Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tucson Ramblings

Shown above are the Moroccan tents, hardly a highlight of the action in Tucson during these first two weeks of February. About as many dealers from Czechoslovakia, Australia, Russia, Brazil---and even more from China and India--- haul tons of rocks to a variety of Tucson spots every year. I don't understand how most of them make their numbers work. The Moroccans bring the same stuff every year: flats of cerussite with barite, goethite, aragonite, azurite, vanadinite, and plenty of fossils. Though the quality of the specimens in these tents doesn't seem to improve from year to year, the persistence of the dealers endures, and the haggling can be endless if one hangs around. For the wire silver piece at right, I chiseled a Moroccan dealer down from $250 to $80, then walked away. With a bit of tarnish, I would have been less concerned about the possibility that the specimen could be factitious.

This year, as every year, the quantities of pyrite from Peru amethyst from Uruguay, stibnite from China, and Indian zeolites are as ubiquitous as the Moroccan material. These, however, are not the only species that are particularly abundant. This year, for the first time, we're seeing a lot of very aesthetic blue apatite crystals in a calcite matrix from Slyudyanka near Lake Baikal in eastern Siberia such as shown at left. The amount of dioptase crystals from Altyn-Tybue kazakhstan like those pictured at right, not to mention the number of dealers selling them is yet more remarkable.

Quite auspiciously, I've scored some uncommon native metals this year at very reasonable prices. One example is native iron (shown at left) from Hungtukun massif, Taymyr Peninsula, Siberia, Russia. My source was Mikhail Anasov, whom I'm confident would not have sold it to me as native iron were it from a meteorite. Even harder to come by is native lead, of which I was fortunate enough to obtain for $20 the specimen pictured at right from Garpenberg, Sweden. And speaking of rare, how about native osmium, specifically the variety "iridosmine," of which 30 or more grains, none much larger than a needle point are mounted on a piece of cork in the microphotograph at left? They were sifted from the Crescent City Beach placers in Del Norte County, California. The dealer who sold them to me has a noteworthy variety of unusual offerings .

I'll be interviewing this dealer on Monday, Feb. 8, for what promises to be a fascinating post. It should be on line before the end of February.

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