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San Francisco Show 2010.

[July 9-11]

The second edition of Dave Waisman's San Francisco Fine Mineral Show, like the first edition last year, was held in an Embassy Suites hotel not, actually, in San Francisco but in San Rafael, in Marin County--over the Golden Gate Bridge and north of town a few miles on Route 101. Since this was your faithful reporter's first visit to San Francisco, I found it a bit hard to leave that splendid city behind even for two short days, even to make it to a mineral show. But it turned out to be a fine idea--hereby strongly recommended--to combine a mineral show experience with a few aching-feet days spent snooping about in the city's cool, livable, distinctive spaces. The sensory joys of San Francisco include blocks of rowhouses all given over to soft California pastels; roller-coaster-like streets with harlequin streetcars dipping and rising; old Spanish churches, faux-countercultural smoke shops, sleek outdoor cafes, ruthless skyscrapers; the huge farmers' market hard by the Embarcadero, with shellfish and garlic and ginger smells, and strawberries the size of tennis balls reposing in prickly heaps; long, lazy parklands with curving drives and war monuments and museums; wind-bent pines on cliffs looking out on the Bay, and the great orange towers of the Golden Gate Bridge topped by clouds of mist until well past noon; and everywhere People Of Many Lands--all this graceful cosmopolitanism awash in breezes just in off the boundless unfathomable Pacific.


Oh yes, about that mineral show ...

Dave Waisman these days runs three small annual shows which are mainly for "serious" mineral collectors, with 30 or 40 mostly high-end dealers in elegant hotel settings. The general public, though, is welcomed, indeed is admitted free. Dave's Westward Look Show in Tucson each February is well-known, but there is also his spring show in Houston (see the report on Houston 2009 in our July--August 2009 issue), and finally there is San Francisco (=San Rafael), the smallest and newest of the trio. Like Houston, and like its forerunner in Dallas (see our July--August 2008 issue), the San Francisco Show takes place in an Embassy Suites hotel, with rising tiers of rooms all opening on a central, amphitheatric space, with a ground-floor courtyard featuring ponds for swans and giant goldfish, a restaurant, a bar (Happy Hour at 5:30 for dealers!), a swimming pool, a gym, and sprawling lounge areas. The most striking difference between Houston and San Rafael is that the Embassy Suites in the latter is about three times larger. This meant that the 32 open dealers' rooms seemed somewhat lost amid all the unmineralized spaces but, on the positive side, there is almost unlimited room for expansion in the future.

There seems every reason to anticipate such expansion. Dave says, as did the dealers I talked to, that this year's turnout of visitors was much higher than last year's, with people, including whole families, coming from all over California and from parts of two or three adjacent states. There were plenty of eager children and teenagers, many expectantly bearing shopping bags and backpacks. And guests overnighting for other reasons in the hotel wandered into and out of the rooms as well; these innocent wayfarers sometimes inquired of dealers, "Now, did you quarry all of these rocks yourself?" (as I overheard one say). Some of them indeed left with lustrous new acquisitions. Meanwhile the likes of Cal Graeber, Bill Larson, Dave Bunk, Evan Jones, etc., and many of their usual customers, went on about their business, just as at Tucson or Denver. We should hope that this fledgling show thrives--for why shouldn't mega-civilized San Francisco (not to speak of mega-affluent Marin County) become a minor Mecca for mineral collectors each year?

That sentiment stated, it's nice to begin the what's-new survey with a description of something from a place in Mendocino County--not too many miles north of San Rafael. For some years now, at an as-yet unspecified digging site in high-grade metgamorphic rocks, Clive Matson has been taking out specimens showing very good crystals of lawsonite, and he and his eager 10-year-old son brought about 20 miniature to small cabinet-size pieces to the Embassy Suites room of Cascade Scepters. The rare Ca-Al silicate species is totally California; described in 1895 from its type locality on the Tiburon Peninsula, Marin County, lawsonite has not since been found in noteworthy crystal specimens anywhere else in the world. An old hoard of lawsonite specimens was released to the market in 2004, and appeared at that year's Tucson Show (see my Tucson report in May--June 2004)--but whereas the "old" Marin County lawsonite is blue-white to medium blue, the "new" Mendocino County lawsonite is brownish pink with hints of lilac, occurring as sharp, blocky crystals to 1.5 cm, resembling orthoclase or microcline. Moreover the crystals show a nice vitreous luster, and a few even have tiny gemmy areas. The crystals line seams in a hard, dark glaucophane schist from which the original calcite seam-fillings have been dissolved away. Most of the Matsons' lawsonite specimens were unpriced when I saw them, but you can make inquiries through the Cascade Scepters dealership (

In the same room, Joe George of Cascade Scepters was offering hundreds of attractive, mostly loose crystals of chlorite-included quartz from a find in May 2010 in the Majuba Mountains, Pershing County, Nevada. Most of the lustrous, colorless, transparent, prismatic crystals, from around 5 cm to more than 35 cm long, have just one termination, but a few have two; some bristling cabinet-size crystal clusters were also on hand. Most distinctively, the quartz crystals show multiple phantoms en echelon, sharply outlined by fine-grained, ghost-green inclusions of chlorite--recalling quartz specimens found most abundantly during the early 1970s at Shingle Springs, El Dorado County, California.

Evan Jones ( has a new lot of azurite specimens from the Milpillas mine, Cuitaca, Sonora, Mexico, which probably are the best found to date at this red-hot (in more ways than one) locality just south of the Arizona line--see the article in our Mexico IV (November-December 2008) issue. Found in the spring of 2010, the specimens show blocky azurite crystals to 4 cm in stacks and subparallel "crests," some on splotchy gray and red, altered andesite matrix; the crystal groups, with and without matrix, reach 15 cm across. The crystals are azure-blue to almost black, and as vividly lustrous as any yet from the Milpillas mine: the exuberant color and flash come actually from very thin skins of a second generation of azurite covering malachite pseudomorphs after earlier crystals (again, check this out in the article in Mexico IV). Also, since February 2010 the Milpillas mine has turned out what may be the world's finest brochantite specimens, with lustrous, lushly deep green, thin-prismatic crystals to 5 cm in masses and matted aggregates to 30 cm across. Evan Jones had just one specimen of the brochantite in San Rafael; the best pieces from the find are now with Wayne Thompson, and they are strikingly attractive.

In the late 1980s, outstanding single and V-twinned crystals of gemmy pale brown diaspore began to reach the international market; various localities have appeared on labels, but generally the specimens come from an emery-mining region between the towns of Aydin and Mugla in southwestern Turkey, inland from the ruins of ancient Ionian Greek cities (e.g. Ephesus). Turkish diaspore specimens have never quite stopped trickling out during the past 20 years--the Turks, who call the material "zultanite," hoard the crystals to sell as gemstock--and Leonard Himes ( of the Graeber & Himes dealership now has about 25 superb specimens which were mined at intervals over the last four years. The loose V-twins seen in the Graeber & Himes room at San Rafael are highly lustrous and mostly gemmy, pale brown to yellow-brown with some purplish highlights, in sizes ranging from 3 cm to an amazing 13.75 cm from wingtip to wingtip. One crystal "wing" of one twin shows complex terminal faces, but the other crystals all end, typically, in splinters and feathers.

Just one shelf down from the diaspores at Graeber & Himes was a handful of truly magnificent fluorite specimens collected between June and August 2009 and in the spring of 2010 in the "rat tail" pocket--which is to say, Jesse Fisher explained, the "tail end" of the earlier "rat hole" pocket--in the Rogerley mine, Weardale, Durham, England. The fluorite cubes, to 3 cm on edge, in the crystal groups are untwinned, which sets them apart from earlier Rogerley mine specimens nearly all of which show penetration-twinned cubes. The new "rat tail" clusters, as gorgeously gemmy green and daylight-fluorescent purplish as you could wish, reach 17 cm. For more on the Rogerley mine, see our recent supplement Classic Minerals of Northern England; you may chase after specimens by contacting UK Mining Ventures (

A fellow named Jaimeen in the Embassy Suites room of Steve Ulatowski's New Era Gems ( was showing off hundreds of little, loose, blue and green, quite splendidly gemmy crystals from the famed Merelani mines, Arusha, Tanzania. Of course, the blues (and purple-blues, and some yellows) are tanzanite zoisite, and the greens are "tsavorite" grossular and chromium-rich diopside. But, fine as these are, they're familiar enough (thanks in part to our recent "Merelani" issue: September--October 2009); I was drawn instead to eight loose, gemmy crystals of axinite-Mg which Jaimeen said had came from a pocket opened in April 2010. The thin, striated, axe-blade-shaped crystals range from 2 to 4.5 cm; four are pale blue but two are bright brownish orange, and two more are dramatically color-zoned in blue and orange. They are the best crystals--and the most in one place--I've yet seen of this rare species from Merelani, and unsurprisingly they sported low-four-figure prices.

A dealership new to me, Gemega Collections, run by a friendly, young, smart, petite and (best of all) English-fluent Chinese woman named Cicy Zheng (, had some pretty hematoid quartz/pyrite specimens from a May 2010 find somewhere in the Daye mining district, Hubei Province, China. Cicy was being helped out by her mother, and both swore that the locality for the new specimens is the "Daye mine." However, the books on Chinese minerals by Liu (2006) and Ottens (2008) agree that there is no "Daye mine" per se; the Daye mining district, surrounding the city of Daye, encompasses several mines, of which the most important for specimens are the Tonglushan (copper) mine, the Tieshan (iron) mine, and the Fengjiashan (wollastonite) mine. The hard fact is that there is no telling from which of these mines, if any of them, the new quartz/pyrite specimens come--ditto, by the way, for the lovely new specimens showing transparent, golden yellow lenticular calcite crystals on dark matrix, also said to be from the "Daye mine" (Cicy and her mother had some of these; and see the specimen pictured with my 2009 Munich Show report, January--February 2010). Well, anyway ... in San Rafael, Cicy Zheng and her mother had about 20 specimens, ranging in size from 5 to 12 cm, which are rounded groups of lustrous quartz "points" with brilliant red sprinklings of fine-grained hematite, just dense enough for best aesthetic effect; the pyrite chimes in as spherical groups, to 1.25 cm in diameter, of tightly intergrown crystals, perched delicately at random spots on the quartz; there are also small drapings of lustrous, cream-white dolomite crystals, and, here and there, very sharp, black-tarnished sphenoids of chalcopyrite to 3 or 4 mm.


Speaking of goodies from China, John Cornish ( had examples of yet another new kind of fluorite from the great Yaogangxian mine near Chenzhou, Hunan Province. John's five small-cabinet-size specimens are loose, rounded, stepped, compound fluorite crystals with beautiful color-zoning, being transparent and almost colorless in outer parts and delicate pale green (with a hint of blue) in their cores. John said that other fluorite specimens from the same find are like these, but have sharp, discrete, purple cubic fluorite crystals perched on them. Reportedly the specimens were taken out sometime in May or June 2010, and it's probably reasonable to expect to see more in due course.

Although its aspirations are wider, the San Francisco Show retains in some measure the feel of a "local" show, and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet California dealerships not often seen--if at all seen--elsewhere. One room was shared between southern California collector Carl Acosta's new Mineral Maniacs dealership (, and another enterprise, run by Carl's friend Len Pisciotta, called Haiku Minerals ( Carl specializes in Tsumeb minerals and had plenty of fine ones to offer, and Len ... well, Len not only has nice things, but, if you want, he might write you a haiku appropriate to some specimen that you fancy. For instance, one page of his website shows a fine pyrite specimen from the Carson Hill mine, California, with two crystals, just touching, perched on a bit of matrix, with a haiku reading

Pyrite stands so tall

Yet it leans on someone close

Who is suffering?

There's a substantial selection of more such specimen/haiku pairings elsewhere on the site.

Also in San Rafael I met Mike Keim for the first time. Mike's Marin Minerals website ( is a rich and important one which I've often pored over, but until now he has been only a web dealer, so it was good to see him at last in bodily manifestation, sharing a room with Scott Werschky's Miner's Lunchbox and offering, at that, some nice new thumbnails of jeremejevite from the Ameib Farm, Namibia. I have already mentioned young Cicy Zheng and her mother, whose Gemega Collections dealership operates (so far without a website) from somewhere in California. And finally it was a pleasure to find Californians Si and Ann Frazier ( holding court in a room full of miscellaneous specimens (no, not all quartz), plus books and periodicals. Si and Ann set up for business in Tucson for many years but lately have not been doing so; on this home turf, however, they seemed to be having a fine, laid-back time.

That's a wrap, then, from San Francisco--except that I want to thank Jack Halpern again for hosting me and my wife for a terrific afternoon in his home on Forest Side Avenue. We greatly enjoyed inspecting the roses, orchids, cacti, succulents and I-forget-what-other exotic biota that he cultivates; even better, we got to see his extraordinary mineral collection, and had an excellent French dinner with him and with his good friend Carolyn Manchester, then visiting from Ohio. Ninety-year-old Jack is as exceptional a gentleman as his great tanzanite (see the cover of September--October 2009) is a mineral specimen. When next you see Jack, ask him about the new video on his collections and on his philosophy, aptly called "Addicted to Beauty"; or write to
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Title Annotation:What's New; Dave Waisman's San Francisco Fine Mineral Show
Author:Moore, Thomas
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 1, 2010
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