Tucson show 2010.
We Tucson residents have complex attitudes about our weather. Certainly we are understanding of those who flee town when temperatures top 100[degrees] F, as temperatures are apt to do on most days between mid-May and late September. But at the same time we cherish highly--in some cases, one might say, weather-snobbishly--all of the comfort and beauty that come with the rest of the year. As we welcome the great February burst of visitor-drawing, economy-spurring, carnival-like activity which is "The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase," we glibly observe that our sunny skies and temperatures in the 70s are a main reason for the show's huge success these past 55 years. But in late January/early February 2010, as horrendous blizzards hit the east coast, especially the Washington-Baltimore-Philadelphia area, and it became clear that a great many visitors from the mid-Atlantic states would be unable to fly out to our Show as planned, complacency may have morphed to empathy and even compassion. At the Main Show, in one of the cases reserved for the Smithsonian Institution, there was a placard explaining that part of a planned display of gem crystals would not be appearing, i.e. was stuck in the airport snow back in Washington, D.C. The thought of all those wonders frozen in place back there may have chastened (rather than reinforcing) a hard case or two of weather-snobbery in these parts. As if for further chastening, the righteous weather gods sent down three atypical days of soaking, cold rain during early phases of the hotel show. Okay, we get it, we're to apply the ancient injunction hic sic ex firmamentae nix hubris, that is, Take not pride in thy weather, O desert peoples, for Weather is mightier, and let's just add ornerier, than thou art.
The Smithsonian people were able to bring out a few small things to fit this year's theme of "Gems and Gem Minerals"--such as for instance the diadem of the French Empress Josephine, presented to her in 1810 by Napoleon I, and also a stunning case full of faceted gems. In other words the Show did Go On, and indeed seemed healthy and full of pep at most of its many venues. The TGMS reports a robust figure of around 18,000 for Main Show attendance. A few hotel dealerships (e.g. Edwards Minerals, Rocksaholics, Mike Shannon) had moved this year from their former spots in the Executive Inn to larger rooms (fronting a pretty interior courtyard) at the Pueblo/Riverpark Inn show. Another change of note is that Marty Zinn's most mineral-rich hotel, the one with the comfy courtyard graced by orange trees, has had its name changed by management: it is no longer the InnSuites but the less distinctive "Hotel Tucson City Center." The entrance sign's fine print, though, still says "InnSuites," and I suspect that the faithful who come each year will continue to call the place that, at least for a while. On the traffic front the good news was that all of the downtown exits from 1-10, along the west side of town, were open this year, following completion of a massive multi-year renovation of the freeway.
As already noted, "Gems and Gem Minerals" constituted the primary show theme at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society's "Main Show" at the Convention Center, but an exhibition on another and more unusual topic. Mineral Art, also held sway both at the Main Show and at Dave Waisman's Westward Look Show on the weekend of February 5-7. A wide aisle at the Main Show was lined on one side by 6 X 6-foot vertical cases holding paintings of mineral specimens and mineral-related subjects by four long-practiced, lavishly talented artists. Specifically, there were 17 (mostly oil) paintings of wulfenite, silver sulfosalts, tanzanite, mining scenes and other subjects by Wendell Wilson; there were 18 glowing acrylic paintings of specimens by Susan Robinson; there were 16 examples of Eberhard Equit's fantastically finely detailed watercolors of (mostly German) mineral specimens in their natural sizes; and there were 21 exquisite watercolor paintings, also natural size, by Hildegard Konighofer of Graz, Austria (who has, by the way, just published a new book of her mineral art). In many cases the specimen paintings were accompanied by the actual specimens depicted, and all in all this Main Show was rendered uniquely memorable by all the beautiful art.
At the Sunday night "mineral art" symposium at the Westward Look show, Wendell Wilson moderated a panel discussion among these same four artists, and gave a powerpoint presentation on the history of mineral art. Along one wall of the room were displayed works by other mineral artists, including Gamini Ratnavira, Frederick Wilda, Brandy Naugle, Gail Spann, Chris Hughes, Sophia Kelly Shultz, Steve Sorrell and Sarah Sudcowsky. While on the subject of goings-on at the Westward Look I cannot neglect to mention that this year's featured private collector was Will Larson (son of Bill), who filled one of his two allotted cases in the hotel lobby with fine "general" specimens, and filled the other exclusively with specimens from Japan. A display is a special treat when it shows you things you hardly knew existed, and that's how it was, at least for this viewer, with Will's array of wonderful Japanese pieces, some old and classic, some new and very surprising.
There is much to review, so let the what's-new tour commence.
Arizona collector/dealer Evan Jones, well-known son of Bob Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org), showed up with the good news that this copper-rich state is not yet finished producing significant new finds of azurite. The Carlota copper mine near Miami in Gila County opened early last year, and on October 24, 2009 it gave up about 200 specimens showing bright, blocky, deep blue azurite crystals to 2.5 cm. The specimens that Evan had on hand at the Main Show range from thumbnail size to matrix plates 30 cm across covered with azurite crystals. In some cases the matrix is earthy green malachite, while in others it is massive azurite with white to yellow to pale green veinings of microcrystallized powellite. More rarely the pocket zone produced slightly rough malachite pseudomorphs after azurite to 7 cm: Evan had five miniature to small cabinet-size specimens showing the pseudocrystals. No further specimen-bearing pocket zones have been hit since October in the Carlota mine but, Evan says, there is hope for some projected mineralized zones on the next bench down from the present workings.
At the Westward Look Show, French dealer Alain Martaud (email@example.com) had some interesting specimens of helvite dug in 2002 from a single pocket in a calcite-filled vein at the Tungsten Hill mine, Gage, Victoria Mountains, Luna County, New Mexico. The small miniature-size matrix specimens display sharp, orange-brown to yellow, tetrahedral crystals of helvite to 1.5 cm resting on massive bluish white mixtures of calcite and quartz.
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Now westward to California, from which Golden State there is much to tell of (including some gold) this time. First, in the Inn Suites ballroom, Doug Wallace of Mineral Search, Inc. (www.mineralsearchinc.com) had a few flats of excellent specimens of what's been analytically shown to be a niobium-rich rutile (with Nb content up to 25%), dug about 20 years ago by Bob Rudenz at an undisclosed site in Inyo County. The rutile crystals are sharp, dark reddish brown, and blocky to thick-tabular, with good submetallic luster, and reach 4 cm; they rest lightly in pale gray-brown matrix of what appears to be rhyolite. There were about 100 thumbnails and a few small miniatures with Doug. He said that Rob Lavinsky of The Arkenstone purchased a few of the larger pieces.
Late in the show, with action at the Convention Center already well under way, I got a call from Doug Wallace concerning three very unusual gold specimens that a grizzled old free-lance miner (actually I didn't see him, but let's stipulate that all free-lance gold miners are "grizzled" and "old") had just delivered to him at the InnSuites. The specimens are loose, flattened masses of vein gold with only traces of quartz. The two largest specimens measure 4 X 8 cm and 5X8 cm, and all along their top edges are brilliant druses of gold crystals to 5 mm individually. What had Doug (as well as curators Carl Francis and Anthony Kampf) enthused and perplexed is that the gold crystals are pseudo-hexagonal prisms, with morphologies just like typical, simple beryl or apatite crystals. John Rakovan's plausible speculation is that, in these distorted crystals, the "basal pinacoid" faces are really (111) octahedron faces and the "prisms" are really dodecahedron faces. In any case these are very fine gold specimens; their purported source is an outcropping quartz vein which overlooks a spot on the north fork of the Yuba River.
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During the 2008 Tucson Show, Bill Larson brought to the Westward Look some nice specimens of aquamarine and morganite beryl which had lately been won from the pegmatite at the Ocean View mine, Pala district, San Diego County (see the show report in May-June 2008). This year the Ocean View mine came up with something a bit more surprising: its first significant production of kunzite spodumene since 1956. Most of the 50 or so kunzite crystals found in December 2009 were in the InnSuites room of Bruce Wood Minerals (www.brucewoodminerals.net), though a handful of the very best could be seen in a Main Show display case put in by Mark Mauthner. The crystals, ranging from 3 to 10 cm long, are partially etched but almost wholly gemmy, with a pale to medium purplish pink color; their prices start at $200 but climb rapidly from there. As we've been spoiled of late by giant gem kunzite crystals from Afghanistan with sharp, fully formed terminations, it's necessary to say that these California crystals have only rough terminations--but they are still among the best kunzites to have come from California in quite a few years.
Every October, cadres of California collectors who don't too much mind sinking up to their hamstrings in layers of dense saline mud go hunting for crystals of hanksite, northupite, sulphohalite and other water-soluble sulfates at Searles Lake, San Bernardino County. October 2009 was a very good month for these folks, as about f 50 of the best-ever-found crystals and crystal clusters of sulphohalite were taken out, most of them by Steve Perry and John Seibel, and John had some of the best pieces in his room at the Inn Suites (firstname.lastname@example.org). Offered here were sharp, pale yellow-brown and translucent, simple octahedral crystals of sulphohalite to 3 cm, either as single floaters or clustered in groups to 7 cm. A look with a loupe at some of the specimens reveals attached microcrystals of trona, halite and hanksite. John Seibel also had about 20 cabinet-size pieces of gray-brown volcanic breccia with embedded crystals of orthoclase in attractively ivory-white, sculpted-looking Carlsbad twins to 4 cm. The volcanic outcrop at Water Canyon, Cinco, Kern County, has yielded such specimens, John says, since about 1925, and continues generously to do so.
Finally there's a "teaser" from California that inspires hope for an exciting follow-up later this year, perhaps at the Denver Show. Late in 2009 Scott Kleine of Great Basin Minerals (www.greatbasinminerals.com) did some poking around in a roadcut somewhere in Nevada County, and in a quartz vein exposed there he found some gemmy, lustrous, rich brown crystals of axinite (probably axinite-Fe) averaging 2.5 cm, though the largest one of Scott's batch measures an impressive 4.5 cm. Associated with the loose crystals and crystal groups of axinite are lustrous, snow-white albite crystals to 1 cm. Nothing yet is for sale from the small stash of specimens which Scott had in a single flat under his bed at the InnSuites, but he is optimistic about what he'll find when he returns this summer to follow the quartz vein. These promising axinites resemble, though they are not to be confused with, the old-timers from New Melones Lake in Calaveras County.
Another attraction in Scott Kleine's Great Basin Minerals room was about 100 specimens, thumbnail size to 12 cm across, of wulfenite from the Mobile mine, Goodsprings district, Clark County, Nevada. The lustrous, thin to medium-thick, tabular wulfenite crystals reach 3 cm and are of a pleasant caramel-orange color; most are simply square in outline but a few are eight-sided "stopsigns." Most of Scott's specimens are thumbnail-size crystal groups without matrix, but the larger pieces show wulfenite crystals resting on buff-colored altered limestone with sparse white encrustations of aragonite. The Mobile mine has been abandoned since ca. the 1920s, but the new wulfenites were found recently in an old stope by Keith Wentz. Oh yes, and while in Nevada I will observe that Mike Bergmann (www.mikebergmannminerals.com) has come into a hoard of about 100 superb specimens of gold from the famous Round Mountain, Nevada locality (see Wendell Wilson's article in March-April 2008). The loose crystal groups, thumbnail to 5 cm in size, show very bright gold as loose leaves, dendrites, or hoppered octahedral crystals. The specimens were collected in 2007 and 2008, and were moving fast in Mike's room at the Westward Look Show.
Among Utah's most famous mineralogical products are the bright orange, resplendently gemmy crystals of topaz from cavities in rhyolite in the Thomas Range, Juab County. These prismatic, well terminated crystals, some associated with sharp black cubic bixbyite crystals, are hardly "new," having been first discovered in 1859 (according to a 1979 article by Lanny Ream: see vol. 10, no. 5)--but hundreds of excellent specimens in a wide range of sizes were taken out by the hard-working specimen miners of Collector's Edge Minerals (www.collectorsedge.com) in the summer of 2009. The topaz crystals found at the collecting site (called Maynard's Claim, after the discoverer, Maynard Bixby) range from less than 1 cm to 7.5 cm. The thumbnail-size specimens are mostly single crystals perched on (and partly included by) pale gray rhyolite, but some miniatures are aesthetic "crosses" of doubly terminated topaz crystals. All of the crystals are of a lush, gemmy orange hue ... and if their scrupulous owners will take care to store them in dark places their color is not likely to give out before the owners do.
Other long-familiar collectibles from the western U.S. are the goethite, blue-green microcline ("amazonite") and smoky quartz from miarolitic pockets in granite exposed at many sites in the Pikes Peak batholith of central Colorado. Well, the Smoky Hawk specimen mine, operated since 1998 by Joe Dorris, last summer produced some of the finest large goethite specimens ever found anywhere, and Joe was proudly offering some of these in the InnSuites room of his Pinnacle 5 Minerals LLC dealership (www.pinnacle5mmerals.com). Brilliantly lustrous, brown-black, bladed goethite crystals and crystal sheaves to 3 cm line deep open cavities to 21 cm across in these large-cabinet pieces; in smaller specimens, orange-brown goethite blades form hedgehog-like aggregates perched on quartz crystals. The goethite-bearing cavities were found in the upper part of a mineralized zone in the Pikes Peak granite. Lower down in the zone, Joe collected beautiful groups of deep green microcline crystals (including some "whitecaps") to 6 cm individually, with smaller crystals of smoky quartz, albite and pale violet fluorite. This was the most impressive suite of newly collected Pikes Peak specimens I have seen in some time.
A final U.S. item likewise represents new finds at an old place--this time on the other side of the country. At the Main Show, Kevin Downey of the Well-Arranged Molecules dealership (www.wellarrangedmolecules.com) was marketing about a dozen fine miniature to small cabinet-size specimens of babingtonite from the Lane traprock quarry at Westfield, Hampden County, Massachusetts. Now, we are all aware that the hands-down world's best babingtonites are those which have emerged from China in recent years, but the Lane quarry was the earlier champion occurrence. The quarry was in commercial operation in the late 19th century, then lay fallow for decades, then was revived in the mid-1990s, when notable babingtonite specimens trickled out once more (see the Springfield Show report in November-December 1999). The specimens that Kevin Downey brought to Tucson were collected about ten years ago from loose boulders in the quarry; they are sections of seams from which the white calcite has been partly etched out, revealing sharp, jet-black, wedge-shaped babingtonite crystals to about 2 cm in lustrous groups, many rising from a matrix of punky, pale green, much-weathered basalt. Kevin says that about three flats of top specimens were collected in all, ranging in size from small-miniature through 20 cm across.
Ross Lillie of North Star Minerals in West Bloomfield, Michigan (www.northstarminerals.com) usually has something new from Romania, Bulgaria, or the midwestern U.S., but this time, in his InnSuites room, he had specimens from a new find of fluorite in the La Farge Dundas quarry, Dundas, Ontario, Canada. These are the dozen or so best of about 125 pieces found in the quarry in August-September 2009. The fluorite comes out as highly lustrous, transparent (though with some internal crazing), simple cubic crystals to 4 cm on edge, of a very nice pale yellow-brown color. Some specimens are loose cubes of small-miniature size while others are matrix pieces to 15 cm across showing liberal numbers of gleaming fluorite cubes resting on pale brown, fine-grained limestone. Prices for these attractive additions to anyone's fluorite suite range between $50 and $450.
A still more beautiful fluorite, together with much else that is beautiful, is now emerging from the Ojuela mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico (will this 400-year-old locality ever run dry?). As you can read in our Mexico II special issue on the Ojuela mine (September-October 2003), fluorite specimens of varying styles have come intermittently from the mine for decades, the best ones, arguably, having been those showing gemmy deep purple cubo-dodecahedral crystals to 4 cm from the "San Carlos" section on Level 2. But now, from a mineralized zone between Levels 1 and 2, purple fluorite specimens putting the earlier ones to shame have emerged. They are loose crystal groups of miniature size and matrix specimens to about 12 cm across, the latter with fluorite crystals resting on typically earthy brown gossan. The simple cubic, deep purple fluorite crystals reach 3.5 cm on edge, and they are totally gemmy and of such high luster that they look oiled (but Jason New and his father Mike swear that the crystals have not been oiled, and we may certainly trust these honest fellows). Last year, at both the Denver and Munich shows, I saw foreshadowings of the new cubic, mega-bright Ojuela fluorites, and indeed Jason New's 15 or so absolutely top specimens all were found in spring 2009. The very best of them were on view in a knockout case by Jason at the Main Show, entitled, enticingly, "A Year of Mexican Minerals," since it held only Mexican specimens mined during the preceding twelve months. Besides the wonderful Ojuela fluorites the case held Ojuela rosasite specimens with smooth, baby-blue rosasite spheres to 4 cm diameter, some with thin, water-clear calcite crystals. There was also malachite in dark green, ropy flows and hemispheres coating cabinet-size pieces of matrix; fine examples of the now familiar Ojuela wulfenite and aurichalcite-included calcite; Milpillas mine azurite; 10-cm subparallel crests of white barite crystals on drusy amethyst (the first good barite from the amethyst fields of Las Vigas, Veracruz); spectacular Navidad mine, Durango creedite and Cerro de Mercado, Durango fluorapatite specimens ... and still more. Jason New isn't selling off the very best of these items yet, but if you want to get his attention you may do so through his father, wholesaler Mike New of Top Gem Minerals (www.topgem.com).
Jesus Salinas Estrada of Jase Minerals, Guadalupe, Mexico (email@example.com) had an InnSuites room full of miscellaneous Mexican minerals, including the biggest and best specimens of the very rare borate nifontovite yet to appear from the mines of Charcas, San Luis Potosi. Nifontovite specimens, mostly transparent, colorless single prisms of thumbnail size, have been sparingly seen on the market since 2008, in the early part of which year a pocket of them was opened (see the 2009 Tucson Show report in May-June 2009)--but nothing bigger than Peter Megaw's fine 5.2-cm crystal group (pictured in May-June 2009) has appeared. Until now, that is: Senor Estrada had a shelf full of nifontovites to cabinet size, his top specimen, shown here, being about 20 cm across. Estrada was secretive (or didn't know), but probably the Jase Minerals specimens represent more recent--radically better--pocket discoveries at Charcas.
Remember the vivid rose-pink dodecahedral crystals of grossular which Benny Fenn recovered in quantity from his diggings in the Sierra de las Cruces range, Coahuila/Chihuahua, in the late 1990s? (If you don't, see the report on the 1997 Denver Show in the March-April 1998 issue.) These beautiful garnets have not been around in a while, but Dennis Beals of Xtal (www.xtal-dbeals.com) has returned to the site and is now just beginning to take out specimens, and he intends to return during summer 2010. In his InnSuites room Dennis had about 20 flats of loose grossular crystals of thumbnail dimensions, plus a few big hunks of white calcite with red grossular crystals (and a few brown vesuvianite crystals) investing them. The grossular crystals are not yet of top quality either for color or form, but the best that Dennis had are quite sharp and are clearly Thinking Red--stay tuned for developments.
Looking in one day at the InnSuites room of Jeff Fast's Mineral Movies (www.mineralmovies.com), I was amazed to see a flat box containing about a dozen fabulous thumbnail-size crystals and crystal clusters of gold from the famous alluvial digging fields of Gran Sabana, in the Guyana Highlands near the town of Santa Elena, Bolivar state, southernmost Venezuela. The gold crystals are lustrous, pale to medium yellow, and (best of all) hardly rounded at all, with crisp lines to demarcate hopper edges and complex but rectilinear little pits. The best of the thumbnails (that is, the one I longed for most intensely) cost $6,000--well out of my range, but nevertheless a low price for a gold thumbnail of such quality. In the same room there was a little pile of many hundreds of tiny crystals and nuggets of alluvial gold, one kilogram in all; and then the man who had brought in all this gold introduced himself. He is Alejandro Stern, known to his many clients and friends as "the jungle buyer," and you may read about him in Michael Wachtler's article in the October 2009 issue of Lapis (an English-language offprint of this article, available from Jeff Fast, is called "The Jungle Buyer"). Alejandro, a former oil industry engineer who, the article says, "couldn't take it anymore" and turned instead to dealing in treasures from Venezuela's wild south, "always seems to have the best gold crystals and diamonds"--and back at the InnSuitcs he proved it, pulling out from his pocket a breathtakingly beautiful, brilliant group of gold crystals weighing 41.8 grams and measuring 3.3 cm across (see photo). I don't know about that specimen, but the gold thumbnails may be purchased from Alejandro through Jeff Fast. That is, they may if any are left by now: these probably constitute the finest lot of first-quality small specimens that I saw anywhere at the show.
Prolific Peru contributed much to interest shoppers at Tucson in 2010. I will summarize here just a few significant finds as seen in the InnSuites rooms of three dealers: Peruvian native Teodocio Ramos Cabrera of Ramos Minerals (firstname.lastname@example.org); Luis Miguel Fernandez Buri Ho of Spain (Paseo del Canal, s/n Urb. Pinar Canal, 24, 50720 Zaragoza); and tireless Czech native (and expert mineralogist) Jaroslav Hyrsl (Heverova 222, Kolin, CZ-280 00). First, Ramos and Burillo had splendid specimens of rhodochrosite taken a year or so ago from the Manuelita mine, Yauli Province, Lima Department. These are clusters of sharp, opaque, baby-pink, rhombobedral crystals without matrix or associations: Teodocio Ramos had about 100 fine miniatures with rhombs to 3 cm, while Luis Burillo had three specimens from 9 to 12 cm across showing sharp, stacked rhodochrosite rhombs to 4.5 cm individually. From the Mundo Nuevo-Tamboras mining district, La Liberdad Department, Burillo had about 50 beautiful pieces, mined in September 2009, showing very sharp, bladed, lustrous red-brown hubnerite crystals to 1.5 cm standing up amidst bristly clusters of transparent, colorless quartz "needle" crystals. From the same pocket zone as the hubnerites came big specimens showing transparent, very pale green, octahedral fluorite crystals to 10 cm on edge, in tight groups with needle quartz--and Burillo had a few dramatic cabinet-size pieces of this description. Also from the Mundo Nuevo district there's tetrahedrite with bournonite, in specimens from 3 to 12 cm across which are clusters of sharp tetrahedral crystals of tetrahedrite completely coated by lustrous metallic black bournonite, the latter as microcrystal druses which roughen, but add interest to, the tetrahedrite faces--a single flat of these specimens was with Jaroslav Hyrsl. Also with Jaroslav was a flat of appealing, thumbnail-size single crystals of realgar from the Palomo mine, Huachocolpa district, Huancavelica Department. These are medium-lustrous hoppered crystals with faint orange rims around their cherry-red, blocky bodies (see Jaroslav's article on this mine in the March-April 2008 issue). And Jaroslav had some nice thumbnails and miniatures from the Julcani district, Huancavelica, showing equant, translucent yellow-brown (though surficially frosted) rhombohedral crystals of siderite to 2 cm perched on subhedral chalcopyrite crystals. Finally, all three of these dealers had specimens of the pink octahedral fluorite discovered--more accurately, rediscovered--recently in the Huanzala mine, Dos de Mayo Province, Huanuco Department. The fluorite is less lustrous and more rough-faced than the pink crystals from the great find of the early 1980s, but quite as transparent, and commonly with spinel law-twinned galena crystals and cubic pyrite crystals perched on their faces. The fluorite crystals occasionally reach 8 cm on edge.
One important and very surprising Peruvian what's-new" item rates a paragraph of its own. As Jaroslav Hyrsl will soon explain in a new ''Peru Update" article, there was a find, in November-December 2009 in the Javier mine, Ayacucho Department, of what are probably the finest crystal specimens of coquimbite yet found anywhere in the world. As early as the 1960s, splendid, pale violet crystals have been known from Chilean deposits, and smaller crystals (to 1.3 cm or so) have come intermittently from the Dexter #7 mine, San Rafael Swell, Emery County, Utah. Jaroslav's 50 or so coquimbite specimens from the Javier mine generated more buzz around the show than you'd expect for a water-soluble sulfate species. The specimens are loose clusters of very sharp, hexagonal short-prismatic coquimbite crystals reaching a remarkable 5 cm long, the clusters measuring from small-miniature ("toenail") size to 15 cm across. They are somewhat shaggy-looking, as they are spotted by gray, white and greenish shards and subhedral crystals of other soluble sulfates such as alunogen and halotrichite ... but the coquimbite crystals themselves are translucent to transparent, gratifyingly deep purple in naked sunlight and paler purple in incandescent light, and, as noted, impressively sharp. Some pieces which other dealers had scored from Jaroslav's lot had acquired rather stiff prices before show's end, but pricing in Jaroslav's InnSuites room was most civilized (see the HQLP report later). Now, of course, to acquire a coquimbite specimen is necessarily to risk losing it to eventual dehydration. John Sinkankas, in his Mineralogy for Amateurs (1964) says: "In dry air, this species loses water and assumes a white coating. It is common practice to preserve the specimens in air-tight containers or to immerse the entire piece in a dilute plastic solution to prevent loss of water or damage through contact with water." But in any case these are world-class representatives of a fairly rare species, and are quite pretty.
The report from the 2009 Tucson Show (May-June 2009) mentioned the newly discovered occurrence of phosphophyllite in Bolivia, represented then by a few miniature-size specimens being offered by two or three dealers. This year, Luis Burillo and others had larger numbers of specimens, 2.5 to 7 cm, and though the average quality is a bit higher, they still pose no challenge to the famous old Cerro de Potosi specimens. My earlier description still applies: "Opaque, pale apple-green, greatly elongated, splintery-looking phosphophyllite crystals to 1.5 cm form dense matrix coverages ... it's very difficult to remove the chalky white coatings of an unknown species [and therefore] most of the pieces [are] incompletely cleaned and not especially head-turning." Reportedly the specimens come from a near-surface zone of an ore deposit, so we may hope that later ones, found farther down, will not have the white to ocherous gunk on them and may be fresher-looking. There is some doubt about the identity of the mine: last year the "Infiernillos mine, Canutillos, Colavi district, Potosi" was given out, but Alfredo Petrov (who had about 15 of the phosphophyllites) now says that the source is probably the Wayllani mine, Cornelio Saabedra, Potosi. In a thumbnail that I acquired from Luis Burillo a couple of sharp, petite, palest green phosphophyllite V-twins about 2.5 mm long can be seen.
Speaking of Alfredo Petrov (email@example.com), whose room at the InnSuites (and stand at the Main Show) is always rich in rare, slightly peculiar goodies, he had this year a small swarm of stephanite specimens found, just a few weeks before the show, in the Porco mine, Potosi Bolivia--a silver mine inaugurated in 1549 by the conquistador Francisco Pizarro and still, Alfredo says, producing ore. The loose, columnar, metallic steel-gray stephanite crystals occur as well-terminated singles and as small parallel groups showing stepped terminations. Quite sharp, though their luster is less than brilliant, they make excellent thumbnails, the largest and best in Alfredo's keeping measuring about 2.2 cm and costing $250.
Of a generous number of mentionables from Brazil which came to Tucson this year, the most beautiful (in my opinion) are some loose topaz crystals found in October 2009 in one of the emerald mines of the Itabira-Nova Era mining district, Minas Gerais. Equant, hefty, lustrous and totally gemmy, the crystals range in size between 5 and more than 10 cm, and their color is a rich bluish green of the hue that painters call "seafoam" green. The crystals are all distorted to some degree and some faces are slightly curved, but what we have here are gorgeous hunks of pure gemminess--moreover, when did you last see a green topaz crystal? About 45 crystals came from the find, of which Rob Lavinsky of The Arkenstone (www.irocks.com) had three and Marcus Budil (firstname.lastname@example.org) had 11. Marcus, by the way, was enjoying his first year of merchandizing at the Westward Look Show, and had brought from his headquarters in Monaco an extremely pretty selection of high-end minerals to his room there.
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Alvaro Lucio (email@example.com) had about a dozen miniature and small cabinet-size specimens of hydroxylherderite horn Virgem da Lapa, Minas Gerais, with lustrous, sharp, twinned crystals, color-zoned in pale violet and pale brown, to 4 X 8 cm, the matrix pieces showing attractive associations of sparkly white albite crystals and muscovite rosettes. We have learned over the years to refer to these familiar items, and indeed to refer to nearly all other "herderite" specimens, as hydroxylherderite: after all, the 2008 edition of Fleischer's Glossary of Mineral Species calls "herderite," with F exceeding OH, a "doubtful species." However, thanks to the industry of Luis Menezes, we may have to revise our thinking. In his room at the Inn Suites, Luis had 10 loose crystals, 3.5 to 12 cm, of a "herderite" which analysis has shown to contain 6.9% fluorine; as the boundary for "hydroxylherderite" composition is 5.86% F, these crystals would seem indeed to be "herderite." The crystals were found in 1995 at Medina, Minas Gerais. Grayish pale violet, just barely translucent and not highly lustrous, shot through with black acicular crystals of schorl, they are not much to look at, unfortunately, but they are apparently the only herderite crystals yet to see daylight.
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Luis Menezes (firstname.lastname@example.org) had some other unusual things from Brazil. Strange-looking partial casts of muscovite after feldspar were found in October 2009 in the Xanda mine at Virgem da Lapa; they are loose, sharp hexagonal-tabular forms with shallow pits in their concave centers showing relict bits of white feldspar. Luis had about 20 specimens, most between 4 and 6 cm across and 2 cm thick, although there is one 22-cm specimen with three intergrown muscovite casts resting on some greenish white albite rosettes. Further, there are some specimens in which 5-cm sprays of dull brown, prismatic eosphorite crystals rest on microcline matrix plates to 12 cm across. The eosphorite crystals are dotted liberally with dark green 5-mm spheres of the very rare species guimaraesite (described in 2006), with guimaraesite grading to greifensteinite in the outer zones of the spheres. The locality for these specimens is given as Itinga, Minas Gerais. Then there was a single fiat of miniature-size specimens of the K-Mn oxide cryptomelane (yes, it's a valid species) collected in 2002 from a single pocket in pegmatite (!) near the town of Sao Geraldo do Baixio, Minas Gerais. By the time I reached him, Luis had sold all but one of these pieces; the one still on hand is a 7-cm stem composed of silky black globular forms to which smaller, twig-like protuberances are attached. Luis calls it a "Joshua tree" but I thought it more reminiscent of the inchoate seethings inside one of those lava lamps from the 1960s. Are these the world's best specimens of cryptomelane??
If you like really large Brazilian specimens you'd have done well to check out one of the white tents in Marty Zinn's "Mineral Marketplace" venue, where Dominique Mauduit of Roc 3000 (email@example.com) was selling a couple of tablesfull of quartz pseudomorphs after anhydrite from a locality 30 km south of the center of the Rio Grande do Sul amethyst-mining area. Opaque white, pale tan to pale pink, flat blades of quartz are hollow casts after what once were anhydrite crystals to 10 cm. The casts form well-individualized fan-sprays over pieces of matrix to 45 cm across. Just "decorator" specimens, you may say, but in fact these are fine examples of pseudomorphism--giant versions of much-prized specimens once collected in the basalts of the northern New Jersey quarries.
Road construction during the 1980s near the French town of Pau, 50 km north of the Spanish border in the department (province) of Pyrenees-Atlantique, turned up small numbers of specimens showing beautiful transparent, colorless, equant crystals of calcite in limestone matrix, but few specimens ever reached the collector market outside of France. This year, however, in the InnSuites "wholesale" room of Brice and Christophe Gobin (www.mineralsweb.com), I was pleased to discover about 10 flats of calcite specimens unearthed two years ago, during excavations for a parking lot in or near Pau. The specimens are open geodes from 5 to 20 cm across, lined by drusy calcite, each geode sporting one or two very sharp individual calcite crystals, the latter ranging up to 6 cm. The big calcite crystals are highly lustrous and limpidly colorless and transparent; some are fat scalenohedrons while others are face-rich, complex, nearly equant forms of generally rhombohedral aspect. Set against the earthy pale brown limestone of the geode walls, these crystals make splendid specimens from what we had thought was a one-shot occurrence.
The ever-enterprising Collector's Edge dealership (www.CollectorsEdge.com) scored two major coups in time for Tucson 2010. One is described later, in the Afghanistan section of this report; the other, from the Bouismas mine, Bou Azzer district, Morocco, was represented by about 30 remarkable specimens of allargentum/dyscrasite/schachnerite/silver on view both in the Westward Look room of Collector's Edge and at their stand--rather, their luxurious labyrinth of stand-up cases--at the Main Show. Okay, dyscrasite is [Ag.sub.3]Sb, allargentum is [Ag.sub.1-x][Sb.sub.x], schachnerite is [Ag.sub.1.1][Hg.sub.0.9], and you know what silver is. Steve Behling of Collector's Edge assures us that analytical work is now under way in several facilities worldwide to sort out the species ratios in these specimens. Similar puzzles attended the somewhat similar-looking specimens found in the mid-1980s at Pribram, Czech Republic, but whereas the Pribram specimens finally were pegged as mostly either dyscrasite or silver pseudomorphs after dyscrasite, the case may be more complex for the new specimens from Morocco. (Most dealers have simply been calling the material dyscrasite up to now, and I have innocently called it that as well, in earlier show reports.) Anyway, the specimens range in size from 4.5 to about 25 cm across, and are quite dramatic, with large concentrations of brightly metallic, spiky, tin-white crystals in "nests" and dendritic filigrees rising from a matrix of white calcite. Specimen preparation consists of acid-etching away the calcite which once completely enclosed the metallic crystal formations. Very fine specimens from small-miniature to large-cabinet size may now be had.
Tanzania keeps up the generosity that it has shown us for some years now. The beautiful gemmy orange spessartine crystals from the Loliando area are quite widespread around the market (including matrix specimens). And, from a place which I'm told lies about 5 km from the main spessartine diggings, loose V-twins of kyanite have been lately emerging. Apparently they have weathered out of enclosing rock on their own, and were just waiting to be picked up. Almost all of the kyanite twins are of thumbnail dimensions, and they are a bit ragged on the terminations, but what's remarkable is that they are deep orange, and a few are gemmy. The biggest and best hoard of the orange kyanite specimens I saw this year belonged to a Czech dealership, Zdenek Prokopec Minerals (zprokopec@ seznam.cz), in whose room at the InnSuites about 100 nifty orange kyanite thumbnails got sold between the first set-up day and the opening day of the hotel show.
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This same dealership, as well as Werner Radl's Mawingu Gems (W.firstname.lastname@example.org), which was holding court at the Pueblo/River-park Inn show, had excellent thumbnail-size V-twins and sixling twins of alexandrite chrysoberyl from Lake Manyara, Arusha, Tanzania. For the most part these specimens are not gemmy and certainly are not cheap, but they are nearly complete all around, and show easily discernible color change when moved between sunlight and incandescent light. Also, several dealers, most notably Patrick Mayer of Capetown Matrix Crystals (email@example.com), had loose, classy-looking spinel octahedrons to 6 cm on edge from the Morogoro region of Tanzania. Nearly all of these crystals are slightly pebbly on surfaces (from the joinings of separate, coarse crystal domains), but they are a winsome pink to rose-red, and the best of them show considerable gemmy areas; oh yes, and they are fluorescent a rich ruby-red.
No really surprising new finds from Namibia showed up this time, but the beauty of dioptase and beryl, while not at all surprising, is always worth a gawk. Twenty or so small, sprightly specimens of dioptase from Charles Key's new diggings at the Omaue mine, Kaokoveld, Namibia, were brought to the InnSuites by Stefan Stolte of Mineralien & Fossilien Galerie (min.foss.gal@web-de). Very sharp, deep green, doubly terminated dioptase crystals from 1.5 to 3 cm perch on massive white calcite vein fillings in limestone matrix. The crystals are only medium-lustrous and not gemmy, but these matrix specimens, ranging from 2.5 to 10 cm, are aesthetically choice. And late in summer 2009 there was a small pocket find of lovely color-zoned beryl crystals somewhere in the Erongo Mountains, and Rob Lavinsky of The Arkenstone (www.irocks.com) had four fine cabinet specimens from this pocket at his stand at the Main Show. The sharp-edged hexagonal prisms reach 7.5 cm long, and most of their (part-gemmy) volumes are aquamarine-blue, but yellowish orange zones take over suddenly near the terminations.
While checking out Rob Lavinsky's Tucson 2010 offerings, let's admire also the excellent specimens of hematite and the jumbo-size ettringite crystal groups which came to Rob late last year from the N'Chwaning mine complex at Kuruman, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. The hematite specimens, in thumbnail to small-cabinet sizes, show tabular, mirror-faced and brilliantly lustrous, jet-black hematite crystals from 2 to 5 cm; some of the specimens are loose single crystals and crystal groups, while others show the hematite crystals, some partly overgrown by white oyelite, resting on matrix of black massive hausmannite. From a different pocket in the N'Chwaning complex of mines, Rob had world-class specimens of ettringite, with sharp prismatic crystals, a bit rounded on their ends, to 12 cm, in groups from 10 to 25 cm (!). Only the outer zones of these crystals consist of opaque, pale to medium yellow ettringite; their cores consist of transparent pale yellow charlesite.
Paul J. Botha (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a friendly fellow with a keen mineral-eye who usually has a room in the InnSuites--as he did this year--fairly crammed with modest but interesting items from southern Africa. This time Paul showed me flat after fiat of good specimens, mostly thumbnail and miniature size, of olmiite from the N'Chwaning mine; goshenite beryl in sharp, lustrous, doubly terminated prisms to 2 cm with black schorl crystals, from the Erongo Mountains, Namibia; attractive pale apple-green tarbuttite in intergrown crystal sheaves partly coated by chalky white skorpionite, from the Skorpion mine, Namibia; pale brown fans of very thin, bladed crystals of eudidymite to 3 cm, from Mt. Malosa, Malawi; loose, crude, thumbnail-size, gray-green crystals of kornerupine from Betroka, Madagascar; loose, sharp crystals of rutile from Alto Ligonha, Mozambique; and plenty more.
Peculiar-looking but very pretty specimens of complexly twinned yellow calcite from a basalt quarry near Sambava, Antsiranana, northern Madagascar were first collected in 2003, and first hit the international market at the 2004 Munich Show; some say now that the occurrence is already exhausted. (See the article in this issue beginning on page 239.) These calcite specimens have never been abundant, so it was a nice surprise to find Victor Yount (email@example.com) with about 40 of them at the Westward Look Show. Ranging between 8 and 30 cm, with individual calcite crystals to 8 cm, Victor's specimens are impressive although not as lustrous as smaller ones can be. Victor's pieces show intricate, generally triangular, multiple twins of the transparent, pale yellow to yellow-brown calcite, some crystals hosting snowy excrescences of tiny stilbite and laumontite crystals. In price the specimens range between $300 and $3,000.
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One could not think of leaving Africa without a check-in on specimens from the new occurrence of gemmy green andradite variety "demantoid" at Antetezambato, Antsiranana, Madagascar. This is a field of diggings in a mangrove swamp, where hundreds of locals have thrown up a miners' "city" from which they come out to flounder in mud and extract gem crystals until the next ocean tide conies in to flood the pits. See the article by Federico Pezzotta elsewhere in this issue. Specimens of the material were to be found with dozens of dealers (including gem dealers) at various venues around Tucson. But immediately upon entering the big white house on Granada Street where Daniel Trinchillo conducts his Fine Minerals International business, one knew where The Best Ones were. Several shelves of a big glass wall case facing the front door were decked out in green and orange--superlative demantoid specimens alternating with big, gemmy trapezohedrons of Tanzanian spessartine. The demantoid crystals show combinations of isometric forms but are generally dodecahedral; they range in size between a few millimeters and 3 cm, and in color between grass-green ("demantoid") and a sort of oily, opulent-looking brown-orange ("topazolite"). Almost all of the crystals are highly lustrous, and most are gemmy in part or altogether. The best of the cabinet-size specimens show flashing green or brown clusters of crystals resting on matrix of pale yellow calcite or dark green massive andradite. Of course, the large and/or unusually gemmy specimens have prices which begin in the mid-four figures; nevertheless, at Daniel's and elsewhere, an excellent thumbnail might set you back only about $300.
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Only one new item from Russia caught this investigator's eye in Tucson--withal that I'd also seen a few specimens from the And at the 2009 Munich Show. In mid-2009 a single small pocket in the Bor (boron) mine at Dalnegorsk, Primorskiy Kray, produced about 100 thumbnails and a few miniatures of datolite of a quite new aspect for Dalnegorsk: highly lustrous, transparent, palest green datolite crystals to 1 cm forming pretty, loose clusters without associated species. The datolite crystals--unlike almost all earlier datolites from Dalnegorsk--are simple orthorhombic prisms with flat terminations. Fine specimens to 4 cm appeared with several Russian dealers in Tucson, but the best were at the Quality Inn with Victor Ponomarenko (firstname.lastname@example.org) of "Axinite-PM Ltd."
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From Afghanistan there are two major discoveries to report. One is the second of the two big coups by Collector's Edge mentioned earlier (in connection with their "dyscrasites" from Bou Azzer): both at Westward Look and at the Main Show, Bryan Lees, Steve Behling and Richard Jackson were showing off some mega-specimens of elbaite from a large pocket hit a few months ago at the Paprok prospect, Kunar Province. Afghanistan. The Paprok pegmatite began producing world-class elbaites in the early 1990s, and finds since then have been intermittent, of course, with these latest specimens being among the best ever found there. The 12 cabinet-size specimens obtained by Collector's Edge are of two different types. In one type, stout, color-zoned elbaite crystals to 15 cm long end in flat basal pinacoid terminations; they are green at the tips but pink through the bulk of the prisms, with some yellow bands. In the second specimen type, the elbaite crystals have sloping trigonal terminations and are thinner, but they reach 45 cm long; these crystals are dark green at their ends and pink lower down. In both types, the crystals are lustrous and mostly gemmy, and some are attached to gemmy, pale smoky quartz crystals to 17 cm long, with sparkling white albite crystal rosettes as extra features. Finally, and most remarkably, none of these specimens has been repaired: the elbaite crystals were found unbroken, and thanks to careful collecting and handling they have stayed that way. Our hats are off to those highly skilled and careful Afghan specimen miners.
At the Main Show, French dealer Francois Lietard (email@example.com) and Colorado dealer Dudley Blauwet (mtnmin @attglobal.et) had between them about 30 specimens showing the new, highly lustrous, madly bright blue crystals of sodalite from a find somewhere in the Kokcha Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan. I mentioned this find in the 2009 Munich Show report, and can recall seeing one or two specimens with Rob Lavinsky at the last Denver Show (some with associations of native sulfur), but the examples on hand at Tucson are the first (to my knowledge) to show tiny orange bladed crystals of wurtzite cohabiting with the sodalite on white, pyrite-infused, marble matrix. Francois Lietard's specimens are all loose, sharp sodalite crystals reaching 1.5 cm, while Dudley Blauwet has matrix pieces from small-thumbnail size to 7 cm across, and showing the wurtzite association. Chiefly it's their vivid blue color that sets these sodalite crystals apart from earlier ones found in the lazurite-mining region of Badakhshan.
At Dudley Blauwet's Mountain Minerals International stand at the Main Show mere were also some winning thumbnails and miniatures of elbaite and almandine taken last summer from the Namlook mine near Dassu, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. ("Gilgit-Baltistan" is the new official name for what was formerly "Northern Areas"--so we now must change all of our labels.) The elbaite comes as loose, lustrous, gemmy prisms color-zoned from pale yellow-green smoothly through dark apple-green; the crystals reach 5 cm long, and a few are doubly terminated. The thumbnail-size almandine crystals are lustrous, partially gemmy, red-brown combinations of the dodecahedron and trapezohedron forms, with nice internal highlights. The single, loose crystals roll around seductively in their little white specimen boxes.
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One item from India makes the news--and it's not from the zeolite-bearing basalts of the Deccan Plateau in Maharashtra but rather from an undisclosed place in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, just south of Kashmir and over against the Himalayas. Alpine-type clefts somewhere in or near the mountains are producing highly lustrous and beautiful, Swiss-like crystals of quartz up to a meter long in some cases. The crystals are terminated prisms of conventional form, colorless and transparent although with scattered inclusions of chlorite and of metallic-looking flakes which are probably rutile or hematite. Striking-looking loose crystals and clusters of widely varying sizes, mostly found in June and July 2009, filled a whole room in the InnSuites--that of Pentagmmmaton Stonehouse ("The Himalayan Quartz People," HimalayanClarity@gmail.com).
Just as bright and beautifully limpid as the quartz crystals from Himachal Pradesh are some which are presently being collected from pockets in granite in the Nshi-Okesendjyo area, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan. Loose, crisp, transparent and colorless quartz crystals from this locality, 3 to 20 cm long, many tapered in the "Tessin habit," were on view in the InnSuites room of an intriguing dealership I have mentioned from earlier shows: Takeda Mineral Specimens Co., Lid. (www.takeda-mineral.com). Gracious Mr. Kozo Takeda, after selling me one of the aforementioned "simple" quartz specimens from the new finds, proceeded to show me a handful of Japan-law quartz twins from the long-defunct type locality for such twins, the Otome mine, Yamanashi Prefecture. These are thick, sharp, lustrous, water-clear twins of thumbnail size; the best of them cost $300 but they are superb examples of one of Japan's most highly cherished old classics. Other Japanese items brought to Tucson by Mr. Takeda include some fine specimens of dark red-brown vesuvianite found three years ago in the old Kobushi mine, Nagano Prefecture, with sleek, lustrous tetragonal-prismatic crystals to 5 cm long; a couple of excellent thumbnails of axinite-(Fe) from the Obira mine, Oita Prefecture (another old classic); and plenty of good small specimens of "rainbow" andradite from Kitakado, henmilite from the Fuka mine, and crystallized native arsenic from the Akatani mine. Good Japanese minerals are very hard to come by on the commercial market, and so I recommend a visit to Mr. Takeda wherever and whenever he may appear at Western shows.
It has become my custom to end globe-girdling reports like this one in China. This year, unfortunately, not very much really new Chinese material was on hand, though Jordi Fabre's lone specimen of atacamite from a prospect near the Tonglushan mine, Daye, Hubei Province, is quite remarkable. The 10-cm specimen shows brilliant green acicular crystals of atacamite to 3 cm forming tight sprays which fill a cavity in massive cuprite. Jordi (www.fabreminerals.com) says that this is the best of about 15 such specimens found last year at the collecting site.
Another Chinese one-of-a-kinder will conclude the tour. Late in 2008, on the 1,500-meter level of the Chuxiong coal mine, Yunnan Province, an anamolous pocket of "cave" calcite was discovered. Most specimens which came out are hand-size, but the biggest, measuring 35 cm, is a remarkable thing which was in the mine owner's collection until it was picked up by Christophe and Brice Gobin (www.mineralsweb.com), who wowed me with its picture at the Main Show. Who has seen anything like this from a coal mine?
There were many, many examples of HQLP (High-Quality-Low-Price) specimens around the show; the statement trembles indeed on the brink of cliche (but it's a happy cliche). In this sub-column, lately, I've been going on about how the careful, well-informed shopper can build a first-rate collection without spending more than $200 per specimen. To help make the point yet again, here's a list of some things described above but for which I didn't name prices:
A beautiful miniature from one of Evan Jones' flats of the brand-new Carlota mine, Arizona azurite specimens could be had for $100 to $200. John Seibel's new sulphohalite specimens from Searles Lake, California cost no more than $200 for a large miniature or small-cabinet-size crystal cluster. Excellent thumbnails and small miniatures of Scott Kleine's new wulfenite from the Mobile mine, Nevada, ran between $75 and $150. The best of the small-cabinet-size babingtonites from the Lane quarry, Massachusetts, brought to Tucson by Kevin Downey had prices hovering around $200. Dennis Beals was letting go thumbnail-size single crystals and miniature matrix specimens of the pretty pink grossular from Mexico for prices under $50. All sorts of bargains were to be found among the recent Peruvian finds brought in by Jaroslav Hyrsl, and even a 10-cm crystal group of the world-class (and pretty!) coquimbite from the Javier mine asked no more than $200. For something between $100 and $150 in the Gobin brothers' wholesale room at the InnSuites, you could have had an open geode, say around 12 cm across the mouth, with a lovely, pellucid, complex calcite crystal of 3 or 4 or 5 cm inside, from the 2008 find at Pau, France. Two hundred dollars (or just a bit more) would have bought from Stefan Stolte a fine small-miniature-size matrix specimen of dioptase from the Omaue mine, Namibia, with a sharp, complete dioptase crystal to around 2 cm. Everything in my short list of southern African goodies brought in by Paul Botha could be had in superb small examples for well under $200, and for the most part under $100.
Still more: In the big white tent at Marty Zinn's "Mineral Marketplace" venue. Roc 3000 France (firstname.lastname@example.org) offered good prices on Peruvian things such as scheelite crystals on "needle" quartz from Mundo Nuevo, orange and blue barite from Cerro Warihuyn, and lustrous pink rhodonite from the San Martin (formerly Chiurucu) mine. These were all marked at $200 retail or less for a good miniature piece--and then keystoned (i.e. sold for half the marked price). In this tent, too, I picked up two absolutely top-quality thumbnails of Moroccan vanadinite, and $50 was the price for the pair.
First-rate, beautiful azurite and pseudomorphous malachite specimens from the Milpillas mine, Sonora, Mexico, continue to be widely available, and the very reasonable prices continue to amaze. A white tent just outside the main entrance to the InnSuites hotel harbored hundreds of Milpillas mine specimens (plus a few Ojuela mine wulfenites and adamites), the azurite miniatures and small-miniatures showing razor-sharp, gleaming, blocky or bladed, dark blue crystals to 3 cm. Such specimens cost from $100 to $200 from Mexican dealer Jesus Valenzuela or one of his helpers in the white tent (email@example.com).
In his room at the InnSuites, Robert Stoufer of Colorado Minerals (www.coloradominerals.com) was selling off several flats of very attractive, sparkly specimens showing quartz epimorphs after barite, found in summer 2009 at the Dawn of Day mine (an old tungsten mine) on Cement Creek, San Juan County, Colorado. The clusters, to 30 cm across, show the former tabular barite crystals (to 4 cm) in ghostly terms of shapes now encrusted by glittering drusy quartz. Very nice 6 to 10-cm specimens of the material were priced between $50 and $100.
For only around $20 each, Luis Menezes was selling thumbnails and small miniatures of lustrous, highly etched, ice-clear goshenite beryl from finds in late 2008 at Sao Geraldo do Baixio, Minas Gerais, Brazil. For around $50, KARP Minerals (firstname.lastname@example.org) would let you have a loose, lustrous, entirely complete, hexagonal-tabular goshenite beryl crystal as much as 4 cm across, from the Sakangyi mine, Burma (Myanmar).
It's easy enough to get jaded with Indian zeolites. But really, where is there a better deal than the $45 or so asked by Bill But-kowski (The Mineral Cabinet: www.themineralcabinet.com) and a few Indian dealers for exquisitely complete, gleaming milky white "bowties" of stilbite, 4 or 5 cm long, from Aurangabad?
At the Main Show, Dan and Diana Weinrich (www.danweinrich.com) lined up about 100 thumbnail specimens, all of them mounted in Perky boxes, from several former private collections they've recently bought, and such were the bargains here that some compulsive HQLP thumbnail-shoppers kept coming around repeatedly. To cite a single example, one of those shoppers (OK, I'm talking about myself) obtained a complete, undamaged, beautiful 2-cm rosette of azurite from the now-defunct Boomerang mine, Mt. Isa-Cloncurry orefield, Queensland, Australia ... for $60.
Now we come to what is, in my opinion, the star of this Tucson show's HQLP offerings. In November 2009, a large pocket in the hyperalkaline pegmatite of Mount Malosa, Zomba district, Malawi gave up a number of superb specimens of the amphibole species arfvedsonite: not, in general, a "pretty" or especially popular collector mineral, but capable, as in this case, of forming sleek, jet-black bladed crystals with major aesthetic appeal. The new specimens measure 7 to 12 cm, and one exceptional example measures 28 cm. Matrix consists of groups of euhedral, pale brown, blocky orthoclase crystals to 3 cm individually; from these bases rise glossy black, lightly striated crystals of arfvedsonite to 8 cm. Some of the arfvedsonite crystals have flat, lustrous terminations, but most end in raggedy thickets of terminated sub-individual crystals (similar to some dravite from Brumado. Bahia. Brazil). Luis Burillo had about 25 of the new arfvedsonite specimens in his InnSuites room, and, as highly attractive, fairly large specimens of a fairly rare species in what is perhaps its best development yet noted anywhere, these were incredible bargains at between $75 and $150.
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As already noted, this year's theme at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society's "Main Show" at the Tucson Convention Center was Gems & Gem Minerals--really a splendid theme, calling up dozens and dozens of splendid exhibits. And now, more than ever before, it is needful to apologize in advance to any exhibitor whose case I overlooked and have failed to mention below.
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Among the big museums contributing gem-related cases were the Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh; the Denver Museum of Nature and Science; the Cincinnati Museum Center; the American Museum of Natural History, New York; the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum; Harvard; the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County; and the Royal Ontario Museum (exotic gemstones: ever see a faceted leifite? catapleiite? serandite? suolunite?). Dudley Blauwel displayed gem crystals from Africa; Wendy and Frank Melanson displayed gem-quality grossular (and other minerals) from the Jeffrey mine. Quebec; Fine Minerals International displayed the three huge crystals of Ukrainian heliodor which appear on the cover of our November-December 2009 issue, plus a huge spidery elbaite matrix piece from the Pederneira mine, Brazil, and the great tanzanite crystal shown in Figure 97 in September-October 2009 (Wendell Wilson's oil painting of this crystal also was on exhibit elsewhere in the hall). Rob Lavinsky's exhibit case held just two specimens, each about the size of a decent portable television: an elbaite/quartz/albite from Pederneira and a quartz matrix bearing a gemmy pink morganite crystal about a foot across, from Pech, Afghanistan. The team of Gene and Roz Meieran and Bill and Will Larson had two big cases, organized by country, showing "Specimens from Worldwide Gemstone Localities," one of the cases taken up just by gem-crystal specimens from Pakistan and Brazil. A roped-off case with armed guards on station held many of the world's biggest and most famous crystals of gem tanzanite (and one faceted gem) from Merelani, Tanzania. Twenty majestic specimens filled the "Pegmatite Gems" case of the Wayne R. Sorensen Family Trust. And Keith and Mauna Proctor's accustomed big case of dazzlers this time included not only gem-crystal pieces but also about 100 gold specimens from worldwide localities, most of the golds being thumbnails and miniatures and almost all of them being absolutely top-class.
Cases showing mostly, or only, rough-and-cut pairs (natural crystals set beside faceted gems of the same mineral) were contributed by Ed Swoboda, Herb and Monika Obodda, Rick Kennedy, the MAD and HAMS groups from Texas (two big group cases), and Jim and Gail Spann. Among the amazements in the Spanns' case was a totally gemmy, lusciously deep orange grossular crystal 2.5 cm in diameter from Eden Mills, Vermont, and a fantastic matrix specimen of Madagascar pezzottaite, with a central, bright pink, tabular crystal about 5 cm across. Then there were the cases showing only cut gems--the Smithsonian case which made it out somehow from snowed-in D.C.; an interesting case by the Mineralogical Museum of Bonn University called "Real or Fake?" wherein natural and synthesized gemstones could be compared; and. by the Gemological Institute of America, a gorgeous gathering of cut stones from the Edward J. Gubelin collection, arranged literally in a rainbow are. And the Natural History Museum of London brought over a single "historic" gem: the "Hope" chrysoberyl, a brilliant yellow-green fancy-cut stone of 44 carats fashioned in ca. 1821.
I've already mentioned the long aisle lined with mineral art by Tour masters--but there were plenty of other wonderful non-gem exhibits as well. A good number of them concerned "local" minerals: Reyes Rock Shop showed minerals from Arizona and Mexico; Jim and Joyce Vacek showed azurite and wulfenite specimens ("PbMo[O.sub.4] Is Love," said the placard); the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum had a handsome small ease of Bisbee minerals and mementos; and Evan Jones had a case fairly crammed with sophisticated items from his Tiger. Arizona collection. The Arizona Mineral Collectors group put in a downright addictive ease of worldwide azurite and malachite. And then there were cases about the southern Illinois fluorspar district (Ross Lillie);calcite specimens and faceted calcite gems (Victor Yount); corundum, from tiny alluvial gem crystals to ugly/lovable 50-pound beasts (Will and Herminia Heierman); Russian minerals (Mineralogical Almanac); a bright case of huge amethyst specimens from the Reel mine, North Carolina (Charles and Cindy Cecil); Peruvian minerals (Luis Burillo); golden calcites from Gallatin County, Montana (John Cornish); Russian platinum crystals and nuggets (to 7 cm!) (KARP Minerals); a fine selection from the general mineral collection of Dan and Diana Weinrich; and, finally, two "competing" cases in which the idea was to show fine-looking minerals purchased for $99 or less (one of these was by Brian Swoboda's Blue Cap Productions Company, the other by the team of Rob Lavinsky, Wally Mann, Jeff Starr and Karl Warning).
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Partly (yes) for personal reasons I felt a special attraction to a "Connoisseur Thumbnail" case organized by Jim Houran, Brian Swoboda and Jim Bleess. Twenty-one experienced thumbnail collectors were asked to contribute a few of their very best pieces, with the result that 80 thumbnails in all (plus a few that cross the line slightly into small-miniature size) reposed in the wide case where Jim and Jim had devoted much care to arranging them all to best aesthetic effect, and crowds gathered 'round pretty much all the time, and all of us who had put in specimens spent time trying to pry other specimens loose from others of us who had put them in, and adrenaline surged, and everyone had a fine time. During this year Brian Swoboda's Blue Cap Productions Company will be producing a video about thumbnail collections and collectors, with more extensive looks at some of the "connoisseur" collections here represented.
At the Saturday night awards ceremony the following people (and others) were recognized for the quality of their contributions to the Main Show and/or to mineral collecting in general. The Friends of Mineralogy gave its award for best educational ease (individual) to Dr. Georg Gebhard; it gave its award for best educational case (institutional) to Jean Demouthe of the California Academy of Sciences. And the FM award for the best 2009 article in the Mineralogical Record went to Rock Currier for his five (very well-received) articles collectively called "About Mineral Collecting."
The TGMS judges awarded the Bideaux Trophy for best Arizona specimen in the show to Barbara Muntyan; they gave the Romero Trophy for best Mexican specimen to Scott Rudolph. The Lidstrom Tropy for best single specimen in a competitive exhibit went to Al and Sue Liebetrau, and the Desautels Trophy for the best "general" competitive case went to Alex Schuass (who also won first place in the Master competition).
The most prestigious award of all, the Carnegie Mineralogical Award for "outstanding contributions in mineralogical preservation, conservation, and education," went this year to Dr. Peter Megaw of Tucson. Professional mineralogist and mining consultant, author, historian, longtime officer of the TGMS, and a top collector of Mexican minerals, Peter quite obviously deserves this award, and his acceptance speech was one of the most articulate, most gracious and funniest I have heard in more than a few years of attending the ceremony. Congratulations, amigo.
Next year the Main Show's theme will be "Minerals of California." See you all there!
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|Title Annotation:||What's New|
|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||May 1, 2010|
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|Next Article:||Mineraux remarquables de la collection UPMC-La Sorbonne.|