Sunday, November 26, 2017

A Wonderful Display of Japanese Mineral Specimens

The mineral room at Japan's National Museum of Nature and Science at Ueno Park in Tokyo offers a different kind of experience than most other museums where minerals are on display.

Its focus is less about "eye candy" and more about   hundreds of  different mineral species showcased by  a thoughtfully designed lighting system. Most are medium sized cabinet specimens supported by brackets.
To foreign visitors unaware of what to expect, the exhibit should appear to be a very diverse collection of species. Thankfully, the labels name them in English as well as Japanese. Other pertinent information, including localities, are in Japanese. 

The collection leans heavily toward uncommon minerals and rarities. Mineral names like ohotskite, yoshimuraite, and tsugaruite bespeak the emphasis on species first identified in Japan. Mindat reveals many are found exclusively in Japan. A museum website  in English shows a catalog for an enormous inventory naming species, catalog number, country, and prefecture. It makes clear that the collection is all about the minerals of Japan. 

 One exclusively Japanese species that has gained stature among collectors  is henmilite.  This gorgeous  deep blue colored borate typically occurs in association with calcite and olshanskyite. It is found nowhere else in the world except the Fuka Mine on Honshu Island. The specimen pictured at left is on display immediately outside the mineral room. It  is world-class if not best of species. The close-up shot at right of a tiny piece illustrates henmilite's aesthetic appeal at closer range.   

Overall, the minerals here are not likely to generate as many "ooh's and ahh's"  as do selections at most other serious mineral exhibits around the world; however, viewers with a special interest in Japanese minerals or rare species are likely to be enthralled. Because many such specimens fall into the category of microminerals or are known to exist in very small quantities, a microscope is often necessary to properly view them. Even with deliberate lighting and occasional use of of arrow stickers pointing to their presence in larger rocks, to truly appreciate them visually can be a stretch if not impossible.                  

Because  such specimens are likely to interest but a small segment of  the population, some may question the purpose of including them for the masses to see in such a major public exhibit. Others, especially those interested in viewing the minerals of a country at its national museum, are likely to have special appreciation for the decision to acknowledge and make such an effort to display so many.  

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Amazing Hematite Find in Baltimore County, Maryland

This 8 x 7 x 3.5 inch specimen 9 poun specimenfeaturing bladed hematite crystals on chlorite schist from Baltimore County could well be the most intriguing Maryland-collected mineral to show up in the last decade. During the recent Gemcutters Guild of Baltimore's Atlantic Coast Gem, Mineral, and Jewelry show at the Howard County Fairgrounds, it was on display for all to see in a cabinet of about a dozen other specimens that Gemcutters long time member and show-organizer Bernie Emery had self-collected. Notwithstanding, it seemed that but a few of the numerous local mineral aficionados who were there manged to combine the levels of  detailed attention and specialized knowledge to realize the significance of what they were seeing.

It's a find that's almost impossible to believe as well as to refute. Though hematite is the world's primary ore for producing iron and is common in Maryland, it accounted for very little of  the production that thrived here into the early part of the last century. Instead, goethite, magnetite, and siderite  were the principal ores, except on the Coastal Plain where "bog ore" was prevalent.  Maryland's hematite occurs in either rough grainy dark red/black masses or as specular hematite, known also as"specularite." The latter appears as silvery flakes and/or microscopic tabular crystals. Hematite with the appearance of Bernie's recent find is all but unknown in Maryland. After 10 years writing and photographing Maryland-collected minerals and assuming sole responsibility for the Maryland Minerals website, this writer has never seen or heard of another such specimen.

The specific Baltimore County location where Bernie Emery found the specimen is especially curious. He surface-collected it at one of several pits worked for iron over a century ago. They all are a short distance from the NCR Trail near the former Blue Mount Station in Baltimore County. Records show the  ore source to have been exclusively magnetite.  Various publications that describe the mineralogy of the immediate area as well as its specific iron pits and prospects name a variety of minerals. They include tourmaline, apatite, garnet, actinolite, and hornblende. There is no mention of hematite or any other species worthy of mining. The country rock varies from serpentinite to chlorite schist.

Few if any collectors in the region could be more deserving of such a find than Bernie. Over more than three decades, he has been one of its most prolific and best known field collectors. Along with his wife Lynne, he has continuously held major leadership roles at all three of the area's pertinent organizations: Baltimore Mineral Society;  Chesapeake Gem and Mineral Society; and  Gemcutters Guild of Baltimore. His renown is enhanced by a penchant for collecting large sized specimens. That practice has prompted many friends and colleagues to refer to such specimens as "Bernie sized." Retirement from his day job several years ago has brought additional time to enjoy his hobbies. More than ever now, he has taken to perusing old maps and literature in a quest to find new spots to look for rocks.  He likes geological maps that hint where mineralization could be likely, and very old ones that mark the locations of   former and usually long forgotten (and all too often reclaimed or built over) mines and quarries.

After explaining the nature of his research, Bernie explains how the find happened:
I was walking up what appeared to be a  dump pile leading to a small pit that was full of water. On the pile, all the rocks were a rough chlorite schist  with a few small garnets. I noticed this one boulder that was covered with dirt and was curious what was inside it. I tapped off a piece with my hammer. The chlorite schist  was highly metamorphosed  with microscopic magnetitie crystals. I dismissed it and kept walking. 
Except for curiosity, Bernie offered no explanation as to why he returned a few seconds later.
I went back, turned it over. and saw pods filled with the dirt  this boulder had been in for 150 years. The pods appeared to be some other kind of material. There were no blade shapes  (as would suggest hematite). I used a stick to remove some of the dirt and got the impression it was some kind of honeycomb quartz or chalcedony. Further cleaning, I realized they were actually hematite blades that were completely rusted. I showed it to Bob Eberle who offered to clean it further. 
Eberle whose prowess at field collecting is legendary,  had  access to a glass head sand blaster. He took the specimen home and cleaned it up to reveal what he refrred to as "this amazing surprise."

And the question remains. How could such a specimen be here?  According to Bernie:
There's no way of knowing, but my guess is that it came from deep down in the pit and that it was put on a cart or a wagon and fell off. There's no way anyone would have left it there. 
He has since returned to the site and searched extensively.  No trace of hematite or any other specimen of interest  turned up.  Bernie's theory makes sense, but it is unlikely that anyone will ever  know for sure.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Viewing Minerals at Yale University: 2015 and 2017

A lot has changed. At left are pictured  cabinets with most of the minerals on public display at Yale University prior to the  October, 2016, Grand Opening of the new David Friend Mineral Hall at Yale's Peabody Museum of Natural History at 170 Whitney Avenue in New Haven.

Despite being a rock rather than a mineral specimen or gem, the orgasmic sandstone concretion at right from Fontainbleu France is but one example of what is in the Museum's new home for visually and aesthetically over the top specimens. Quite appropriately, it is from the collection of David Friend,  mineral aficionado  and 1965 Yale graduate (BS in Engineering).  Mr. Friend's leadership, guidance, and philanthropy paved the way to establish the museum's grand new addition.

 Many of the largest and most eye-catching specimens here are  on loan from prominent collectors such as Dr. Rob Lavinsky, Jim and Gail Spann, or Gene and Rosalind Meiran.  Among them are pieces that could be the best of  their genre known to exist. It is only natural that those who visit will be interested in viewing such  "eye candy,"

The David Friend Hall is on the 3rd floor of the Peabody Museum in a renovated space that an auditorium once filled. To the right of the hallway leading to it are the foot by 18 inches pink calcite twin from Scott City Missouri  at left amd the.300 pound baryte specimen pictured directly beneath it from nearby Branchville, Connecticut. Yale owns both of these specimens.

In a room to the left of this hallway is the Treasures of the Mineral World  room.  Most if not all of the rocks and minerals therein along with some jewelry have been selected from Yale's collection of more than 40,000 specimens. The displays are didvided  into categories such as mineral specimens placed according to their nature of origin and locality, minerals that fluoresce, radioactive minerals, some jewelry, and a cabinet with large examples of of well known rocks. Of particular interest is an exhibit of minerals collected in Connecticut.  Almost for sure, it is the "best" Connecticut suite in existence. Quite remarkable is the magnificent sillimanite shown at left. Sillimanite is eponymous with Benjamin Silliman, the Yale Professor who in 1802 began assembling and for more than 50 years curated Yale's  mineral collection.

Regardless of  knowledge about or interest in minerals,  however, upon reaching  the David Friend Hall of Minerals, visitors are in for an experience that should blow their minds.  The theme is world class specimens enhanced by world class lighting. In number, there are more than enough to appreciate, but not so many as to overwhelm. Pictured below are just a few images of what is there.

                               Malachite, Azurite                                    
Liufengshan, Guichi District  
Anhui Province, China

Wuning Mne
Jiangxi Province, China

Yaoganxian Mine
Hunan Province, China

Fluorite, Baryte
La Cabana
Asturias, Spain
Yunnan Province




Sunday, July 16, 2017

Rusty James on Purple Chalcedony, and Indonesian Relationships

Having been following his worldwide travels on Facebook, we asked Rusty James to be guest author for this post.  Rusty is a gem and mineral hunter who travels to the far reaches of the world to source quality mineral specimens and lapidary rough to cater to worldwide market demands.  He has been at it for 16 years, and operates under the business name Throwin’ Stones.  He sells in Tucson and Denver at various locations, does 4 shows a year in Japan, and exhibits at various other popular gem and mineral shows in the USA and abroad.  With a focus on ethics, fair trade and, sustainability for his suppliers and customers, he has developed strong relationships, partnerships, and supply lines on every continent.  Assisted by his wife Nicole and son Jasper,along with a passionate team of staff, he has built a robust online presence, and is currently in the process of launching a  wholesale company to offer his findings to re-sellers around the globe.  In  his very limited spare time, Rusty likes to share stories of his unique adventures and passion for sourcing gems and minerals.  

by Rusty James

Today I got to play celebrity (again).  I always forget how rare white people are in remote areas of Indonesia, and it takes a few moments of adjustment to put on my white guy fame hat.  A recent stop was particularly special.

We landed in a small village in central Sumatra where wild coffee, rubber trees, and chalcedony mining are essentially the only sustenance.  From there we hiked for about thirty minutes through the jungle to the back side of a nearby mountain where the villagers were mining. chalcedony.  There were many test holes in the area. We approached one that was being worked. A small fire was burning to keep the bees away and to boil "jungle coffee" as needed. 

Two miners were hard at work on a hole that was at least 5 meters deep (15 feet), which they had dug over a three day time span.  The dirt  was a red mud, soft and easy to work, but prone to collapse. I once saw this happen where a worker barely had time to jump out. There's a make shift pulley system crafted from rubber and a few buckets. A small man works down in the hole while another guy pulls the dirt up from the hole and dumps it on down the side of the mountain. Check out the video  of how this works. We watch the men work  for a while and ask lots of questions.  They haven't hit a good hole of AAA colored chalcedony in quite some time.  They tell us that this current hole produced about 15 kilograms of medium and low quality rock,  and I wonder whether it's really even worth their effort.  When they are hired to dig, they work for about $8/day.  Lately, they have been digging  for themselves, gambling with their lives in hopes of hitting the clear purple honey.

It's nearly impossible to determine the quality of the stone as its mined. It is always caked in dirt and mud. The miners. break a small chip off  the side with a machete looking for color.  If it appears to have potential, they schlep it down the mountain for further cleaning.  

After going through today’s pile back at the village, it became yet more evident how difficult the rough is to clean and evaluate.  Chalcedony is a tricky lapidary rough.  Even if a piece looks great on the surface or when backlit, a final determination can be evasive until the stone is cut.  

When  I questioned the  efforts they had just gone through, they showed me some photos of  top grade stuff  the site  had produced in the past.  Holy crap! Though one of  numerous purple chalcedony deposits in Indonesia, this mountain had produced some of the finest purple rock I've ever seen, very possibly the best on earth. I now understood why they carry on despite the low percentage of high grade material. Several years have passed  since they uncovered the good stuff. Back then, as many as 200 people would go out every day working holes. It blew my mind that single cabs of top grade purple had sold for thousands of dollars in Indonesian markets where prices rarely achieve four figures for a single gem.  My understanding of the hunt, the risk, and the amount of effort involved,  became clearer.

There was more than just purple chalcedony that enriched this adventure.  First we endured six hours  pothole-mania and bobblehead bouncing on the grueling roads. Then I had thought we would simply go on a hike, check out some holes, meet a group of nice people, and maybe have another chance to buy some rock. But upon returning from the digs to the village, we began to have glimpses as to how special this trip really was. The miners told us that afternoon  that we were the first "tourists" to ever come to this 100 year old  village and the first white faces 99% of the villagers had ever seen. Knowing this led to a deep feeling of  gratitude and inspiration.

When the family we were staying with learned we would be leaving soon, all three generations dressed in their good clothes for a photo without telling us. They  showed us the place on the wall of their home where it would go next to images of the mine owner at an earlier Indonesian gem exhibition where  he had sold some of  best purple chalcedony cabs known to exist. There was also a proud photo of the miners standing with famous military generals they had met.

Neighbors started coming over.  One of the older men took the ring off his finger and gave it to me. I humbly attempted to decline. Ultimately I put it on to keep, responding with many bows and thank yous. Having recently been in Japan, I had started started bowing to just about everyone of late.

The photos were plentiful: first with the kids, then with the main family of the house where we stayed, and then with three generations. They were all dressed in their best clothes..This visit was clearly a great honor to them as it was to me. I'm still in awe of how special the moment was.

Tears were shed when it was time to depart.  Love was expressed in English, even though it was not the language of anyone in the family.  It tore me up, All we had really done was make the trip. We didn't spend much money, as there wasn't much good rock to buy.  But to these people, making the effort to come and visit them meant everything in the world.  They waved until we were out of sight. The children screamed goodbye until we couldn't hear anymore. 

For me, moments like this are a reminder.  I consider the rocks, the exhibitions, the physical labor, the struggle to sustain self-employment in times when markets are down, the haggling, the hellish drives, long flights, jet lag,  challenges of eating strange food,  sleeping in noisy environments where families stay up late for a second meal during a month of  Ramadan fasting, the bugs, the sweat, and unexpected risks inherent in bringing colorful stones to market: None one of it means as much as some of the relationships formed and time shared. The money, the flashy gems, the  notoriety for introducing  cool stones to places in the world that haven't seen them,  and  numerous passport stamps: It’s all secondary to the kind of  the relationships that that often go with it. 

Even if only for one day, I have found that  showing up with a smile on my face, eager to share time and experience across language barriers with those who cross my path  can mean so much to to so many people.  The choice to be happy can change lives and bring joy to places where hope is meager and survival paramount. Experiencing this means more to me even than the success I’ve been so fortunate to enjoy.

It's easy to forget that it could all be gone in an instant.  I drove away from the village knowing that I will probably never go back and that another 100 years could pass before another white face shows up in  that village. Despite the 6 hours of hell on wheels to get there, only to turn around 20 hours later and return through that same hell before starting that next part of this journey, I can safely say that the experience was entirely worth it.  It changed me. 

The various enterprises operated by Rusty  are at the following sites:
@throwin.stones  (instagram for product announcements) 
@throwin.stones.sales (instagram direct sales) (coming soon)

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Lawrence Davis: Self-Collector

Lawrence Davis, 36,  moved to Baltimore in 2006 from the mineralogy hub of Asheville, North Carolina. An accomplished collector since his early 20's, he soon found himself prospecting in the company of such prominent Maryland collectors as Fred Parker and Jeff Nagy.

Lawrence's collecting style  is unique to the point that he eschews  the label of "field collector"in favor of "self collector." Much of the mineral bounty he has accumulated is still packed away in boxes within the recently purchased historic yellow farmhouse on Falls Road near Shawan where he lives with his wife and young daughter. For our recent visit he had laid out a few recently collected  large specimens on the back porch.  Inside, he had put aside a few smaller specimens. Quoting Fred Parker, he said: "It doesn't matter how large or small. It's  how perfect they are."

In truth, significance or distinction could be just as important to  Lawrence Davis. Proudly, he picks up a rather large chunk of trap rock with a  nondescript  looking vug. Difficult to distinguish therein is a dull cream colored apatite crystal that to classify as perfect would be an extreme stretch. He shows it because he believes it to be the largest known apatite crystal to have been collected at the popular Vulcan Quarry at Havre de Grace in Harford County.

He is particularly keen on unusual combinations. The tiny specimen at right features crystals of tourmaline (var.) schorl on a matrix of iridescent ilmenite. It is the kind of oddity that few would notice when prospecting. Lawrence picked it from a beach in Howard County.

One of the larger rocks on the porch is the  goethite specimen pictured at right. He collected it in 2009 at Maryland's Point of Rocks Goethite Locality, once known as the Washington Junction Ore Banks. Over the past three decades the site has eroded and become overgrown to the point that collectors have written it off as extinct. Since Lawrence was there,  a nature path has been constructed through the area, and collecting forbidden.   Lawrence is comfortable speculating that it could be the largest Point of Rocks  goethite specimen known to exist. Should there be any any that are larger, it is most  likely they were collected many decades ago and just as likely have become lost.

At left is a crystal of beryl (var.) aquamarine that revealed itself with the strike of a crack hammer to the face of a cliff near Henryton in Carroll County. It shows amazing clarity as well as color for a Maryland-collected piece and provided the faceted gem pictured below it. Unfazed by minor biotite mica inclusions, Lawrence takes great pride in having collected the crystal and now owning the first and only (known)  aquamarine gemstone cut from Maryland material.

When questioned regarding collecting technique, Lawrence simply advises: "Always keep your eyes on the ground."  An environmental consultant by profession, he spends a significant amount of time outdoors, having plenty of opportunity to do so.

A recent find  was the discovery of  a remarkable pegmatitic quartz crystal deposit. Most of the crystals from this find are considerably larger than the specimen pictured at right, which.uniquely features an unusual combination of clear quartz crystals growing on feldspar.

 Even when pressed repeatedly, Lawrence will not reveal where he found the  crystals except  "somewhere in the Marriottsville area." Though an avowed "self-collector,"he is not selfish. His reasoning relates to principal and preservation. Such previously unknown localities are fun to discover, but typically offer limited bounty that may soon disappear when word gets out.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Jim Wilkinson: Columbia Maryland's Premier Stream Bed Collector

Jim Wilkinson of Columbia, Maryland, is a special breed of mineral collector. Most of his collecting is within an hour's drive of his house. He lives in a vast and heavily suburbanized area between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.  Sprawl, no trespassing signs, and strictly enforced laws against collecting in state parks rule out the vast majority of known localities in the region.  As a  retired natural resources planner for the Maryland Department of the Environment, Jim is keenly aware of these obstacles. Notwithstanding, he finds productive places to collect at will. His niche is stream beds. Access to them is easier and more available.

Several years ago, Mineral Bliss featured some of the amazing finds by Alana Benkowski in Baltimore City's Herring Run. Identifying them was often difficult. It was obvious that many of the specimens did  not flow directly from any logical point of origin in the Piedmont to her collecting mecca. She favored the alluvial deposits where Maryland's Coastal Plain begins at the eastern fringe of Baltimore City. The streams that Jim Wilkinson works are farther west in Baltimore, Howard, Carroll, Montgomery, and Frederick Counties. These streams have accumulated far less extraneous material. They flow directly through Piedmont areas where the mineralogy is specific.What he finds is easier to predict and identify. 

He photographs the specimens he collects  and posts their images to his home page on Mindat. The page currently boasts 121 photos. While few of them portray "eye-candy," they document species and locality pursuant to the town, village, or hamlet closest to the stream where he found them. Mining sites, quarries,and other more specifically placed localities within these jurisdictions appear separately as "sub-localities," naming the species attributed to them. Exclusive of the sub-localities and species, Jim is the sole source for Atholton, Simpsoniville, Scaggsville, Henryton, and Daniels.  

The 11.5 cm. x 5.5 cm. stream worn quartz (var.) rock crystal pictured at right is one of his more remarkable finds. He collected it along the Patuxent River in the heart of Columbia. With over 100,000 inhabitants, including himself, Columbia is larger than a village, town, or hamlet.  Mindat names the closest town of Simpsonville as the locality for this crystal. Even though "Columbia Area" is named as a locality, it only receives credit for species collected "from construction and excavations in the area." This makes sense. The geology of this region suggests that wherever it originated, such a crystal could just have likely found its way in the Patuxent to Columbia as to Scaggsville. Naming the heart of the neatly planned city of Columbia as an active collecting locality would be a stretch.  

Though he focuses on streams, Jim is keenly aware of and interested in looking for  species  reported from nearby quarries, mining sites, or other localities.  Though so many such spots are posted, built over,  cleaned out, or otherwise inaccessible, it is logical that some of the species they produced could show up in rocks in nearby streams. Beryl was once somewhat common in many of the numerous mostly off-limits pegmatites gracing the Patapsco and Patuxent River valleys. Jim collected the  7 centimeter beryl crystal at left in a stream near Marriottsville. It could be worthy of consideration as one of the more extraordinary finds of beryl in recent years anywhere in Maryland.

Jim drove to Frederick County after reading  our post about the magnificent suite of minerals that Dr. Jim Cordua collected in the 1960's at the Farmers Cooperative Limestone Quarry.  Although we had emphasized the no trespassing signs, the prohibitive overgrowth and no evidence of dumps, Jim found a small stream not far away that was accessible. The sphalerite he retrieved  hardly matched the glorious crystals that Dr. Cordua collected  half a century ago shortly after workers informed him of recent blasts. But one can feel assured that to find sphalerite or any other notable species from this locality today by any other means would be futile.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A 20 Pound Vivianite Concretion from Anne Arundel County, MD

It is certainly reasonable to assume that  nature offers few greater pleasures to mineral collectors living in temperate climates than those few unseasonably warm days that  occasionally come once or twice in late February and early March.  Aside from pleasant temperatures, the amount of live vegetation obscuring surface rocks is minimal, while the mosquitoes, ticks, and copperheads remain dormant. Such a day was February 24, 2017, at least in the vicinity of Baltimore, Maryland. 

So for this writer, it was off to search for vivianite in Maryland's Anne Arundel County  along the banks of Harman's Branch. By virtue of a find 77 years ago,  Mindat names the spot as Vivianite Concretion Locality, Riva, Anne Arundel County, Maryland, USA . The information provided, however, proved confusing for pinpointing the specific location. Credit Robert Beard for persistence in finding it to include on page 156 in his Falcon Guide Rockhounding Delaware, Maryland, and the Washington, DC Area © 2015, Rowman & Littlefield.

Notwithstanding,  Tarnan's Branch and its banks are all but devoid of rocks as this muddy rill heads upstream  from Rutland Road along the route taken by Beard. Otherwise, the surrounding wooded landscape lies under several inches of fallen leaves.  Only after about a quarter of a mile where Tarnan's Branch flows into a tunnel beneath a road does one encounter many rocks. Most of them are quartzite  with  no hints of  likely concretions in their midst.  My hour spent here could not have been more in vain. 

With head down, more in discouragement than with the expectation of  uncovering  the likes of a vivianite concretion, I trudged back toward my car parked along Rutland Road. Amidst the leaves, loam, and moss, nothing at my feet hinted at the likeness of  a concretion beyond an occasional dirty hickory shell. So it was until what first looked  like the nub from a tree root protruded from the soil. It was bigger than to be expected from the trees nearby, brown, muddy, and partially covered with dead moss. Upon tapping it with the chisel on my hammer, a half inch piece of shell broke off that appeared black but with a bluish cast. It had to be a concretion. Once unearthed, a hefty whack with my mini sledge halved it to reveal an interior of colors  ranging from  black and, gray, to a paler and more aesthetically pleasing blue. Clearly, this was the same kind of material as pictured on 156 and 157 in Beard's book, 

Never was my knapsack heavier than during that hundred or so yard walk back to the car. On the scale at home, the two halves along with a few loose chips weighed just over 20 pounds. This writer considers himself the beneficiary of sheer luck and has no plans to return to what was  a difficult to navigate locality. One twenty pound vivianite concretion is plenty for my Maryland suite where it will rest in a spot where light, which causes  vivianite to eventually turn black, is minimal. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

First Weekend at Tucson, 2017

The title picture shows Tucson City Center Hotel, often still referred to as the Inn Suites. The date is Friday, Jan. 27, 2017, one day before its scheduled opening. This is the prime destination of mineral aficionados for 12 days leading up to the big show at Tucson's Convention Center, Feb. 12-15. Although the event did not officially open until Saturday, Jan. 28, more than a third of  several hundred dealers were selling a day early, as more than another third were busy setting up, Only a few dealer suites had yet to be occupied. Postcard weather prevailed with 60ish temperatures and a steady breeze. As happens every year prices seemed a bit higher and were all over the map.  Specimens ranged in price from a couple dollars up to amounts approaching six figures. With the exception of the one day Westward Look Show taking place the following Saturday, Feb. 4, more world class specimens are at the Inn Suites than anywhere else in town until the Big Show.

A few blocks north on Oracle, the much smaller Mineral and Fossil Marketplace was also up and running by Friday. Particularly worthy of mention here is a tent with three dealers: Rock Deco, JaM Rocks, and Malcolm Alter. All three  specialize in specimens from such classic Arizona localities as  the Mammoth St Anthony Mine in Tiger, the Rowley Mine, and the 79 Mine. There were  even a lot of  red wulfenite specimens from the Red Cloud Mine.  Nowhere else in Tucson did we see anywhere near  as many affordable specimens available for sale from these  great localities.

Immediately south of Mineral and Fossil Marketplace, in the direction of Inn Suites, the Moroccan tents were in full swing. Prices  on ubiquitous vanadinites, red quartz crystals, azurites, and so forth were unmarked and left to the buyers' ability to negotiate. With no deceit intended--- dealers readily admitted when asked about crystals that were treated---the Moroccans were selling some very colorful geodes as pictured at left. Both halves of one geode could be had for as little as $10. Therein were originally whitish quartz crystals,varied in color, some mimicking the deepest magenta high end cobaltoan calcites of the region. A few years ago, Moroccan quartz geodes were circulating with galena crystals glued inside them. Best avoided here or elsewhere  are Moroccan geodes filled with anything other than plain quartz crystals.

Other venues offering some minerals were also in full operation by Friday. Along the I-10 East Freeway, the Pueblo Gem and Mineral Show at the Riverpark Inn was going strong. The usual Uruguayan Amethyst, pyrite from Peru, as well as typical Moroccan, Chinese, and quartz selections filled a big tent. Operating out of adjacent motel rooms in "The International Fine Mineral Building" were a couple dozen dealers, a few with unreasonably pricey collector mineral specimens. Heading down the Freeway from the Riverpark, the outdoor area at most  hotels consisted of shows that were  filled with tents and tables full of crystals, cabs, and rough material.
On the other side of the I-10 Freeway, the 22nd Street Show opened on Thursday, Jan. 26. Enclosed within a tent and easier to navigate than the Pueblo Show, it offered a mix of wares including some minerals. Most remarkable was a table offering native copper specimens, many with crystals, from Pine Mountain in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Hardly anywhere else in Tucson is one likely to encounter very many East Coast specimens. A better place to acquire them is the East Coast Gem Mineral, and Fossil Show at West Springfield, Massachusetts in August.

Several miles beyond the activity clustered along the Freeway, the Kino Gem and Mineral Show at Kino Sports Complex  was much like a combination of the aforementioned shows on steroids. Mostly jewelry and beads filled a huge tent. Outside were smaller tents, a few featuring minerals.  In addition to thousands---yes thousands---of tons of amethyst from Uruguay, Peruvian pyrite, the Moroccan tent, and an Indian tent was this show's  annual Geminex tent. Inside were thousands of mineral flats, all bearing low quality specimens at ridiculously high prices from the famous Ojuela Mine in Mapimi, Durango, Mexico.  Interestingly, and perhaps because the Big show in two weeks will feature minerals from the American Midwest, there was a dealer  whose entire stock was calcite crystals from the Elmwood Mine in Lincoln County, Tennessee. Such crystals seemed to be everywhere in Tucson this year, all priced about the same.

Not scheduled to start until Tuesday, Jan. 31, was a relatively small new show to feature mineral specimens mostly from Arizona dealers, at 1055 Grant Road.. We were sorry this was after we had to head back to Baltimore. Regretfully, we also missed a couple other  smaller shows  and managed to  briefly check out a couple that were marginally worthy of mention.

The scene in Tucson  is pretty much the same each year, always overwhelming.  For sale around town are millions of rocks, enough that it's difficult to imagine how more than a very meager fraction of a per cent could possibly sell. We question the economics of it,  but what fun.