Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Scoring East Coast Mineral Specimens at the East Coast Show

For serious aficionados in the eastern and northeastern United States, the annual East Coast Gem, Mineral, and Fossil show in West Springfield, Massachusetts, each year on the second weekend of August, is a summer highlight.   It happens Friday through Sunday and fills the Better Living Center at West Springfield's Eastern States Exposition. The focus of this post limits itself to finding dealers  at this show with significant quantities of East Coast-collected specimens available for purchase. These specimens, most  collected in the northeastern United States, show up almost exclusively amongst the retail dealers in the Better Living Center as opposed to those in the adjacent building, where the merchandise is devoted to wholesale trade.

This  largest gem, mineral, and fossil show to happen in the Eastern United States is much the same every year. A special and impressive mineral exhibit from a well-known collection always adorns an entrance  area leading  to the wider space where lines of merchandise fill a dozen aisles of tables and shelves manned by about 150 dealers. A few of these dealers sell significant quantities of East Coast-collected mineral specimens. In nearly all cases, the prices are fair, sometimes bargain level.  With few exceptions, dealers return each year to the same spot they occupied the previous year. In that regard, this post could be helpful to collectors of East Coast minerals here in future years.

In 2019, however, some of  the best East Coast  bargains were offered by a first time vendor at an easy to miss table in the farthest corner from the show's entrance point. There, Bob Batic of Mountville, New Jersey traded as Bob's 2nd Act Collectibles. His  personal collection was among those featured in the 2016 Mineralogical Record Supplement  Mineral Collections in the American Northeast.  For years, Bob's collection has evolved from worldwide with an East Coast emphasis to specializing in vintage East Coast specimens collected between 1875 and World War II.  The transition produced plenty of notable specimens to sell, especially from older East Coast finds. Collectors found many of the prices to be irresistible.

Two rows past Mr. Batic, our visit to the busy Adironcack Fine Minerals table was too short.  At least there was time to photograph part of the wide selection of East Coast Minerals to use as the title image for this post. The merchandise was attractive and reasonably priced Adirondack Fine Minerals  also had a massive selection of large Herkimer Diamonds.

Three tables away on the same side of the aisle,  Robert Rosenblatt traded as Rocko Minerals. A fixture at numerous  East Coast events, his true-to-form  selection of minerals was abundant in rare, and/or unusual, and ultimately collectable East Coast specimens at reasonable prices. Three such pieces proved irresistible to the personal mineralogical sensibilities of this writer:  brazilianite crystals measuring to 2 cm. from Newport, New Hampshire;  a gahnite floater to 3 cm. from Mount Apatite, Maine; and a  beautiful thumbnail with a 1.1 cm. zircon crystal on matrix from Blackberry, New Hampshire atop a cluster of smaller  zircon crystals.

Across the aisle between Adirondack Fine Minerals and Rocko, Geologic Desires has long been a major attraction not only at this East Coast Show, but  at other venues extending to larger ones in Denver and ultimately Tucson.  Owner Michael Walter has always made a point of featuring specimens that he and his associates have mined  in St. Lawrence County, New York, which is the convenient location of his home and business. Often working in partnership with property owners, Walter uncovered  and mined prospects that already have a reputation for being classic East Coast localities. Every year, Michael comes to the East Coast Show with new finds.   An important find this year was a combination of calcite, quartz, and hematite  from "the Dafoe Property" in St. Lawrence County. He uncovered these specimens there after several years of marketing and mining  tourmaline crystals with visual similarities to the already classic dravite genre he previously  brought to market from the nearby Powers Farm.

Two aisles beyond, Jason Baskin's Jay's Minerals of Flemington, New Jersey, continues to be a must stop for East Coast material . As always, large quantities of just a few East Coast genres define the pickings. This year, one such genre was an extensive array of orange stilbite crystals from Moore's Station in Mercer County, New Jersey. Jay's  Minerals is best known for its seemingly endless supply of now classic almandine garnets in graphite from the Red Embers Mine in Ervine,Massachussetts, where Baskin has an exclusive lease. The mine's name refers to the exquisite red hue these garnets display when light is placed beneath them.  They may well have been the most popular single item in the show every year since first appearing here in 2014. Thereafter, especially since launching here in 2015  his serious find of amethyst crystals from Moosup, Connecticut, Jay's Minerals, like Geologic Desires, has attracted buyers eager to be in on what is new. This year he offered recently uncovered  chrysocolla specimens  from Bound Brook, New Jersey in an assortment that included some polished slabs

Two aisles past Jay's Minerals, Mark Gottlieb, of North Granby, Connecticut had some interesting East Coast specimens,  many that he personally collected, at very reasonable prices. Included were some very intriguing  cabinet sized clusters of milky quartz crystals from Moosup Connecticut. For this writer, a Marylander with ties to collectors and clubs that enjoy collecting  at the National Limesone Quarry in Mt. Pleasant Mills, Pennsylvania, the huge selection of strontianite from that locality was notable

Across the isle,  the Yankee Mineral and Gem company of East Hampton, Connecticut offered an interesting selection of East Coast minerals.  Particularly intriguing this year  was a stock of wolframite pseudomorph  after scheelite specimens from Old Mine Park in Trumball, Connecticut. Most  were in the $50 range. However, one particularly nice example of the genre was priced at $650. And having previously been skunked after hiking up a mountain to collect at the Lord Hill Mine in Oxford County, Maine, seeing a sizable box of Lord Hill blue beryl crystals, most selling for about $5, once again struck a personal chord.

Collection Arkane, a prominent Canadian dealership from Mt. St. Hilaire, Quebec, had many fine  minerals from localities in eastern Canada that were  no further away from West Springield than many localities in the northeastern United States.The wares included attractive, diverse, and fairly priced suites  from Mt. St. Hilaire, Francon Quarry, and the Jeffrey Quarry in Quebec. From more distant spots, but worth mentioning, was a large group of  specimens from the ever popular Rapid Creek locality in the Yukon Territory.

In the next aisle,  Nature's Choice from Newington, Connectictut, despite a worldwide focus, had plenty of  East Coast specimens, enough to be worthy of  a stop for collectors seeking them. Most were priced  in the $10 to $25 range and from Massachusetts or Connecticut.

As our one day at the show, which was intended only for buying, neared an end , the decision was made to put  together a post about its availability of East Coast minerals. This entailed once again seeking out all the dealers we had observed with conspicuous quantities of them available. Very likely, a few of the finest specimens in the show could have been offered by some of the show's prominent  high end dealers who are widely known far beyond the Eastern United States. Our assumption is that the  relatively few collectors in attendance who were looking to buy such specimens would know where to find them. We extend our apologies to any dealers with significant quantities of East Coast specimens whom we failed to cover.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

The Garnets of Stony Run in Baltimore City

A new garnet locality has emerged in Wyman Park along Stony Run. It has produced crystals that visually resemble those pictured above. They were collected about a third of a mile upstream at the historic long closed and built over Wright Quarry.  The new spot  is along a short stretch of Stony Run between the Wyman Park Drive Bridge and where it enters a tunnel before flowing into  Jones Falls en route to Baltimore Harbor.  

Mineral Bliss  was here before in conjunction with a 2014 post.  Its subject was a piece of quartz we found in the stream that hosted several white concentric circles, which rendered us "stumped." We now suspect these circles were once a contact point for small stalactites or stalagmites that had  long ago originated within a cavity in rock somewhere upstream.

On a recent steamy July Sunday,  local aficionado and collector of regional minerals Stuart Herring directed our second visit. We came to look for garnets, and we succeeded in finding them.  

Jones Falls Schist and hornblende rich Baltimore Gneiss share the country rock everywhere that Stony Run flows through Wyman Park. Intruding the schist and gneiss are at least three separate pegmatite dikes. They differ according to  varying proportions, hues, and varieties of quartz, mica, and feldspar minerals. Interestingly and importantly, all three pegmatites have yielded similar gemmy red almandine garnet crystals. 
Heading downhill  through overgrown brush to reach the stream  from the west side of Remington Avenue below Wyman Park Drive was easier than it was 5 years ago. Since then, a diagonal swath extending about halfway to the stream was created to allow heavy equipment to descend, then dig and blast as  necessary to replace a decaying sewer line. The blasting dislodged a significant amount of pegmatite rock from beneath the soil. Some of the pieces made their way further downhill toward and into the stream. 

Directly across the stream from where we approached is a much steeper embankment that exposes a contact point between the Jones Falls schist and a pegmatite dike. The recent blasting suggests that very likely this same pegmatite once extended to our side of the stream. Comprising it are differing amounts of microcline, albite, and plagioclase feldspar along with quartz and mica. 

The garnet crystals within rarely measure more than 1/2 inch. Mostly they reveal themselves inside the pegmatite rock when it is broken, which unfortunately is likely to damage many of the crystals. We obtained our garnets, such as pictured at right, by hammering away at a few  rocks and cobbles plucked from along the stream bank and in the stream. 

After a little more than an hour, we headed upstream to the area where Stony Run flows past the former Wright Quarry site.  Our approach was longer than the previously mentioned 1/3 mile and roundabout to avoid impenetrable  vegetation. Along the way, Stuart pointed through a wooded  area where several years ago, the City had blasted into a different pegmatite  where a tannish microcline was dominant. Once again, the City's  purpose had been to replace a portion of aging sewer line,  The blasting produced and revealed numerous garnet bearing pegmatite boulders. They remained at the site long enough for Stuart to accumulate an attractive selection of specimens  bearing attractive almandine crystals resembling those we'd just collected. Ultimately the material was  hauled away with no trace remaining. 

The former Wright Quarry site was more approachable. A pegmatite consisting primarily of white albite once intruded through its walls.   In earlier times, reports show this pegmatite yielded not only garnets, but beryl, zoisite (var.) thulite, fluorapatite, and autunite.  Long after the Wright Quarry closed and even as the Johns Hopkins University campus extended into and over its site,  a few garnet yielding  pegmatitic rocks from the old Wright Quarry dumps remained above and along the stream banks. 

They disappeared in recent years during a Baltimore City Department of Public  Works project that reinforced the stream bank to slow erosion. When the work was complete, the few rocks and boulders once part of the Wright Quarry dump were nowhere to be seen. Sometime thereafter Stuart noticed a few pieces of material that looked like Wright Quarry albite in the stream near its now reinforced bank. He suspected that some of the Wright Quarry rocks and boulders  could have  ended up beneath the recently reinforced stream bank from which storm currents could have dislodged them. 

We pulled two such rocks out of the stream, each weighing several pounds  When cracked open, portions of both rocks revealed hundreds of  tiny, mostly broken gemmy red garnet crystals measuring from one to two millimeters. Such ubiquitous small garnet crystals have long been considered definitive of Wright Quarry pegmatite and never known to be present in other  nearby pegmatites. Pictured at right is is a large fragment from one of the rocks we collected. It is  reasonable to believe that it could be one of the last examples of Wright Quarry garnet to be found.