Sunday, September 27, 2020

George Loud and His Mineral Collection


George Loud has all the friends, contacts, and connections around the country that accompany  65 years as a serious mineral collector. For 15 years, he and his wife Karen have lived in their comfortable home on a Hilton Head Island, South Carolina cul-de-sac. Still, he remains as highly recognized as ever in the Washington, DC and Northern Virginia area.  He spent over four decades there as a distinguished patent lawyer and a leading figure among collectors and  aficionados of minerals. 

Everyone  knows that George has a collection, but not as many have had the opportunity to see it as he would like. He has sold most of his worldwide collection to focus on specimens collected in the United States. Included are specimens that could be the best  known to exist from their localities. Particularly prominent are suites from the Middle Atlantic states  where he has spent most of his life

George houses his collection in an addition to his and Karen's home. It consists of three rooms devoted to mineralogy. One enters into  what he refers to as his "man cave," where he is shown sitting with his yellow Labrador Molly. Micromounting materials are evident on many surfaces. The walls bear an assortment of  personal as well as  mining memorabilia.  

The "man cave" leads into  a hallway with a mineralogy and mining history library with bookshelves on both sides. They extend from floor to ceiling with a ladder system. Multiple shelves have so many books on Colorado minerals and mineral localities that protruding sheets of card stock divide them according to counties within Colorado.  

Beyond the library is the collection room. What first meets the eye is a relatively small single cabinet with minerals from the famous but now off-limits Hunting Hill Quarry in Montgomery County, Maryland. Otherwise, the cabinets are much larger. Keith Williams, who constructed numerous mineral cabinets at the Smithsonian, built most of them. 

Specimens  displayed in a long row of cabinets lining the left wall begin with a suite from the locality that's closest to where George lived most of his life, the fabled Centreville Quarry in Fairfax County, Virginia. Our title picture shows a few of the specimens. As everyone thereabouts who is interested in minerals knows, this locality has yielded too many world class apophyllite and prehnite specimens for passing judgment as to the best ever. What George's suite accomplishes is to show just how perfect they can get. 

Other Virginia specimens are close at hand. The Whitehall Mine in Spotsylvania County, Virginia yielded the native gold specimen at right. This is where gold was first discovered and produced in Virginia in 1806. More than two centuries later, few if any other comparable specimens from  this mining district remain to be seen anywhere. 

Specimens from Amelia County, Virginia are plentiful in an adjacent cabinet.  It would be reasonable to conclude that some of the specimens  in the image at left could vie for best of species from their specific Amelia County localities.  Prominently displayed nearby are  several relatively huge specimens with varied matrixes featuring turquoise  crystals from the Bishop Copper Prospect in Lynch Station, Campbell County, Virginia.

n impressive Pennsylvania suite fills the entirety of one of the display cases in the center of the 
 room. As I ogled over eye candy, George  was focusing on a specimen that had barely caught my attention. It featured a clearly zoned brucite crystal from the Woods Chrome Pit in Little Britain, Lancaster County. Unique classic brucite specimens from this locality are famous. Zoned brucite crystals, however, as pictured in the image at right, are extremely uncommon.

As we were observing the Pennsylvania suite, George explained how he marks, labels, and catalogs his specimens. He applies a brilliant white acrylic paint upon which he identifies the  specimen numerically with black ink, then coats with a sealer. The labels  that accompany them are extraordinary.

Provenance is paramount. His labels name as many previous owners as he can ascertain. The ultimate Phoenixville Lead Mining District  anglesite specimen  from the Wheatley Mine is a good example. Collected between 1855 and 1860, it had eight previous owners going all the way back to the famous mining magnate and mineralogist Charles Wheatley. George also records this same information and other pertinent data about every specimen on index cards accompanied by all previous labels

.The collection boasts many scores of suites and individual specimens  beyond  the very small fraction of them  mentioned herein. Standing out is  a sizeable suite of gemmy minerals from Maine, a superb suite from Bisbee, Arizona, and a suite from Franklin and Sterling Hill, New Jersey with a specimen that amazed me of native gold in willemite  .

George made a  point of showing me a witherite specimen from the Pigeon Roost Mine  near Glenwood in Montgomery County, Arkansas  It is pictured at left.  Clearly one of his favorites, he believes it could be a contender for the best of the species known to exist. 

Nearby, a suite from Magnet Cove Arkansas, a favorite collecting spot for George, bears special mention.  It includes a crystal of andradite (var.) melanite, which George thinks could be the best of its genre ever collected there. 

Another garnet  that impressed me nearly as much was  prismatic and  from North Carolina's Spruce Pine Mining District. Among numerous North Carolina minerals, he also pointed out a crystal of anatase pseudomorph after titanite from Tuxedo Junction at Zirconia in North Carolina's Henderson County.

While George had not expressed any particular fondness for pseudomorphs, I noticed that among one of the few suites  he has held onto from another country was an entire shelf exclusively of pseudomorphs from Mount Saint Hilaire in Quebec. I also noticed ---and now wish I'd taken more time to peruse--- a suite of minerals from Japan.

All that was on display in the mineral room's three lengthy rows of shelves was plenty  to take in. They represent but a small portion of 9,000 specimens in the collection. George keeps them at home with no visible evidence of clutter anywhere. Specimens fill neatly stacked flats in his garage. If not ready for display in the mineral room, most that I saw were genuinely interesting.  George realized that he had not looked at some of them for a long time. It seemed obvious he could be happy going through those flats for hours.  

The hour was approaching when I had to leave to return to Baltimore. I am most grateful  for George's time and hospitality and for showing me his great collection 

On his current agenda is to enter into a computer at least everything currently recorded on his labels and index cards. Whether that includes specimens from his extensive collection of micromounts, I neglected to ask, He did tell me that the micromounts could have to wait. 

George can be contacted at