Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The 2016 Desautels Micromount Symposium

On the weekend of October 14-16, 2016, the Baltimore Mineral Society celebrated the 60th Anniversary of its annual Desautels International Micromount Symposium. For the past several years, the event has occurred at Friends School on North Charles Street. The symposium derived its name to honor the  late Paul Desautels (1920-1991), who founded the Baltimore Mineral Society in 1951, and later in 1956, its micromount  symposium, the first of its kind in the world, Soon thereafter, he left  Baltimore to become Curator-in -Charge of of gems and minerals at the Smithsonian. The Desautels Symposium  has always attracted many of America's ---and some the world's---most knowledgeable, prolific, and best known micromounters. Enhancing the event's continuity  has been the induction each year of new members into the Micromounter's Hall of Fame, launched in 1981.

Mike Seeds,  a past president of the Baltimore Mineral Society, who lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has chaired the event for a number of years.  Actively assisting him are Micromounter's Hall of Fame members Steve and Carolyn Weinberger, who last year were inducted as a couple.

This year's symposium featured two inductees. Pictured at left is new Hall of Famer Bob Rothenberg, seen at left with wife Monet holding his plaque. Over several decades, by virtue of  knowledge, skill, and service to the micromounting community, Bob has established himself as one of the world's great micromounters. The current focus of his work relates to the eastern part of North America. On Saturday afternoon, he gave a presentation about the discovery of an extensive array of rare microminerals recently identified in syenite along a small stream in Augusta County, Virginia.

Also elected, albeit post-mortem,  was the late Baltimore lawyer and philanthropist Randall Rothschild, who died at 93 in 2003. In addition to launching the International Directory of Micromounters,  Mr. Rothschild is remembered for having provided  much of the funding that enabled  John S. White, a Baltimore Mineral Society founding member (who succeeded Mr. Desautels as the Smithsonian's  Curator-in-Charge of Minerals) to found Mineralogical Record in 1970. Before ultimately donating his world class micromount collection to the Smithsonian, Mr. Rothschild circulated numerous mounts at the Desautels Symposium, where at least a couple turn up each year at auction. His mounts are much celebrated not only for their often surreal beauty, but for the unique and intricate skill with which Mr. Rothschild mounted them, as well as the intricate handwritten style he used to label them.

Needless to say, each year's symposium attracts its share of Micromounter's Hall of Famers. Pictured in the image at right  (l to r) are Steve Weinberger (inducted 2015); Carolyn Weinberger (inducted 2015); Lou D'Alonzo (inducted 2015; John Ebner (inducted 1997); new inductee Bob Rothenberg; and Col. Quintin Wight (inducted 1990). Col, White, of Ottawa, Ontario, is arguably the world's best known living micromounter and author of The Complete Book of Micromounting, He serves as master of ceremonies of each year's Micromounter's Hall of Fame induction.

In addition to the Hall of Fame inductions, the Desautels Symposium features speakers, dealers, plenty of trading, and a seemingly endless giveaway table. One of the highlights on this year's table was a small box of tiny white pebbles contributed by Col.  Wight, Gracing some of them were extremely unsual combinations of very dark green to black spinel morphing into corundum in association with the quite rare and complex species högbomite. They were from a find near Bathurst in Ottawa that Quintin described in the first presentation delivered at this year's event.

Among particularly intriguing  offerings from  the ever present dealers was a selection of several
dozen  mounts, each bearing numerous---in some instances scores---of submillimeter crystals mounted on 8 millimeter disks affixed to a cork pedestal.  Indeed various micromounters over the years have used such disks to display one or several crystals usually of particularly rare species. However, to see such a large number of crystals to appear so neatly and well-arranged on a disk this tiny was a mind-boggling experience for many who were present. The example pictured at left features minute yet well formed crystals of tourmaline (var.) dravite from the Coatesville Adit in Chester County, Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania dealer Don Smoley was offering them. He noted that Joe Borowick was the name of the micromounter who created them.

A huge cake was served after lunch on Satruday to celebrate the event's 60th anniversary, Counting the number of symposia that have taken place, this was actually the 61st Desautels International Micromount Symposium. The 62nd will happen on a yet to be determined weekend toward the middle of October, 2017. Once again, one of the features will be the induction of two new Micromount Hall of Famers: Betsy Martin of Richmond, Virginia, and postmortem, the late Dr. Henry "Bumpi" Barwood, who passed away on September 9, 2016,