Tucson Show 2003. (What's New in Minerals).
Late in January a Tucson newspaper, anticipating the city's biggest annual public event, invited everyone to the "lollapalooza" of a gem and mineral show. Although I doubt that I've heard or read that word since maybe the second Eisenhower Administration, "lollapalooza" struck me as perfect, connoting all at once the huge size, noisy flamboyance, and capitalistic camaraderie of the proceedings--the history of which, incidentally, is soon to be chronicled in a special Mineralogical Record supplement marking next year's fiftieth anniversary of the Show.
The lollapaloozification (writer/editors get to make up words sometimes) of Tucson in February seemed somewhat subdued this year, probably because of various disturbing situations near and far, including a still-slumping economy, orange-level terror alerts, and the impending war with Iraq. Nevertheless, the weather from late January (when gem and mineral people began arriving in town) through the first two weeks of February was pristine. Some torrential rains during the weekend of February 13-16 dampened things a bit, and gave the air that wonderfully fresh smell that only rain in the desert can produce. Most people seemed as enthusiastic as ever, but attendance was weaker than usual at the hotel shows and at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show at the Convention Center, perhaps reflecting a reluctance on the part of some people to travel or make significantly self-indulgent expenditures during a terror alert. Such worries proved groundless, however, and all was quiet on the Southwestern front throughout the weeks of The Show.
The Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (that name is trademarked by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society), generally called "the Main Show" in casual show-speak, is the culminating event of the 30+ shows which the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitor's Bureau has referred to collectively as the Tucson Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase. This huge conclave of shows and symposia is known among the general Tucson public simply as "the Gem Show," but naturally the mineral collectors never call it that, preferring the phrase "the Tucson Show."
Some slow evolutions were underway in the hotel show scene. Several more high-end dealers joined last year's pioneers at the Westward Look Resort facilities on the north end of town for the Westward Look Show, now looking like an event set to grow steadily. Marty Zinn's hotel show had lost a few dealers from last year's number, and Coco's, the restaurant located very conveniently next door to the Executive Inn, had gone out of business--but then, on the up side, Marty initiated a promising new show feature, "What's New in Minerals Day," which took place on Thursday, February 6, in the main lobby of the Executive Inn. Dealers who had latched onto really new mineral discoveries were invited to loan good examples to exhibit for the day in a big display case in the lobby; your present correspondent stood by the case all day to answer questions and generally to raise What's New consciousness; at day's end, Jeff Scovil came by to select specimens for photography (with some results seen here). All parties agreed tha t the exercise was a popular success, and that next year's Executive Inn show will have a similar feature, expanded to several days, plus a Mineralogical Record table nearby. I had thought I would have to get through some boring stretches of afternoon time during this event, but in fact there proved to be no such periods--interest among casual showgoers, as well as participation by the dealers, was high throughout the day.
The What's New tour this time will make just one stop in the U.S., none in Canada or Mexico, and not many in Europe; the major discoveries of the past year almost all occurred in South America, Africa, and Asia. Not only the fabulous new mimetite from China, but also a number of exciting finds in Bolivia, Brazil, Kenya, Madagascar, and Pakistan accounted for most of the buzz.
The United States produced one important, relatively new item: spectacular millerite from the Barrick Meikle gold mine near Carlin, Elko County, Nevada. A handful of these millerite specimens appeared in Denver last year, having just been found a few days before that show, and Casey Jones of Geoprime Minerals was firing up his engines to go and find more. Later in the autumn, in the "Griffin area" of the Barrick Meilde mine (a satellite orebody), Casey opened a pocket complex in a fault zone and took out about 120 millerite specimens, the majority of them thumbnail and miniature-sized, but a few almost making it to 30 cm across. Yellow--gray, tarnished, mammillary masses of pyrite are the matrix for dense coverages of pale gold to deep yellow-gold millerite in acicular crystals to 1.5 cm. In some specimens, the millerite crystals form discrete though interlocking sprays rising delicately from the pyrite, while other specimens are spiky, glittering, superfragile loose nests of millerite needles, like Brillo pads of airy gold. Clearly these beautiful specimens must be handled gingerly--and owners must monitor the matrix pieces for signs of "pyrite disease"--but many visitors to the Geoprime room at the InnSuites were finding them irresistible buys anyway (especially as even the best thumbanils rarely cost more than $100).
Late in 2002, a single pocket in the Mundo Nuevo mine near Pasto Bueno, Ancash, Peru produced sharp, highly lustrous hubnerite crystals to 4 cm on beds of thin-prismatic quartz crystals (with some Japan-law twins); some specimens also sport pyrite cubes to 5 cm and lustrous crystals of tetrahedrite to 3 cm. Some of the black hubnerite crystal faces are mirror-smooth while others are frosty (both lusters may occur on the same crystal), and strong lighting reveals deep red internal highlights. About 25 excellent specimens, from miniature to large-cabinet size, were being offered in the Executive Inn by Luis Miguel Fernandez Burillo (Escosura, 22, Pral. Centro, 50005 Zaragoza, Spain); also, Jaroslav Hyrsl had brought with him a single fantastic specimen from his personal collection.
Stopping by the warehouse of Mike New's Top Gem Minerals importing/wholesaling company a few days before the show action began, I was quite delighted to find many hundreds of small specimens of the new magnetite now being dug from seams in weathered volcanic rock on Mt. Huanaquino, Potosi, Bolivia. The specimens had not yet been cleaned, so it was a blind (but fun) lottery to guess which of them, beneath their coatings of dried mud, were fine, undamaged examples. Happily, many were: a light scrubbing with a soapy toothbrush was all it took to reveal razor sharp, bright black, highly lustrous magnetite octahedrons to 1.5 cm resting lightly on the grayish brown rock. The best specimens suggest and rival the best of the oldtime Biontal, Switzerland magnetites; scattered singly or in small groupings around the matrix, or expressing themselves on the surfaces of seam linings of massive magnetite, these are among the world's most attractive magnetite crystals. Elsewhere in the Top Gem warehouse, Jurgen Tron was pre paring about a hundred specimens--plates from 4 to 15 cm across--to sell back in Germany, and later in both the hotel and Convention Center shows, several dealers had pieces on hand, most-honorable magnetite mention going to Bolivian specialist Brian Kosnar (Mineral Classics, P.O. Box 2, Black Hawk, CO 80422).
Speaking of Brian, he was the one who, with excellent timing, was marketing specimens of the rare species nikischerite, described in this year's March/April Mineralogical Record from the type locality, the Huanuni mine in Dalence Province, Oruro Department, Bolivia. For specimens of a brand-new species, these 35 or so small thumbnails are actually rather attractive: dark olivegreen, lustrous crystal clusters to 1.5 cm, with pyrite, ludlamite, cassiterite and quartz, from a pocket found in November 2000.
Another very rare, Kosnar-related species turned up in the Executive Inn room of Luis Menezes, where three or four flats of specimens of kosnarite sold out early in the show. Kosnarite, named for Brian's dad, Rich Kosnar, is a potassium zirconium phosphate described in 1997 and formerly known only in microcrystals: these specimens, collected last September by Luis himself, are by several orders of magnitude the world's best. The locality is a small unnamed pegmatite, one of a swarm of small pegmatites in the Jenipapo district, near Itinga, Minas Gerals, Brazil. The kosnarite crystals are blocky-rhombohedral (pseudocubic), and measure from 1 to 4 mm; they are lustrous, translucent to transparent, and colorless to pale tan and grayish yellow. The crystals are sprinkled attractively over white crystalline to massive albite/amblygonite, some specimens showing incomplete crystals of dark green elbaite and/or microcrystals of the rare species roscherite, zanazziite and greifensteinite. [Interesting historical note: the species ultimately named zanazziite was originally intended to be named kosnarite, but the authors of that description changed their minds - and here, by coincidence, are zanazziite and a different species later named kosnarite on the same specimens!] Luis' fiats held a few pretty thumbnalls, about 15 miniatures, and, of course, many micromount-potential specimens.
Last September also saw the discovery of fine cassiterite specimens at Divino das Laranjeiras, Minas Gerais, Brazil--and it was Luis Menezes, again, who had the most ample supply of these, though a few other dealers had some too. Very bright black cassiterite crystals, rich in faces, form tight cyclic twins in ovoid shapes to 2.5 cm, and these perch on lustrous white albite matrix pieces to 20 cm across; tiny prismatic crystals of ferrotantalite may be found on a few specimens. The cassiterite twins are never as large and dramatic as the best of their Chinese brethren, but the sparkling white albite matrix improves and distinguishes them aesthetically.
Epidote from Capelinha, Minas Gerais, Brazil has been known for some time, but around 100 fine specimens found in a single pocket last summer served to propel this generally under-appreciated locality into the news this year. These are "Alpine"-looking specimens, with sharp, lustrous, bladed epidote crystals, deep blackish green with nice inner pistachio-colored highlights, to 6 cm long. These form parallel groups on a matrix of massive epidote with brushy coatings of paler green, acicular epidote crystals. J.J. Abello of Cailloux (64, Grand Rue, 04800 Greoux Les Bains, France) was offering specimens from thumbnail-sized to 20 cm across in his room in the Executive Inn. Also, M. Abello (among other dealers in Brazilian minerals) had some impressive specimens of the stout, glassy brown hydroxyiherderite crystals found recently at Alto Lavra do Afranio, Linopolis, Minas Gerais--see the photo accompanying Bill Larson's last Ste.-Marie show report (and note the corrected locality data here, which I have on the credible authority of Jordi Fabre).
At the Convention Center show, Frank and Wendy Melanson of Hawthorneden were selling specimens of lepidolite in an odd habit, found last year at the Toca do Onca pegmatite, Barra da Salinas, Minas Gerais. And I do mean selling: I arrived early at their show booth, but already the Melansons had disposed of some half-dozen cabinet specimens, and only a few thumbnails and one 25-cm plate remained. The lepidolite forms clusters of sharp, pale lavender prisms with diamond-shaped cross sections; terminal cleave-offs enable the viewer to gaze down through a transparent lavender sea, all the way to the crystal bottoms, although the prism and true termination faces are opaque, with a silvery sheen. The lepidolite crystals reach 3 cm and are well individualized in their clusters. Toca do Onca is the locality known in the past for sheaf-like, trigonal, brownish green elbaite in compound crystals to perhaps 15 cm long, although all of these new lepidolite specimens are devoid of associated species.
The Melansons also had about 20 specimens, found last spring, of beautifully gemmy and lustrous spessartine of deep raspberry-red color, from the Urucum mine, Galileia, Minas Gerais (the source of some fine and large morganite beryl crystals in the early 1970's). The thumbnail and miniature-sized specimens are loose parallel groups of crystals, most of them somewhat flattened, which one might guess are etched fragments of larger original garnet crystals. However, Frank had at least one matrix specimen showing these irregularly shaped garnet crystals perched individually on white feldspar crystals, so perhaps these represent original growth after all and not an etch phenomenon.
Finally from Brazil, a 51-crystal lot of elbaite was divided, late in the show, between Rob Lavinsky and Doug Wallace; the crystals were dug within the past year at the Terra Corrida mine near Colonel Murta, Minas Gerais, and very beautiful things they are too. They are prisms ranging from 3 to 6 cm long, and 1 or 2 cm thick, very lustrous and sharp, lightly striated parallel to c, and terminated (on one end only) by fairly steep trigonal faces. Most strikingly, each crystal is a gemmy, color-zoned sandwich, deep red at both ends and deep green in the center, with fairly sharp boundaries between the zones. There's a certain resemblance here to some elbaltes from Afghanistan, but these crystals are handsome beasts (and fine gem stock too), regardless of homeland.
Many hundreds of good prehnite specimens have been collected during the past two years from a building-stone quarry at Cerro de las Culebras, Carchalejo, Jaen, Spain, and Luis Burillo (see under Peruvian hubnerite) had about 30 miniature to cabinet-sized specimens in his room at the Executive Inn. Translucent, pale to medium green, lenticular prehnite crystals form typical hemispherical aggregates to 3.5 cm in diameter; the specimens are flat plates, some showing microcrystals of epidote along the seams between prehnite hemispheres. For a 12 x 12-cm plate you'd pay only about $100.
A Spanish oddity in the hands of Jordi Fabre this year was malachite-coated chalcopyrite crystals to 3.5 cm perched on vug linings of drusy crystals of yellowish dolomite, from the Eugui quarries, Navarra, Spaln (by common consent the place which produces the world's finest dolomite specimens). Over the past twelve years, but increasingly during the past two years, Jordi says, these quarries have sporadically produced the sharp chalcopyrite crystals, all decked in the thin, sparkly or velvety, deep green coats of malachite (complete pseudomorphs are as yet unknown).
Old Tucson Show hands once looked forward to visiting Michel Jouty's Executive Inn room, packed as it always was with central-European exotica. Michel (231 Rte. des Nants, Chamonix, France) is semi-retired now, but this year he could still be visited (by appointment) in the Frontier Motel, just next door to the Executive Inn. Michel has shifted his primary focus to Chinese minerals, but had about 30 outstanding specimens of faden smoky quartz, found last July at Pierre Joseph Peak, near Mer de Glace, above Chamonix, France. The crystals are brilliantly lustrous and totally transparent, and they show distinct milk-white faden lines in the medium-smoky darkness down their centers. Most of the specimens are miniature-sized, but there are a few crystal plates to 15 cm wide.
Freibergite is a rare member of the tetrahedrite group in which silver predominates over copper and iron in the cation sites; good crystals have always been rare, and must in any case be analytically verified as freibergite, as they cannot be visually distinguished from tetrahedrite or tennantite. The new freibergites from a discovery late last summer in the famous Herja mine, Maramures, Rommia have been so verified, and about 50 small-thumbnail-sized specimens were brought to Tucson this year by Ross billie of North Star Minerals. They are likably eccentric-looking: each specimen is a floater single crystal, or a floater group of two or three crystals, of brownish black, rounded, matte-lustered sphalerite, with exactly one sharp, lustrous metallic gray freibergite crystal of 2 or 3 mm half-embedded, rising as a petite triangle of light above the sphalerite surface. These specimens are, let's face it, small--no more than 1.5 cm in diameter--but once you know them you'll never confuse them with anything else.
Finally from Europe, Bulgarian minerals continue to appear on the market. Good specimens of the usual galena, quartz, calcite, etc. from the Madan district were in abundant supply this year, and Alexander Dikov of Intergeoresource Ltd. (P.O. Box 66, 1404 Sofia, Bulgaria) brought for What's New Day something rather different: a specimen from the Ianakiev mine, Erma Reka (outside but adjacent to the Madan district) with brilliant striated pyrite cubes to 5 cm on edge, with other sulfides and quartz. This mine has also lately produced lustrous, complex, ultra-gemmy green sphalerite crystals to 2 cm.
In an out-of-the-way room at the InnSuites I came across Khaled Aziri (10 Av. Bir Lahlou, 54350 Midelt, Morocco); most of the stock he had brought to Tucson consisted of trilobite fossils, some of great, truly icky dimensions. But Khaled also had a hoard of about a hundred orthoclase crystal clusters which he'd collected four months ago in a quarry on a mountainside near Midelt, Imelchelle state, Morocco. The orthoclase crystals are opaque tan to translucent gray with a hint of "moonstone" blue-green, very sharp, and quite lustrous; they reach 2 cm, and form loose clusters (with minimal to no damage) from thumbnail-sized to 10 x 10 cm. With a trillion stone trilobite eyes upon me, I bought three of these pert little specimens for $10 apiece.
That last one was admittedly "modest' but, moving down into Africa, we come upon something truly major: a recent discovery of epidote in a locality given as "Northern Frontier District," Kenya, this being reportedly a mountainous jungle region controlled by local tribes, and tricky to prospect in. The three outcrops in metamorphic skam-like rocks worked so far by famous African mineral explorer Campbell Bridges (discoverer of tsavorite garnet) have produced brilliant, thick, prismatic epidote crystals to 25 cm long, including some doubly-terminated singles and some majestic-looking groups to about 35 cm. The crystal faces are typically mirror-smooth, the color is rich blackish green, the crystal groups' composition is excellent, and, in short, this material easily keeps up with Austrian, Alaskan, Pakistani, and Namibian epidote in the worldwide epidote derby. Wayne Thompson had most of the biggest and most dramatic pieces at the Westward Look and Convention Center shows, while Dave Bunk had outstanding small -cabinet-sized and miniature specimens, plus a few thumbnails. Lustrous black rhombohedral hematite crystals to 5 cm have also emerged from the locality, and some of the epidote specimens are adorned by small crystals of quartz, prehnite and titanite.
Four months ago, a single 30-cm vug in altered dolomite in the Kabolela mine, Shaba, Congo, yielded about three flats of gorgeous specimens of brochantite-this according to who else but Gilbert Gauthier, who had most of the specimens in the ballroom of the Executive Inn (Jordi Fabre also had a few, in his nearby room off the lobby). The Kabolela mine copper ores were cobalt-rich, and thus the mine was worked for cobalt during the Second World War, closing in the 1950's; recent intrepid specimen-hunters are to be thanked for these fine, newly collected brochantite specimens. Brilliant green acicular crystals to 1 cm form dense carpets of interlocked sprays on brownish black matrix; Gilbert's biggest piece is 20 cm across.
The great manganese-mining field around Kuruman, Cape Province, South Africa is still turning out good specimens of odd species; this year it is manganoan vesuvianite, found last fall in a pocket complex in the N'Chwaning mine. The lustrous, deep reddish black, thin-prismatic crystals never exceed 1 cm, but they form lush-looking cavity linings in massive, dull black manganese oxide ore. Several flats of mostly miniature-sized specimens were collected, and good lots were available in Tucson from Rocko Rosenblatt (Rocko Minerals, Box 3A Route 3, Margaretville, NY 12455) and from Paul Botha (Southern Africa Minerals, P.O. Box 12027, Vorna Valley, 1686 South Africa). Paul also had about a dozen specimens of translucent white hydroxyapophyllite in crisp, pseudocubic crystals to 1.5 cm, in miniature-sized groups. And both Rocko and Paul had more recently collected specimens of poldervaartite from the same area, in fine crystals to around 1.5 cm, from opaque white to pink to nearly gemmy peach-color-and priced cons iderably lower than the first-found specimens were selling for in 2002.
Laurent Thomas, under his new business name of Polychrome France (email@example.com), brought a gemmy surprise to the hotel show: about 70 loose euhedral crystals, plus a few kilograms of gem rough, of lovely dark-pink to red beryl collected in November and December from a pegmatite near Mandrosonoro, Fianarantsoa Province, Madagascar. It is tempting to call the beryl "morganite," because it is pink, forms simple hexagonal prisms of tabular habit, and is high in cesium (as are many of the old California morganites). But, according to Laurent, the material is so high in cesium that a pending analysis may very well show it to be a new species, and anyway its color is not quite like that of morgmite from any other locality: generally a hard-to-describe rose-pink to raspberry hue. In fact, when backlit the crystals are seen to be dichroic-raspberry-colored when viewed through the prism faces, a peculiar orange/red/purple when seen through the (usually frosted) basal faces. The crystals reach 6 cm across, b ut the sharpest and cutest are uniformly around 2 cm or less; prices ranged from $100 to $800 per gram. Also found in the pegmatite pocket were gemmy kunzite and hiddenite spodumene, citrine quartz, lepidolite, "amazonite" microcline, and elbaite crystals to a foot long.
Nor is the pink beryl the only new goodie that Laurent Thomas brought from Madagascar. In September 2002, about 200 small specimens (from 2.5 to 5 cm) of ferrocolumbite were taken from the Tsaramanga pegmatite, between Betafo and Antsirabe: these are black, very sharp, wedge-terminated crystals with submetallic luster, in clean parallel-growth groups without matrix, the individual crystal size averaging around 2 cm. The crystal groups were found enclosed in muscovite and schorl, and some of their surfaces show brown spots of a radioactive mineral (betafite?). Also, at Ampanivana, south of Antsirabe, lustrous jet-black tourmaline crystals determined, surprisingly, to be elbaite (the determination was made by Dr. Pezotta of the Natural History Museum of Milan) were dug between November 2001 and June 2002. The elbaite crystals reach 3 cm individually, and occur in floater groups of toenail to miniature size; what is more, grayish white, translucent dodecahedrons of rhodizite to 5 mm are sprinkled liberally on their surfaces, for a fetching white-on-black effect. Finally, Laurent offered sharp, lustrous, hunky amethyst scepters from one to two feet tall, found in summer 2002 at an unnamed prospect near Fianarantsoa; the pocket yielded 50 specimens totaling 500 kilograms weight.
There was not much new this time from the former Soviet Union, but rare-species fans may appreciate news of the very large specimens of natrosilite--a simple silicate, but extremely rare--newly found on Kedykverpakhk Mountain, Lovozero massif, Kola Peninsula, Russia. Five specimens of natrosilite in pearly white, translucent to transparent cleavage sheets to 25 cm across, with some edges showing crude crystal faces, were brought to the Executive Inn by the scientists of the Fersinan Museum, Moscow.
To move from the natrosilite just a few doors down the hallway of the Executive Inn was to trade rarity for beauty: Konstantin Buslovich (Smolikova 900, Ruzyne, Prague, 16100 Czech Republic) had brought to Tucson some outstanding pyrite crystals discovered last summer in the Karzamkul iron deposit, 110 km south of Kustanay, northern Kazakhstan. According to Konstantin, the site is a now-inactive iron ore quarry where magnetite was the chief ore species; and sure enough, massive magnetite is the matrix for sharp, very bright, simple pyritohedral crystals of pyrite, mostly around 1 cm but exceptionally to 2.5 cm. The pyrite crystals sit lightly on the black matrix, sometimes with haloes of drusy epidote and prehnite; thumbnail to small cabinet-size specimens were available by the dozens.
Thick, gemmy, butterscotch-yellow rhombohedral crystals of calcite from the Sarbaiski mine, Rudniy, Kazakhstan have become familiar items during the last ten years; indeed I sometimes catch myself calling these very beautiful specimens "Rudniys," for short. But about two years ago (explains Mikhail Anisov of Moscow, firstname.lastname@example.org), about 50 large specimens of a radically different, though equally lovely, type of calcite were found in the Sarbaiski mine, and Rob Lavinsky (of The Arkenstone) had just seven specimens in Tucson. The calcite clusters, all measuring about 25 cm across, and having no matrix, are composed of lustrous, tapering prismatic calcite crystals which come to points; the crystals are transparent/colorless to translucent/white, very clean, and reach 6 cm long individually. Incidentally, the Sarbaisky mine at Rudniy should not be confused with the Sokolovski quarry, also at Rudniy. The gorgeous calcites, plus fine specimens of silver minerals, come from the underground Sarbaiski mine, w hich chiefly exploits iron ore (magnetite); the Sokolovski quarry yields good specimens of gmelinite, natrolite, and other zeolite species.
Francois Lietard brought in about a hundred specimens (out of thousands which were collected, he said) of brilliant floater quartz crystals that could pass for Herkimer diamonds; however, they were found near Wama, Dara Ismael, Khan district, Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan. The colorless, transparent crystals measure from 5 mm to 2 cm, exceptionally to 5 cm, and their interiors are profusely speckled with black flakes of something-or-other which is probably organic (in New York they call similar inclusions in Herkimer diamonds "anthraxolite"), and some yellow-brown smears of something else probably organic, as well as a few enhydro bubbles. Think of these new specimens as intriguingly "dirty" Herkimers which could stand a good housecleaning (or detoxing?) inside.
The same new Pakistani locality that has produced the quartz (above) has also turned out striking specimens of gemmy pink apatite (probably fluorapatite); Francois Lietard and Dudley Blauwet (of Mountain Minerals International) each had just a few of these. The apatite crystals are very sharp, very lustrous, transparent hexagonal tablets, most of them oddly elongated on one of the horizontal axes, for a pseudo-orthorhombic shape. The crystals are found either stacked in loose groups, or perched at high angles on a brown matrix, surrounded by faden quartz crystals. Yes, the material is beautiful, and whether the limpid pink color is fugitive or not has yet to be seen; anyway, these new apatites are unlike the pink apatites from Nagar, Pakistan, which typically come with muscovite and whose color is not permanent. Dudley's specimens are shiny little thumbnails, while Francois' best is a 7-cm matrix sporting a lone 4-cm apatite crystal.
It's a pleasure now to be able to offer updates on discoveries in the Deccan Plateau in India since Berthold Ottens wrote his opus (the January/February 2003 issue of the Mineralogical Record)--may the need for such updates never cease. In his Executive Inn room, Dr. Hemant Merchant (72, Casagrande, Little Gibbs Rd., Behind Hanging Gardens, Bombay-400 006, India) had about 10 giant specimens of a new Indian habit of calcite, these specimens found in November-December 2002 during excavation for a new water tunnel between Pathanwadi and Kurar, Bombay-Malad (recall that this area was supposedly finished for specimens, urban sprawl having put an end to nearly all quarrying of the spilitic basalts around Bombay). On the new specimens, rhombohedral calcite crystals reach 13 cm on edge, and rest on matrix of pale green prehnite and gray basalt. A first phase of growth resulted in very pale yellow-orange calcite crystals, smooth-faced but not lustrous; a second calcite generation was deposited as a thin, uniform coat ing on crystals of the first generation, and this later overgrowth is white and highly lustrous, though somewhat rough-surfaced. Some of the specimens, further, display a third generation, as pseudocubic calcite crystals to 1.5 cm ranged in regular rows along edges of the big rhombohedrons.
And then there is Dr. Arvind Bhale of Earth Science International ('Yasham,' 166/1+2+3, Aundh Gaon, Pune-411007, India), who had about 30 specimens, from toenail through cabinet size, of celadonite-infused powellite found in 2001 at Shakur, Maharashtra state. Consulting our Indian Zeolites issue, we see that Shakur is the locality for the well-known cloudy greenish gray heulandite and stilbite crystals which also owe their color to minute, wormlike inclusions of celadonite. The color of the new powellite specimens is the same, and the species is morphologically unmistakable: very sharp, lustrous pseudo-octahedral crystals to 1 cm, occurring as loose clusters and on matrix with good crystals of the familiar green heulandite. In the larger specimens, powellite crystals have grown in "wheels" to 3.5 cm diameter, the crystals in subparallel orientation, their toothy tips protruding all over the surfaces of the wheels.
Time now for our regularly scheduled program presenting what China has lately been turning out for our mineralogical enjoyment. First, in the Collector's Edge special "China" exhibit case at the Convention Center there appeared, looming enormously in the back, a part-gemmy, medium to dark green, very sharply formed diopside crystal about a foot high, from a new find given (vaguely) as Xinjiang Uygur Province. And Sandor Fuss was busily selling smaller loose crystals of the same kind in the Collector's Edge booth--although "smaller" means between 3 and 8 cm. Many of the diopside crystals are thoroughly gemmy near their terminations and cloudy green lower down; it is their sharpness that is most impressive. Always free of matrix, always singly terminated but never doubly so, the crystals look like much-inflated examples from the old locality of De Kalb, New York, and in general they far surpass the Chinese diopsides which trickled out a few years ago. Rob Lavinsky had three flats of thumbnail-sized crystals as well.
The best that I saw of the now familiar clusters of hematoid quartz crystals from Shangping Zhen, Longchuan Counthy, Guangdong Province, China were being offered by Michel Jouty and by Dr. Guanghua Liu of AAA Minerals China (Franzosische Allee 24, 72072 Tubingen, Germany). These specimens often reach jumbo sizes, and can be very dramatic, especially when platy black hematite crystals compose sharp rosettes around the bases of the transparent, red-dusted quartz prisms. According to Michel, the specimens with pale red, transparent quartz crystals come from the Hichang quarry, Sichuan, whereas the deep reds come from the (distant, entirely separate) locality named above. Dr. Liu also had five quartz crystal clusters from Guangdong (with, sure enough, deep red hematite dustings) which sported also a few very sharp, dull brown helvite tetrahedrons to 2 cm.
But if any single new item was "the talk of the show" this year, causing many serious collectors to lapse into expostulations and palpitations such as are caused by only the most dazzling of new discoveries (in other words, to make good-natured spectacles of themselves), it was the new mimetite specimens which emerged just two months ago from what is reportedly a small lead prospect, the Wu Chuan mine, near Huo Zuo City, Guangxi Province. Chinese miners contracted to Daniel Trinchillo were the original collectors, and they did an admirably professional job of extracting the specimens, most of which show very little or no damage, delicate though they are. Through Daniel, the best of the lot came to Rob Lavinsky of The Arkenstone, who was selling them at the Executive Inn show, the Westward Look show and Convention Center show; some very good specimens also wound up with Mike Bergmann and a handful of other westerners, and quite a few less impressive (and more damaged) pieces were offered in the Executive Inn b y several Chinese dealers, some of whom initially labeled the material pyromorphite (multiple analyses by Marcus Origlieri of the University of Arizona have verified it as mimetite).
Don't write that locality name in your catalog just yet, though. Shortly before press time, we were informed by Rob Lavinsky that the locality name originally cited was false, to protect the secrecy of the find until it could be cleaned out. The miners are said to have carried the material into a different province for sale, just to hide their trail. The latest news is that the mine is actually near Bapu in Guangdong province. Reportedly the entire find consisted of about 3,000 specimens (half of which are still in China), of which less than 200 are top quality. The opinion of the miners is that the occurrence is exhausted, as no more specimens were found for over a month after the big pocket was encountered, despite furious digging. Of course, such hearsay is notoriously unreliable, and even the most honest predictions about what will or will not be found in the future are little more than informed guesswork. Nevertheless, the odds would seem to be against the discovery of substantial additional quantities s imply because (unlike the related species vanadinite and pyromorphite) high-quality crystals of mimetite have never been found in great quantity at any locality.
Opinions varied as to whether the best of this mimetite is, in its own way, the equal of the legendary gemmy, pale yellow crystals from the "gem pocket" found at Tsumeb in 1972--this to give you an idea of the level of quality we are talking about. Individual mimetite crystals from the new Chinese find reach over 2 cm, but are generally less than 1 cm, occurring as thick crystal crusts on a weathered brown gossany rock. They are extremely sharp hexagonal platelets, standing straight up from matrix as loners or in parallel groups; some crystals have a perfectly flat, mirror-bright basal face on one side, but trail out on the other side in a tapering parallel aggregate. The habit rather resembles that of some Moroccan vanadinite. The crystals are distinctive not only for their high (almost adamantine) luster and razor-sharp edges, but also for their color: from a brilliant yellow-orange (described by some Arizonans as "Old Yuma mine wulfenite yellow") to a deep yellow-orange (reminiscent for me of the color of some Ojuela mine legrandite--especially what with that brown earthy matrix). Most loose crystal clusters are toenail through miniature-sized, though a very small number of killer thumbnails also exists. Cabinet-sized pieces, with flashing sheets of mimetite crystals covering matrix, can exceed 9 cm; and Rob Lavinsky brought to the What's New Day case a 17-cm specimen with a deep open vug lined with mimetite crystals accounting for almost all of its front side. As I said, there's no telling now whether these superlative mimetites will disappear from the market after a year or two (as did the superb Thailand mimetites of a few years ago), or whether they'll only increase in numbers and quality (as did the wonderful Chinese pyromorphites, only now petering out after several years of amazing abundance). Gawk at the pictures here (and on the cover of this issue) while you can . . . it may well be a one-shot find. Rumor has it that the mine collapsed after being so hastily and incautiously exploited for specimens.
Australia checked in this year with about 50 very fine, mostly small specimens of copper brought to the Convention Center show by Tom Kapitany of Crystal World & Prehistoric Journeys (20 Fiveways Boulevard, Keysborough, Victoria, 3173, Australia). The source is the presently active Selwyn gold mine, Mt. Elliot, northern Queensland, where the copper crystal groups were taken from a single pocket in 2001. Ranging from 2 to 10 cm, the groups consist of lustrous, elongated spinel twins to 1.5 cm, with more copper in branching, curved arhorescent growths, and rarely as curling wires. The specimens show no associated species (however, Tom says that the mine produced 3-foot gypsum crystals included by copper around the turn of the 20th century).
So much for the survey of individual What's New discoveries. But I want to note, too, my general impression that a very satisfying number of "old" mineral occurrences from the past five years or so are continuing to produce, often in greater numbers and higher specimen qualities than before; a few of many possible examples follow. Besides the new millerites, beautiful golden barite from the Barrick Meikle mine, Nevada, is still being offered generously by several western U.S. dealers. The poldervaartite profusion of last year, as mentioned, is still going strong, thanks to more pockets recently struck at the N'Chwaning mine, South Africa. Dioptase from Altyn-Tube, Kazakhstan has re-appeared, with perhaps a dozen dealers offering specimens with bigger and more lustrous crystals than have ever been seen in the past. Carrollite from the Congo, still as crystals which would have been accounted wild hallucinations of size and luster only five years ago, may still be had (especially from Brice and Christophe Gobin and Gilbert Gauthier). Brilliant blue pentagonite from the Wagholi quarry, Poona, India is reaching record crystal sizes, with radial starbursts of acicular crystals to 2 cm in cavities--here the best people to see are Fasi Makki and Arvind Bhale. An incredible example with crystals to around 6 cm, purchased by Marty Zinn for the Smithsonian collection, will no doubt appear on a future cover. Fine crocoite from Australia is now again coming out; the bastnasite-(Ce) crystals from Zagi Mountain in Pakistan are getting bigger and more plentiful all the time; the Erongo Mountains of Namibia continue to pour out supplies of excellent aquamarine, foitite, aegirine, arfvedsonite and green fluorite crystals; the Russian dealers continue to offer first-rate pyrrhotite from Dalnegorsk, and a fantasy-variety of exquisite Dalnegorsk calcite too; and, amazingly, superb Moroccan vanadinite specimens continue to emerge through various sources, as they have for many years. The many kinds of new and ongoing mineral-action--re flected, too, on many websites, if you absolutely can't make it to the big shows--are a comfort indeed in these times of terror, warfare and economic uncertainties. We can take mental refuge amid the treasure trove of wonderful mineral specimens that continue to fill the marketplace. As Wendell Wilson has said, we are truly living in a Golden Age of mineral collecting, which shows no sign of abating. Are we cheered up? Fine, then let's go to the exhibit cases at the Convention Center show.
"Minerals of the Andes" was the show theme--and that was good, first, because it inspired the Smithsonian to bring one of the best of the fabulous Chilean "Vaux" proustites to the show: a 5 x 10-cm crystal cluster reposing in flashing red majesty, not looking its age at all. The same fine Smithsonian case contained a 5 x 5-cm Bolivian phosphophyllite twin and a canfieldite cluster from Bolivia with sharp gray 1-cm crystals; in a separate case (under constant armed guard) the Smithsonian folks placed the nearly-baseball-size 858-carat "Gachala" emerald crystal from Colombia, and a lavish emerald/diamond necklace once owned by Marjorie Merriweather Post.
That had to be the most lavish performance on the Andean theme, but other terrific things from the backbone of South America were displayed by other institutions, e.g. the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum, the Rice Northwest Museum, the University of Arizona Mineral Museum (this case dedicated to the memory of Dr. Russell M. Honea), the Carnegie Museum (14 great specimens from Bolivia), Harvard (Atacama Desert specimens from the recently acquired Terry Szenics Collection), and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (Bolivian minerals from the Mark and Jean Bandy Collection).
Private collectors who showed us excellent and instructive things from the Andes included Jaroslav Hyrsl, Alfredo Petrov; Alan Day and Scott Werschky, Neil and Cami Prenn, Georg Gebhard, Rock Currier and Carolyn Manchester--and the exhibits put on by the latter two collectors were especially forceful and dazzling, despite all that distinguished company and stiff competition. Carolyn's 4-foot case was comparatively small, and the specimens varied greatly in size, but no impression of "clutter" here; the pieces were just too good. I will long retain luscious images of her thumbnail phosphophyllite (Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia) and pyrargyrite (San Genaro mine, Peru); of her 25-cm plate of pale pink manganocalcite (Pachapaqui, Peru); of her several bright, flawless Peruvian pyrites; and of her four Bolivian vivianites of irreproachable sea-green transparency. As for Rock Currier, well, as a fearless traveler and as a co-author of the Peru Issue of 1997, he certainly knew how to fill an Andean case; I'll just settle for mentioning in particular a foot-long, curving matrix of rock with about tea perfect gray 2.5-cm tetrahedral crystals of freibergite studded along the top of it. And he filled a neighboring case, just as big, with specimens from India as well. Rock will be performing again in August, when he brings his whole collection (or so goes the story...) to the Springfield Show.
There were also fine cases on other themes, which, as usual, I can do little more than name in passing. Locality cases were even more numerous and diverse than usual: among them were a case of 28 fine quartz specimens (mostly amethysts) from the new occurrence at Magaliesburg, South Africa (Rocko Rosenblatt); 13 superb specimens from Russia and Kazakhstan (the KARP guys); minerals of Mexico (Peter Megaw); minerals of the Northern Areas, Pakistan (Bill and Carol Smith); minerals of the Orchard quarry, Buckfield, Maine--with large and gemmy aquamarine and heliodor beryl crystals, plus neat little phenakites and apatites (Gary Freeman); southern Arizona minerals (Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum); green fluorite from the Homestake mine, Arizona (Mark Hay and Dick Morris); recent finds at the 79 mine, Arizona--including several very pretty green smithsonites (George Godas); minerals of the Siegerland district, Germany (Los Angeles County Natural History Museum); elbaite from a giant pocket found last October at the C ryo-Genie mine, California (Gochenour's Minerals); flourite from the North Pennines, England (Jesse Fisher and Joan Kureszca); minerals of the Elmwood mine, Tennessee (Walt Gaylord); a case full of dozens of specimens of Bunker Hill mine, Idaho pyromorphite in a spectrum of colors from green to yellow to red-orange (Mike and Mary Jaworski and Tony Potucek); and a most impressive case full of hundreds of wulfenite specimens of all sizes, some very fine, self-collected at the Glove mine by Peter P. Tescione, Jr.
Three big cases were filled with outrageously fine Chinese specimens, which make you think of others you've seen around on the market of late, and then say "I never knew it got THAT good!" These cases were put in by Collector's Edge, Steve and Clara Smale, and Daniel Trinchillo (the latter case, however, lacked specimen labels or any kind of text, as several showgoers were heard to complain... why not label such wonderful things, Danny?).
On and on the visitor went, down the rows of cases: quartz in a zillion habits and colors (Roz and Gene Meicran and Bill Larson); a 10,100-carat Burmese ruby crystal in matrix (Pala International); "More Treasures From the Vault" (American Museum of Natural History); "Treasures of Old German Mines," with geologic maps, old photos and documents, and fine, proud, old-dowager specimens (Mineral Museum of Bonn, Poppelsdorfer Schloss); a repeat performance of Dan and Dianne Kile's case (a couple of years ago in Denver) of self-collected specimens from Colorado, and, in a case with its back to this one, a sumptuous collection of petrographic microscopes and equipment--a foretaste of Dan's upcoming Mineralogical Record supplement on the subject. At least three cases of different sorts memorialized the late John Sinkankas, and one mischievous case was all about Ed McDole; its centerpiece was Ed's famous bottle of dark brown 151-proof rum out of which McDole Trophy winners once had to drink. Bill and Elizabeth Moller , Matilda Pfeiffer, and a wordy fellow named Thomas P. Moore put in ample selections of their general collections. My apologies to anyone who put in a worthy case that I've overlooked in this survey--but hey, at least I mentioned my own case last.
At the Saturday night awards ceremonies, the following superstars were honored. Carolyn Manchester won the Desautels Trophy for best "rocks" in the show, and she won it with style, not simply picking the best specimens from her large and varied collection, but restricting herself to just the Andean theme! William H. Larson (Bill's son) won the Lidstrom Trophy for best specimen, with a self-collected Himalaya mine elbaite; this was the first time that a "junior" collector has ever won this award. Jesse Fisher won the Friends of Mineralogy award for best article published during the past year in the Mineralogical Record: his "Gem and rare-element pegmatites of southern California." The Pinch Award given by the Mineralogical Association of Canada for the amateur who has contributed most to mineralogical science went to Dr. Mark Feinglos. And finally, the most prestigious of the awards, the Carnegie Mineralogical Award, given to a person or institution who has contributed mightily to mineralogy, mineralogical ed ucation, mineralogical journalism, and mineral collecting, went appropriately to Dr. Terry Wallace of the University of Arizona.
So another Tucson Show is now history. But get ready for something really special next year, which will be the fiftieth-anniversary Show. All that glitters will no doubt be real gold (the show theme), and a lot of it, at that once-in-a-lifetime event to be held February 12-15, 2004. For now, that's it from lollapaloozaland.
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|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||May 1, 2003|
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