Tucson Show 1996.
This being my fifth consecutive year of coming out to Tucson from Connecticut, I should declare the escaping-the-weather-back-home motif a cliche by now, and retire it. But let's just say, one more time, that this year's refugees from eight inches of new snow back east, ice storms down south and minus-triple-digit windchills in the upper Midwest never lacked for entry-level smalltalk in Tucson. Meanwhile, the balmy ambiance of the Executive Inn's courtyard enfolded a Sunday night party that Marty Zinn organized to observe Dr. Fred Pough's ninetieth birthday, and all, including the guest of honor himself, had a most mariachi good time.
The downsides this year were the closing of the Desert Inn (in mid-show) and the inescapable fact that Russia, Brazil, Mexico and much of the U.S. all seemed to be having down years for new specimen production - by earlier Tucson standards at least. But the familiar kinds of excitement ran high anyway, and it seemed to me that the general buzz of backchannel specimen-gathering intrigue was up as well. Maybe it's just that I'm coming to know more people and hear more insider talk each year. But I was especially struck this time by the frequent whispers of good-natured secrets, promises pending, Amazing Stuff sneaking in soon from Peru or Colorado or Kazakhstan, tradings and sellings, and mysterious deals said to be in the offing. The innocent paranoia is (paradoxically) part of the fun.
One sunny morning, with collectors Ralph Clark and Steve Neely, I set out to cruise some outlying hotel shows (there were 21 such shows going on all together!), specifically La Quinta and the Pueblo (the Desert Inn, as I've said, being out of action). These shows are always important to check out, because a few serious mineral dealers always seem to nest there, among the lapidarists and fossilists. Yet the real fun of going to this hotel-strip part of town is in visiting the circus-like jewelry/beadwork/cutting rough/machinery/mystic accessories/native crafts tents, and strolling along sidewalks and through parking lots full of more and more and more of the same, to absorb the sheer funky motliness of the scene. Steve, a doctor, was briefly tempted to buy a lifesized chromium femur from one young man at an outside table; but the sale kind of withered when the fellow looked up and proved to have almost as much chrome stuck into his face as was in that bone: little metallic beads on forehead and cheeks and chin and nose, aesthetically placed with regard to the tattoos. My point is that even the most single-mindedly mineral-obsessed collectors owe it to their own humanity not to miss this sideshow, with tens of thousands of casual shoppers, critter diggers, bead freaks, Greyhound excursionists, cowboy-hat-and-bola-tie-wearers, mystics, headtrippers, and Ph.D. mineralogists all striving for pelvis room around the tables all over this side of town.
My intention in this report, as usual, is to combine the offerings of the Executive/Ramada Inn shows, the "Main" show and the sideshows into one grand geographical tour, with a word or two at the end about the displays at the great Tucson Gem and Mineral [Main] Show. Jeff Scovil and Wendell Wilson scoured the shows, too, looking for good things to photograph. Their work accompanies this report as usual, including a few subjects which I never got to see or write up. So, ready at the gate:
Arizona has been uncharacteristically dormant all this past year except for one promising development: Wayne Thompson's project, beginning in December 1995, to work the famous Red Cloud mine for more of that red-orange wulfenite which is among the state's proudest classics. Wayne found that before starting serious collecting he had to remove a 15-foot-deep rubble pile that covered the hanging-wall side of the vein before being able to trench along it. Later this year he plans to dig further down along this 45 [degrees] plane. But some 15 to 20 fine wulfenite specimens have already been hit, in a single pocket discovered during the rubble-clearing. The best of these pieces were a couple of small miniatures with very bright red-orange (though not as red as the reddest of old), beveled, tabular crystals to 2.5 cm perched on their edges on matrix. A few specimens reach 10 cm matrix sizes, with good 1.5-cm wulfenite crystals scattered or bunched, like handfuls of leaves. Since all these good things were found during only about a month's work, there is good reason for optimism about what comes next: keep an eye on Wayne (1723 E. Winter Drive, Phoenix, AZ 85020).
Carter Rich (P.O. Box 69, Aldie, VA 22001) in the Executive Inn had a couple of flats of old historic micromounts in antique-looking little boxes from such famous early collectors as George Rakestraw, George Washington Fiss, William Jefferis, George English, John Grenzig, O. Ivan Lee, J. B. Brinton and Neal Yedlin. Priced at $10 to $75 each, some proved to contain quite attractive little specimens in addition to being bonafide pieces of collecting history.
Dave Bunk of Dave Bunk Minerals (1441 W. 46th Ave., Unit #8, Denver, CO 80211) had about 30 miniature-size to large cabinet-size specimens of azurite from the Henry Clay mine, Lordsburg, Hidalgo County, New Mexico - a batch collected in the 1950's, and quite exceptional, Dave says, for the Lordsburg District. Over matrixes of hard, splotchy, copper-mineralized gray rock, little bladed azurite crystals in rosettes to 5 mm form solid, bright, medium-blue coatings. One very handsome foot-wide block is lavish with deep vugs, all filled with the brilliant blue druses ($400).
A very new What's-New involves the work being done in Nevada by Harvey Gordon of Harvey Gordon Minerals (500 Ballentyne Way, Reno, NV 89502). He has been digging near the contact between two phases of pegmatite which intrude an Upper Triassic limestone in the Gillis Range near Hawthorne, Mineral County. Some smoky quartz and/or green microcline ("amazonite") specimens have been found which are quite distinctive. Sharp, translucent to transparent, dark to pale smoky quartz prisms can get to be a foot long, and (as in Colorado) are frequently intimate with blue-green microcline crystals which themselves can be fist-sized. The microcline is of a strong bluish cast, and is almost transparent! In this way and other, more intangible ways which are hard to describe [ILLUSTRATION FOR PHOTO OMITTED] the crystals differ distinctly from what we are used to seeing from Pikes Peak. Best of all, there are also colorless to pale blue, gemmy topaz crystals here; one 7-cm partial crystal I saw would cut several substantial gems, but other fine examples were around 3 cm. The prospect is being called the Zapot mine; it has been actively worked by Harvey for about six years now, with the good stuff beginning to come out about four years ago. I hardly need say "future work is planned," but I will say that a full article is in preparation.
Now for a couple of bulletins from Vermont. The famous old quarry at Eden Mills was worked hard by five expert collectors last year, ending in September: they had to rappel on ropes to prospect for pockets in the steep walls of marly diopside/epidote/clinozoisite rock. The jackpot was a sizable pocket of, yes, grossular in about 50 mid-range specimen sizes, of which about ten pieces may be called "top." The grossular crystals are brilliantly shiny, gemmy, sharp, simple dodecahedrons, and of a color much darker than the standard cinnamon-orange: more of a dark orange-brown. Individuals reach 2 cm across, and the crystals are tightly clustered on greenish matrix, with subhedral prismatic clinozoisite and/or diop-side crystals. Apparently there are further plans to go back in quest of vesuvianite - but meanwhile these are surely some of the best grossulars that this old place has produced in many years.
The above information came courtesy of Mike Haritos of S.T.D. Mineral Company (22 Spring Hill Rd., Hyde Park, MA 02136-4013), as does also the second Vermont bulletin. In August of 1995, in Rutland County, Richard Ransom and Langis Anctil found some quartz crystals which could pass anywhere for New York "Herkimer diamonds" - pristine clarity, sharpness and beauty included. They range from tiny ones up to 3 cm long, and were mostly found loose in rugs (detached by frost action or by the blasting) in a tough, pale gray dolomite. Some crystals also show pale smoky transparent overgrowths on an earlier generation of clear prisms, so that smoky scepters result. My favorites, though, were the single, loose, simple pseudo-Herkimers, of which there were about ten, from 1 to 2.5 cm in size. Rutile, as brownish black, thin, striated prismatic crystals to 1 cm, with complex terminations, is infrequently to be seen on and included in the quartz. The precise location of this deposit is being kept secret for now, at least until the collectors have gotten most of the "easy" exposed surface specimens.
Now, Notes from Canada, meaning, this time, from the Executive Inn room of Rod and Helen Tyson of Tyson's Fine Minerals (10549-133 St., Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T5N 2A4). The first grabbers of my attention here (even though not a What's-New) were a few top-class cubanite specimens from the Henderson #2 mine, Chibougamau, Quebec. One is a flat 7 x 7-cm matrix with sharp, 1.5-cm, brassy brown cyclic twins all over it; another, the finest small cubanite specimen I have ever seen, is a loose 3 x 3-cm cyclic twin, lustrous, undamaged, and nearly complete. Some very good thumbnail cubanites were more generally available around the show, especially the Main Show. This may be the last, necessarily fast-closing window of opportunity to get The Big One from this now extinct occurrence.
Radically less hi-value but more really new, and quite attractive in their blocky way, were some 4 x 5 x 6-cm crystals of pale pink, earthy sanidine, some as Karlsbad twins and some as loners, from Beaverdell, British Columbia (still at Tyson's). Loose crystals are nice enough, but the ones that sit lightly on fine-grained granitic matrixes make unbeatable large-cabinet-sized "feldspar" specimens.
Finally, and least expectedly, Tyson's had just two small specimens of silver minerals - one stephanite, one polybasite - collected in the late 1970's from the 2-1-264 stope of the Husky mine, near Mayo, Yukon Territory. Production of ore and hence of specimens at this high-grade silver mine is now reportedly finished. But these two small pieces are very fine, and another two thumbnails (acquired elsewhere by Ralph Clark, and again a stephanite and a polybasite) are very fine also. Both stephanites feature a single, sharp, spiky 2-cm crystal surrounded by smaller ones, and with a slight iridescent tarnish. But the iridescence on the midnight-black polybasite at Tyson's is jazzier still; this piece is a 2 x 3.5-cm group of sharp plates. Ralph's polybasite is an exquisite little loose rosette, untamished, looking very much like a superlative Swiss "eisenrose" hematite. I'd heard that a few more Husky mine sulfosalts might have been lurking somewhere about at the Main Show, but I never succeeded in sniffing them out.
Standing up for Mexico this time around, Mike Bergmann of Galena Rock Shop (312 South Main St., Galena, IL 61036) had specimens from the new wulfenite strike made in January at La Aurora mine, Chihuahua. Chinese-orpiment-orange although duller-lustered, the crystals are 7 mm wide and thick, with square terminations, and reach 3 cm long. They rest lightly on limonite gossan matrixes of all sizes; Mike had five flats of specimens, although he brought only one miniature and one cabinet specimen to Tucson, the latter a striking 10-cm piece. Also, the San Martin mine, Sombrerete, Zacatecas, has lately turned out some excellent twinned, translucent, white calcite crystals, highly lustrous scalenohedrons with prominent twinning re-entrant angles around the waists; crystals are up to 4.5 cm, and Mike had a fine glistening matrix specimen (6 cm) for $25.
Jordi Fabre of Fabre Minerals (Arc de Sant Marti 79 Local, 08032 Barcelona, Spain) has a line on an occurrence of octahedral crystals of chromite from the great chromium mine at Moa, Oriente Province, Cuba. Face it, they're not beautiful; the best on hand at Jordi's was a 7-mm crystal with fairly smooth faces and high luster, bright black, but embedded in a dense pyrite/pyrrhotite/massive chromite ore lump. Nevertheless, any visible crystals of chromite are quite extraordinary, and Jordi might well look further into specimen possibilities here.
Enargite from Peru is familiar enough, but around the turn of the year the Julcani mine, Huancavelica, produced some impressive large crystal clusters with "different" aesthetics: flattish matrix plates of massive enargite from which rise solid pocket linings of very sharp crystals to 2 cm long and 1 cm across. And instead of showing a simple metallic black aspect on the prism faces, most of these crystals are partially coated with a bronze-colored film (possibly chalcopyrite). Except for the radically different morphology, these suggest the old chalcopyrite-coated tetrahedrites from Cornwall. Mike Bergmann (again) had about 20 specimens, average size about 10 x 10 cm.
The beautiful and frustratingly rare phosphophyllite from Potosi, Bolivia, has for a long time been a What's-Old classic, but at Tucson this year collectors did have some chance to acquire at least a respectable small thumbnail. It seems that Peter Bancroft has released a couple of dozen loose crystals that he acquired in the 1950's in Bolivia (see relevant chapter in his Gem and Crystal Treasures), and these, via Bill Larson, made it into a few Executive Inn rooms, most notably that of Wayne Thompson, who had about a dozen. The phosphophyllite crystals are loose, very pale bluish green, transparent and lustrous, and uniformly around 1 to 1.5 cm. Most are twinned and most, unfortunately, have significant contact deformities. Only one specimen at Wayne's (@ $1100) was a "full" thumbnail, a pretty 1.5 x 2 x 2.5 cm pale sea-green cluster.
Wayne Thompson would also like to tell you about his 20 or so loose (basally cleaved) topaz crystals from the Ouro Preto area, Minas Gerais, Brazil. They are gemmy, and resemble the orange "imperial" topazes from the same region except that their color is purple, actually a sort of medium-magenta. Ouro Preto topaz of this color was not unknown before but is certainly a rarity (see p. 33 of the recent Topaz Issue, January-February 1995).
As I've mentioned, Brazil seems to have stayed relatively quite during this year just past. But there is some new bertrandite from the Golconda mine, Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais - source of the great multi-centimeter white-stilbite-like crystals of the 1993 Tucson Show. What is now being produced is nothing like that, but is simply pretty: druses of glistening white to colorless transparent crystals on matrix in mostly miniature sizes. The druses sometimes make thin casts after now-gone crystals of something, or make little boxwork formations; black spots of manganese oxides decorate them. Carlos Barbosa (Rua Coronel Roberto Soares Ferreira, 586 Cep. 35030-590, Governador Valadares, Brazil) offered several pieces, one of them a 15 x 20-cm plate.
We are not finished with the Golconda mine; at the Main Show, Frank and Wendy Melanson of Hawthorneden (L'Amable, Ontario, Canada K0L 2L0) offered a couple of flats' worth of thumbnail specimens of a snazzy bicolored apatite from this same place. The colors range from a dark bluish green to a rich "royal" purple (royal enough to raise eyebrows in Maine). The crystals are simple hexagonal tablets to 5 mm; the habit is as stacks and flaring clusters of lustrous, partly gemmy, brilliant crystals, sometimes with a bit of quartz. The most appealing thumbnails are the ones in which half the crystals are blue-green and half are purple. At only around $75 for a very vivid little specimen, these apatites were among the best buys of the show. Then further the Melansons had, also from the Golconda mine but from a find about 9 years back, apatites which couldn't be less like the new bicolors: very pale pink, long and thin, striated prisms devoid of associations but sometimes in columnar or subparallel groups of two or three. It's pretty peculiar to see two such utterly dissimilar-looking occurrences of the same species in the same mine - but there they were. To top off their fine array of Brazilian specimens they had three huge blue-stripe euclase crystals from Equador, Rio Grande do Norte, in blocky sizes up to about 3.5 cm.
Before leaving the Melansons and Brazil, one had to admire also the new brazilianite, represented by specimens also all thumbnail-size, from a strike last fall in a prospect near Linopolis, Minas Gerais. The crystals are fairly long prisms with wedge-shaped terminations (often on both ends), part-gemmy, and pale to medium yellow. Paler and longer than the old brazilianites, they nevertheless share the familiar, very aesthetic associations of muscovite books and occasional quartz. These too were bargains: a top one of the 75 or so pieces available ran you around $40.
A foreign dealer who shone with material from his native region was Peter Lyckberg (Box 25147, S-40031 Goteborg, Sweden). First, Peter had the best batch I've yet seen - best in both quantity and quality - of the distinctive calcites which have been trickling out of Kjorholt, Langesundsfjord, Norway, these past few years. The transparent, smoky, greenish gray prisms with wide, low-angle trigonal terminations show an earlier generation of growth as phantoms inside, and these are of a scalenohedral habit different from the end-product crystal. Looking into a side face, one sees a phantom outline which tapers to a point just under the terminal faces; and in the clearest crystals a smaller, innermost scalenohedron phantom lies inside the larger one. Sometimes these phantoms are dusted with tiny, oriented pyrite crystals that sparkle and flash as the crystal is turned. Most specimens are thumbnail crystals cleaved at the bases, but there are also some lovely parallel clusters to 3 cm on matrixes to 8 cm.
Think (further) of Norway and you'll probably think of those very sharp, steely blue-black bipyramidal anatase crystals from Hardangervidda, on and in quartz crystals. Well, there were a few excellent thumbnails of this material for sale in Peter's room, but the real scoop was a loose, incomplete (and repaired) anatase bipyramid that Peter kept in a bedside drawer. What's so special about it is that it's 5.6 cm long . . . many years ago Bob Sullivan, in his "Letter From Europe," mused in a couple of columns about what the world's record-size anatase may be, and now we have a winner.
Finally, from a new locality at Kalliosalo, Seinajoki, Osterbotteus Lan, Finland, some interesting native antimony has recently been dug from a hydrothermal vein in a hard porphyry, with quartz and micro-sized aurostibite crystals. The element comes as very lustrous tin-white, solid masses; sadly, there are no crystals, but there are frequent very smooth cleavage planes (think of the old native bismuth masses from Ontario and Australia). Specimens here were available in most sizes, the biggest one being a platy mass about 15 cm across.
Britishers Lindsay and Patricia Greenbank of Secured Minerals (no wonder I didn't recognize the name; this is the first time the dealership has appeared in Tucson . . . Fax 539-734761) brought something new from someplace old in England. A crosscut between the High Raise and Treloar veins of the Nentsberry Haggs mine, Northumberland, was first worked in the 1930's by Sir Arthur Russell, who took out several fine specimens of witherite and calcite pseudomorphs after same. Following Russell's work the pocket zone remained untouched until three years ago, when these new specimens were taken out. Simple, squat, slightly convex 2 to 2.5-cm hexagonal prisms, sharp and opaque chalky white, sit aesthetically in greenish white matrix or form groups of two or three lightly intergrown individuals. Lindsay had only a handful of these, in thumbnail and miniature sizes, but says that about 40 specimens were dug in all. They appear never to be pure witherite, but their weight attests that the pseudomorphism to calcite is never complete, either. A good thumbnail could be had for around $65. And the occurrence is reportedly really finished this time. Oh yes, and in 1992 Mike Wood had a good day at the old Brownley Hill mine, Nenthead, Cumbria, collecting glassy, pale pink sprays to 5 mm of the rare species alstonite; these sprays lie flat in open seams in sandstone; six thumbnails and one miniature were available in the Secured Minerals room.
In Munich last fall a Spanish dealer had a tablefull of pyromorphite from a new Spanish source, the Resuperferolitica mine 522, Santa Eufehia, Cordoba. The best few pieces came to Tucson with George Witters Minerals (Cincinnati, OH: tel. 513-272-0631). The color is a sort of soft greenish tan, with a silky/vitreous luster such that these do not really suggest any standard pyromorphites I can think of. Crystals are highly cavernous and reach 1.5 cm; they occur in intergrown branching groups of matrixless specimens. Although future supplies are impossible to prognosticate, the 5 and 10-cm pieces I saw at the Main Show are fine indeed.
Occasionally in this space I have mentioned seeing nice orange calcite specimens from Hainault Province, Belgium; I now know that the occurrence is in a big limestone quarry, active for years and still so, where the odd isolated pocket is hit. It seems that Gilbert Gauthier (7 avenue Alexandre III, 78600 Maisons-Laffitte, France) just bought up a collection built over many years, which provided him with some 30 top specimens to bring to the Main Show this year. They are thumbnails and miniatures, mostly single, complete or almost complete crystals, most of them perched smartly on small bits of brown matrix. Of different combinations of scalenohedron and rhomb, they are transparent, gemmy, of a gorgeous medium-orange color, and very bright - major calcite specimens for their size, and probably the ultimate from (specific locality coming up) Pont a Nole, Mont-sur-Marchien, Hainault, Belgium.
One of the dealers in the Executive Inn to whom I always make an early beeline is Michel Jouty (231 Route des Nants, 74400 Chamonix, France), who seldom disappoints. This time he had about a dozen good-to-fine thumbnails of the rare mineral cafarsite, for which the locality (depending on which side of the mountain one collects from) is either Cherbadung, Valais, Switzerland or Cervandone (same mountain), Val d'Ossola, Italy. Virgin cafarsite crystals are simple brown cubes or cuboctahedrons to 1 cm; some, though, are stained a pale earthy green by agardite. The matrix is a sparkly salt-and-pepper fine-grained gneiss. I have seen this material before, especially in Europe, but these specimens of Michel's were taken out just last summer.
Tourists who visit Paris should not miss the beautiful 18th-century house frontages and fragrant food shops of the Ile St-Louis, and mineral people must not pass by the shop there of Alain Carion (92, Rue St-Louis en l'Ile, Paris, France). Of all mineral shops, his is perhaps the one in the classiest neighborhood. Alain surprised me at the Main Show this year with four flats of crisply dark brown, very handsome pseudomorph clusters of hematite after marcasite, collected by himself recently in a limestone outcrop in the White Desert, Egypt. Mindful of the similarly mahogany-colored Pelican Point, Utah, goethite pseudomorphs after pyrite, as well as of the White Desert things that are always labeled "goethite after pyrite," also dark brown, I questioned the identity of the replacing species. But Alain affirms that indeed it has tested out as hematite. Be that as it may, these are roughly spherical or football-shaped floater groups to 12 cm across, with individual, typically stepped-wedge or coxcomb-shaped marcasite forms to 2 cm. These are hard, solid, smoothly subvitreous, very good pseudomorph specimens for around $150 for the best.
And now, as they say, for something entirely different: some nice Namibian material from the dealership of Johnston and Johnston (142 Rustic Hills Trail, Royal, AR 71968), whose room I came across in the Pueblo Inn. First, from West Brandberg, Namibia, excellent phantom amethyst and smoky quartz comes in shiny prisms to 8 cm, some loose, some in a hard gray-green matrix. Some phantom crystals are also the caps on scepters, and some non-phantom examples are wispily zoned in smoky and amethyst shades. There were about 50 specimens in all sizes. Also from West Brandberg the Johnstons had a surprising few specimens of fair but promising, opaque, glassy, greenish brown vesuvianite in square prisms to 4 cm and in jumbled masses of parallel groups, with white quartz, up to large cabinet sizes. These were first found 90 days prior to the show.
But the nicest surprise in this room was a couple of flats' worth of thumbnails and miniatures of the prettiest globular prehnite I have yet seen from Namibia. The locality is a near-surface outcrop on the side of a hill called Kudikop in south-central Namibia, with the closest town (at a distance about like, say, New York to Boston) being Keetmanshoop. This place is now being very actively worked for specimens, and no wonder: the prehnite is a clean, pale green, translucent enough to make for a sort of soft opalescence in some specimens, and can come in perfect little fungoidal spheres to about 2 cm. Unlike the prehnite spheres from Virginia and from France, these lack any encircling equatorial ridges of associated species, like chlorite. They are as simply as pristinely spherical as anything can be. In the miniatures, the spheres are intergrown to make reniform groups, which are no less beautiful for all that. A wonderfully weird little thumbnail could be had here for about $15.
I must mention here a one-of-a-kinder of terrific gem interest, from Merelani, Tanzania - the tanzanite place. Cal Graeber (P.O. Box 2347, Fallbrook, CA 92088) had an astonishingly sharp and glassy-lustered 4.5-cm diopside crystal which is not only a lovely lime-green, but is entirely transparent and gemmy throughout. This crystal puts all gem-grade diopside from China and from DeKalb, New York, in several umbras of shade. Just before the show opened it was sold to Gene Meieran, who already owned a somewhat larger but merely translucent crystal from the same locality. Having a showcase label already made up, Gene made the last-minute switch in his exhibit so that everyone could have a look.
As if this weren't enough in the way of shocking gem crystals, Cal also had a mind-boggling sapphire corundum crystal 5 or 6 cm long from Ceylon. Held up to the light it shows a wild, complex pattern of gemmy red, white and blue!
Jose Vincente Rodriguez Rosa of the dealership Geofil (Alto da Bela Vista 2-A, 2750 Cascais, Portugal) had an interesting little suite of rare-earth oxide minerals collected 30 years ago from the rare-earth pegmatites of the province of Zambezia in northern Mozambique. At the Muiane mine, rough, grayish green dodecahedrons of microlite to 3.5 cm occur as loose crystals, some with small bits of muscovite and/or pinkish massive elbaite; they are not pretty but are giant crystals for this species. Other, browner microlites (some grading from medium-brown to yellow-orange) come from the Munhamola mine in the same province, and Jose had about ten loose, subhedral thumbnail crystals of these. Very good, sharp, blocky manganotantalite crystals, dark brown with a rutile-red surface glaze, came from Naijia and Murrua, Alto Ligonha, Zambezia, and Mozambique. There was a further small swarm of thumbnails and miniatures of these, and one amazing, blocky 14-cm loose crystal (still sharp). From Maridge, Alto Ligonha, comes stibiotantalite in small (averaging 1.5-cm) crystals, but very sharp, of a yellow-brown color with some gemmy areas. And then there are the five good loose prisms of deep pink, part-gemmy elbaite given as simply from Alto Ligonha - quite clean, with trigonal terminations and some adhering bits of white clay, from 4 to 12 cm long. Some large gemmy masses of medium-pink morganite beryl were also available from Alto Ligonha. This is a once-famous pegmatite region not heard from too often anymore (these are old specimens). But at least they demonstrate what we may hope for should someone with a sledge visit this part of Mozambique again.
South African Clive Queit (P.O. Box 1014, Fourways 2055, Sandton near Johannesburg, South Africa) presides each year at his stand in the downstairs ballroom off the bar/restaurant in the Executive Inn. There was no new main-line-species stuff here from Tsumeb, N'Chwaning or Wessels this time. But beautiful and exotic were Clive's 15 thumbnails and two miniatures of the species poldervaartite, a hydrous Ca-Mn-silicate described in 1993. A single, attractive pocket of this material was found at the Wessels mine, Kalahari manganese field, in 1995 (see p. 231 of the new book Minerals of South Africa, by Bruce Cairncross and Roger Dixon; in fact, see the book in any case - it is a good one). Poldervaartite from this pocket comes as glassy, pale orange-pink, 1-cm crystal sprays. Occasionally there are individual crystals which can be seen to be pinched in the middle and thus resemble stilbite bowties. The mineral fluoresces deep red under shortwave ultraviolet light, and is quite pretty (especially for a new species) under any light.
At the Main Show, Keith and Brenda Williams of Williams Minerals (RR1 Box 77, Rio, WV 26755) had an odd story to tell involving a mineral discovery in, believe it or not, the United Arab Emirates, along the south coast of the Persian Gulf. Well, actually it was Arzaneh Island in the Gulf, politically part of the UAE, where, in 1978/79 an American engineer reportedly collected about 1000 specimens of hematite, probably from a volcanic rock; there are no matrix specimens, the crystals having been found as float. They are all single loose hematite crystals, from less than 1 cm up to 3 cm, black, of medium luster, and slightly rough. What's interesting are the forms: some are rounded, barrelly hexagonal prisms with prominent basal faces (think of corundum), while some are simply elongated rhombohedrons, and a few, most remarkably, are perfect little calcite-like scalenohedrons. The Williams folks had perhaps 25 loose thumbnails plus some 15 "macros." No further collecting has taken place on Arzaneh Island since the late 1970's, as travel there by westerners is difficult both physically and politically, but Keith and Brenda are presently working on ways to get in again.
The general story from Russia this year is rather bleak. One can't know whether the paucity of new Russian material is just a blip, or the start of a downward trend, but anyway it was a fact at Tucson, despite the many now "old" things, e.g. Puiyva mine ferroaxinite, Dal'negorsk calcite and sulfides, and Slyudyanka blue apatite, which continued to be abundant. Even the Van Scrivers' dealership Heliodor (P.O. Box 10, 199 00 Praha 9, Czech Republic) seems to be on a break in the What's-New department. Give Brad and Star and their Eastern colleagues a kudo, though, for the further improvement in size and quality of their smoky quartz specimens, including gwindels, from the Puiyva and Dodo mines, for some likewise fine, much darker smoky quartz crystals to 35 cm high from Akchatau, Dzezkazgan Oblast, Kazakhstan, and much good dioptase from Altyn Tyube, Kazakhstan.
Heliodor also had a large selection of small cinnabar crystal groups from the #2 Bis mine, 450 meter level, Nikitova district, Donetsk Oblast', in eastern Ukraine. These are in that awkward size range which is a bit too small for a thumbnail but rather large for a micromount. Nevertheless, the little groups of sharp, brilliant penetration twins reach well over 1 cm, with individual twins to 6 or 7 mm, generally without matrix. Except for size, these crystals are just as interesting and well-formed as their Chinese brethren.
Heliodor also had the largest selection to date of platinum crystals from Konder, near Nel'kan, Russia. Well over 30 nice specimens were available, all of them in the 8 to 12 mm range but some showing cubic penetration twins and others consisting simply of singles. A few show partial coatings of native gold. Most are just a little waterworm along the edges, but a small number show good sharpness. They are a bit pricey for the average thumbnail collector, but they are mineralogically unique in that decent macro crystals of the species were virtually unknown prior to this find. I also like them because they are so remarkably un-fragile. You could probably throw one on the floor and step on it without causing noticeable damage; in fact, your house could burn down around it and it would probably be the only specimen from your collection to survive (melting point 1,769 [degrees] C). It will not oxidize in air, at any temperature, and is insoluble in everything except aqua regia. If only wulfenite were as tough!
The Czech dealership which goes by its initials, K.A.R.P., is usually known simply as "the guys from KARP," who specialize in Russian minerals. Actually the letters stand for Kladenska Asociace Rozbijecu Pelosideritu ("Kladno Association for the Breaking Open of Septarian Nodules"). (I had to ask.) Anyway, they had a room at the Executive Inn this year, and also sold out of Rob Sielecki's Ausrox booth at the main show. Among their wares were a few more sperrylites from the Talnakh orefield, Noril'sk, Siberia, in crystals to 1 cm partially imbedded in chalcopyrite/bornite ore. According to Bryan Lees, the deposit hosting the sperrylite is 80% to 90% worked out, so the supply of the crystals, which are rare even now, may soon come to a complete end.
Jaroslav Hyrsl (Heverova 222, 280 00 Kolin 4, Czech Republic) did show me a new development from the Sarany, Urals, locality for uvarovite on chromite (these microcrystalline specimens also continue abundant, by the way). The new examples show shallow open seams in massive black chromite with good, sharp, dark green clinochlore crystals to 1 cm in solid coatings. Moreover, there is an alexandrite effect in these clinochlores: deep green in sunlight to translucent purple under a pocket flashlight. Chromian clinochlore trying hard to be kammererite also is found here in tiny columnar crystals in solid vein fillings (we think of the similar efforts of the same species at the old Wood's mine in Pennsylvania). Jaroslav had a handful of miniature to cabinet-sized black matrixes with these green and/or purplish clinochlore seams.
Rene Triebl of Top Minerals International (c/o Rudolf Hawel, Gasse 21, A-2700 Wiener Neustadt, Austria) had the last of only four large (2 to 2.5 cm), blue kovdorskite crystals found in the Zheleznyi mine, Kovdor, western Kola Peninsula two years ago. One of the four is now in the Keith Hammond collection (pictured in vol. 26, p. 144), one is in the Alexander Schauss collection (exhibited at the Tucson Show this year), and one (pictured here) was sold during the show to a Tucson collector. The locality has yielded other kovdorskite specimens, some on matrix, but they all tend to be yellowish pink or white to extremely pale blue, and are usually in sheaf-like bunches instead of sharp individuals. The habit of the best blue crystals is lustrous and chisel-like, but they lack matrix.
From the ex-Soviet "near abroad" country of Tajikistan, specifically from Zelatoya Voda, near Rangkul, east of Murgab, fine gemmy crystals of heliodor beryl continue to come - see my last Springfield report. Rob Lavinsky of The Arkenstone (6163 Lakewood St., San Diego, CA 92121) had a glass casefull of loose thumbnail crystals and some large, white pegmatite matrix specimens on which the heliodor crystals stood out and up nicely. The best crystals, on or off matrix, are wholly gemmy, pale to medium yellow, simple hexagonal prisms to 3 cm; some have included elbaite, clear topaz, and possibly apatite.
The high Himalayas of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region were quite prolific at Tucson this time. For one thing, the quality of the vivid red ruby corundum crystals from Jegdalek, Kabul Province, Afghanistan, has taken something of a quantum leap upwards: the town of Jegdalek has been destroyed by guerrilla fighting involving the Mujahedin, but this didn't stop some dealers (notably Dudley Blauwet of Mountain Minerals International, Louisville, CO 80027-0302) from having some very well formed, brilliant red ruby crystals, at least part-gemmy, to 2 cm on white marble matrix, these standouts apparently found in October/ November 1995.
And then there is Francois Lietard of Minerive (Au Bourg, 42800 Tartaras, France), who had a stunning number and quality-level of olivine ("peridot") crystals from Suppat, Kohistan, Pakistan. His stock ranged from a whole flat of nice, only slightly frosted and slightly rounded loose thumbnail crystals for $25 each, to a great 5 x 7 x 8-cm group of three huge, glowing green, wedgy forms. Indeed, although Francois still leads in the peridot derby, there is now a quite amazing abundance of these crystals; probably 30 dealers I saw had specimens that five years ago you'd have picked up bug-eyed. By the way, Andreas Weerth (see momentarily) was the only peridot-bearing dealer to have matrix peridot specimens showing also good sharp black magnetite dodecahedrons to 2.5 cm across (with the chalky white altered-serpentine substance that sometimes enfolds the peridot bases).
From Pech, Kunar Valley, Afghanistan (we are back at Francois Lietard's stand again) comes another new association: aquamarine beryl crystals with pale gray-purple, lustrous hexagonal prisms of apatite to 3 cm long. The apatites are tightly intergrown and too flawed internally to be gemmy, but they look good with the aquamarines on the silvery muscovite books on the white pegmatite matrix chunks to 15 cm. Further, Francois had some dark brown-black pieces of samarskite from Kohistan, Afghanistan, about 20 of them, with perhaps half the surfaces on a typical specimen broken (and showing a conchoidal fracture to confess to metamictism), the other half showing sharp crystal faces, including terminations, to 2 or 3 cm wide. These heavy, blocky specimens, some of which have adhering white feldspar, range in size from 3 to 7 cm.
Andreas Weerth (Hochfeldstr. 37, D-83684 Tegernsee, Germany) specialized, at his stand at the Main Show, in one-of-a-kinders from the Himalayas. The most surprising to me of these was a very well crystallized rose quartz specimen from the Shigar Valley, Pakistan: a 3.5-cm circular flower-like cluster of good medium-pink, medium-luster rose quartz crystals to 1.5 cm individually, sitting up on a 3.5 x 6-cm matrix of pegmatite with a coating of muscovite books. This would be a very nice piece from Brazil, but is as far as I know (or Andreas knows) a first for this pegmatite region. Finally, and also from the Shigar Valley, Andreas had some flattish miniature-sized feldspar matrixes coated with drusy quartz, with very sharp, glassy, translucent white hambergite crystals to 1 cm strewn about on them.
Mike Bergmann (see under Mexico and Peru) was extremely proud, not only of his fine selection of the new, brilliant, increasingly damage-free stibnite crystals from the Lushi mine, Hunan Province, China, but also, even more so, of the barite which now seems to come occasionally, Romanian-style, with the stibnite. The lustrous, translucent crystals are colorless to smoky gray, thick and blocky and up to 6 cm wide; about 50 pieces with varying amounts of stibnite shot through the barite were available here. Observe, too, the emeralds in mica schist from Wenshan, Yunnan Province, which Mike and a few other dealers, including some Chinese dealers, had. They are non-gemmy but fairly sharp, long and thin, in groups lying flat on and in matrix, with individual emerald crystals to 15 cm long.
At last, to conclude . . . Martin Rosser of Willyama Earth History Supplies (6 Banksia Cres., Wagga Wagga 2650 NSW, Australia) offered samplings from a fine new pocket of crocoite which was hit just this January at the Adelaide mine, Dundas, Tasmania, by crocoite king Frank Mihajlowits. About 500 pieces in all were recovered, and here were a couple of flats' worth, plus five superlative miniatures. They have not been acid-etched out of enclosing gibbsite for the very good reason that they were not so enclosed. Slender, hoppered and hollow crocoite prisms to 4 cm form the usual delicate groups, and the red-orange color is extremely bright and fresh.
The display cases at the Main Show were particularly wonderful this year, especially if you like calcite and fluorescent minerals. In the "general" calcite cases there were specimens of (it seemed) every thinkable calcite color and form, and keeping every company of associations, and hailing from every significant locality. Among the presenters were the Sorbonne, the French National Museum, the Smithsonian, Terry Huizing, Bill and Carol Smith, Gene and Roz Meieran, and Mary Miller. The exhibitor whom I'd call the champion in this category was Victor Yount, with 55 tremendous pieces.
The cases devoted to calcites from single mines, mining districts, or states were likewise very instructive. These included (the bare list will have to do in place of the thousands of images that I wish I could transfer somehow) Pennsylvania calcites (Bryon Brookmyer); the Brushy Creek mine, Reynolds County, Missouri (New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science); the Elmwood mine, Tennessee (Gaylord's Tennessee Minerals); Malmberget, Sweden (Peter Lyckberg); St. Andreasberg, Harz, Germany (Kay Robertson); and, we have a vote for a "winner" again, a huge case called "Copper Country Calcites," with some beautiful copper-enclosing crystals to 25 cm long on some specimens (the Seaman Museum of Michigan Technological University). Also, the cases devoted to overviews of the minerals of Guanajuato, Mexico (Chris and Elvia Tredwell) and Dal'negorsk, Russia (the Carnegie Museum) featured, inevitably, magnificent calcites from these places.
In the long, long row of exhibit cases there was also plenty of life after calcite. Jim Bleess did an inspired job of co-ordinating a quartz case, packed with monumental specimens of all sizes (yes, thumbnails too can be "monumental," e.g. the hematite-dusted Cumbria, England, quartz in this case), these loaned by about thirty private collectors and institutions. No, I can't pause to rhapsodize also over the giant, richest purple Sweden, Maine, amethyst in the same case, but must move on to salute the cases of quartz from the Fat Jack mine, Crown King, Arizona (Gary and Nancy Spraggins); thumbnails from Australia (Sharon Cisneros); German classics, with Eberhard Equit paintings (Peter Langsdorf and Dr. B. Schumacher); The Tourmaline Group (Jesse Fisher and Joan Kureczka); and superb tanzanite crystals in a range of colors (Bill Larson).
A very helpful idea materialized in the "Hidden Treasures" case of the American Museum of Natural History: here were about 20 great specimens not on public display in New York, or at least not widely seen since having been "circulated" back into storage some years ago. These included some incredible oldies from the Bement collection, such as a lustrous 8-cm spessartine in matrix from Springfield, Pennsylvania; a "killer" Cornwall bornite miniature; and the towering Japanese stibnite pictured in the Record article on the Bement collection (vol. 21, p. 52).
In a corner of the show hall was the dark, narrow entrance to the fluorescent minerals display mounted by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society; children's voices twittered with excitement around this entrance and from inside, but I somehow expected only a perfunctory case or two along a single short corridor. How unfairly cynical I was! The display turned out to be a full-fledged museum of fluorescence, a labyrinth of corridor after corridor, case after case, of wildly fluorescing minerals (only about half of them from Franklin, New Jersey) with clear, fluorescing labels. The hundreds and hundreds of specimens were of all sizes and fluorescent colors, and some of them looked as if they'd even be impressive in natural light; but I didn't care that I couldn't see them that way, so glorious were the glowing colors and so impressive was the sheer size of the whole presentation. This must surely have been the finest fluorescent display ever mounted anywhere.
That's probably enough about displays. But, hey, how about that natural-sized gatling gun carved in lapis and rock crystal by Wilfried Friedrich, which took that defensive position all alone in its case?
At the Saturday night awards ceremonies, Terry Wallace gave a (deliberately) preposterous slide presentation called "The Mineral Year in Review," and then things got down to serious awarding. The competitive-calcite-specimen winners in thumbnail, miniature, small cabinet and large cabinet sizes respectably were Carolyn Manchester, Terry Huizing, Terry Huizing, and Peter Lyckberg. The Friends of Mineralogy award for best article in the Mineralogical Record during the preceding year went to Michael Menzies for his "The Mineralogy of Topaz," in the special Topaz Issue. The Lidstrom Trophy for best competitor-entered specimen went to Gene Meieran, and the Desautels Trophy for best case went to Gene and Roz Meieran. Finally, the Carnegie Mineralogical Award for outstanding contributions to mineralogy went to Marie Huizing, Managing Editor of Rocks and Minerals magazine, who charmed all with her ingratiating acceptance speech. It was a big night, in short, for Marie and Terry Huizing, whose four children and two children-in-law were present for the occasion, and got to see Mom cry in front of about two hundred people.
"Well," as a radio disk jockey called Charlie Tuna used to say, "that's going to have to can it for now." And we know what "for now" means here, don't we? It means . . . until Denver.
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|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||May 1, 1996|
|Previous Article:||Ste-Marie-aux-Mines show 1995.|
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