What's new in minerals.
In the taxonomy of temperament there are order-lovers and order-loathers: routine-seekers and routine-avoiders. My own taste in life-texture has always favored spontaneity (disorder, if you want to put it that way), and childlike openness to sweet treats of Surprise. But this, my seventh Tucson Show, reminds me that even routine can be thrilling, since paradoxically it can enable surprises to come the more sweetly. Specifically, I mean that at any time during Tucson week one may spot by surprise the great mineral specimen, great trade or purchase opening, old friend, new insight as regards crystals or character - but in a kind of mystical retrospect, then, one thinks that the treat came somehow because of its place in the showtime routine. Each regular visitor will evolve, without thinking much about it, a sense of the weave of his or her personal Showtime. My own Showtime by now has defined itself clearly, and (to sketch it as an exemplary case) it goes like this: Arrive on Saturday afternoon, greet predictable people, look quickly and randomly around the hotel show, eat, collapse into bed: scurry, Sunday and Monday, about the Executive Inn and (now) InnSuites, scooping up notes and information and personal acquisitions in great loads; an eye-of-the-hurricane lull on Tuesday, and a good time to cruise the west side of town, with its funky regions of gem tents, minor hotel shows, and mystics' encampments along the freeway; Wednesday, visit the set-up day at the Main Show to take a few notes, and begin to draft this report; Thursday-Friday at the Main Show itself, renewed frenziedness, panicky plannings around the budget, and much more writing; Saturday, making a clean copy of the report, doing laundry, and looking in on the Friends of Mineralogy awards ceremony; Sunday, the ride to the airport, and home. Over this solid matrix of routine, twinkling, winking their little eyefaces, treats of surprise are apt to come everywhere and anywhere . . . and boy! did I get a lot of good stuff this time!
Last year I mentioned the general discontent with the many shows having been unusually stretched out in time, and not well synchronized. This year there was better synchronization, and, among the strictly-mineral people at least, the grumbling faded away. Besides, the colonization of a new hotel, the InnSuites, by Marty Zinn's show seemed a thorough success: the InnSuites dealer rooms, all ground-floor, are smallish but open onto a courtyard enfolded in palms and kissed with orange trees, with a kindly green lawn, genteel flag-stoned paths, and a swing-and-slide area for the kids. Almost all of the dealers I talked to here loved their new venue, and the logistics were running smoothly, they said, except for a slight bit of bother about the room phones. At the two mineral hotels generally the shuttles were timely, staffs helpful, and mineral-socialization busy and strong as ever. Marty's show at the Ramada (former Quality Inn) was this year exclusively fossil-oriented. The only early-week killjoy, nobody's fault (even Marty Zinn couldn't stop it) was the El Nino Effect blowing in from the West, with cold, dampness and storms, including a blast of monsoony rain one night that woke me up at two in the morning and blew down one of the big Gem Show tents near the freeway.
Mineralogically it was a pretty strong show, with surprises, on all scales of value, around every corner. The new Venezuelan gold specimens (see below) were, naturally, the vibrant heart of the show-buzz, but then how about that new mimetite from improbable Thailand, or the new-style vanadinite from Morocco, or that charismatic Spanish pyromorphite, or. . .?
Well, let's embark:
Arizona weighs in modestly this year with a small lot of newly dug, Herkimer-like quartz crystals from Diamond Point, near Payson, being offered by Les and Paula Presmyk at the Main Show. A surface exposure of limestone where the little glittering things have been casually picked up for years by hunters and boy scouts is now the target of some real specimen-prospecting work, so that a dozen or so pieces (so far) have become available. The crystals are very faintly amethystine, bright, sharp and transparent; they can reach 4 or 5 cm, and on the matrix specimens they sit up well on their tough, buff, hard limestone.
Before I could get to Mike Bergmann at the Main Show he had already sold all but a few of the 250 cabinet specimens he'd had of azurite from the Hanover #2 mine, Fierro, Grant County, New Mexico - but the few remaining ones were still more than noteworthy. Dug six or eight months ago, the specimens consist of a hardened, slightly cracked, whitish brown clay matrix (looks like fault gouge) on which sit azurite rosettes to 3 cm, but averaging 1.5 cm, very bright blue and showing sparse malachite spots. Some rosettes approach Bisbee standards for sharpness of form.
Recent work at the famous Gem mine in San Benito County, California, has yielded a large number of nice neptunite specimens, with good crystals to over 8 cm, plus a substantial amount of benitoite faceting rough and one huge fabulous, 43-cm plate of benitoite crystals (photo on following page). Bryan Lees sold the big one and Bill Forrest and Buzz Gray sold the rest in their Executive Inn room.
In the Executive Inn room just next door to mine I found Scott Kleine of Great Basin Minerals (3895 Lisa Ct., Apt C, Reno, NV 89503-1125) with some very nice thumbnails of chalcophyllite which he collected two months ago in the Copper Stope of the Majuba Hill mine, Antelope district, Pershing County, Nevada. The jackpot pocket was in an altered sulfide pod, and was lined with dark brown goethite and medium-green chrysocolla, and this handsome matrix hosts little bunches of micaceous 3-mm chalcophyllite crystals in generous coverages of a brilliant blue-greet color (though not especially lustrous). About two feet away from this vug another was hit, with microcrystals of blue scorodite in sparkling rounded druses on sulfides. Likable thumbnails of both the scorodite and the chalcophyllite could be had for no more that $25.
The major Nevada story, though, must be conceded to be the beautiful gemmy yellow barite now being dug at the Barrick Meikle mine, near Carlin, Elko County. In my last Denver report I mentioned some specimens in the room of Casey and Jane Jones; the Joneses continue to have such, as also did about ten other dealers in Tucson. The barite crystals at their very best are richly yellow, lustrous, gemmy, and tabular, and up to 2 cm or so in size; other, less pretty ones are thicker, more orange, and merely translucent. Matrix specimens have grayish white discoids or transparent colorless scalenohedrons of calcite to 2 cm scattered over a dark rock, the barite spreading itself liberally over the calcite. Harvey Gordon of Harvey Gordon Minerals (500 Ballentyne Way, Reno, NV 89502) seemed to have the biggest stash: about 50 specimens, of all sizes and qualities, at the Main Show.
From California, first a teaser, and then it's on to some serious gold. Do not skip the teaser, though, as the material is attractive: ferroactinolite and tschermakite in specimens mined last September in the Minarets mining district, Madera County, and now in the keeping of Tom Wolfe Minerals (P.O. Box 9791, Fountain Valley, CA 92728-9791). There are about 75 pieces, in all sizes from thumbnails up to 20 x 20-cm groups, with or without backing by dense skam (garnet/epidote/pyroxene) matrix. Dull of luster, pale to dark green, and splintery, the prisms reach 4 cm long, and look just like "uralite" (amphibole pseudomorphous after pyroxene). The loose groups feature well-individualized, fragile crystals in jackstraw intergrowths.
California gold was being offered by Bryan Lees at his rhodochrosite-bedecked Collector's Edge stand at the Main Show. It is from the Mockingbird mine, Mariposa County - a claim adjacent to, and along the strike of the quartz vein from, the legendary Colorado Quartz mine. Bryan says that the Mockingbird claim has been dormant for decades, but now is producing sporadic small pockets from surface diggings; these pockets tend to be only 8 or 10 cm across, and only about a dozen top gold specimens have been found so far. The 8 miniature-sized examples which were on view here are all loose crystal groups, except that two have some minor massive white quartz adhering. The gold crystallizes mainly as octahedrons, and on a couple of pieces there are sharp, hoppered crystals to 5 or 6 mm on edge; some smaller euhedral crystals, though, are 2 or 3-mm dodecahedrons, perched on subhedral gold. On still other specimens, the arborescent growth habit rules, in delicate, high-rise, femy clusters. The color on all pieces is a medium gold-yellow, and the luster is extremely high; this is top-drawer specimen gold, as the Colorado Quartz Gold Corporation, which does the prospecting, is well aware. With luck we will see more abundant supplies in the future.
Nor is this all: the Colorado Quartz mine itself has recently yielded a single 2 x 2.5-cm specimen which Bryan opines is the best thumbnail gold in the world (however, see later under Venezuela; these judgments are somewhat a matter of individual taste). Bryan's piece is brilliantly lustrous, electric with reflected light, and is a giant octahedron so deeply hoppered that one's first impression is of a stack of discrete 7-mm octahedrons, each of these hoppered. Between this single specimen, the Mockingbird pieces, and the Venezuelan golds (later, later), I must say I've seen enough unearthly-fine gold at this show to keep me dazzled for a while.
An InnSuites room with the interesting company name PyroManiacs over its door turned out to be a full of some terrific new pyromorphite, hit 18 months ago along an extension of the Jersey Vein at the famous Bunker Hill mine, Kellogg, Idaho. These pyromorphites vary widely in color (deep orange through bright yellow and lime-green) and in habit (large hoppered barrels to bundles of thin prisms to mammillary grape-bunches). The pieces themselves come in all sizes, with special authorial excitement directed here to the great profusion of first-rate thumbnails priced under $100. A few specimens have yellow mammillary clusters in which calcium replaces lead up to about 5%. I know, I know, Bunker Hill pyromorphite is hardly "new," but with these very bright, very beautiful, plentiful new specimens the place excels itself once again.
Dave Lare of Jeffrey Mining Company, Inc. (115 Booth Loop Rd., Henderson, TN 38340) showed me something newly emerged from the Lexington quarry, on the outskirts of Lexington, Jessamine County, Kentucky. Here, in 1994-1995, in pockets in the Highbridge Group limestone, the mine superintendent discovered big crystals of transparent gypsum which have since been collected to the tune of about 200 big pieces. The crystals are sharp and colorless to slightly grayish, and are sometimes measured in feet; in Dave's room, though, the biggest singles were a mere 10 to 15 cm high. From the same quarry comes fluorite in somewhat rough-surfaced 2 to 3-cm cubes in medium-cabinet-size clusters; the color is a translucent pale yellowish purple, with (strong) butter-yellow fluorescence. Some smaller specimens of this fluorite have clinging nests of acicular pale bluish white celestine crystals to 2 cm. The celestine exists alone in a few delicate, miniature-sized clusters.
In this same room I found Calvin Sigmon, one of a five-man collecting consortium calling itself Beeline, out of Lincolnton, North Carolina. Calvin is justly proud of his eight large, beautiful groups of amethyst crystals, these dug ten months ago at the Old Reel mine, Lincoln County, North Carolina. Sharp, clean, medium-purple transparent points to 2 cm at their bases join to make lustrous groups to 25 cm - some of the best amethyst I have ever seen from the United States.
I always look forward to wandering a while among little pale pastel eccentric things in the Executive Inn room of Mont Saint-Hilaire collector Gilles Haineault (Collection Haineault. 224 2ieme Ruisseau, St-Mathieu de Beloeil, Quebec, Canada J3G 2C9) - but this time, alas, there wasn't much new from that famous locality. There were a few thumbnail specimens, collected by Gilles last October, of what is probably the best elpidite found to date here or anywhere: loose 2-cm bundles of densely packed subparallel acicular crystals, flaring to rounded, glassy tops which, looked down into, are a lovely translucent grayish green. The silky to dull luster on the sides of the bundles is what we're used to seeing in this rare species, but the growth as sheaves, and the solid green glassiness on the tops of these sheaves, is quite new. Gilles brought about 20 good specimens to Tucson, in addition to the usual serandites and a superb little donnayite-(Y).
Out of Mexico, more specifically out of Level 5 of the San Luis mine, Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Dan Belsher has recently brought some fine thumbnail stephanite crystals. These are brilliant, metallic black, flattened prisms with handsomely compound side faces; one loose 1.5 x 2.5-cm crystal is doubly terminated. This, with about ten thumbnail groups, was available from Stefan Stolte of Mineralien & Fossilien Galerie (Fahrgasse 88, 60598 Frankfurt, Germany).
I first found George Witters' gorgeous new pink smithsonite when I saw George wandering about in the courtyard of the InnSuites, ogling the glowing chatoyant pink stuff in the sunlight, where it shows best. But he had the main hoard for sale at the Main Show - about 100 specimens. The locality is the Santa Anita mine, Choix, Sinaloa, Mexico, where last summer the claim owners began actively mining for the first time, taking out five tons of smithsonite, almost all of it gray or lavender or blue-green; George Witters Minerals (2210 Park Lake Dr., Boulder, CO 80301) ended up with the very few elite pink pieces. Thick mammillary smithsonite crusts line open seams in a mottled gray weathered rhyolite; the sizes of specimens offered at Tucson cluster closely around 7 x 7 cm.
Americans Roger LaRochelie and Jack Carlson lived for about 25 years in the Gran Sabana alluvial gold mining region of southeastern Venezuela; these gentlemen have decided finally to retire and to sell off an accumulation of Venezuelan gold specimens which, they say, have been collected over the past 30 years. Under the company name Rarities, Jack and Roger were in the InnSuites, in a small room perpetually filled with large crowds, offering up the gold hoard for sale. The material ranges from the tiniest grains and flakes of gold in vials, to 1 or 2-mm loose crystals, small-thumbnail octahedral crystals, a single 2-cm ram's horn, some interesting jewelry (necklaces of subhedral crystals of gold; rings with 1-cm hoppered crystals mounted on 18-karat gold bands; pins with emeralds and diamonds accompanying large bright nuggets) . . . and on up to three truly most amazing gold specimens. Number Three is an exquisite group of deeply hoppered octahedrons, with three sharp trapezohedral crystals sitting lightly on one side; it is 1.8 x 3.1 x 3.4 cm, extremely bright, and hardly at all rounded. They say Paul Desautels once pronounced it the most beautiful gold in the world. That's the number three piece'? Well, yes: Number Two is a single 2-cm trapezohedron with all 24 faces showing, bright and extremely sharp (think of a nice floater garnet, then turn it to gold). The Number One piece they had "out" on the first day I visited, and I held it in my hand; when I went back the next day they'd come to their senses and stored it in a bank vault. It is a single, hoppered octahedron 2 x 4.2 x 4.4 cm, 217 grams weight, very deeply grooved but also of excellent freshness of form and color, and high luster. (The asking price was equally staggering.)
The Gran Sabana mining area, with the village of Santa Elena as its headquarters, is a swath about ten miles wide and 80 miles long; some account of it is given in vol. 18, p. 89 (the second Gold Issue). Whew. Roger LaRochelie says he got stabbed, almost fatally, in some connection with gold, whilst living down there, and that this is one of the reasons he now wants to leave. Time now for some nice, non-threatening Peruvian smoky quartz.
That quartz was in the Great Basin Minerals room (see also under chalcophyllite), and again Scott Kleine briefed me. At the Cantera Raurita mine, Ancash Department, Peru, just a month ago, about 400 smoky quartz pieces were taken out, and they are at present, Scott says, "the buzz of Lima." Transparent, medium-smoky, well-terminated crystals reaching 12 cm long and averaging 2 cm fat occur alone or in groups of two to five; smaller, brighter crystals are found sitting on drusy, pale green chlorite linings on granitic matrix to 15 cm across. Look closely, and see quartz at play: besides being smoky, some crystals are nicely phantomed, some have large flaky inclusions of black hubnerite (?), and some do Dauphine twinning or are even intergrown as crude gwindels. The luster is not high on the larger crystals, but all are at least very nice.
Dr. Jaroslav Hyrsl (Heverova 222, CZ-280 00 Kolin 4, Czech Republic) had a single fine specimen from a new find of wurtzite at "Huanzala," Peru. Brightly metallic black, tightly intergrown platy wurtzite crystals, all about 1 cm, cover a 12-cm matrix of massive wurtzite/pyrite, and there is white barite in a few 1-cm bunches of thin crystals over the wurtzite. Only four of these were extracted, Jaroslav says, from a single pocket last September.
For species collectors and micromounters Terry Szenics had something new, and even pretty: the world's best specimens of villyaellenite, a hydrous manganese arsenate/arsenite whose only two known localities heretofore were Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines, France, and the Ojuela mine, Durango, Mexico. These are famous places, but now hopelessly eclipsed villyaellenite-wise by the Veta Negra mine, Pampa Larga district, Tierra Amarilla, Chile (source also of Terry's schneiderhohnite of recent note). The pieces Terry collected here in the first week of November 1997 show beautiful sparkling pink seam coatings, on dark limonite, of 1-mm sheaves of villyaellenite microcrystals, with associated tiny spherules of dark red rhodochrosite. This serious specimen-mining operation turned up 275 specimens from a single pocket along a fault gouge; Terry was marketing them at the Main Show stand of Aurora Mineral Corporation (679 S. Ocean Ave., Freeport, NY 11520).
John Attard of Attard's Minerals (P.O. Box 17263, San Diego, CA 92177) had a few very nice, small thumbnails - to 1.5 cm high - of gemmy, medium blue-green, twinned phosphophyllite from Cerro de Potosi, Bolivia. More remarkably, he had a matrix miniature of phosphophyllite, with flat-lying gemmy crystals to 7 mm all over the top of a 3.5-cm plate of reniform black cassiterite.
Here and there around the show, one saw some interesting specimens of Japan-law twinned quartz crystals in solid coatings over a gray-green amphibolite, from the Kami mine, Cochabamba Department, Bolivia. The one I liked best is a flat 17-cm plate with individual crystals to 1.5 cm, offered by Jaroslav Hyrsl. What's remarkable is that this ordinary-looking (at first glance) plate of quartz is seen to consist entirely of Japan-law twins, hundreds of them, all over the matrix expanse. Jaroslav also had a few other such pieces, in sizes down to 3 x 4 cm. Reportedly, fine ferberite crystals have also been found at this tungsten mine.
Like the lovely yellow Nevada barites, the azurite/malachite specimens from Seabra, Bahia, Brazil made a tentative foray last September to Denver, and with some puzzlement I mentioned them: in the case of the azurite I had only a single specimen then to describe. Well, Tucson this year saw an upwelling of Brazilian azurites, many dealers having nice ones, most notably Roberts Minerals, Benny and Elva Fenn (Fenn's Gems & Minerals, P.O. Box 16285, Las Cruces, NM 88004), and Riccardo Prato (see later under Thai mimetile). Whether as thumbnails or as Riccardo's 35cm mammoth, these specimens feature a deep blue azurite in tiny blades grouped in tight spheres 5 mm to 2 cm across. Alteration to malachite is irregular, with some spheres totally gone to a rich deep green, some merely dusted with green spots, some split blue/green down the middle. The loosely packed, velvety, colorful agglomerations of spheres make mighty attractive pieces, though nobody still seems to know anything about the occurrence.
From Denver I also wrote that loose fishtail twins of pale yellow, gemmy amblygonite from "Linopolis" seemed suddenly to be all over the place, and every last one was seriously chipped on the thin edges. In Tucson these were still plentiful in all sizes, and still badly chipped in almost all cases; I had decided against a repeat write-up until I saw the marvelous monsters that Frank and Wendy Melanson of Hawthorneden had stashed in a flat at the Main Show. The Melansons got a chance to high-grade at just the right time, and came out with about 15 relatively undamaged pieces, the largest of which is 5 x 7 x 8 cm, pale yellow and largely gemmy, with a deep twinning notch, and altogether exceptional. A slightly smaller specimen is the only one showing any associated species: a doubly terminated 3-cm smoky quartz crystal half-embedded on top. Further, the Melansons had what they say is a reliable locality designation: the Joan Firmino mine, Pomarolli (near the village of Linopolis), Minas Gerais. Carlos Barbosa, by the way, seems sure that the species is really montebrasite, but no definitive work seems to have been done yet.
Blue-black bipyramidal anatase from the Alpine fissure occurrence at Hardangervidda, Norway has been around for at least 20 years, but Cal Graeber at his Main Show stand had the most impressive small lot of these I've seen for a long time. The crystals are fat, lustrous, largely undamaged, of a color like that of dark boleite, and are 1.5 to 2.5 cm long and 1.5 cm thick. Most are doubly terminated by small pinacoid faces. In about ten wonderful thumbnails ($500 to $700), these anatase crystals lie comfortably across small matrixes of white albite on grayish micaceous rock. Cal's indeed were almost as superfine as those in the exhibit case put in by the Norwegian Mining Museum.
A much older Scandinavian classic is cobaltite in lustrous, slightly rough pyritohedrons from Tunaberg, Sweden. In the Executive Inn, Peter Lyckberg (Box 25147, S-40031 Goteborg, Sweden) had about 20 such loose, sharp cobaltite crystals, mined in the 19th century, in a classy little swarm on his shelf. All but two are 5 to 6 mm across, but one tight cluster of two or three pyritohedrons is 1.5 cm, and the prima donna is a sumptuous, 2.5cm metallic pinkish gray floater group (for $1100).
Jordi Fabre (in his "fishbowl" booth in the main lobby of the Executive Inn - his flyer shows a swimming fish with Jordi's face on it grinning out from a bowl) kept busy mostly by selling Spanish pyromorphite (next paragraph): but I found interesting, too, the 20 or so miniatures of newly mined pseudomalachite from Vilavicosa, Estremoz, Portugal. These are sparkling, intense bluish green crusts of microcrystals lining seams in tough quartz/limonite matrix, some also harboring microcrystals of the extremely rare trimorph ludjibaite.
But it was Jordi's pyromorphite, flashing a vibrant yellow-green, that compelled about ten top collectors to line up in the lobby before his opening Saturday morning. The locality is the Realces Stope, San Andres mine, Villaviciosa de Cordoba, Spain, where this new pocket lode was found last October. Jordi says that this is an old barite mine which ceased operations about 12 years ago; this is interesting, because about 10 years ago, at the Ste.Marie-aux-Mines Show, I scored a nice pyromorphite from a small lot labeled merely "Villaviciosa de Cordoba." It is similar but not identical to the new ones: smaller crystals with darker color. And now my "old," enigmatic specimen has been joined by a "new" one, from this new pocket apparently further along the vein of bladed barite last worked long ago. Anyway, Jordi had about 200 specimens altogether, thumbnail to cabinet-sized, loose groups or matrix pieces with, in the latter, the pyromorphite crystals lightly attached to white barite and/or earthy medium-brown limohite. The crystals are mostly simple hexagonal prisms (a few are lightly hoppered), reaching 2 cm across the pinacoids: they are extremely lustrous, and their color a spectacular yellow-green.
Marshall Kovall of Silver Scepter Minerals (P.O. Box 3025, Kirkland, WA 98083) was pleased to be offering 10 specimens of "Eisenrose" hematite from the classic locality of Cavradischlucht, Graubunden, Switzerland - these found last summer by a well-known Swiss strahler, Theodosi Venzin. The hematite forms very lustrous, very black platy crystals (much-flattened rhombohedrons) to 4 cm across, lightly striated, and with tiny red epitaxial futile crystals, as is typical. Thumbnails are simply loose groups of such plates. larger specimens feature an adularia matrix, but the best pieces, I'd say, are a couple of miniature floater groups, the senior one 6 cm across.
Cavnik (or Kapnik), Transylvania, Romania has long produced profusions of barite in many habits but I must still commend the 30 or so very large, old specimens that Chris Wright of Wright's Rock Shop bought recently in Europe. The color is a medium smoky blue. transparent on crystal edges, grading to paler or whitish, translucent to opaque blue below: the luster is brilliantly glassy. These are very thin blades in rosettes and coxcomb groups rising to points individually as they flare from the lightly intergrown masses of pure barite, like leaping blue flames; there is no matrix. The specimens range from 3 x 8 to 15 x 15 cm. This is a gorgeous variation on the often-played theme of Romanian barite.
The best place to go for Bulgarian minerals these days seems to be the hotel room of Alexander Dikov of lntergeoresource Ltd. (P.O. Box 66, 14040 Sofia, Bulgaria), where you'll find lustrous, stately galena groups flashing at you from every surface and corner. What's new this time is excellent chalcopyrite from the Mogila mine, Madan district, in very bright crystals to 1 cm, only slightly rough, standing up all over the matrix of lustrous, drusy black sphalerite. The chalcopyrite crystals were found in December of last year, and Dr. Dikov had about 50 thumbnails and small miniatures, plus one dramatic 17 x 17-cm plate, with sprays of needle quartz garnishing the sphalerite. Also, from the Stefanov mine near the city of Zlatograd, there have recently come specimens of sphalerite of an entirely different kind: groups to 15 cm across of rounded, 4-cm, brownish black crystals with a resinous luster, their interiors gemmy yellow-brown. I saw only 5 specimens of this material (which would be dynamite as gem stock, if you like weird gemstones). A final Bulgarian note: the Zvezdel mine, for which folks had high hopes after the fine brown pyromorphites began to come out of it, is past its pyromorphite zone, and may be closing soon. Odds are that the 50 or so specimens seen at Dikov's this time will be the last: the best of these are a couple of 10 x 10cm quartz plates with 1-cm Bad Ems-like brown pyromorphite barrels perched precariously all over.
Morocco this time out did not come up with anything really new. but it did re-express itself lavishly through two old standby species - azurite and vanadinite. Magnificent, good-as-it-gets azurite specimens from the Touissit mine were all over the show, in all sizes, and one hesitates to single out individual dealerships, although I have to mention Horst Burkard's stunning miniature-sized clusters of flaring bladed crystals, and, at Evan Jones's new dealership (Evan Jones Minerals, 3520 N. Rose Circle Dr., Scottsdale, AZ 85251), some incredibly sharp, lustrous, clean thumbnails, so darkly colored as to appear jet-black.
Then there were Evan's couple of hundred specimens of vanadinite, dug just weeks before the show, from the ACF mine, Mibladen, Morocco. The clean, unhoppered, hexagonal prisms reach 3 cm high, and are vividly lustrous and ideally sharp, but what's distinctive about them is their color, or colors: bright red-orange on the basal faces, but a sort of satiny, mottled, smokedlooking, brownish red on the prisms. Also unusual, for Moroccan vanadinite, is an elongated (rather than squashed) c axis, such that most crystals tend to be as much prismatic as tabular. Matrix, where present, is either the classic white bladed barite or a buff-colored calcareous sandstone. Specimens range from large thumbnails and toenails, to loose, 3-cm crystals groups and on up to 11cm matrix pieces with 3-cm single crystals all over.
Now you may say that large grossular garnets from the desertlands of the Republic of Mali are neither new nor particularly exciting, but this show saw a general flood of Mali gamets of a new color - pale to deep green - and with a new locality designation: simply "Kayes, Mali." Is this a new occurrence, or a new strike at the old one? Occasional associations of dark dull-lustered epidote and rough vesuvianite crystals would suggest the latter case, though who knows? Not anyone here whom I asked. Anyway, the best specimens are loose dodecahedral singles or tight clusters of two or three crystals, with individuals reaching 5 cm. They can be fairly lustrous, although their surfaces are always pitted at least a little; in their transparent to translucent near-surface zones they are a pleasant apple-green, grading to a Siberian-style oily green. Here and there I saw a few thumbnail single crystals of a much brighter and prettier grass-green, reputedly also from "Kayes." By far the largest hoard of these garnets - hundreds and hundreds - was to be found in the Executive Inn room of Minerama (49 Rue de la Republique, 42800 Rive-de-Gier, France).
Gilbert Gauthier at the Main Show and Michel Jouty in the Executive Inn were offering small lots of small specimens of malachite-included barite from the Shangulowe mine, near Likasi, Shaba, Zaire. I've mentioned this material before, but at both dealerships this time it set new standards of quality/beauty. The transparent, colorless barite crystals are up to 4 cm long, and are sharp and lustrous; inside them are cirrusy clouds of malachite which tint them green. Crystals make jumbled groups or subparallel clusters on massive, pale green malachite and/or dark brown gossan; Michel had about 50 pieces, mostly miniatures. The biggest one is 12 cm across.
Christian Gomick (Fine Minerals Worldwide, Reutergartenweg 20, D-31319 Sehnde (Hover), Germany) is a good-natured enough Keri both to let me try to speak German with him and to ply me with coffee when I visit his Executive Inn room. This time he brought to Tucson about a hundred loose crystals, and two or three matrix specimens of a newly found demantoid (i.e., andradite) garnet from the Namgar mine, near Usakos, Namibia. These were brought to Europe in January 1997 by the Henn Brothers firm of Idar-Oberstein, though the first handler, it's said, was a shepherd who brought specimens to a man in Usakos about two years ago. These crystals are prime gem stock (having no "horsetail" inclusions like those found typically in demantoids from Val Malenco, Italy and from Russia), and so most of those found have already been butchered, I mean cut and faceted. The crystals show combinations of isometric forms, reach 2.5 cm across, and are wholly gemmy, in colors between grass-green and peridot-green. In the rare matrix specimens, garnet crystals of this description sit nicely on and in white calcite and weathered limestone.
Before leaving Africa, I must celebrate a one-of-a-kind specimen brought by Bryan Lees, owned now by a lucky private collector who bought it from him. It is from the N'Chwaning mine, South Africa, and must be absolutely the world's finest specimen of hausmannite. We're used to seeing this material as large, bristly, dull or medium-lustered compound black octahedral crystals on massive garnet matrix, and these are remarkable enough for the species. This new piece, though, consists of a 10-cm matrix of massive black hausmannite, with, sitting alertly perched on one side, a 4.2-cm hausmannite crystal of razor-sharp form, brilliant metallic black color, high luster, and mirror-smooth faces. It is a star-shaped compound octahedron: try to imagine a hematite pseudomorph after a giant cumengite crystal and you will get the picture.
The ex-Soviet Union pickings were rather slim this time, for a worrisome third or fourth major show in a row. However, Andras Lelkes (Hercegprimas u. 11, H-1051 Budapest, Hungary) did have some excellent specimens of anatase from the Lapcha mine (100 km from the better-known Dodo mine) in the Polar Urals. They are very sharp, of the same deep blue color and bipyramidal form as the Norwegian crystals, and smaller but more highly lustrous. The Russian crystals average 8 mm, though one fine crystal sitting canted up on a prism face of a gemmy smoky quartz crystal measures 1.5 cm. The anatase crystals usually sit singly on or partly embedded in quartz crystal faces or in massive, translucent dark quartz. Some specimens show generous sprinklings of maybe 15 bipyramids over a single face. The Lapcha quartz mine stopped working commercially about 8 years ago, but is now picked at by specimen-freelancers off and on; the present pieces were dug last summer.
From a skam deposit in an iron mine at Korshunovskoye, Irkutia, Siberia, andradite garnet has very recently come out in simple, sharp dodecahedrons to 4 cm across. They are greenish brown and fairly lustrous though slightly pitted; some are dotted with tiny second-generation crystals. These were available as floater singles or in clusters of two or three from Petr Korbel (Eastern Minerals, Vysokoskolska 488/8, 165 00 Praha 6 - Suchdol, Czech Republic), who also can show you some nice hematite from the same place, with lustrous black platy crystals to 3 cm in groups on massive hematite.
The great and super-prolific locality of Dalnegorsk, Primorskiy Kraj, Russia has produced some remarkable "red" quartz of late. Only three pieces were brought to Tucson by Jeff and Gloria's Minerals (19 Oak Knoll Road, East Hampton, CT 06424), but what glorious/oddball things they are: thin, translucent, pinkish orange quartz prisms to 5 cm in parallel-growth bundles, the bundles sometimes pinched at the middle to make bowties. The biggest and best specimen is 8.3 cm long. Also from Dalnegorsk were many very fine green fluorite specimens scattered among several dealerships.
In an Executive Inn room 1 spoke at length with Pavel Sobotka of Intergems (Lekarska 36/2, 150 00 Praha 5, Czech Republic) about some strikingly unusual celestine specimens, a dozen or so of which he had brought to Tucson. They are unusual in that this species doesn't generally make thin-prismatic, point-terminated, spiky crystals, but these lustrous, transparent pale blue beauties are as spiky as you could wish, reach 3 cm long, and occur in jumbled groups in cavities in a light brown, reddish stained limestone. The best I saw is a very attractive 7 cm piece for $75. The other odd thing is the locality: near Shurab (village), Firgana Valley, eastern Uzbekistan. It seems that the celestine crystals were first found by a group of mineralogy students visiting from Moscow in 1972. The site since then has remained popular among field collectors, and pieces have been taken out each summer; this was their debut on the Western market. Selling them in Tucson was a joint venture by Pavel and by Andrey Belyakov, publisher of World of Stones, and let's hope that the venture succeeds, as we could easily stand to see more of this pretty material at future shows.
Francois Lietard's big stand at the Main Show is always spectacular, as it was again this time: a fantasy of brilliant splotches of every bright color shot all through the 3-D architecture of the stacked glass shelving. Amidst all the flash, though, only two Himalayan items seemed noteworthily new this time. The first was a revisitation of the transparent, grayish green zoisite crystals from Ashudi, Pakistan which first appeared a few years ago. Francois had some nice loose thumbnail-sized clusters, with prisms to 2 cm, lightly striated and with good terminations on many; further, he had a couple of matrix specimens, one of these a giant 17-cm lump of pegmatite showing 6-cm albite (cleavelandite) blades and isolated semi-gemmy zoisite crystals to 5 cm lying flat along the top. Francois' second, humbler, new arrival was a lot of some 20 thumbnails and miniatures of colorless or very pale gray, transparent calcite scalenohedrons to 3 cm, with low rhombohedral terminations, rising from salt-and-pepper matrix of what looks like a weathered gneiss. These cute calcite pieces are from "near the airport" at Skardu, Pakistan. Thirdly should be mentioned what appears to be a new pocket of gemmy red spessartine this year from Gilgit, Pakistan. We've seen thousands of Gilgit spessartines on white feldspar in recent years, but the new ones are exceptionally lustrous. sharp and gemmy, in sizes up to at least a couple of centimeters. Andreas Weerth had some of the nicest examples, but several other dealers had good specimens as well.
On the China front, the gigantic green fluorites and poker-chip calcites are already, in this reviewer's opinion, beginning to seem over-abundant on the market; cassiterite, scheelite, and aquamarine of exceptional quality also are nothing new. But who can help being wowed by the sometimes unbelievably beautiful hematoid calcite twins from (according to most labels) the Shan Hua Pu mine, Hunan Province - even though these have been seen in quantity at two or three shows now? There seem to be two styles: clear, thick, lustrous calcite prisms not heavily dusted with hematite, in twins with very discrete flaring wings, and the much more heavily reddened, more mashed-looking twins with shallow reentrant angles. But both types occur on a matrix of spiky hematoid calcite scalenohedrons in dense drusy beds over red massive hematite. As far as I could learn, the best of these Chinese twin calcites in Tucson this year were some enormous pieces sold (before they could be set out on the shelves) by Dan and Jill Weinrich (16216 Copperwood Lane, Grover, MO 63040).
As I hinted at the start, a major what's-new at this show was the mimetite from Thailand which only two dealers had; the best available locality designation is Hat Yai Province, near the Malaysjan borden I have seen photographs professing to show the site: a hole in a hillside in a green jungly place. Word is that the mimetite crystals were found sometime during this past year, in this old abandoned tin mine, or is it a lead prospect (the latter seems more likely, since we are talking about mimetite), and presently two Italian engineers (or are they geologists?) are digging for specimens. Indeed, the larger of the two lots in Tucson (with Jordi Fabre having the smaller) was in the Executive Inn room of Italian dealer Riccardo Prato, of Gemmologi Gia (Via dei Piatti 2, 20123 Milano, Italy): Riccardo had perhaps 10 cabinet specimens, a few miniatures, a few nice thumbnails and several flats of mediocre pieces. The matrix is a porous, gossany limonite; the mimetite crystals, lustrous and brilliant yellow, are hexagonal prisms, some hoppered and some not, the "clean" ones showing small pyramid and pinacoid faces, to about 5 mm. These crystals densely cover the matrix, flashing away at the viewer. Most of the specimens show some damage, but the potential is excellent for more and better in the future.
To end on a comparatively light note from Down Under, Chris Payne of Gondwana Gems & Minerals (6 Parkview Drive, Blakeview, South Australia) was able to cover several square feet of a table in his room in the InnSuites with a new find of glauberite crystal specimens, taken out of Like Gillies, Lochiel, South Australia, between 1988 and 1991. Collecting, he says, involves slogging horribly through the black mud of a salt flat, and rumor has it that the company which owns the land will forbid collecting within the next six months. Anyway, there were about 100 crystal groups, in all sizes up to 10 x 10 cm (fine thumbnails run $2 or $3), with very sharp, transparent to translucent gray-white glauberite blades to 3 cm. Some of the blades have thin, chalky white incipient-alteration coatings or spots of hydrated glauberite, probably because the specimens have already been out of the ground for awhile, so a cautious optimism that they'll stay as they now are seems warranted.
As to the exhibits at the Main Show . . . every time I do this, I wonder how it is possible, and how presumptuous it's going to feel, to "cover" all these exhibits in just a few tight paragraphs at the fatigue-end of this report and of my show experience. Let's see. . .
One of the show's two themes was Alpine minerals - not necessarily from the Alps, understand: these cases taken together offered solid mineralogy lessons in Alpine-fissure environments in low-grade metaphorphic rocks. To my taste, it was two great institutions which did the best jobs with this theme: the American Museum of Natural History (New York) and the Smithsonian. In the American Museum's case, old classic specimens, mostly from the Bement collection, taught the visitor to respect Alpine-cleft (and, as it happens, Alpine) rarities like scheelite, perovskite, milarite, and brookite; and here were four of the world's best brown anatase crystals, all from Alp Lercheltini, Valais, Switzerland. The Smithsonian put in two sprawling cases designed by Paul Powhat, with enlarged photographs of Swiss vistas to help the ample texts to explicate the specimen wonders. In one of the cases, these wonders were all of quartz, with ultimacies of Swiss gwindels and La Gardette mine, France clear crystal clusters; in the other case there were fabulous specimens of epidote, axinite, titanite, hematite roses, and even some sharp, iridescent, 3-cm chalcopyrite crystals on quartz clusters from La Gardette. Oh yes, and a third major museum, that of Los Angeles County, had a starkly simple but extremely handsome case with just three specimens in it: enormous epidote best-of-the-best pieces from Untersulzbachtal, Austria; Rehoboth, Namibia; and Tormiq, Pakistan.
Pursuing the Alpine theme from further distinctive angles, Harvard showed some amazingly good albite, titanite, fluorapatite and epidote from the Old Bluestone quarry, Acushnet, Massachusetts. The Norwegian Mining Museum of Kongsberg showed "Alpine Minerals from Norway," including a 3.5-cm anatase crystal on adularia matrix from Hardangervidda, and a couple of wonderful thumbnails of seldom-seen brookite from the same place; the Museum of Natural History, Milan had two cases with, among other things, a 30-cm plate of amphibolite covered with gemmy lustrous demantoid crystals to 3 cm, from Sferlum, Malenco Valley, Italy.
The other - somewhat overlapping - theme was fluorite. "General" fluorite cases full of fine specimens were contributed by the Colorado School of Mines, Harvey Gordon, Henry and Patsy Schmidt, the Houston Museum of Natural Science, and several others. Cases on fluorite subthemes included Crystal Forms in Fluorite (Ed Huskinson Jr.), Illinois Fluorite (Paul Hatter; also the Cleveland Museum of Natural History), German Fluorite (Kay Robertson), Worldwide Fluorite Thumbnails (Sharon Cisneros), Elmwood Mine Fluorite (Gaylord's Minerals), Canadian Fluorite (Wendy and Frank Melanson), Fluorite from the Former Soviet Union (the Carnegie Institute), English Fluorite (Cincinnati Museum of Natural History), Faceted Fluorites (Art Grant), and finally a whomping case of Pink Fluorites, with several huge specimens, including "Georges," an 18-cm-wide composite pink octahedron collected above Chamonix in 1975.
There was also, of course, the usual bedazzlement of miscellaneous cases on miscellaneous themes - including, I can't help noting, what seemed an unusually large number of superlative cases of thumbnails, competitive and not. To skim quickly (though they deserve better) over some of these assorted exhibits, there were Calcite Twins (Gene and Doris Wright), Mexican Minerals (Evan Jones), Transylvanian Minerals (Camelia Hightower), Arizona Minerals (the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum), and the following three, demanding a bit of verbosity after all. Collector's Edge offered a repeat performance of the "That's Colorado" case seen at Denver, except that this time one of the four megaspecimens was the best of the microcline/smoky quartz pieces from the recent work at the Two Point mine, Teller County: a majestic 45-cm cluster of intensely blue-green blocky microcline crystals to 5 cm, with two 8-cm smoky quartz prisms in its midsection. There was a super case on the Himalaya mine, Pala, California, marking the 100th anniversary of the beginnings of work there, with pieces contributed by many people and institutions. It contained great elbaire specimens, naturally, but how many people noticed that terrific, shining, sharp brown thumbnail of stibiotantalite? Giuseppe Agozzino of Genoa had a wonderful case of mostly self-collected pieces from the Italian Alps: brilliant grossular ("hessonite") in lush deep orange, diopside, vesuvianite, etc. from famous places like Bellecombe, the Ala and Susa Valleys, and Beigua Mountain, this last the source of an amazing gemmy red/brown/orange hessonite garnet fully 3 cm wide, sitting alone on matrix.
Finally, our editor and publisher, Wendell Wilson, deserves his own paragraph for having put in his first show exhibit in many years: almost the entirety of his collection of 82 miniatures and thumbnails which he has been carefully building since I first began coming here, i.e. only since 1992. Wendell has, to put it mildly, a good aesthetic eye, and thus the viewer's own eye lingers long on practically every piece, and the longer the lingering, the better seems the specimen in question: for instance, his Mexican ludlamite, Russian sperrylite, Afghanistan lazurite, Yukon lazulite, Russian pyrochlore, Sweet Home mine rhodochrosite . . . I'd better stop now, for more or less obvious reasons (but no, he's not making me write this part).
The Lindstrom award for best individual specimen in the show went to Phoenix collector Bob Johnson for his Freiberg silver. Bob also won the Desautels Trophy for best case of minerals; I spent a long time studying each superb specimen in his collection, and have to agree the award is well-deserved. The newly established Romero Award (in memory of the late Miguel Romero, Mexico's pre-eminent collector) honors the best Mexican specimen exhibited at the show. The choice was easy this year, since Sorbonne curator Pierre Bariand had brought the Great Boleo Cumengites from Paris to exhibit in a wonderful case of Boleo memorabilia and minerals. And finally, the exalted Carnegie Mineralogical Award was presented to none other than Bryan Lees of Collector's Edge, in recognition of his mind-boggling accomplishments in specimen recovery and preservation. Bravo Bryan!
Then it was time finally to conclude the annual experience of total-immersion mineralogy. At exactly 5:00 pm on Sunday an announcer over the Convention Center's public-address system pronounced the 44th Annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show to be officially over, and was greeted by rousing applause for a successful event all around. The dealers packed up their remaining stocks for shipment home, most of them with smiles reflecting pretty good sales. Housekeeping staffs went to work on vacated motel rooms; collectors, curators and dealers packed up their display-case specimens; dealer booths came down and their parts were packed away for next year; a vast fleet of rental cars were returned; plane tickets sprouted in countless hands; and Tucson returned to its usual casual pace for another 11 months. But by our return next February, it will seem like we've hardly been gone at all. See you then!
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|Publication:||The Mineralogical Record|
|Date:||May 1, 1998|
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