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Ste-Marie-aux-Mines show 1995.

I didn't go to Ste-Marie-aux-Mines in 1994, but this past year I did, in a frenzied month of mineralizing which began with my week in Stockholm. Feeling very much the international mineralogist, I jetted in to England for a few days' work at the museum before getting into my hired car - a good deal more powerful and comfortable than I'm used to - and cruising down France's luxurious motorways to Alsace. (If any French reader thinks that "luxurious" is an odd word to describe a motorway, try driving down England's overcrowded M1 where "Road Rage" is a way of life.) It was a hot day to travel, but the weather soon changed and Ste-Marie was unseasonably chilly during the show. Despite the cold and drizzle it was an enjoyable and much expanded event and, despite a general lack of novelties, business was reported as good. Much of what was new was just old occurrences revisited; no bad thing if you'd missed out the first time around. For instance, Touissit, Morocco, had again produced a flood of fine anglesite, cerussite and azurite, perhaps not up to the highest standards set by this now-classic locality but nonetheless very acceptable. My favorites were a blade of yellow anglesite with a minute but perfect heart-shaped pale smoke-brown cerussite twin clinging to one side, belonging to dealers Gilles and Francoise Barras-Gauthier, and a superb radiating spray of dark honey-yellow to black lustrous blades to 8 cm from the collection of Christian Mondeilh. A further interesting piece (on the stand of Jean-Francois Astier, of Grenoble) is a pale yellowish cerussite pseudomorph after anglesite, the base of the crystals stained green, probably by superficial alteration to malachite, as if it had been dipped half-way into a cupreous solution. The finest cerussites of the new lot are a delicate smoky brown, in highly lustrous heart-shaped or arrowhead twins, on and off matrix. The fire in some of these 1 to 5-cm crystals is superb. The azurite crystals from the new batch reach a good 10 cm long and many are loose, doubly terminated examples. The color of these thick crystals is almost black. Also from Morocco, from Boulmaden, part of the famous Mibladen deposit, was an incredible vanadinite, again produced for my delight from the private collection of Christian Mondeilh. He had named it "La Plume" (The Quill) with good reason: it is a terrifyingly fragile hollow skeletal growth of blood red vanadinite about 1 cm across at its widest point curling to a fine point an amazing 15 cm from the matrix. Smaller specimens had been known from the area for a while, and also from Taouz, but this piece has to be unique, if only because it has survived at all! Everyone who saw it during its brief sojourn in my makeshift studio was suitably impressed, including veteran Moroccan-minerals dealer Victor Yount.

From Europe the best plentiful maternal is still from Romania. There's still a lot of very good stibnite, fizelyite, etc. at extremely reasonable prices. Peter Barth (Hohenweg 34, D-83253 Rimsting, Germany) had the best at the show. In Portugal the Panasqueira mine, despite recent rumors of imminent permanent closure, is again at work and producing the usual array of fine specimens. Siderite and arsenopyrite are abundant in fine specimens but apatite is rare and the classic purple crystals are currently not being found. Jordi Fabre had a nice suite. A couple of old localities for pyromorphite are again producing specimens after a long hiatus: from St. Salvie, Tarn, France, there are some pretty grass-green sprays on gossany matrix, gorgeous under low magnification, the product of much hard work by French collectors; and from the Cerro Canalesa, Santa Eufenia in Cordoba, Spain, an old mine has recently been persuaded to part with some pale, milky, olive-green crystals encrusting matrix pieces to 10 cm or so. The latter had been collected a few weeks before the show by Juan Rivera (Alfareria 4, 41010 Sevilla, Spain) and Luis Burillo (Escosura 22, Pral. Centrum, 50005 Zaragoza, Spain) who shared a stand just inside the main show.

There were some unusual fluorites on show. One dealer on the street had some attractive green to purple botryoidal specimens from the Nancy Hanks claim, Mesa County, Colorado, and in the theater Gilles and Francoise Barras-Gauthier had a couple of specimens showing deep purple globular masses on bright pyrite crystals from the Huaron mine in Peru. But for the best display of fluorite in 1995 you had to go to Munich, where a remarkable array of specimens was assembled for a special exhibit, and the dealers geared up to offer plenty of good material to the expected crowd of fluoritophiles.

Collectors of prehnite have had a good time of it recently: specimens from three exceptional finds in Africa were available at Ste-Marie. The earliest African find (made a couple of years ago at Brandberg, Namibia) has already been reported. The latest is a one-of-a-kind find made in a road cut at Kudicop, Namibia. The whole find was bought by French dealers Pierre and Martine Clavel; it consists of definitively botryoidal masses of grape-green well-defined globular masses - classics for devotees of mineralogical etymology - encrusting matrix to over 15 cm across, the delicate colors and interesting shapes forming some very attractive pieces. Although most of the finer pieces had already been sold, Pierre and Martine still had some good material at Ste-Marie. There was also a lot of material from Morocco, carried by many dealers at the show; the new find of prehnite from an Alpine-cleft-type deposit at Bouarfa, between Erachidia and Oujda, in the Anti-Atlas Mountains, was obviously a considerable one. Although the majority of pieces are not exactly show stoppers, the best are well-worth having, if only for the exceptional coarseness of their crystallizations, showing thick, pale green prehnite crystals in fans to 5 or 6 cm across, sometimes in criss-cross intergrown groups forming almost globular masses. Associated species include quartz, epidote and hematite.

One find that I unfortunately didn't get the opportunity to discuss properly with the owner was a group of beautiful elbaite prisms on the stand of Francois Lietard. From Pederneira, Cruzeiro, Minas Gerais, these gorgeous, partly gemmy, elongated crystals (to 2 x 20 cm or so) are a characteristic blue-green with rose-pink tips, the latter color sometimes extending into the body of the prism. At Ste-Marie they were available as singles and intergrown groups of two or three individuals, although at their earlier debut at the 1995 Tucson Show some matrix pieces were to be had (and were picked up, very quickly) with elbaite implanted on large, pale yellow quartz crystals. Many of the specimens were found to be broken in the pegmatite pocket that yielded them, and had been carefully restored; it was good to see that the repaired pieces were thoughtfully labeled as such. Repair is par for the course for tourmaline crystals of this delicate habit, so the damage hardly detracted from their immediate ascension to a high place in the hierarchy of fine tourmalines.

Most of the recently plentiful Russian minerals are still to be had, if you can afford them, but one new rarity has apparently disappeared. The remarkable deposit of rhenium sulfide found in fumarolic deposits at the Kudriavy Volcano, Iturup Island (between Kamchatka and Japan), which caused much excitement as the first rhenium-dominant mineral known, is reported to have been vaporized following a rise in temperature of the site! Visiting scientists hoping to acquire more of this novel mineral were disappointed by this recent turn of events, but searches will doubtless continue. One small growth area in Russian minerals is a much-talked-of trade in "chernobylite." The rumor is that persons unknown are trying to sell as mineral specimens colorful efflorescences and encrustations from the decomposing reactor chamber at Chernobyl. Official warnings are reported to have been given regarding this material by the radiological protection authorities, so there might be some truth in this horrifying scenario. However, if this stuff is as viciously radioactive as the stories have it, the vendors are likely soon to be in no fit state to hawk it about any further.

Chinese minerals are becoming more common. Terminated stibnite crystals a meter long, and lustrous, perfect, jet-black bipyramidal cassiterite crystals weighing several kilograms can be had.

My trip to Ste-Marie was a hasty one this year, but despite the rush there was one thing that had to be done before we left: Les Hauts Konigsbourg, a conical red-sandstone mountain with a fortress on the top just down the valley from Ste-Marie. You can see it for miles from the east of the Vosges Mountains. I had been told so often of this place that I felt this year I had to go. I went. It's incredible. A ruin for centuries, the site was lavishly restored around 1900. In the 1600's, during the Thirty Years War, the site was ransacked by the Swedes. Though, frankly, after trudging across Europe laden with arms and armor and arriving battle-worn at the foot of this monstrous and forbidding place, I think I would've just done a little mineral collecting and gone home.
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Author:Cooper, M.P.
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Date:May 1, 1996
Previous Article:Swedish minerals and mineral shows 1995.
Next Article:Tucson Show 1996.

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