Friday, December 13, 2013

Kerry Matt and the Minerals of Pennsylvania

Pictured above is Kerry Matt with a chalcedony specimen from a vein he uncovered at Cedar Hill Quarry in Lancaster County near the Maryland Line. The color and habit are unique to Pennsylvania. Over a lifetime of prospecting, Kerry has numerous such new finds to his credit. The pursuit of Pennsylvania's minerals as well as fossils has been the primary focus of his life since  childhood. "Science is number one," he says. "Collecting in the field is number two; the excess is income." 

We are standing in the work room near the foot of the stairs in the basement of  his home near Lancaster. This is where he keeps tools to "dress up"  the minerals he collects. The best of them go into another part of the basement, which houses one of the largest and most significant as well as most spectacular collections of Pennsylvania minerals---and fossils--- in existence. Others he sells at various regional mineral/gem/fossil shows. 

In the middle of the room is the computer on which he put together Pennsylvania's Rainbow Under Ground. The book's 440 glossy pages include at least  three times  that number of color photos picturing localities and minerals known to occur at them.  Readers are taken from county to county, and locality to locality. Not far from the computer,  he points to a microscope and chest full of thumbnails and micromounts of  typically rare Pennsylvania species. Most eyecatching in this room are a myriad large and spectacular cabinet specimens, all from Pennsylvania. They are wherever there is space, mostly weighing down shelves. Some are species that Kerry  has collected in abundance. Very noticeable among them are numerous Phoenixville pyromorphites  as well amethystine quartz from the Glen Mills Quarry in Delaware County shown at right.  The latter, not to be confused with the material  shown in our title image, is another exclusive Kerry Matt find upon which he has bestowed the nickname," Black Raspberry Rainbow Chalcedony. 

 It is time now to wind around a narrow basement  hallway and enter another much larger room to see what Kerry refers to as "the good stuff, " namely his amazing personal collection. It is divided into suites, most but not all of which are based on locality. 
Especially impressive is a suite of  minerals from his native Lancaster County near the Maryland Line where chromium was once mined and serpentine continues to be extensively quarried. Most of these specimens he collected at the Cedar Hill Quarry or the historic Woods Chrome Pits. Note the amazing chromian clinochlore at bottom left. The columnar purple specimens immediately to the right of it are chrome antigorite, a species pretty much unique to the Woods Chrome pit. Mounted on the white plastic stands above the chrome antigorite is penninite, a pseudo-trigonal variety of clinochlore. Very little of the species is known to exist from hereabouts.
Suites of specimens from York County and Adams County share another impressive cabinet. On the bottom shelf, note the abundant museum quality golden calcites from the York Building Products Roosevelt Avenue Quarry. Leaning against the cabinet to the left is an enormous native copper from the Greenstone Quarry near Blue Ridge Summit in Adams County. Directly in front and mostly cropped out of the photo are what could well be the largest known chunks of malachite/azurite ever extracted from a well known  roadcut along Route 74 in York County near Rossville. To the right of this large cabinet  is a smaller cabinet holding miniatures of less common  species from various Pennsylvania localities. Among them are matulaite from the Bachman Mine in Hellertown, beraunite and cacoxenite from Moore's Mill, and an extremely rich matrix specimen bearing brookite and anatase crystals from Klines Quarry in Hellam.
The creme de la creme of all the suites exhibits Pennsylvania classics.   The enormous  wavellite  specimen shown above from Mount Pleasant Mills  is a mindblow. Likewise, the multi-colored brucite (cream colored and orange) directly beneath it, also the golden hued vermiculite plates to the right of the brucite. This same cabinet also holds the minerals shown at right. Note the specimen bearing huge beryl crystals adorned by almandine. These crystals were mostly hidden prior to many hours of work by Kerry to
chisel away the quartz that once encased them.  At the front of the same shelf and to the right of the beryl is a classic Wheatley Mine  Phoenixville pyromorphite. Immediately to the right of the pyromorphite is a spectacular Rutile Crystal from Parkesburg in Chester County. Pictured by itself above and at left is a columbite crystal from the Steidler Pegmatite, also in Chester County, that must be seen to be believed. 

In addition to all the Pennsylvania material is a markedly colorful single suite of minerals from worldwide localities. Despite his pre-eminent lifetime association with Pennsylvania minerals, Kerry has been well-positioned to acquire these specimens along his journey. When people visit to see his collection, he considers  it important to be able to share a perspective of mineral collecting that  extends beyond his home state. To make use every bit of space the cabinet affords,he has affixed the labels to the bottoms of the specimens. 

Only because the Mineral Bliss blog limits itself  to mineralogy, have we not mentioned until now that his amazing collection also includes six suites of fossils. Kerry is as significant a player in Pennsylvania paleontology as he is with its mineralogy. He has authored three books relating to fossils that recently have been combined into a single publication entitled  Pennsylvania's Paleozoic Playground .  He is currently involved in new species research and co-authorship with Dr. Roger Thomas in correspondence with F & M College over new finds in the Lower Cambrian Kinzer Formation in Lancaster County. Separate fossil suites in his collection feature the following localities: Maryland's Calvert Cliffs; Lancaster County; PA;  the Red Hill Devonian fish/plant site in Clinton County, PA; and  the Swatara Gap Ordovician site. There is also a very diverse suite bearing fossils from as many of the great worldwide fossil localities as Kerry has been able to muster. Pictured at left, it also includes fossils from the two previously mentioned localities. 

We believe this is an opportune time to feature Kerry's collection. It could look different within a few months.  As effectively as he has thus far managed to retain and curate so much material, he would like to have more space in which to focus on the very best in favor of contending with so many duplicates. In both volume and price, such a task goes well beyond what is feasible at the regional shows. Whatever steps he takes could well mark the beginning of a new chapter in which this quintessential Pennsylvania prospector as well as numerous dealers and high-end collectors should stand to benefit.