storage in China until just recently.
The only noteworthy new Chinese item I saw was with a dealership in the Holiday Inn: Tan Li Mineral Firm (www.mineralangel.com), operated by Mr. Xu Ning of Alhambra, California. That gentleman's shelves were graced by about 15 very beautiful barite specimens which (he told me through a translator) came about one year ago from a mine, most likely somewhere in Hunan Province, whose name is being kept secret. The specimens were first marketed in the dedicated mineral-marketing city of Chenzhou, Hunan. Transparent and colorless, lustrous barite crystals to 4 cm, with chisel terminations on both ends, form bristling or towering groups to almost 30 cm. The groups, clean and pristine, fat and beautiful, show no species besides the barite. There are two or three modest matrix specimens wherein the colorless barite crystals rest on a tan-colored, fine-grained sandstone.
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The HQLP (High Quality-Low Price) Report
Perhaps you'll recall the HQLP Principle, first aired in last year's Denver report: if you know what you're doing it is quite possible, and very much fun besides, to go to a major mineral show without major money and locate excellent, tasteful specimens (HQ) that you can purchase for $200 or less (LP). The HQLP specimens you bring home will always be special friends.
When dealers at shows market collections that were amassed by people whose names we don't recognize, we can often sense kindred HQLP sensibilities that functioned happily in past times. In my own case the reverberation is strongest when the older collector specialized, as I do, in thumbnails--and so it was that in Denver this year I kept coming back and back again to the Holiday Inn room of John and Linda Stimson of Rocks of Ages (www.rxofages.com), where there were about 15 flats of thumbnails which had once belonged to one Ernie Davis of California and Iowa. In about 1970 Mr. Davis began to collect worldwide thumbnails, and eventually gathered about 2,500 of them, of which about 800 had been carefully cataloged before he suffered a disabling stroke in 1991. Now he's in a rest home, and the Stimsons are selling off, piece by piece, the collection that Mr. Davis quite clearly loved. The qualities and "true" values of the Davis specimens vary considerably, of course, but the species representation is wide and knowledgeable, not everything is simply pretty or splashy, all of the specimens are mounted intelligently in Perky boxes, and nearly all are in good condition; a fair number were self-collected (John Stimson told me) by Mr. Davis during his days of roaming about the western United States. As I say, I couldn't stop coming back, and the superb ex-Davis specimen pictured here is now mine: a razor-sharp crystal of axinite-(Fe) from a late-1980s find on Mt. Catogne, near the village of Sembrancher, in the Swiss part of the Mont Blanc massif, Canton Wallis. Price $75. Indeed, no single specimen from the Ernie Davis collection was priced at more than $100--without significant markup from prices that Ernie Davis himself had paid as much as four decades ago. HQLP shopping down the ages ...
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From among this show's many examples of specimen-lot-scale "deals," I jotted down just a few:
In one of the ballrooms of the Holiday Inn, Crystal Classics and Kristalle (www.kristalle.com) had an offering which included a spread of the new and beautiful green fluorite from Riemvas-maak, South Africa, in thumbnail to cabinet-size specimens that were priced far below the previous standard for this material. Fine and essentially perfect specimens for under $200 could easily be found.
Beautiful yellow-green, transparent prehnite in spheres, hemispheres and "crests" on matrix of graphite-infused rock, from the Merelani mines, Arusha, Tanzania--see the photos in the recent "Tanzanite Issue" (September-October 2009)--has sold for rather high prices in some quarters during the past three years or so, but excellent toenails and small miniatures of the material could be had for $15 to $45 from The Crystal Circle, LLC (www.crystalcircle.com).
As already mentioned, the new cuprite, copper, and cuprite/copper specimens from the Rubtskoye mine, Russia, were seen at several dealerships around the show, and prices for comparable specimens varied quite widely--some might say crazily--from place to place. Excellent floater groups of sharp, deep red octahedral cuprite crystals, as well as groups of bright, sharp copper crystals, both to around 5 cm across, could be had from some of the Russian dealerships for $100 to $200.
Some would say that the world's most attractive specimens of goethite are the fan-sprays of lustrous, brownish red bladed crystals from miarolitic cavities in the granite of the Pikes Peak batholith, Colorado. At Denver, Mike Wild of Atomic Perfection (www.atomicperfection.com) had a group of goethite specimens just dug in April 2009 from the "Dreamtime mine," near Lake George; in these, crystals of the transparent, goethite-included quartz that the locals call "onegite" are surrounded by blooms of goethite crystals, making for gorgeous miniatures which would set you back no more than about $100.
At the Main Show, Isaias Casanova of IC Minerals had Erongo Mountains, Namibia beryl specimens of a very different sort than those brobdignagian (Jonathan Swiftish for "very large") specimens of aquamarine/schorl/feldspar brought in by Marshall Sussman. Isaias's specimens are miniatures--from about 4 to about 7 cm across--showing lustrous, transparent, entirely colorless prismatic crystals, to 3 cm, of goshenite beryl perching lightly on sleek black schorl crystals; some specimens harbor tiny colorless topaz crystals as well. Fine examples of these very "cute" goshenite/schorl specimens were asking around $200.
Ron Anderson of Prospector's Choice Minerals (phone 303-790-9280) had several pristine floater clusters, to 6 cm diameter, bristling all over with lustrous, transparent, palest yellow bladed crystals of gypsum: these classic items from the Red River Floodway, Manitoba cost around $50 apiece.
Rick Kennedy of Earth's Treasures (www.earthstreas.com) continues to work the new pegmatite prospect (owned by Dave Schmidt) called the California Blue mine, in San Bernardino County, California. In Denver, Rick had some new material from there which included gemmy, pale blue, somewhat etched but very pretty crystals of aquamarine, with a 5-cm crystal costing $200; gemmy, colorless to palest blue topaz crystals to 2.5 cm, for around $50; and very respectable specimens of microcline and smoky quartz to cabinet size, mostly under $100.
This year, the theme of the Denver Gem & Mineral Show had nothing to do with either gems or minerals: the theme was Fossils--Windows to the Past. Yes, fossils are cool. But those of us who gravitate toward displays of minerals had fewer spots than usual around which to form huddles of conversational awe.
As in most recent years, two big cases in the hall's center were filled with magnificent specimens from the Scott Rudolph/Keith Proctor collection. Another big, centrally located case contained many superlative pieces from the collections of members of the MAD (Mineralogical Association of Dallas) group, including a fantastic, small cabinet-size, Thomas Range, Utah topaz specimen field-collected by Doug Wallace.
And, as fairly frequently at the Denver Show, Denver resident Ralph Clark put in a case of selections from his fabulous thumbnail collection--with the Montana veszelyite, Tsumeb mimetite, Chilean proustite, Swiss anatase, etc., etc., of one's dreams.
The National Museums of Scotland set up two cases previewing future galleries, with antique classics from Leadhills plus a breathtaking Cornwall bournonite specimen about 40 cm across.
The American Museum of Natural History (New York) had a learned case on the clinopyroxenes, and the Smithsonian Institution showed a few new acquisitions including an unearthly fine, 4-cm, complete, transparent, colorless crystal of phenakite from Sugarloaf Mountain, New Hampshire, from the recently dispersed collection of Robert Whitmore (who, by the way, is still alive and well). This turned out to be quite a show for world-beating phenakite, was it not?
In his customary Mountain Minerals International case, Dudley Blauwet had set out some mind-expanding specimens, mostly from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A very pretty case of Colorado pyrite specimens put in by David L. Roter was dedicated to the late expert collector Hal Miller (died March 2009).
An array of "killer" calcite specimens filled a case put in by the Cincinnati Museum Center.
Finally, there was a case explicitly dedicated to the HQLP theme, put in by Rob Lavinsky, Wally Mann, Jeff Starr and Karl Warning. The title says it all: "$100 and a little work could have gotten you any one of these beauties at recent Denver and Tucson shows."
Amen to this last in particular, and so long from Denver 2009.