Tucson show 2004.
Omne ignotum pro magnifico est
The Latin motto above means "Anything we haven't seen before is marvelous." This is apt for the "What's New" column, of course, and also as advice for those show goers who are prone to complaining that "there's nothing new at this show." Such chronically woebegone folks lament the lack of any major debuts of new occurrences (1) totally unheard-of before, and (2) productive of a large quantity of specimens of (3) very high quality and/or rarity. This indeed happened to be the case at the 2004 Tucson Show: there was no new serendipity this time to rival, say, last year's Chinese mimetite, or the Idaho pyromorphite, Sweet Home rhodochrosite, Ojuela purple adamite, etc., of various yesteryears. But I've never sympathized much with those who would demand megasurprises each magical February. Just look around you alertly, don't ignore the small lots, the out-of-the-way, the strong revivals of older items--even, sometimes, the ugly--and you will have yourself a good Tucson time, every time. Witness, this year, the new blue Romanian scheelite, the Spanish torbernite, the Bolivian bournonite and ferberite, the new Imperial topaz from Zambia, the lilac gem scapolite from Afghanistan ... all to be expounded upon shortly. Any show this large will have plenty of minerals which fit at least one of the three criteria for greatness listed above. So be of good cheer, and keep up those Latin studies.
This was the fiftieth anniversary year of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, i.e. the "Main Show," the huge center-ring event which the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society stages so expertly each year at the Tucson Convention Center. The golden-anniversary theme, naturally, was gold, and consequently the long row of display cases harbored what was doubtless the greatest assemblage of world-class crystallized gold specimens ever brought together in one place. Additionally, this was the 150th anniversary of the Gadsden Purchase, which in 1854 added to the U.S. that mineral-juicy strip of southern Arizona which today includes virtually all of the state's most famous localities. Thus there was a strong secondary show-theme, expressed not only by a special exhibit of the original Gadsden Purchase treaty, but by case after case of dazzlements of "Gadsden" minerals, especially those of Bisbee.
On opening day at the Main Show, Arizona governor Janet Napolitano visited, made an appreciative speech over the public address system, and then was toured around the show floor by TGMS Show Chairman Bob Jones. Bob himself had an exceptional show experience, resulting, however, in cramps of the right hand, as he cruised continually about autographing countless copies of the softcover and hardcover editions of his just-published A Fifty-Year History of the Tucson Show, which were being sold at the Mineralogical Record booth and by the TGMS folks in the upstairs lobby (Mineralogical Record subscribers will by now have received their own free softcover copies).
As for Mineralogical Record news, well, we had a table at Marty Zinn's Executive Inn show for the first time, and here, as well as at the Main Show, we found ourselves frenetically selling the show-anniversary book, as well as the new, 2004 edition of Fleischer's Glossary of Mineral Species, the January/February special issue on diamonds and gold, and the new ExtraLapis English booklet on gold. I know sales were brisk because Adrianna Pagano (our tireless Italian representative) and I had to keep the hotel and show tables going by ourselves for two solid weeks in the absence of longtime Circulation Manager Mary Lynn Michela, who had come down with double pneumonia just before showtime! Thanks to massive slugs of antibiotics she's feeling better now, and we very much hope she will be fully recovered by the time you read this. Come to think of it, by that time I might even be fully recovered from hauling and selling all those books, whilst also monitoring the hotel show's "What's New in Minerals" case (see description in last year's Tucson report), taking the usual What's New notes, and doing the (indispensable, mandatory) personal specimen shopping. That combat ribbon ought to look good on my Tucson Show T-shirt.
So, by the way (you might wonder), what is new in minerals? Since you asked ....
Dick Morris and Mark Hay (for the latter, phone 602-952-2445) have shifted their Arizona field-collecting attentions from the Oatman district (although they still have some nice green fluorites from there) to a fine, heretofore little-known calcite locality: the Portland mine, Black Mountains, Mohave County. From this old open-pit gold mine--which was commercially active from the mid-1970's to the mid-1980's--come beautiful colorless, transparent calcite crystals on gray, weathered volcanic rock matrix. Except for that matrix, these strongly resemble old-time English calcite specimens. The waterclear, silky-lustered crystals are lightly modified hexagonal prisms, most with trigonal terminations, plus a few modified scalenohedrons, to about 5 cm long. Specimens have appeared sporadically before, but the newest batch, consisting of about 100 top-quality pieces of miniature to cabinet size, was collected by Dick and Mark just a few months ago.
The calcium-aluminum silicate lawsonite was originally described from a crystalline schist which is associated with serpentine on the Tiburon Peninsula, Marin County, California. This occurrence turns out to be an outcrop of serpentinite and eclogite along Reed Ranch Road on the Tiburon Peninsula, to date one of the world's very few localities for crystallized lawsonite. Specimens were collected as early as the turn of the 20th century, but most were found in the mid-1950's, then stored by the collector at his home somewhere near San-Francisco, except for a few pieces which reached local collectors. The field collector died in 1970, his wife died this past April, and at this point the couple's children called California dealer Steve Perry, inviting him to come and see what was wrapped in some old newspapers in the family garage ... and thus it was that at the Main Show this year Steve Perry Minerals (P.O. Box 136, Davis, CA 95617) was offering about 200 specimens, in widely varying sizes, of what is undoubtedly the world's best lawsonite, and the last likely ever to come on the market from the classic California locality. Translucent, medium-lustrous, blue-white lawsonite crystals of complex wedge-like aspect compose tight clusters in shallow seams in hard, gray-green, igneous matrix. The crystals reach 8 cm individually, although the really sharp ones max out at 2 cm, and most are less than 1 cm. Matrix specimens, with fairly liberal showings of lawsonite crystals, are up to 15 cm across, and actually are fairly attractive. You can't complain when an attractive, well crystallized, translucent blue best-of-species turns up on the market.
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Surprisingly, there were no major mineral scoops from Colorado this time, but collecting is still going on in the Sweet Home mine, and, at the Main Show, Bryan Lees of Collector's Edge was debuting a lavish video he has just had made (and will be selling to the general public this summer) telling the Sweet Home story since the modern mining effort began in 1991. Prospecting, drilling, blasting and the original collecting-out of some of the great pockets are all caught in action, and the cover of the Mineralogical Record's Sweet Home Special Issue is seductively flashed onscreen as well. At the Collector's Edge booth at the Main Show a preview showing of this video ran constantly on a big plasma screen, and it was nice to see that another documentary effort for this great locality has shaped up so well.
Joe Polityka wrote from Springfield on the new--I repeat, new--gem-quality crystals of spodumene variety hiddenite which have emerged very lately from the classic locality for the material: the Adams (or Warren) Farm, Alexander County, North Carolina. Terry and Jean Ledford of Mountain Gems & Minerals (P.O. Box 239, Little Switzerland, NC 28749), assisted by W. Renn Adams, hit two superloaded hiddenite pockets in late March and early April 2003, taking out about 1,200 loose, gemmy green crystals, ranging from tiny to 9 cm long, and many of these crystals were for sale (even small thumbnails sporting 4-figure prices) in the Executive Inn at Tucson. The crystals are brightly lustrous and lightly striated; most are of a very intense green at the tips, grading to somewhat paler farther down. The bottoms of the same two pockets also harbored about a dozen loose emerald crystals: semi-gemmy, medium-green, thin to medium-fat simple hexagonal prisms to 3 cm.
Last issue's article by Amabili et al. on new discoveries at the famous Jeffrey mine, Asbestos, Quebec sets us up nicely for the next item: a small number of remarkable diopside crystals and crystal clusters collected at the Jeffrey quarry in 2003. Their handler in the Executive Inn was the ever-affable Giuseppe Agozzino, working out of the room of Geofil (Alto da Bela Vista, 2-A, 2750 Cascais, Portugal). Four days into the show I got to help Giuseppe unpack a small flat which had just arrived, containing about 20 beautiful specimens, thumbnails and small miniatures, showing sharp, highly lustrous, transparent diopside crystals to 2 cm; in habit they are wide, very thin blades, and in color they are a subtle, very pale greenish brown. The crystals are either loose singles or lightly intergrown, sparkling groups without matrix, and tiny green crystals of vesuvianite decorate a few of the diopside crystal faces. These gemmy beauties represent, as far as I know, a new kind of diopside, and they certainly set beauty records for the species. A very small number of newly found, rich emerald-green vesuvianite crystal clusters from the Jeffrey mine, most of them of thumbnail size, were also to be spotted with various dealers around the show. As the recent article points out, the demise of the Jeffrey mine as a collecting locality is imminent (perhaps already "official") and, sad as such demises are, it's good to see this one occur with a bit of a bang, not a whimper.
Until a couple of years ago I looked forward to getting the Mont Saint-Hilaire news in the really fun way, i.e. by visiting the Executive Inn room of full-time Saint-Hilaire collector Gilles Haineault, but Gilles regrettably no longer comes to Tucson. This year a number of Gilles' latest discoveries were being marketed at the Main Show by Tyson's Minerals and by Rob Lavinsky (of The Arkenstone, P.O. Box 450788, Garland, TX 75045-0788). Last summer at Saint-Hilaire, Gilles collected about 100 thumbnail and small-miniature crystal groups of the very rare epididymite, most of which specimens were for sale at low three-figure prices with both dealerships in Tucson. The special Mont Saint-Hilaire issue of 1990 reports that epididymite from this locality occurs as tiny acicular, long-prismatic or bladed crystals, or very rarely as colorless, lustrous, stellate twins to 2 cm. The new specimens, though, are entirely different: they consist of sharp, simple hexagonal-tabular epididymite crystals to 6 mm across, attached loosely in sugary white, jumbled groups, or skewered in neat little rows on black needle-crystals of aegirine, or draped over crystals of albite and/or serandite.
Gilles' next find was gemmy, pale green sphalerite crystals to 2 cm in loose clusters and on matrix of albite and polylithionite; the specimens suggest the now very rare and very attractive green sphalerite found about 12 years ago at Thomasville, Pennsylvania, and they surely represent Saint-Hilaire's best sphalerite to date. The new, mostly thumbnail specimens of catapleiite pseudomorphs after fluorite are quite unusual as well: pale brown, slightly rough-faced dodecahedral crystals to 1.5 cm, with smaller crystals of epididymite, serandite, and mangan-neptunite. Then there was the small hoard (at Tyson's) of opaque, bright pink rhodochrosite in thumbnail groups of sharp rhombohedrons to 2 cm with nicely stepped faces; and there were super-sharp, colorless, absolutely transparent, well terminated loose prisms of natrolite to 7 cm long (also at Tyson's). Some newly collected groups, to 10 cm across, of polylithionite in sharp, silvery books were interesting as well ... a good summer's haul for Gilles, and another impressive What's New scoop from Saint-Hilaire.
Before leaving Quebec (and North America), I'll mention that John Medici (5280 Stover Rd., Ostrander, OH 43061) has lately been doing some fairly major trenching in the rubble at the Parker mine, Notre Dame du Laus (see the article in vol. 24, no. 5), and has recovered many very sharp, very lustrous black octahedral crystals of spinel to 2.5 cm, together with interesting forsterite crystals to about the same size; he had pieces for sale at the Main Show.
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Mineralogical Mexico pretty much took a siesta this time--not so, though, the fabled emerald fields of Colombia. In a room at the Inn Suites, Swiss dealer Pierre Vuillet of Samargand Resources Ltd. (firstname.lastname@example.org) was offering a little hoard of lustrous, bright pink fluorapatite specimens from Boyaca: pretty, translucent hexagonal-tabular crystals in groups to 3 cm without matrix or associations, collected sometime last year. Also, from the La Pita mines in the Occidental district, he had fine, gemmy, deep green emerald crystals to 2 cm embedded, or even free-standing, in gray calcite (this mine, Pierre says, is now even more productive of gem emeralds than the much better-known Musquiz and Chivor mines). On the same matrix from the same locality, in a very few specimens, one espies very sharp, barrel-shaped crystals of parisite to 1 cm, these crystals being a rich orange-brown in lamplight and fluorescent yellow-green in shortwave ultraviolet light.
The Executive Inn room of the new Spanish dealer Luis Miguel Fernandez Burillo (Urb. Pinar Canal, 24, 50007 Zaragoza, Spain) was very well stocked this year, as last year, with interesting things (see later under torbernite). Among these was a noteworthy Peruvian item consisting of about 20 miniature quartz/epidote specimens recently found at Huaytara, Huancavelica. On lustrous, doubly terminated "floater" crystals, to 5 cm, of transparent quartz with heavy inclusions of green chlorite perch lustrous sprays, brushes and bowties, to 3 cm, of acicular epidote crystals. The contrast between the bright pistachio-green of the epidote bundles outside and the foggy green of the included chlorite inside is quite a pretty thing to behold. This is the same locality, by the way, which lately has been producing small, bright yellow-brown groups of sharp clinozoisite crystals, a few of which Luis offered also.
Bolivia is very big in the news this year. We'll begin with the hundreds and hundreds of bright sulfur specimens from the locality written about recently in a lively, humor-blessed way by Alfredo Petrov (Vol. 34, No. 4): the El Desierto mine, Potosi, a desolate salt flat whose western edge is mere hundreds of meters from the Chilean border, and where one breathes salt, volcanic dust, and sulfur fumes while digging for sulfur specimens. Alfredo Petrov himself (531 N. James St., Peekskill, NY 10566-2401) had about 50 toenail-to-miniature sulfur crystals and crystal clusters to sell, and Red Metal Minerals (109 N. Steel St., Ontonagon, MI 49953) had several flats in another room just down the hall in the Executive Inn. The sulfur crystals are elongated, skeletal, and misshapen in tortured-looking ways, but are very lustrous, and many are part-gemmy. The great majority of specimens are loose single crystals and loose subparallel groups, though a handful of small-cabinet matrix pieces were to be found in the Red Metal room.
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Last year a silver/tin deposit worked by co-operative miners in the vicinity of Oruro, Oruro Department, Bolivia produced some unknown number of what are surely the world's finest known specimens of metastibnite. Don't get too excited by "world's finest"--metastibnite (an amorphous phase of S[b.sub.2][S.sub.3]) has only been seen before now as red or reddish gray smears, stains and areas of alteration in antimony deposits, and these new specimens aren't pretty either, although they do feature solid metastibnite, in botryoidal crusts on massive pyrite. The metallic gray (though inwardly reddish) metastibnite coatings are finely bubbly and look "cooked out," but for all their slaggy appearance they are excellent specimens of a very rare species. Alfredo Petrov had a few, and Jaroslav Hyrsl (Heverova 222, 280 00 Kolin, Czech Republic) had dozens more small pieces and five larger ones (to 10 cm across).
The superstar metallic mineral from Bolivia this year, though, was bournonite, in about 40 fine specimens of various sizes, from the Viboras vein of the Machacamarca mine near Colavi, Potosi. These specimens were being proudly offered at the Main Show by Brian Kosnar of Mineral Classics (P.O. Box 2, Black Hawk, CO 80422), though a few were scattered elsewhere as well. Some years ago, you may recall, a number of very large, very sharp, unusually thin bournonite "cogwheels" emerged from this same place; they reach 10 cm across, but the trouble is that they are dull black, i.e. entirely lacking in any metallic-luster pizazz. The new specimens, by contrast, while they also feature flat cogwheels with twinning notches all around their perimeters, are highly lustrous, resembling the best of the old Cornwall bournonites (but thinner). The compound crystals reach 5 cm across, and sit up, in some cases edgewise, on matrix consisting of intergrown octahedral pyrite crystals to 1 cm, with minor sphalerite and tetrahedrite. These first-class bournonite specimens were reportedly found in the summer of 2003.
A just-as-major new Bolivian item is the 25 or so exceptional specimens of ferberite found last May in the hallowed Tasna mine, Nor Chichas Province, Potosi Department. Mike Bergmann brought these to the Westward Look show, and by Main Show time he had sold almost all of them, and no wonder: the sharp, jet-black, mirror-faced, bladed ferberite crystals reach 7 cm across individually, and their clusters, lacking matrix and devoid of associated species, range from 5 to 15 cm across. The minor edge-chipping on some of the large crystals, and stumps of broken-off crystals in a few of the large groups, did not dampen the feeding frenzy brought on in Mike's room by these magnificent specimens of ferberite.
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Finally from Bolivia, there is a new occurrence of vivianite, very different from the old ones, discovered in June 2003 at the Tomokoni mine, Colavi district, Potosi Department (just 200 meters from the Canutillos silver/tin mine, incorrectly shown on some labels as the source of the specimens). The vivianite crystals are of typical canted-wedge shape (think of playing-card diamonds), most of them fairly thick, reaching 9 cm; they are of good sea-green transparency, and more lustrous on the side faces than on the wide front faces. The only associated species are barite and siderite, in sparse patches of microcrystals. What's so unusual is that the matrix is a simple, brick-red, muddy-looking sandstone--not the metallic ore masses rich in secondary phosphates which we are used to seeing from the Huanuni and other Bolivian mines. Several hundred specimens of this material, it's said, came out, and at Tucson the greatest number were with Brian Kosnar, although Alfredo Petrov and Rob Lavinsky were well stocked as well.
Brazil also had new vivianite to offer--from the Cigana (also called the Jocao) mine, near Galileia, Minas Gerais. This is the material found in October/November of 2003 and mentioned, while it was still "newborn," by Bill Larson in his Munich report. In Tucson, Luis Menezes in the Executive Inn had the goods, i.e. about 20 nice miniature to cabinet matrix pieces and about 100 thumbnails. Thin, typically wedge-shaped crystals of vivianite to 11 cm across, of only medium luster but of good smoke-blue color and satisfying transparency, sit up on busy matrix of sharp, silvery muscovite plates, some with druses of pyrite microcrystals; and there are floater "flowers" of vivianite, consisting of offset crystals, with slightly curved faces, to 7 cm across. At the same occurrence, highly lustrous, transparent, very faintly smoky prisms of quartz to 25 cm were extracted. The best and the brightest of these, however, do not show vivianite in association.
While we're in Luis Menezes' room, let's admire his new stash of bright brown, lustrous monazite twins from Buenopolis, Minas Gerais: an old locality once worked by Ed Swoboda, who dug about 2,000 loose specimens from the topsoil there in the late 1970's. Luis' new specimens, like Ed's old ones, are thumbnails, with slightly rough-faced monazite crystals grown right through each other, in wing-shaped twins. There are also (while we're still with Luis) a couple of flats of very bright red-brown rutile thumbnail specimens from Diamantina, each one a floater consisting of stubby crystals in reticulated intergrowths, all artful angles and elbows.
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Meanwhile, elsewhere in the Executive Inn, Carlos Vasconcelos (Rua Afonso Pena, 3035, 35010-001 Governador Valadares, Minas Gerais, Brazil) was showing off about 25 gorgeous new elbaite specimens, from a pocket hit just this past January in the Aricanga pegmatite, Cruzeiro area, Minas Gerais. The crystals are a deep, lush, subtly yellowish green, lightly striated, very lustrous and totally gemmy. Most of them are terminated, which is remarkable, seeing as how they are all very thin, clustering loosely in delicate jackstraw groups. Individual thin-prismatic elbaite crystals reach 9 cm long, and the biggest jackstraw cluster is a dramatic 12 X 12 X 25 cm. This last specimen includes also a colorless prism of quartz, and large, hunky, faintly smoky quartz crystals are also found at the locality in sizes to 15 X 15 X 20 cm, most of them showing the thin, gemmy green elbaites as inclusions or half-embedded in surfaces. Brazilian tourmaline strikes again!
More modest, but very pretty, are the loose butterfly-twin specimens of calcite which began to emerge two years ago from Nonoai, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. In the ballroom of the Executive Inn, Maurice Eyraud of Minerama S.A. (49, Rue de la Republique, 42800 Rive De Gier, France) offered about a hundred loose twins--flattened and very thin, with shallow re-entrant angles--from 1 to 4 cm across the wingtips, of this milky white to colorless, lustrous calcite; there were also a very few matrix plates of cabinet size with butterflies perching all over them. The smaller frozen flutters of cute individual twins were priced at $10 to $100.
In the mineral world we generally don't hear much from Argentina, but possibly that's beginning to change. The odd pseudomorphs of hematite after magnetite from some desolate cinder-pit in Patagonia ("Mendoza" is the locality usually given) are still plentiful around the market, and now, from the same region ("in the middle of nothing," to quote the dealer's characterization) we have abundant, reasonably attractive specimens of andradite. The source is a skarn around an iron deposit once worked by an iron mine (closed since about 1940) at La Valenciana, Mendoza. The dealer in question, Jorge Raul Dascal of Patagonia Minerals (Mansilla 3511, 1425--Buenos Aires, Argentina), says that about 150 andradite specimens in all sizes were dug here in January 2004. Most of these were laid out on a table--unlabeled and roughly size-sorted, after the fashion of the magnetite offering of two years ago--in this dealership's Executive Inn room. Sharp, honey-brown to yellow-green dodecahedrons of andradite reaching 1.5 cm individually form clusters to 12 cm across, some on matrix of massive black hematite. The general resemblance is to the andradite crystals of Stanley Butte, Arizona, except that an elite few of the Argentinian specimens show lustrous, gemmy andradite crystals to 1 cm.
On, now, to the Old World. Earlier (apropos epidote/quartz from Peru) I mentioned that the Executive Inn room of Luis Miguel Fernandez Burillo was full of interesting things. Among these the most interesting were a handful of excellent torbernite specimens which, Luis said, had been found in July 2003 in an outcrop of kaolin and quartz at Calo, Soneira, La Coruna, Spain. This is a brand-new locality for torbernite, and, from the looks of these specimens, a significant and highly promising one. The very sharp torbernite crystals individually reach about 3 mm across; they are tabular and square-profiled although some are modified by secondary faces on and around the corners. They are a rich medium green and opaque (presumably partly dehydrated to meta-torbernite), and they form dense clusters on the chalky white matrix, some druses of smaller crystals filling cast-cavities in the punky quartz. Specimen sizes range from thumbnail to large miniature. Luis says that about 300 good pieces were found in all, covering a wide range of matrix sizes.
But the champion "classic" specimens of torbernite in recent years are surely the magnificent crystal groups from the Margabal mine, Entraygues, Aveyron, France: the old locality that was reborn very dramatically in the 1990's, when hundreds of world-class specimens hit the market (see the Denver report in March/April 1998, and Eric Asselborn's letter in Sept./Oct. 1998). Very recently, Daniel Trinchillo of DeTrin Minerals acquired about 50 superlative specimens of Margabal mine torbernite from a French collector, and in Tucson he marketed the stash. Thumbnail to small-cabinet crystal clusters display very sharp, blocky, well individualized torbernite crystals to 2.5 cm, some specimens showing interesting crests and coxcomb-growths of subparallel crystals; a first-rate thumbnail could be had for around $200. It is quite possible that this offering represents the last large market appearance of French torbernite at its best.
The Trinchillo dealership and the Van Scrivers of Heliodor operate out of a quite elegant venue at the Tucson Show: a big white house adjacent to the InnSuites, with three spacious rooms lined with glass cases, all chocked with outstanding specimens. Outside and behind the house, an open courtyard and big white tent contained more tempting selections of specimens, and the centerpiece of the area under the tent was a Chinese stibnite cluster measuring about 3 X 3 feet: the most absurdly gigantic stibnite I never could have imagined.
Bright, sharp, blue, tetragonal-bipyramidal crystals of scheelite from the very old mines of Baia Sprie (Felsobanya), Romania have been known for an indefinitely long time, but have always been very sparse on the modern market--this distinctive scheelite occurrence is, in my opinion at least, the most "elite" one for the species. Well, blue Romanian scheelite is still very rare (especially compared to the recent floods of gemmy orange crystals from China, Pakistan and Peru); however, a pocket found about a year ago at Baia Sprie produced about 40 fine specimens, a few of which were beguilingly scattered about the Tucson Show, most residing with Luis Burillo and (at the Main Show) with Ross Lillie of North Star Minerals. Mirror-faced and brilliantly lustrous, smoky blue to maroonish gray scheelite bipyramids rest lightly on a pristine white matrix of drusy dolomite. The scheelite crystals reach 3 cm, but the most brilliant among the larger ones average about 1.5 cm. These exquisite thumbnail specimens represent perhaps the best-yet expression of blue Romanian scheelite, and both dealers were pricing them in the low three figures.
Having mentioned those elegant display rooms in the old white house by the InnSuites where both the DeTrin and the Heliodor dealerships were holding court, I must also say that Brad Van Scriver of Heliodor filled a couple of shelves of one of the cases with a knockout batch of vanadinite specimens collected some years ago from prospects near the ACF mine, Mibladen, Morocco. Decades ago now, vanadinite-aficionado Wendell Wilson wrote a show report in which, concerning Moroccan vanadinite, he happily asked "will it ever end?" ... and still the answer is no, it hasn't ended, it's only continuing to get even better, and top specimens seem to be more abundant each year. Brad's specimens, collected in 1999/2000, range in size from 4 to 15 cm, and show amazingly sharp and brilliant hexagonal-tabular vanadinite crystals to 3.5 cm across sitting up perfectly on white barite matrix. Horst Burkard, Francois Lietard and Jordi Fabre were among many other dealers around the show who had almost-as-good Moroccan vanadinite specimens on hand.
Like Agatha Christie's Inspector Poirot, Gilbert Gauthier likes to remind people that he is Belgian, not French; but no one who knows the ever-bustling Gilbert needs reminding that he is always apt to come up with something exciting from central Africa. This year, at his stand in the ballroom of the Executive Inn, it was about a hundred very good, all-sized specimens of dioptase from the Tartara mine, Shinkolobwe, Katanga, Congo (Zaire). This old copper mine, 10 kilometers west-southwest of the town of Shinkolobwe, was worked in the early 20th century, closing before World War II, but the new specimens were gathered from the old workings by native diggers about two years ago. Medium-sharp, lustrous, deep green dioptase crystals to 2 cm line seams in white dolomite; some specimens also show massive bright blue chrysocolla, patches of drusy quartz, and tiny spheres of pale blue shattuckite. Large miniature and small cabinet specimens of this attractive (and "new") dioptase were priced by Gilbert up to $1,000.
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Kainosite-(Y) is a very rare carbonate/silicate of calcium and the rare-earth elements, of which the best specimens heretofore have been very small, gemmy crystals from Swiss and Austrian Alpine pockets. But in mid-2003 the complex, rare earths-rich alkaline pegmatite at Mt. Malosa in the Zomba district, Malawi (see the article in vol. 25, no. 1) produced about 15 specimens with kainosite-(Y) crystals to 4 cm growing in subparallel fan-shaped groups on a matrix of feldspar and aegirine. The opaque, dull, brownish yellow crystal fans are not pretty, but represent a giant quality-leap for the species (and their identity has been verified by Dr. Bruce Cairncross). Paul Botha of Southern Africa Minerals (P.O. Box 12027, Vorna Valley, 1686 South Africa) brought a very few specimens to Tucson, and promises (well, semi-promises) that more will be coming soon.
An altogether more beautiful new item from Africa is the orange ("Imperial") topaz now being dug from an undisclosed site in northern Zambia, so near the Congo border that the nearest identifiable entity is the town of Kolwezi, in Katanga, Congo. The loose topaz crystals, ranging from 1 to 8 cm long, are brilliantly lustrous and gemmy, and of a very rich orange (some slightly pinkish) color, very closely resembling their cousins from Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brazil, except that they have busier, more complex systems of secondary faces around the wedge terminations. Reportedly they are found loose in sand near some deeply weathered, presumably granitic, rock unit. Bill Larson mentioned these lovely crystals in his Munich report. In Tucson it was Brice and Christophe Gobin who brought about 20 crystals, first to the InnSuites, then to the Main Show, selling them for low three-figure prices.
Safari-ing on now into Asia, we make a quick stop in Kazakhstan to note that the famous dioptase specimens from Altyn-Tube are still appearing, as they did last year, and are continuing to improve. According to Ivo Szegeny of the KARP dealership (P.O. Box 54, 272 80 Kladno, Czech Republic), a Kazakhstan company is now systematically mining the Altyn-Tube limestone for specimens. Although these pieces were scattered widely about the show, the most and the best of them were in the KARP room at the Executive Inn: the dioptase crystals are deepest green, quite sharp, and reach 1.5 cm, occurring as loose groups or as generous strewings over white chunks of matrix to medium-cabinet size.
At the Westward Look show, Mike Bergmann flashed at me some loose rosette-clusters of azurite crystals. The rosettes are uniformly between 3 and 4 cm in diameter, not particularly lustrous but well composed, with small azurite blades all around 360[degrees]C of each sphere. The surprising locality is the Itauz mine near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan (a site which lately has been excelling in native copper specimens), situated in a large district of copper mines known primarily heretofore for its fine specimens of metallic minerals (Dzhezkazgan silver, copper, bornite, chalcocite, betekhtinite, etc.). It is stimulating to see, at last, presentable specimens of secondary copper minerals from this region--especially in quantities such as the 15 full flats offered by Mike.
I am tired by now, I confess, of writing about the wonders that have been pouring forth for about 15 years now from Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kraj, Russia--"will it ever end?"--but cannot refrain from mentioning this time an extremely nifty new habit of fluorite found there within the past year. Like the famous "ice cubes" and "invisible fluorites" of earlier times, these new crystals are absolutely transparent and colorless, but their faces are adorned with intricate, etched-looking ridges and swirls. Furthermore, instead of simple cubes they are cubo-dodecahedrons, of which a few pairs are spinel-law twinned in cozy offsets. The crystals reach 3 cm, and sit up well on a typical "Dal'negorsk" matrix of quartz crystals coated by dull greenish chlorite or clay. Several Russian dealers, plus KARP and Heliodor, had appealing small specimens--and my thumbnail cost only $20.
About a year ago a chromium mine near Gulbahar, Ghazni Province, Afghanistan produced generous numbers of matrix garnet specimens sporting bright apple-green, in some cases gemmy dodecahedral crystals of a garnet species which some dealers in Tucson were calling pyrope. However, according to Francois Lietard, who has had specimens tested at the Smithsonian and in Europe, the mineral is andradite. The crystals reach 2 cm across, and are thickly scattered (in the best specimens) on white matrix. Specimens were brought to Tucson by several wholesalers and other outdoor tent-type dealers, but the best I saw were with Francois in the Executive Inn and at the Main Show. Also, Francois offered about 100 miniature and small-cabinet specimens of a new, fairly attractive vesuvianite from the Siro Mountains, Khak district, Zabul Province, Afghanistan. The blocky, medium-lustrous crystals, individually reaching 5 cm, are intergrown as cavity-fillings in massive pale blue calcite: this makes for a nice, offbeat color effect, as the vesuvianite itself is orange-brown with green overtones.
But for my money, the most exciting new item from Afghanistan this time was the new, very pale, gemmy, lilac-colored scapolite in sharp, well terminated, beautiful crystals in matrix. These were collected at (or somewhere near) the classic Sar-e-Sang, Badakhshan locality revered for centuries for its lazurite crystals. Not many of these lilac gem scapolites were around, and the great majority of them are loose, generally rather rough single crystals measuring from less than 1 cm to 7 cm. The very rare specimens in which the gem crystals stand upright in a mottled brown/white matrix are of exceptional beauty, and surely represent a world-class occurrence of scapolite (usually so opaquely dull white and uninteresting). Brice and Christophe Gobin of the Gobin Sarl dealership had a couple of premium matrix pieces, and more liberal numbers of specimens (nearly all just loose crystals, however) were found in the Executive Inn room of Jamal UI Hasnain Gillani (No. 1, 2nd Floor, Al-Jalil Market, Namak Mandi, Peshawar, Pakistan).
Late November/early December of 2003 saw a discovery of world-beating crystals of xenotime at Torghar, Kyber Agency, Pakistan--about 10 km from the earlier-known Zagi Mountain locality which has also lately produced exceptional specimens of xenotime (see the full article on Zagi Mountain elsewhere in this issue). The Torghar xenotime specimens are loose, parallel-growth crystal clusters of thumbnail and small miniature size, and the sharp, lustrous, pale brown, blocky to elongated xenotime prisms reach 4 cm. About a dozen specimens were with Dudley Blauwet (of Mountain Minerals International) at the Main Show.
Then there are the very nice, petite specimens of lustrous black magnetite in sharp, lightly striated dodecahedrons to 2 cm or so, from the Laila Base Camp, Haramosh Mountains north of Dusso, Gilgit Division, Pakistan. At the Main Show, Francois Lietard had a whole flat of these, with the floater singles and two or three-crystal clusters, mostly of thumbnail size, priced around $15 apiece.
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India checked in this year, as usual, with a few new discoveries made recently in the Deccan zeolite province (see the January-February 2003 Special Issue for abundant background). Stilbite in big, thick, lustrous, creamy white to pale orange bowtie aggregates was found at two different sites last year, 250 kilometers apart in Maharashtra state: Sangamner, Ahmednagar, and a well-digging in the Aurangabad district. At the former place, the sharp bowties reach 15 cm across; most are loose, having been found as floaters in the soil, but there are a few specimens with the stilbite resting on large matrix plates of weathered basalt. Specimens from the Aurangabad locality are similar, but do an interesting color-change trick: pure white when they emerged, they have since acquired a distinct orange tint from exposure to sunlight. The Aurangabad site also yielded about 500 fair-to-good specimens of powellite, with translucent white to pale orange, rounded clusters of powellite "points" to 8 cm across with the stilbite. Next we come to the famous Malad quarry complex near Mumbai (Bombay), from whence have lately emerged about 20 winsome thumbnail specimens of lustrous pinkish orange stilbite (or stellerite--no species-determination has yet been made), as spherical 2-cm clusters to which adhere patches of chalky white zeolitic material. Finally, from Savda, near Jalgaon, there are about 35 miniature specimens of stilbite heavily coated and included by dull greenish black julgoldite in microcrystals and brushy sprays to 2 cm--the sprays being quite a remarkable performance for this rare, albeit unpretty, species. All these Indian goodies were being offered in the Executive Inn by K. C. Pandey of Superb Minerals India.
From China this year, once again, calcite and fluorite showed up from (it seems) hundreds of places, in hundreds of habits and associations; and what man or woman presumeth to name and number them all? Well, actually, in the case of the calcite, a good start has been made by Dr. Guanghua Liu, in his chapter on Chinese calcite in the recent ExtraLapis English on Calcite--check it out. Meanwhile I'll only mention the 15 or so outstanding calcite specimens, said to have been collected last year at an unnamed metal mine near the village of Lian Xian, in Guangdong Province, which were brought to Tucson by the Bear Connections dealership. I learned of these specimens from ogling the best one of the lot, a spectacular double-fist-sized piece acquired by calcite collector Terry Huizing and placed by him, lovingly, in the What's New case in the lobby of the Executive Inn. A first generation of calcite growth expresses itself in sharp, perfect scalenohedrons to 7 cm, uniformly coated by sparkling drusy quartz; on these crystals grows a second generation of calcite of radically different aspect--perfect, creamy white and uncoated, tabular "poker chip" crystals to 4 cm across. Terry's big specimen, with both habits excellently developed, is a dramatic contrast-in-sameness viewing experience.
Perhaps the most buzzworthy of Chinese fluorite this year was the new group of cabinet specimens (some to 25 cm across) found late in 2003 at the De An mine, Jian Jiang, Jiangxi Province. Supersharp, simple octahedrons of fluorite to 4 cm on edge are intergrown in flattish clusters without matrix, and on thin white quartz plates--having been etched away from the masses of quartz in which they grew as seam-fillings. The fluorite crystals are quite beautiful: translucent, with frosted faces, a dim sea-green in lamplight, a very bright green in sunlight, with thin purplish zones along crystal edges. Spectacular specimens were being offered by Chris Wright, Jordi Fabre, Daniel Trinchillo, Rob Lavinsky and a few Chinese dealers.
For several years now we've seen, sparingly, specimens of the lovely deep brown to pale brown, transparent cassiterite crystals which come from the Amo mine, Ximeng, Yunnan Province. No new, spectacular lots of these specimens appeared in any one place at Tucson, but it seems well to mention that quite a few dealers, including Dr. Liu of AAA Liu's Minerals (Franzosische Allee 24, D-72072, Tubingen, Germany) brought modest supplies, and some of the smaller specimens are impressive indeed: some of the gemmy cassiterite crystals are butterfly-twinned, while others are oddly flattened, appearing as squarish tablets to 4 cm in tight intergrowths. The Amo is a tin mine, still active, although no new cassiterite specimens of any importance have emerged from it, according to Dr. Liu, since about 1997.
A really new Chinese occurrence is of wire silver, with lustrous, slightly iridescent, curling wires to 2 mm thick, in loose snarls and nests, from Kunming, Yunnan Province. The rumor (already!) is that the gold mine in which the silver occurs is mined out, and no new specimens will appear. The ones seen in Tucson were found, reportedly, in summer 2003. Loose nests of this fine wire silver from thumbnail size to 15 cm across were offered in the InnSuites by Casey Jones of Geoprime Minerals, and in the ballroom of the Executive Inn by Georg Gebhard.
On the China Section's back page it should be mentioned that the specimens of cuprite variety chalcotrichite from the Daye mining area, seen very sparingly around the show, give promise of things to come that might rival Bisbee's achievement in the chalcotrichite line. And many dealerships still offered fair-to-good specimens of the sensational mimetite from the Pingtouling mine, Guangdong, which wowed us last year. One rumor has it that "several" new mimetite pockets have been found recently in the mine, although, for what it's worth, none of this year's specimens seemed to me to differ in any essential way from last year's. They could have come from a different pocket (some are now available on a limonite matrix), but need not have.
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Down-under at the bottom of this tour/report there are three items from Australia. In one earlier report I mentioned seeing some middling specimens of the ferrocolumbite which is intermittently collected from the dumps of the Giles pegmatite prospect, Spargoville, Western Australia, where active questing for columbium and tantalum (and for aquamarine crystals) ceased in the late 1970's. Last year at Spargoville, Ben Nicholson found about 130 good ferrocolumbite specimens, including perhaps 10 which far exceed any taken out earlier, and quite a few of these were being sold in the InnSuites by New Find Minerals (P.O. Box 1096, Dickson, ACT 2602. Australia). The sharp, black prismatic crystals reach 6 cm; all possess a decent submetallic luster, and a very few are doubly terminated. Most of the crystals are loose and from less than 50% to more than 90% complete, in sizes from 1.5 to 5 cm, but the really impressive pieces are the matrix specimens, with the stately-looking, no-nonsense ferrocolumbite crystals resting, more than half exposed, in quartz/albite/microcline. The very best piece was purchased by Carolyn Manchester, and reposed for a few days in the What's New case in the Executive Inn.
The Red Dome mine, Chillagoe, Queensland has recently become known as the source of clusters of gemmy, deep red, cubic cuprite crystals. There were no new lots of these on hand in Tucson, but, at the Westward Look show, Miner's Lunchbox displayed about 30 cabinet specimens (and more than that number of thumbnails and miniatures) of beautiful calcite found in solution cavities in the open pit last November--by far the best calcite I have yet seen from this locality. Rounded, extremely complex crystals showing many forms, but scalenohedral in general aspect, reach 12 cm; they are colorless, transparent, and highly lustrous, and occur as large singles, as groups of two or three crystals without matrix, and (rarely) as crystals resting on pieces of a grayish corroded limestone.
A great and august classic locality is last of all. At the Broken Hill mine in New South Wales about 10 years ago, a couple of hundred fine specimens of smithsonite were collected, and nearly all were being marketed this year in the InnSuites and at the Main Show by Tom Kapitany of Crystal World (1672 Princes Hwy, Oakleigh East 3166, Melbourne, Australia). The smithsonite appears as lustrous gray-white translucent "dewdrops" strewn all over thin spikes and laths of dull black coronadoite. The individual dewdrops are never larger than 5 mm, but they hang richly and ornamentally on the black floater shards of manganese oxide. Specimen sizes range from 1.5 to about 8 cm, and good thumbnails run around $50. This is the classic Broken Hill smithsonite you've read about (a good picture appears on p. 232 of Bill Birch's Minerals of Broken Hill, 1999), and this was your chance to get a fine one--if, of course, you were there, as you know you should have been.
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I have already tried to communicate something of the extra-special excitement at the Main Show this year, because of the show's fiftieth anniversary and because of all that GOLD which was brought to town for the occasion. The general hue and cry and the expressions of worshipful awe around those gold cases were just what one would expect, and so, instead of running superlatives predictably around the old track, I will simply say that the major gold cases included the following: Gold Mines of Transylvania (with specimens showing visible crystals of petzite, hessite and alabandite)--Bill Pinch; a gorgeous case with gold coins, assay scales, books, pictures, etc., and superb specimens including the famous "tree root" California gold--Wayne and Dona Leicht; twelve tremendous old golds from the Burrage collection--Harvard; Native Elements of the Gold Group--A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum; a small but densely packed, luscious case of miscellaneous gold specimens--Keith and Mauna Proctor; Gold of Papua New Guinea--Larry and Bec Queen and Larry Queen, Sr.; Gold From the Western U.S.--Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; Australian Gold--Penny Williamson and Paul Carr of the University of Wollongong; the "Boot of Cortez," a 32.5-pound nugget found with a metal detector in the Sonoran Desert in 1989--St. Troy Consolidated Mines, Ltd.; golds from the Smithsonian, including the great, famous, foot-high "Seaweed"; The Literature of Crystallized Gold (with fine old crystal models and drawings)--Geo-Literary Society and the Gemological Institute of America; Gold Mining Memorabilia--Herb and Monika Obodda; Gold From Unusual Places, and Gold Fakes (including a really quite handsome specimen of gold-plated pyrite, with perfect 2-cm pyritohedrons)--Society of Mineral Museum Professionals; the Fricot nugget (really a brilliant crystal specimen about 45 cm wide, found in California in 1865--it is shown on the front and back cover of the second Gold Issue, vol. 18, no. 1)--California State Mining and Mineral Museum; Famous Collectors and Their Gold Specimens, 1500-1900 (a fascinating historical case with antique Transylvanian golds, old labels, title pages of books back to Cronstedt (1770), pictures of old, dagger-moustachioed European aristocrats who collected gold, etc.)--Christel Gebhard-Giesen. And there were other sumptuous cases of just plain great gold specimens put in by, among others, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, the American Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie Museum, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Rice Northwest Museum, and several private collectors. Oh yes, and at one end of the hall was the traveling exhibit of the "Ship of Gold" (see the article by Q. David Bowers in the January-February 2004 issue), where crowds kept lining up all day to see the gold coins and ingots retrieved almost mint-fresh from the seabed where they had rested since 1857.
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On the "Gadsden Purchase" theme there were many displays making clear why the U.S. made a good buy 150 years ago, especially as measured by treasures in secondary mineral species from weathered metallic deposits. Two magisterial cases on Bisbee, with specimens and memorabilia, were put in by Evan Jones, and two others, just as beautiful, by Richard Graeme III and his two sons (possessors of the world's best private collection of Bisbee minerals, to which Dick seems entitled enough, since he wrote the special Bisbee issue of September-October 1981). Dawn Minette let us see again the accumulation of exquisite Bisbee azurite roses which her husband Jim came onto not too long before his death: the now famous "Shoebox" hoard of small specimens mined in the late 1890's. John C. McClean, Tony Potucek and the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum also displayed rich arrays of Bisbee specimens. More broadly, there were two large, geologically erudite cases on Minerals of the Gadsden Purchase, respectively by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and the University of Arizona Mineral Museum; still more fine cases on the Gadsden theme were put in by the Arizona Mineral & Mining Museum Foundation, Bob and Susan Weaver, Dick Morris, Mark Hay, Les and Paula Presmyk, Ed and Aleta Huskinson, Mike and Mary Jaworski, David A. Witwer, John and Karen Cesar, and Robbie and Bill McCarty. And special cheers go to Sam Elbin, whose case showed Arizona specimens resting on photocopies of the appropriate articles from the Arizona special issues of the Mineralogical Record.
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But even two charismatic show themes did not fully embrace all the wonderful things to be seen in that long, long row of showcases laid grandly down the middle of the Convention Center floor. Let's see, now: there was the majestic 198.6-carat "Bismarck sapphire" set in a diamond and platinum necklace--Smithsonian; two sprawling Elmwood mine, Tennessee cases full of large, melodramatically gorgeous calcites--one case by Dennis Fischer, the other from the Joe Kielbaso and Bryan Brookmyer collections; a case showing most of the Lidstrom Trophy-winning specimens from between 1978 and 2003--organized by Gene Meieran; a big end case loaded with stunners from the Deccan Plateau, India--Steve and Clara Smale; another end case with very large, assorted dropdead pieces, include the "dinner plate" or "fruit basket" Sweet Home rhodochrosite--Keith and Mauna Proctor; a case of quartz from Brandberg, Namibia, including fantastic amethyst and other scepter specimens--Charlotte and Marshall Sussman; a case of elegant thumbnails and miniatures--Wendell Wilson; fine "general" specimens--Matilda Pfeiffer; a case on the minerals of the Apuan Alps, Tuscary, with background pictures showing everything from specimen photomicrographs to sweaty marblequarriers--Paolo Orlandi, Giovanni Bracci, Renato and Adriana Pagano; and a first-in-Tucson general display of fine specimens by the Natural History Museum of Luxembourg. Other cases did good jobs of addressing other specialty themes: prehnite--Henry and Patsy Schmidt; Russian alexandrite--Ural Gemological Association; twinned quartz--Si and Ann Frazier; the Kladno coal deposit, Czech Republic--KARP; inclusions in quartz--Jaroslav Hyrsl; native silver--Al and Sue Liebetrau; and Himalayan minerals--Mineralogical Association of Dallas.
However, among the non-gold and non-Gadsden cases the one which impressed me most and held me longest was a fairly small, inconspicuously situated case put in by some very hard-working people (as they must have been) from the Natural History Museum of London: "Mineral Classics From Cornwall and Devon." Here, just about every one of the 22 antique specimens was an education in mineral history and mineral "classicism"; most of these pieces once belonged to the pioneering Cornwall collector Philip Rashleigh (1729-1811) and, in the case, many of these had accompanying colorplates reproduced from Sowerby's British Mineralogy (1804-1817). A 12-cm specimen of chalcophyllite from Wheal Gorland, collected ca. 1792, shows vugs with rich blue-green platy crystals to 1 cm. A sparkling 10-cm specimen of galena pseudomorphs after pyromorphite from Wheal Hope dates to ca. 1822. Two vivid liroconite miniatures sport sharp crystals to 2 cm. Here also were a giant Herodsfoot mine bournonite; the famous, big siderite epimorph after fluorite from the Virtuous Lady mine in Devon; an astonishing (for Cornwall) acanthite from Wheal Newton with sharp, stacked octahedrons to 2 cm; and a magnificent (more modern) specimen of gold from Hope's Nose, Devon, with delicate ferny growths all over its 10 x 10-cm surface.
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The Saturday night awards ceremony led off with a zippy Bob Jones talk about the show's 50-year history, then morphed into an auction (Terry Wallace, esteemed auctioneer) highlighted by the sale of a "Martian meteorite," a gray-painted lump of styrofoam two feet tall, which went for, I think, $100 to some ironic bidder. Then, rather more seriously, came the awards. The Lidstrom Trophy for best single specimen in the show was won by Allan Young for his astonishing thumbnail specimen of Magnet Cove, Arkansas brookite (illustrated in the What's New column in March-April 2004). The Friends of Mineralogy award for the best article in the Mineralogical Record was a dead-heat tie between Berthold Ottens' "Indian Zeolites" (the January-February Special Issue) and, well, my own article (with Peter Megaw) on the Ojuela mine, Mexico (the September-October Special Issue); consequently both articles received the award. Awards for competitive gold specimens were won by Ann Frazier (thumbnail), Dawn Minette (toenail), Von Ceil Bleess (miniature), Paul Harter (small cabinet), and Francis Sousa (Arizona gold). The Miguel Romero Award for the best single Mexican specimen in the show was taken (again!) by Kerith Graeber. And Gene and Roz Meieran took the Desautels Trophy for the show's best case of specimens, and Gene himself was this year's recipient of the Carnegie Mineralogical Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to the field of mineralogy and mineral collecting.
Some big changes in the hotel-show scene are afoot for next year--Marty Zinn will be pulling his Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show out of the aging Executive Inn and resettling it at the Smuggler's Inn at 6350 E. Speedway (about 15 or 20 minutes due east of the Executive Inn). The Executive Inn management intends to promote its own show in the wake of Marty's departure, but we suspect the mineral dealers will want to stick with Marty and stay together. In any case, that Tucson Experience is still a long way off ... I hope you've enjoyed, if only vicariously, the remarkable one that was offered this year.
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|Title Annotation:||What's New in Minerals|
|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||May 1, 2004|
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