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.