Saturday, December 22, 2012

Maryland Minerals: M to P

This is the third part of  our compendium for the Maryland Minerals website seeking to list all mineral species and varieties of species known to have occurred in  Maryland. As in the previous two portions of that compenium, the  name of any major mineral family and/or group to which a species or variety belongs appears in parenthesis next to the species/variety name. Duly noted on the list also are a relatively few questionable or unverified occurrences.  Also included and similarly noted are the names of  species that the I.M.A. has since discredited. Images of Maryland-collected specimens arranged by county for many of these species can be viewed at the website's  Maryland-collected minerals slideshow.

For nearly all of  information in this compendium, we are grateful to the following sources:
  • Minerals of Maryland by Charles Ostrander and Walter E. Price, Jr.,  Natural History Society of Maryland, 1940
  • Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area by Lawrence R. Bernstein, Maryland Geological Survey, 1980
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Database.
  • Mindat
Continuing through the end of the alphabet, subsequent posts will cover the names of additional minerals that have been collected in Maryland.

Magnesioferrite (Member of Spinel Group)
Magnetite (Member of Spinel;Group)
Malacolite (rarely used synonym for Diopside)
Manganocalcite (synonym for Manganoan Calcite)
Margarite (member of Mica Group)
Marmolite (synonym for both Chrisotile and Lizardite of Serpentine Group)
Meerschaum (German synonym for Sepiolite)
Melaconite (synonum of Tenorite)
Melanterite (principal species of Melanterite Group)
Metatorbernite (Member of Meta-autunite Group)
Mica Family
Microcline  Member of Feldspar Group)
Microlite (Member of Pyrochlore Supergroup)
Mizzonite (Synonym  of Marialite, a member of scapolite group)
Molybdenite- First identified in the United States at Jones Falls Quarries
Monazite (member of Monazite Group)
Moonstone (variety of Microcline and sometimes Orthoclase-both members of Feldspar Group)
Moss Agate (variety of Chalcedony, a variety of Quartz)
Mountain Leather (a leathery variety of Asbestos)
Muscovite (member of Mica Group)
Natrolite (member of Zeolite Group)
Niccolite (Italian name for Niccoline)
Nontronite (Member of Smectite Group)
Oligoclase (Member of Feldspar Group)
Olivine (Member of Olivine Group)
Ophicalcite (same as Ophiolite or Verde Antique)
Orthoclase (Member of Feldspar Group)
Ottrelite (Member of Chloritoid Group)
Owenite (a variety of Antigorite a member of the Serpentine Family)
Paragonite (Member of Mica Group)
Pectolite (a member of the Wollastonite Group)
Pennine (a Variety of Clinochlore)
Phlogopite (Member of Mica Group)
Picotite (Variety of Hercynite rejected as such by IMA is actually Chromian Hercynite)
Picrolite (Variety of Antigorite, a member of Serpentine Family)
Piedmonite (Member of Epidote Group)
Pigeonite (Member of Pyroxene Group)
Plaglioclase Family (Series member of Feldspar Group)
Pleonaste (a variety of Spinel)
Porcellophite (synonym for Antigorite, a member of Serpentine Family
Prochlorite (Synonym of Clinochlore)
Psilomelane (can refer to various  manganese black oxides such as Pyrolusite or Manganite)
Pyrite (Member of Pyrite Group)
Pyrope (Member of Garnet Group)
Pyrophyllite (Member of Pyrophyllite -Talc Group)
Pyroxene Family

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Maryland Minerals: D to L

This is the second part of  our  compendium for the Maryland Minerals website seeking to list all mineral species and varieties of species known to have occurred in  Maryland. As in the first A to C portion, the  name of any major mineral family to which a species or variety belongs appears in parenthesis next to the species/variety name. Duly noted on the list also are a relatively few questionable or unverified occurrences.  Also included and similarly noted are the names of  species that the I.M.A. has since discredited. Images of Maryland-collected specimens arranged by county for many of these species are at the website's  Maryland-collected minerals slideshow.

For nearly all of  information in this compendium, we are grateful to the following sources.

  • Minerals of Maryland by Charles Ostrander and Walter E. Price, Jr.,  Natural History Society of Maryland, 1940
  • Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area by Lawrence R. Bernstein, Maryland Geological Survey, 1980
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Database.
  • Mindat
Continuing through the end of the alphabet, subsequent posts will cover the names of additional minerals that have been collected in Maryland.

Here is the list from D to F:

Dravite (member of Tourmaline Group)
Epidote (Member of Epidote Group)
Fibrolite (variety of Sillimanite)
Flint (variety of Quartz)
Fuchsite (var. of Muscovite, a member of Mica Group)
Glauconite (member of Mica Group)
Glaucophane (member of Amphibole Group)
Grossular (member of Garnet Group)
Gymnite (see Deweylite)
Halloysite (member of Serpentine Group)
Harmotome (member of Zeolite Group)
Hessonite (var. of Grossular, a member of Garnet Family
Heulandite (Member of Zeolite Group)
Hisingerite (?)
Hyalite (synonym of Opal-AN)
Hydrotalcite (member of hydtrotalcite group)
Hyspersthene (name discredited by IMA)
Iceland Spar (a distinct form of Calcite)
Idocrase (synonym for Vesuvianite)
Ilmenite (member of Ilmenite Group)
Iron (in meteorites)
Jasper (var. of Chalcedony (var. of Quartz)
Jefferisite (synonym for Vermiculite)
Kammererite (synonym for Chromian Clinochlore)
Labradorite (member of Feldspar Group)
Laumontite (member of Zeolite Group)
Linnaeite (member of Linnaeite Group)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Maryland Minerals: A to C

This is the first part of a  compendium for the Maryland Minerals website seeking to list all mineral species and varieties of species known to have occurred in  Maryland. The name of any major mineral family to which a species or variety belongs appears in parenthesis next to the species/variety name. Duly noted on the list also are a relatively few questionable or unverified occurrences.  Also included and similarly noted are the names of  species that the I.M.A. has since discredited. Images of Maryland-collected specimens arranged by county for many of these species may be at the website's  Maryland-collected minerals slideshow.

For nearly all of  information in this compendium, we are grateful to the following sources.

  • Minerals of Maryland by Charles Ostrander and Walter E. Price, Jr.,  Natural History Society of Maryland, 1940
  • Minerals of the Washington, D.C. Area by Lawrence R. Bernstein, Maryland Geological Survey, 1980
  • Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Database.
  • Mindat
Continuing through the end of the alphabet, subsequent posts will cover the names of additional minerals that have been collected in Maryland. 

Here is the list from A to C:

Actinolite   (member of Amphibole Group)
Albite    (member of Feldspar Group)
Almandine  (member of Garnet Group)
Amazonite   (var. of Microcline, a member of Feldspar Group)
Amethyst   (var. of quartz)
Andradite   (member of Garnet Group)  
Annite (member of Mica Group)
Anorthite   (member of Feldspar Group;  
Anorthoclase   (member of Feldspar Group)
Anthophyllite   (member of Amphibole Group)
Antigorite   (member of Serpentine Group)
Anthophyllite  (member of Amphibole Group)
Arfvedsonite (member of the Amphibole Group)
Argentiferous  Galena (var. of Galena)
Asbestos  (a name for finely fibrous Amphibole Group and Serpentine Group members)
Augite  (member of the Pyroxene Group) \
Axinite  (member of the Axinite Group)  
Azovskite  (according to Mindat, a species of questionable status, possibly identical to Delvauxite) and reported via oral conversation only.
Bastite (serpentine group variety relating to pseudomorphs after Enstatite)
Beaumontite (early name and/or synonymb for Heulandite, member of Zeolite Group)
Biotite (member of Mica Group discredited by the I.M.A.)
Breunnerite   (var. of Ferroan Magesite)
Bronzite   (var. of Enstatite
Byssolite  (member of Amphibole Group)
Bytownite   (variety of Anorthite, a member of Feldspar Group)
Calamine (an informal name known to refer to hemimorphite, smithsonite, and hydrozincite)
Carnelian (a var. of Chalcedony, which is a variety of Quartz)
Carrollite (member of Linnaeite Group)
Chabazite (Member of Zeolite Group)
Chalcedony (var. of Quartz)
Chalcotrichite (var. of Cuprite)
Chert  (var. of Chalcedony, which is a variety of Quartz)
Chlorite Group
Chrome Tourmaline (var. of Tourmaline)
Chrysolite (synonym for Olivine and/or Prehnite)
Chrysotile (Member of Serpentine Group)
Citrine (var. of Quartz)
Cleavelandite (var. of Albite,  a member of Feldspar Group)
Clinochlore (Member of Chlorite Group)
Clinozoisite (member of Epidote Group)
Cobaltiferrous Gahnite (see Gahnite)
Coccolite (synonym for Diopside)
Collophane (carbonate rich var. Apatite found in fossil bone)
Columbite (member of Columbite Group)
Copper (Native);
Corundophilite (discredited by the I.M.A., member of Chlorite Group)
Cummingtonite   (member of Amphibole Group) 

Monday, October 15, 2012

John Ebner's Ultimate Vintage Micromount Collection

In the glass-topped cabinets behind John Ebner (above) is  a collection of mineral micromounts like no other. The title on wooden signs heralding the collection reads "MICROMOUNTS: PAST AND PRESENT:" Beneath this title, a list of explanatory basics  reads as follows:
  • Micromounts are mineral specimens that require magnification (generally 5x to 30x) and illumination for proper observation.
  • They may be of any size.
  • A variety of mountings have been used over the years since micromounting began.
  • Records indicate the earliest mounted micro specimens were on glass slides.
  • In 1870, the Rev. G.C. Rakestraw begam using paper ring boxes. He then went to making his own boxes covered inside and out with black paper. These boxes were called "Rakestraws" or "box mounts." 
  • Today you can find micromounts in many types of containers, but predominately in plastic boxes about 7/8" x 7/8" x 3/4" in size. 
  • A few of the many varieties are displayed here with the mounters name, if known, and the the mineral therein. 
The image at left captures about half the contents of just one of four glass-topped wooden cabinets that house John's collection. Included are early mountings on glass slides, a few of the Rev. Rakestraw's round paper ring boxes, and the square paper boxes that evolved from them. Such boxes were prevalent until the mid- 20th Century.

The image at right shows a section of contents from a  second cabinet. At the far end are mounts  in the kind of plastic boxes commonly used today. While historical in perspective,  this second cabinet focuses  exclusively on work relating to micromounters inducted into the Micromounters Hall of Fame. Along with pertinent memorabilia, it includes at least one mount of every member. The Baltimore Mineral Society established the Micromounters Hall of Fame in 1976 at its 21st Annual Desautels Micromount Symposium  to recognize micromounters, past and present,  pursuant to the following guidelines:
The purpose of the Micromounters’ Hall of Fame is to honor those who have served this hobby to the highest degree. They are the leaders, the movers and shakers of the past and present who have shown the way for the rest of us. They have not only built sizable collections, but they also have earned and deserved a worldwide reputation among mineral collectors in general and especially among micromounters.
Members of the Micromounters Hall of Fame range from the late Rev. Rakestraw, who died in 1904, to Rod Martin of New Zealand, who was inducted September, 29, 2012 at the 56th Annual Symposium. John Ebner was inducted in 1997.
A third cabinet bespeaks a unique niche of micromount collecting  about which John is particularly passionate.  All of the 373 specimens therein were mounted by the person after whom they were named.

John's penchant for acquiring these mounts began in 1982, with the acquisition of a whitmorite specimen mounted by Bob Whitmore, owner of the legendary Palermo Mine in North Groton, New Hampshire.  Soon John had filled a case with such mounts and  began schlepping them from home in New Jersey to numerous conferences, shows, and symposia. The collection has since grown to four cases bearing  mounts dated from the 1850's to the late 2012's.

Putting it together has led John to network with a myriad of  leading mineral people around the world who enthusiastically assist him with  acquisitions by sharing contacts and arranging for introductions as called for.  "The best by-product of all this," John says, " is all the new friends I've made."

Most of the mounted specimens are of very rare species, some for which the only known occurrences are microscopic. The collection also includes numerous specimens that enjoy a level of aesthetic perfection unknown to their species other than through the scope.

If there is a downside to owning such a collection, it has to do with the careful placement of all the mounts within within the heavy  and relatively flat cabinets that house them. "This makes it so that I hardly ever get to see them through the scope," John laments.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

John White and a Rock Pile

Actually we  were trespassing as we peered through a pile of rocks dumped just a few feet off a lonely country road in York County, Pennsylvania near Delta. John White and I  had  tried unsuccessfully to locate the landowner. In the process, we learned that the a local power company had dumped the rocks there in conjunction with a project that never happened. Hopefully, the landowner wouldn't mind.

John had expressed interest in these rocks over the past year and had encouraged me to check them out. He had described the material as "just serpentine rock."  For reasons that hindsight now renders lame,  I had not yet done so. What was wrong with me? When a past Curator-in-Charge of the national mineral collection who also founded Mineralogical Record gets excited about a site less than an hour's drive away, it's worth a look.

Then last week, John emailed me an invite to see some of the rocks he'd purchased at the recent Denver show. Attached was the image shown at left. It pictures cabs from material John had found when he first discovered the aforementioned rock pile last year.  His email suggested that after looking at his Denver acquisitions, we drive there.

We did and ended up crawling over the pile of serpentinite rocks. There were numerous pieces worthy of John's cabs. Antigorite was abundant, especially  the columnar picrolite variety. Colors ranged from  very light green to very dark green. Gemmy coatings of medium to dark green  antigorite occasionally comprised the rocks' surfaces. This antigorite was slightly translucent, but less so than antigorite (var.) williamsite.  It also lacked those chromite spots so definitive of williamsite. The  rock beneath the antigorite was grainy, dull greenish gray and black, possibly chrome-bearing, and iron-bearing almost for sure. Though we didn't have magnets, John had learned  when the cabs from his earlier find were made  that much of the black material here was magnetic.

One specimen that particularly interested me is the quartz (var.) prase shown at right. Is presence along with the serpentinite strongly suggests that the rocks on this pile were from the neighboring Cedar Hill or Penn-Maryland Quarries just a few miles east in Lancaster Couty at Fulton Township. Both quarries exploit the same kind of serpentinite rock that's part of the Baltimore Mafic Complex.

 Another piece that impressed me features an intersection of massive magnetite with pale green antigorite (var.) picrolite. Were it chromite rather than magnetite meeting that picrolite, I suspect some williamsite would be gracing the picture as well. Assuming that the rocks originated at either the Cedar Hill or Penn- Maryland Quarries, such a find would seem reasonable. Chromite as well as magnetite is known to occur at both localities

All told, we spent less than an hour at the rock pile. We departed because we were hungry and still marginally clean enough to be served a hearty lunch at a family restaurant a few miles away.

 Thereafter, we continued about ten miles further on  to check out ---with permission---the edges of another rock pile that John knew about. It consisted mostly of  "Wissahickon schist."  We quickly uncovered some graphite, pyrite, and siderite.  This was a much bigger pile of rocks. Unfortunately,  later commitments limited the amount of time we had to see as much of it as we would have liked. Stay tuned.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The 2012 East Coast Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show,

This year's East Coast Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show held at the Better Living Center-Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts, was grand. It impressed me more than any of the the six shows here, beginning in 2007, that I've attended. The basic layout was the same: big hall with ten aisles bordered on each side by dealers of gems, fossils, and mostly minerals. Beyond the easternmost hall was a curtain to partition off a section for wholesalers and buyers with resale tax numbers. Each day the show featured two guest speaker presentations in a smaller room up some steps. They included Bob Jones, Professor Nancy Millard, and Kevin Downey on topics relating to the colour of minerals, the history of collecting, and caves. 

As in the past, the entrance room featured  exhibits and magazines (ie. Rocks and Minerals Mineralogical Record) .Usually the exhibits display specimens from an individual private mineral collection. This year, the theme focused on the watercolor art of Fred Wilda. After  becoming fascinated with minerals about 15 years ago, Wilda, a Massachusetts aftist soon began to specialize in painting them. He has since become renowned for them in mineralogical circles and beyond.  Our title image shows a Wilda painting of an aquamarine from the Tripp Mine in Cheshire County, New Hampshire. The subject specimen sits immediately below accompanied by a vast assortment of other New England gem minerals.  In addition to the exhibits lining the room and the magazines was a microscope equipped desk offering mineral identification. 

A pleasant precursor to a long day of schmoozing and acquiring ---I was only there on Friday, Aug.10---was what first met my eye in the main hall. Green Mountain Minerals of Garrison, New York,  had an array of mineral specimens for sale at eyepoppingly reasonableprices. They had  rows of $5 specimens and $10 specimens. Some of them could probably have commanded far more.Within less than a minute, my wallet was lighter. 

John Betts had set up nearby. He was so busy, I never got to chat with this consummate dealer and proponent of mineralogy. Nearby was Terry Szenics. Want  some  of the eponymous rare szenicsite from Inca d' Oro, Chile that's so popular with collectors? Terry had plenty on hand including a couple of small pieces for as little as $10, larger and showier once for bigger bucks. Not far away, Alfredo Petrov commanded his typical eclectic array of obscure, interesting, and sometimes almost arcane minerals  and as usual had plenty of stories to tell.  One of several that I caught  was about a benitoite find in Japan. The occurrence, albeit microscopic, was in rhodonite. Alfredo suggested that the geologic conditions encouraged speculation as to whether future benitoite finds could be lurking  in certain unnamed rhodonite deposits in California.

Plodding through the hall the entire day, I encountered a few significant "new finds"  and likely missed plenty morel. Michael Walter's Geologic Desires (Nicholville, New York) had a new find from the Rose Road Site in Pitcairn, New York, of diopside that was purple, possibly due to low iron. Another Geologic Desires find was of peristerite (think albite, moonstone) along with some scapolite from the Ellis Farm locality at Macomb, New York. Ryan Smith of Ryan Smith Minerals had a new find of baryte from the Linwood Mine,in Buffalo, Iowa. The crystals were "smokier"  than any Linwood Mine barytes I'd previously seen. Mr. Smith explained how he'd obtained them directly from a geologist with a special permit to collect at the locality.

Speaking of having having sources with access to a locality,  Dan and Diana Weinrich (Weinrich Minerals)  might have taken the cake, just like last year. On tables next to  glass encased cabinets of high end specimens, I joined buyers who were scarfing up keystoned lower end minerals faster than the Weinrich's could lay them out. Some  were of superior quality, many  from the Sweetwater Mine, Vibernum Trend, Reynolds County, Missouri. Dan and Diana know a miner there who has been supplying them with seemingly endless material for years.  Can you believe that from amidst these pieces I scored the almost nine inch Sweetwater Mine calcite crystal pictured at right for $24?

Being from Maryland and with a penchant for regional minerals, one reason this show was so special for me was its East Coast focus. With about 120 dealers, it would seem  small  for being the biggest show  within such a vast and  populous a region. Though the dealers come from all over  (at least within the United States), many were East Coast dealers with plenty of East Coast mineral specimens  for sale. Much of the material is from older collections that these dealers have purchased or arranged to sell on consignment. Specimens so acquired often tend to bear enticingly reasonable price tags.

The highlight of the show for me was Steve Carter's Penn Minerals concession. Earlier this year, the selections from Pennsylvania that he as well as Joe Dague were selling at the Macungie Show in June had dazzled me. What Steve was selling here at West Springfield dazzled me even more.  In less that ten minutes, I'd filled a flat. The cerussite specimen pictured at left from the long closed and inaccessible Wheatley Mine in Phoenixville for $150 was my main purchase of the show. 
Seeing and schmoozing with mineral people at this show is as much fun as scoring new minerals.  I was privileged to join Joe Polityka, of Allentown, Pennsylvania for a late lunch at the Good Living Center's pathetic food concession. Joe's been Mineralogical Record's reporter  on the East Coast Show for more than a decade. He also opined that this year's show was particularly enjoyable. It will be interesting to read what he will have to say when his article appears, presumably in the Nov.-Dec. 2012 Minrec. Since we were grabbing a bite, we talked some about food as well as minerals.It's a topic Joe has touched on in some of his past articles. From the places he mentioned,  I suspect he had yet to find his way to the place I would discover about seven hours later. 

Having spent several hours hours after the day's show  in a hotel room logging my purchases,  I ventured out quite late and on my own, ending up at the Federal just a few miles up Route 5 in Agwam where good fortune afforded me the sole open stool at  the bar. The Federal is a creative "New American" restaurant just a few miles up Route 5 in Agwam.  I don't believe anything comparable exists in or anywhere near so close to Springfield or West Springfield. Though it was packed, I didn't recognize any familiar faces from the show. The people next to me had made a special trip all the way from Hartford. My dinner of a fresh garden gaspacho bearing half a fresh lobster tail and topped  with wasabi oil and baby cilantro followed by a "twelve ingredient salad" were outstanding. I only wish more mineral friends shared my penchant for elaborate food. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Minerals at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh is grand. Its Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems is a must see. A recent visit there  was my only mineral related excursion worth writing about during the canicular days of  the past six weeks. The time was well-spent, however, in air-conditioned comfort, working on a New Years Resolution for 2012 to catalog  my collection.  The inspiration to get moving with this evolved while writing the most recent Mineral Bliss post, which lamented a seasonal lull in mineralogical activities.

One of the first exhibits to meet one's eye upon entering the Hillman Hall of Minerals  features zeolites from India. They are of a genre that has become ubiquitous to mineral displays in recent years. More interesting to me  were nearby exhibits designed to educate the observer on some simple,  though often overlooked facts about geology, fossils, and  particularly minerals.  With illustrations and words, one particularly impressive exhibit  demonstrated and explained with remarkable precision as well as brevity the basic premises of crystallography.  Another explaining pseudomorphs was just as enlightening.  Further along, a kinetic exhibit featuring a giant microscope replica sought to explain how  magnification contributes to mineralogical perspective. Informative for sure, although  the fixed photographic images could have been sharper as they flashed on a screen in conjunction with corresponding micromounts passing beneath the scope.

The mostly mirrored walls of Hillman Hall's "Masterpiece Gallery" minerals make the hall seem larger than it actually is. At the entrance is a two sided cabinet featuring minerals from Pennsylvania.This could well be the premier collection of spectacular Pennsylvania Minerals in the world.

 Except for the Pennsylvania minerals, labeling of the specimens  in the Masterpiece Gallery mentions only the state or country where collected. Particularly impressive by virtue of its unusual habit is the legrandite specimen shown at left. from "Mexico," even though anyone familiar with the species knows that more specifically it would be from Mapimi.  Perhaps such omission is for the sake of labeling consistency, especially should more specific locality information be unknown for certain pieces. Another specimen to stop me in my tracks was the Bolivian vivianite specimen at right. Though I didn't measure, my recollection is that it was about a foot long. Could that be possible? All of the minerals displayed in this hall are exquisitely lit and amazing to contemplate, some very likely the best of their species known to exist.

 Adjoining the Masterpiece Gallery is the Wertz Gallery of Gems and Jewelry. Having been dazzled by the minerals,  the time remaining for me to enjoy its displays was all too short.

The typical visitor to the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Hillman Hall of Minerals and gems sees but a fraction of  one per cent of the 27,000 specimens that are part of its collection. While these include many of the specimens likely to attract the most general interest, untold other pieces would be no less worthy of display. The Carnegie Museum is to be commended for having  catalogued ninety per cent of the pieces that it owns.   

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Off-Season

From left to right: Muscovite from  Rangi, Tanzania, Tangerine Quartz from Minas Gerais; Vivianite from near Potosi, Bolivia; Spinel from Jensen Quarry, Riverside, California, Rutile from Graves Mtn., GA.

These are five of the six "stones" cited by The Book of Stones by Robert Simmons and Naisha Ahsian as metaphysical catalysts for "inspiration."  The last time inspiration was necessary  for Mineral Bliss to come up with a topic, we resorted to a post about the dichotomy between what the good stones book preaches and  the various earth sciences that mineralogy embraces.

 Late June through July  isn't mineral season. Heat and high vegetation get in the way of field collecting; academia is mostly in recess; and as the operator of a mineral store on eBay, I can attest that business has slowed down considerably.  Thanks to air conditioning, the onset of these canicular days  heralds tackling the paperwork so oft neglected when the weather outside is more to my liking.  It's a time to deal with photography and writing, if not through blogging, at least to shoot minerals and write up their descriptions for listings in the store, not to mention edit those riddled with typos and catachresis ?  Or just as important: cataloging my mineral collection. 

The importance of cataloging one's mineral collection would otherwise be great topic for a blog post right now. Doing so was my New Year's resolution for 2012.   Deciding to use Excel software and perusing a DVD to explain how Excel  works is as far as it's gotten. Time is running short. A week with family at the beach in July is committed, and after that how much fun it would be to drive cross country and back checking out mineral localities along the way.

For now, at least, I think I'll go into Excel, enter the five rocks shown in our title picture, and see where it goes from there.

By August, minerals will be back into season. The East Coast Gem and Fossil Show in West Springfield, Massachussetts will happen August 10-12. After that, the ad in Rocks and Minerals heralding the Dallas Mineral Collecting Symposium on August 25  reads the event will be killer. Come September, mineral season will be in high gear and will stay there til once again it's summer.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Feldspar Mining in Maryland

Pictured above at the long abandoned Tunnel Feldspar Mine in Howard County, are Maryland Park Service Supervisor for Patapsco Valley State Park Michael Burditt and Jeff Nagy. The latter's work continues regarding an updated revision of the 1980 Maryland Geological Survey publication Minerals of the Washtington, D.C. Area. Nagy located the Tunnel Mine by first researching literature written in the 1920's at the Maryland Geological Survey. Later, he reached the site after assuming that what today is a driveway appeared as "Tunnel Road" on a 70 year old map. The 1940 Natural History Society of Maryland publication Minerals of Maryland by Ostrander and Price also mentions the Tunnel Mine.  Noted is  how the adit "cuts into pegmatite rich in white potash feldspar." Located less than a mile into Howard County beyond Marriottsville, it is on land that the State of Maryland leases to active present farming interests. 

The adit leads into a water-filled tunnel about 150 yards to the left as one heads up the driveway. Nagy does not know how far back it leads. Minerals of Maryland reports the occurrence of "white cleavage microcline, microcline crystals, a little mucscovite, biotite, and black tourmaline" at the mine.  In the mica schist close by, were reported kyanite, staurolite, garnets, limonite psueudomorph after pyrite, and quartz crystals." Nagy has also perused literature from the U.S. Geological Survey citing  the Tunnel Mine as a locality for beryl. But today, vegetation has long covered any dumps that may once have been, and the face of the cliffs near and surrounding the adit show little to attract collectors. 

Interestingly, the available literature (unless we have missed something) shows the Tunnel Mine as Maryland's only feldspar mine.  Less than a mile away, however, about hundred yards upstream from Marriottsville along the Carroll County bank of the Patapsco, is an adit leading into what obviously  was another feldspar mine. The Maryland DNR Trail Guide has even mapped this  adit as a cave. Water has not invaded it. Nagy ventured  inside  in 2010 with Maryland collector Fred Parker and a reporter from NPR  to broadcast a story about the mine's existence. Nagy recalls the opening reaching back approximately 300 navigable feet. 

Based on  personal visits to both localities, as well as input from Jeff Nagy and Fred Parker, the likelihood of finding collectible minerals at either locality is slim at best. Regardless, laws prohibiting collecting  in the Patapsco Valley State Park are rigidly enforced. Breaking them entails  theft of State property.  Access to see the Tunnel Mine would require permission  from the active farmers who rent the land as well as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.  The adit along the banks of the Patapsco near Marriottsville Road, however, is accessible to the curious, all the more so during seasons when the surrounding vegetation is minimal. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hall's Gap, Kentucky Today

Pictured above is the "productive" side of  the Route 27 road cut in Halls Gap, Kentucky that's known as a classic locality for geodes bearing millerite needles and other sulphides perched upon vibrant pink chalcedony. With low expectations, I decided  to forgo my usual route home to Baltimore from New Orleans (Jazzfest) this May in order to pay the site a visit.

Gleaned from the Internet to form my low expectations were the  following locality descriptions:  cleaned out; filled in; hard to collect; and strictly off-limits. I assumed that most of these descriptions had been posted subsequent to the April, 2003 date where Mindat noted the locality had been reopened. After spending about 90 minutes there, I found myself unable to either confirm or deny any of these contentions.

It was easy enough to locate. Route 27 descends a hill with road cuts on either side immediately north of the Halls Gap Motel.   Where  the road cut ends on the right is a pull-off where you can park. Everything that I collected came from within or the immediate vicinity of that parking area. Hereabouts was enough "geode material," to distract me for a half hour before venturing back to the road cut. Unless one counts the presence of snakes---I observed but one---there were no signs or obstructions to discourage me from collecting.

The cut is through shale. Nowhere in the road cut or amidst the talus beneath it did I observe any other kind of rock. Having since learned that the sulphide-bearing geodes were wedged into the shale in the road cut,  it's possible I didn't look carefully enough. However, if the geodes were there, the work to dislodge them would have entailed more time than my schedule permitted.

So it was back to the parking lot to further inspect what was on the surface there and immediately beneath. Included were numerous geode particles, a few clusters of  quartz crystals to about 5 mm. and quite a bit of  nodular chalcedony, some of it drusy. Exposure to the weather had had dulled any prior vibrancy the chalcedony might have once enjoyed.  I also uncovered a few unbroken geodes ranging in diameter from approximately one to five inches. They were plenty tough to crack. Inside them were chalcedony that curiously appeared as weathered as that which  had lain exposed on the ground,  and plenty  of cleaved calcite along with a few rhombs. Some examples are shown at right.

Once again after the fact, word has reached me of other geode localities in the vicinity of Halls Gap. It has not include word regarding a presence of millerite or other sulphides.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Baltimore City Diggings at Herring Run

Nearly every day for eight years during a much longer than eight year hiatus from mineralogical pursuits, I walked  the paved loop on either side of Herring Run between Harford Road and Belair Road. Even though these walks were for no purpose other than exercise and the enjoyment of being outside, had there been much of mineralogical interest along the way, I probably would have noticed.  Except for the alluvial deposits in the stream, this stretch of Herring Run Park was all mica schist that was so boring I don't recall  ever noticing any other rocks or minerals associated with it.

 Having moved on to other means and places for daily exercise and outdoor activity, ten years passed without my even once visiting the park again. Prompting me to return recently were digging and blasting to replace aging and decrepit sewer pipes that run adjacent to the stream.  To reach the above pictured spoils from it by car, take the spur extending southwest from Harford Road immediately south of its intersection with Argonne Drive. Park where the spur ends, walk under the bridge along the north bank of Herring Run, and you'll be there.

As expected, most of the rock here is the same boring  mica schist. Associated with it, however, are  intrusions of  feldspar and massive smoky quartz. Most interesting of the latter two is the feldspar, some of which is  attractive enough to be collected in its own right, as shown at left.

Most of the  feldspar, however, is lighter in colour and  more coarse. Often it occurs in combination with the mica schist and the smoky quartz.  These rocks are often the most interesting  to break open and explore.

The schorl crystal shown at right measures 3 cm. x 1.8 cm. and was one of the smallest, albeit easiest to dislodge schorl crystals in the larger rock from which I trimmed it. That's the good news. The not so good news is that very few rocks  I observed bore any schorl.

Garnet, which I assume to be almandine, is more likely to be inside  this rough feldspar material. The chances of finding or  extracting an unbroken crystal of significant size could be slim. However,  the  colour and luster of these garnets are notably gemmy.

I'd be surprised, to find any other mineral species at this locality. None of the material here is vuggy, and examination of it under the scope has revealed nothing of interest. Still, it's a spot in Baltimore City, that for now, at least when the workers are not present---think early evening and weekends--- should probably be all right and perfectly safe for collectors to crawl around in the dirt  and hammer away. And undoubtedly, further blasting in the future will take place downstream to provide additional  material to check out.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Real Cerussite Magic

After 118 posts dating from  February, 2009, this is the first mention that in addition to collecting minerals, writing about them, and photographing them, I'm also a dealer with a store (Jakes Minerals) on eBay, under the handle "Bestyards." Selling minerals on the Internet is great way to  learn about as well as appreciate species, localities, mineralogy in general. It results from time spent through  research---I do a lot of it on Mindat---to ascertain that inventory descriptions are accurate, especially regarding species and locality.

So it was with the cerussite specimen pictured in our title picture next to its label. Was cerussite REALLY that rare at the Moose Mine? And for that matter, was the specimen actually collected at the Moose Mine in Butte, Montana?  After considerable research, uncertainty lingered. Mindat, for instance, listed but six species occurring at the Moose Mine, none of them lead bearing (as is cerussite). Nor did Mindat note a presence of cerussite at hardly any of dozens of localities in the  Butte vicinity. Out of 2,548 images of cerussite on the Mindat site,  not one was from anywhere near Butte.

So below is a copy of the listing I posted on Thursday, April 20, 2012:

The listing had not been posted for less than two days when the following note showed up in my eBay mailbox:

Dear bestyards,
He (Pequa Rare Minerals) was trying to give the dates that the Moose Mine was operating, not the date the specimen was recovered. It did come from 1880 workings, but I collected that specimen about 20 years ago along with a flat of specimens. The biggest piece I donated to the Montana Tech Mineral Museum. I traded the one you have to J. P. (4th best found) in return for a small Butte bornite xtl specimen. As to the locality, it is from the outcrop of a vein near the Moose shaft. As I was collecting the material, the ground under my feet began to shake, then a finger-sized hole appeared and dirt began to drop into it. I realized I was on top of a thin ledge of rock (called a crown pillar) that had been mined to within a few feet of the surface. I realized if I tried to dig any more the ground would collapse, and I would fall to my death into a large open stope. So yes, this is a real Butte cerussite. The small flat of specimens collected are the only ones known. 

The mining engineer who collected this unusual and obscure speciemen  20 years ago  had inadvertently  encountered its image amidst the millions on the Internet.  Though disdainful  of  the metaphysical claims sometimes accredited to various minerals, I'm hardly averse to the notion that working with minerals ushers more than its share of seemingly magical synchronicity. Here was just one example.

Needless to say I removed this Moose Mine cerussite specimen from the market immediately. It currently rests at a cherished spot in my main collection cabinet. Who was it, after all, who proclaimed that  if the label were correct, the specimen  "could be a treasure?"

Sunday, April 15, 2012

New Treasures at Delaware Mineralogical Museum

The master German stone carver Gerd Dreher fashioned the bat entirely from a single chunk of Brazilian agate. It's on loan from the private collection of Herbert and Monika Obodda. And the frog, at left? Except for the eyes and flower's ovary, it's but one piece of the classic Tanzanian ruby zoisite combination. These and other Dreher carvings will be on display until July 20, 2012.

They are but a small part of what is new here at the Delaware Mineralogical Museum in Penny Hall at the University of Delaware. Otherwise, it's all world class mineral specimens that intricate fiber optic lighting showcase with a flair not likely surpassed at any other mineral museum on earth.

Why is it that of the United States of America's 50 states, one that ranks at or near the bottom of the mineralogical wealth ladder boasts such a collection? Several reasons: Generous donors have funded it; it's small enough to focus on the best of the best; and it has Sharon Fitzgerald as its full time curator.

Aware of my interest in regional minerals,
Sharon had mentioned to me in an email one new item in particular that was not on display. She described it as a "book by W. W. Jefferis---really just a cover that between dividers contains sheets of muscovite that are all included with magnetite and hematite from Chandlers Hollow." Even with the picture at left, I was not entirely certain what to expect. After all, mica crystals in nature form as "books." Jefferis collected the numerous muscovite crystal sheets between as many dividers about a century and a half ago. Though Chandlers Hollow still exists, Ms. Fitzgerald has not been able to determine specifically where at Chandlers Hollow they came from or how Jefferis collected them.

Still, the Delaware Mineralogical Museum is less about art and history, more about world class minerals. Ms. Fitzgerald insists that despite the colour of its backdrop, the aquamarine pictured at left is truly as blue as it appears to be. In fact, some of the specimens on display here could be the most visually outstanding examples of their species known to exist. Aware of the extent that such determinations, especially with respect to common or frequently collected minerals, are subject to argument amongst curators, collectors, and high end mineral dealers, I picked a less commonly displayed species to illustrate this point. Is anyone aware of a more outstanding kurnakovite specimen than the foot long piece from Boron, California pictured at right?

Though the Dreher carvings will only be here until July 20, the amazing mineral specimens will be around indefinitely. However, anyone planning to visit this April (2012) or June should first call 302-831-6557 or 302-831-8037. Scheduled renovations elsewhere in Penny Hall will necessitate closing the museum for a period of time during one of those months. Otherwise, except for holidays and school breaks, it's open Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, noon to 5, and on Thursdays from noon to 8.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mineralogical Ramblings in Cecil County, Maryland

Threats of an earlier than usual presence of briars, ticks, and snakes this spring of 2012 prompted me to spend an inordinate amount of time the past couple of weeks searching for minerals in rocky and wooded areas. Much of the focus has been in Cecil County, Maryland, on either side of of Pilot Town Road and Pleasant Grove Road as they approach the the Mason-Dixon Line.

Though most of the land hereabouts is stringently posted, it is dotted with abandoned quarries, prospects, and pits once variously worked for talc, feldspar, chromite, and serpentine. Most mineralogically significant of these were the State Line Pits, of which the dumps are now buried beneath earth overgrown with briars. Though this locality produced Maryland's finest williamsite in years past, it's long been inaccessible. The most recent attempt to collect at the State Line Pits of which I'm aware was by an accomplished collector who gained access to the site 18 years ago and after digging extensively, returned home skunked.

After having gained permission to visit the sites of other long abandoned and grown over workings in this part of Cecil County, I've concluded that the best place in to look for the greatest variety of interesting minerals is in the area's more accessible alluvial deposits. In the Pilot Town Road vicinity, my recommendation would be Conowingo Creek immediately north of the bridge where the Pilot Town Road bridge crosses it.

The most collectible species here are chalcedony and jasper. To spot them, look for rocks with dark, rough, and mangled surfaces, then break them open if necessary to be certain. Any green rocks, of course, are serpentine. Much of the serpentine that was mined in this immediate vicinity and thus most likely to turn up in alluvial deposits is of the verde antique genre, which is wonderful as a building stone, but should bore most collectors. More collectible and interesting serpentine is readily available in the ubiquitous roadfill hereabouts that's quarried from Lancaster County's Cedar Hill Quarry or Penn-Maryland Quarry

To find a piece of serpentine, variety williamsite,
however, would be another matter. Alluvial deposits along Octoraro Creek or its tributaries should offer better odds as they flow closer to williamsite localities, mostly in Pennsylvania, that have produced the greatest quantities of this dear and cherished species. I've not yet explored the Octoraro deposits, but was standing by recently when a collector pulled the amazing piece at right from an Octoraro tributary just a short distance north of the Pennsvlania line.

Pebbles of reddish quartz or quartzite, especially with vugs or holes that could once have encased crystals, are worth a whack with the hammer. The red colour is from iron, which could signal a presence within of sulphides, namely pyrite, chalcopyrite, goethite pseudomorph after pyrite, or magnetite. Particularly interesting was the specimen at left. It is from inside a larger and less water polished, but otherwise similar rock in nearby field we visited after leaving the alluvial area. Note how it bears goethite pseudomorphs after pyrite crystals immediately next to pyrite that had not so much as tarnished.

Also curious was the shiny white material that appeared when I broke open the Conowingo Creek alluvial quartz pebble pictured at right. For all the world, it looks to me like brucite. Though indigenous to the region, brucite is not a species I would expect to uncover when breaking open a piece of quartz. Even after examination under the scope, I don't have a clue.

Finding corundum amidst these thousands of rocks would seem more likely. Having recently searched for it to no avail in alluvial material along the Patapsco River near Henryton in Carroll County, MD, corundum was on my mind. That, of course, is where Bob Conkright made the corundum find of his life. There as in this part of Cecil County, the abundant presence of talc, feldspar, quartz, and serpentine in close proximity create the right environment. Considering reports of corundum nearby along the Nottingham Turnpike just 1 1/2miles northeast of Chrome, PA, and with hundreds of tons of corundum having been mined during the 19th Century at various geologically similar locations in neighboring Chester County, PA, why not?