Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Classic Pennsylvania Calcite

The Mineral Bliss post from November 14, 2009, which described an escorted visit to the Delaware Mineralogical Museum, made the following statement: "I've deliberately refrained from mentioning one Pennsylvania specimen in particular to share its story as the sole topic of a future Mineral Bliss post."

It was the calcite specimen shown in the above picture from the Delta Carbonate Quarry, now known as the York Building Supply Quarry, in York, Pennsylvania. With a main crystal measuring about 4 1/2 inches across, I've never observed a more appealing example of this classic genre. Upon learning from the Delaware Mineralogical Museum Curator Sharon Fitzgerald that its original source was one of my favorite collector/dealers, I immediately decided to contact him.

Eric Meier of Wilmington, Delaware, is pictured at left behind tables of his inventory at the Delaware Mineralogical Society's show this past March. Trading as Broken Back Minerals, he was among the busiest dealers there. Likewise, at the September Gem Cutters Guild of Baltimore Show in the Howard County Fairgrounds, November's Roanoke Valley Gem and Mineral Show at the Salem,Virginia Civic Center, and other East Coast events. He carries substantial regional material. His prices are quite reasonable to begin with and become increasingly so for customers who purchase in quantity.

Eric informed me that a threesome also including his friends Bill Longacre and Joe Hoffman collected this magnificent calcite specimen together in 1993. They were at the bottom of the quarry when Hoffman noticed a small hole about 25 feet up a scalable slanted wall. By chiseling away at the brecciated limestone surrounding the hole, they succeeded in opening up a pocket completely lined with crystals. About eighteen inches high and ten to twelve feet wide, the pocket tapered back approximately eight feet. Once they'd opened the pocket, removing the crystals therein became more difficult. Limestone that was not brecciated surrounded them. The men shoved a blanket into the pocket to protect what crystals they could dislodge, then hammered and chiseled away. When finished, they agreed to divide the booty and rolled dice for first pick. Eric rolled a double six for the piece now in the Delaware Mineralogical Museum. It required minimal cleaning.

Skip Colflesh, whose ruizite find at Cornwall, PA, was the subject of the June 13 Mineral Bliss post, also collected large quantities of calcite at this York locality between 2000 and 2002 in the company of fellow legendary Pennsylvania collectors Bryon Brookmyer and Bob Weaver. Skip authored a well illustrated article about the genre that appeared in the September/October 2002 edition of Rocks and Minerals. In a recent Email to me, he mentioned "crystals up to ~8" and the subsequent discovery in 2003 of a pocket with even more diverse crystals.

The crystals are often twinned or stacked. Sometimes they appear ball-like. Their forms range from rhombs to prisms to scalenohedra. This diversity along with a distinctive orange/ honey/ amber coloration distinguishes them. Similar crystals have been collected at another nearby York Building Supply owned quarry known as the Thomasville Quarry. While both localities have been off-limits to collectors for years, plenty of calcite from them remain available on the market and grace both museums and personal collections.

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