Saturday, December 4, 2021

Stuart Herring: Maryland's Most Prolific Field Collector

Stuart Herring of Baltimore is very likely the most active and prolific field collector of mineral specimens in the State of Maryland. Few other collectors come close to competing  with him for such a distinction.  

In the image above, the specimen he holds is ore quality black chromite coated with violet colored chromian clinochlore (aka kammererite, rhodochrome, penninite) and white talc. He collected it at Bare Hills in Baltimore County. Until he uncovered this and other similar specimens, such material had not been collected in the area for nearly a century. The find is one of Maryland's most significant in the past 50 years. 

Field collecting in Maryland has become immensely  challenging. Localities that once yielded specimens have given way to sprawl. Strictly enforced laws prohibit collecting in state parks and national parks. Other sites are on private property that effectively forbid trespassing. Most of the few quarries that formerly allowed once a year visits from properly insured mineral societies now proclaim that liability issues prevent them from doing so.

How is it that Stuart is able to devote a major portion of his time to successfully collecting mineral specimens in and near his home state?  He focuses much of his approach on rediscovering  long forgotten localities, many of them no longer believed to exist. 

Plenty has been published during the past two centuries regarding Maryland localities that at different periods were known to have yielded a variety of mineral species. Over time, most of these localities have been  built over or otherwise become inaccessible or forgotten. Most of what was written about them appeared in a variety of publications that became obscure, some  nearly impossible to obtain, until several years ago. Finally, the Internet came to the rescue. 

Minerals of Maryland by Charles Ostrander and Walter Price was one such publication that in its day, many considered  a "Bible" for such information. It named and briedly described  by county most of Maryland's known localities and listed all the mineral species  reported from each one.  The Natural History Society of Maryland, which published it in 1940, made Minerals of Maryland available on line just three  years ago.   

Nearly as recently,  Maryland Geological Survey similarly brought on line more extensive and specific information about the localities noted in Minerals of Maryland and added additional ones.  Some of the varied publications provide maps that  make finding these localities easier.

Lidar data in LAS files, especially when accessed with Arc Gis, has provided collectors with an additional tool for seeking out localities. The technology provides collectors with a description of the earth contours throughout the vicinities where the localities---if any traces of them still exist--- appear on the maps.

Such wonderful tools will only prove helpful to collectors with the knowledge to identify specific species as well as how to search for any that remain. Such knowledge combined with Stuart's extensive collecting experience and the time he has available to collect give him his edge. It helps that he earns a substantial portion of his livelihood as a mineral dealer. 

In past posts, Mineral Bliss has feautred several finds Stuart has brought to light. They are as follows:  

The  Carroll Mine in Carroll County, Maryland   

New Finds: Falls Road Corridor Near Baltimore City Line 

 The Garnets of Stony Run in Baltimore City 

Stuart  very likely has had more experience collecting at the Mineral Hill Mine in Carroll County than anyone else alive today. One of his proudest finds from the immediate vicinity of  this iron and later copper mining operation dating from the 17th Century is pictured at left. The  specimen bears silvery carrollite-siegenite with golden chalcopyrite in magnetite. The carrollite-siegenite portion measures to nearly an inch, which is  considerably larger than the vast majority of the eponymous Carroll County carrollite examples curently known to exist.  

Stuart's  most spectacular find in our opinion was the deposit of ore quality chromite with chromian clinochlore from Bare Hills in Baltimore County that he holds  in our title picture.  

A more recent find is the almandine garnet specimen at right. Stuart collected in the Sparks-Glencoe area of Baltimore County along a stream where blasting had recently taken place. The spot was adjacent to a locality that an old Maryland Geological Survey publication had cited for kyanite. Needless to say, areas where blasting or construction has recently occurred are prime sources for potential mineral finds.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Peter Via Collection for Grand Reopening of JMU Mineral Museum

It is a special event when a sizable group of mineral collectors gathers to be the first to view a large selection of world class minerals.  Recently attracting such a crowd was the former Peter Via collection, which had recently been appraised $16,800,000. Upon his death, he had bequeathed it to the James Madison University Mineral Museum in Harrisonburg, Virginia,.

The collection had never left Mr. Via's private home in Roanoke until he died in 2018. It was the largest gift the University ever received. Because of Covid, a grand reopening event by invitation only at the museum’s new home had to be rescheduled from April, 2020 to October 29, 2021.   

The crowd poured in to the Lower Drum of JMU's modern Festival Conference and Student Center on its East Campus. With leaves approaching peak color, it was a prime time of year to be in the area. Torrential rain and westbound traffic backed up for numerous miles on I-81 West were less cooperative.  

Notwithstanding, the number of mineral aficionados that managed to attend the event was substantial. After a short walk from easy parking, guests wound their way downstairs to a large visitor-filled room where volunteers at a check- in table handed out pre-printed tags. Penned onto each was a number referring to the group with which the holder could enter the museum. Wine and a few snacks were available to everyone. Down a short hallway, a designated group stood waiting to enter the exhibit room entrance after a previous group had exited.

Unlike others who were present, this writer had by special arrangement been able to visit Mr. Via at his home in Roanoke  years before to see this amazing collection. I had photographed as many specimens as time allowed and also enjoyed an opportunity to chat with Mr. Via  in his den about his mineral collecting philosophy.

Mineral Bliss's  October 27, 2014 post, “Unbelievable but True The World Class Personal Collection of Peter Via" resulted from that visit. Subsequently, Dr. Lance Kearns, JMU's Emeritus Professor of Geology and Curator of the Museum, with his wife Cindy, a current geology professor at JMU, spent time with Mr. Via during the period when he decided to bequeath his collection to the university.

When it arrived, the world famous mineral photographer Jeff Scovil  went to work with his camera. Also involved was Wendell Wilson, the Publisher and Editor in Chief of MIneralogical Record.  He personally authored a 23 page article about the collection that appeared in that publication’s September-October 2020 edition. At present, numerous images of the specimens are available on line in association with a brief video narrated by Dr. Kearns.  

Lance and Cindy Kearns were immediately inside the museum door as guests entered. When I greeted Lance, he mentioned that Mineral Bliss’s 2014 post had prompted the discussions leading to the bequest of this amazing collection to James Madison University.

The specimens intermingle with the larger collection that Dr.. Kearns describes as "a composite of five collections." Prior to owning the Via specimens, JMU had always displayed specimens in systematic suites based on chemical composition and atomic structure. While the systematic arrangement remains largely in place, many of the Via specimens are arranged in different kinds of small groups, especially when based on visual qualities of a given species or genre. In addition to specimens on display, JMU owns 1770 catalogued specimens in storage. Some will undoubtedly be candidates for rotation into the display.

At its past locations, the James Madison University Mineral Museum was well known  and worth a stop. With the addition of the Peter Via collection it has been transformed into what Dr. Kearns describes as a "Destination Collection.”  It means that people will now be traveling to James Madison University from far and wide for the sole purpose of viewing its mineral museum. Museum hours will be on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 am to 3 pm.I

Thursday, October 22, 2020


Though assembled via Zoom because of Covid-19, the 64th annual Desautels International Micromount Symposium from Baltimore, Maryland, was a huge success. Chaired for the eighth time by Dr. Michael Seeds of Lancaster, Pennsylvania on behalf of the Baltimore Mineral Society, it happened October 10, 2020, at 1 PM Eastern Time. 

Despite the absence of both dealers and live minerals, this virtual Symposium drew a significantly larger crowd than live symposia of recent years.  Perhaps this could be expected sans the time and expenses involved in travel to Baltimore from destinations around the world. More significant was the glorious manner in which the event executed its intended purposes

After Dr. Seeds opened with a few pertinent introductions, he turned the proceedings over to Col. Quintin Wight of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the symposium’s perennial master of ceremonies and also the best known micromounter on the planet. The most definitive part of each year’s Desautels Symposium relates to the international Micromounters Hall of Fame. Quintin, of course, was one of the 40 per cent of living Hall of Fame members in attendance.

 He noted the criteria for selection to the Micromounters Hall of Fame by emphasizing the pre-eminent qualification of being “loudest for longest” within the community of micromounters. Since so many micromounters appear to be quiet people, “loudest” in this context bespeaks volume of involvement in terms of contribution and service to the micromounting niche of the mineralogical community.

 The day’s event, Quintin explained, would feature the induction of 2020’s two new Hall of Fame members: Dr. Michael A. Seeds of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Dr. Renato Pagano of Milano, Italy.  After their inductions, each was to give a presentation. Quintin also said that he was to announce two selectees for induction at 2021’s Symposium.

 He later named Dr. Anthony Kampf, Curator Emeritus of minerals of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and Jean-Luc Designolle, the President of Association Francaise de Micromineralogie in France for 14 years, as next year’s (2021) inductees. He then made the point that the Micromounters Hall of Fame sought new inductees every year. He encouraged everyone to send in letters of nomination for potential candidates they considered to be worthy.

 Because Mike Seeds has chaired the Desautels Symposium since 2013, most who were Zoomed in were well acquainted with him.  Regarding his qualifications, Quintin noted that Mike has authored nearly 100 articles that relate specifically to micromounting and emphasized Mike’s Shoebox Adventures feature, which is published by mineral society newsletters around  the world.  He also mentioned Mike’s speaking engagements  about micromounting, especially a recent one he had attended at the Canadian Micro Mineral Association Symposium at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario.  Not mentioned were Mike’s collection, his distinct style of mounting, and unique method of labeling.

 Perhaps the reason was that, even though making and collecting micromounts are normal criteria for Hall of Fame selection, Dr.Renato  Pagano does neither. But when considering that most of the approximately 5,500 IMA approved species are microminerals, the 4,300 different species in Dr. Pagano’s personal mineral collection would in this case speak for these requirements by default---even if not trimmed and mounted by Renato in little boxes.  Widely published, he is regarded as a mineralogical superstar in Italy, and is well known throughout Europe as well as by mineralogists and curators in the United States and Canada. Very significantly, he was a founder of the Micromounters Meeting, a major annual event held in Cremona, Italy for bringing together Italian and foreign micromineral aficionados and collectors.

 Before delving into the specifics of his presentation about the sulfur mines of Sicily, Dr. Pagano expressed his views as to how mineral collecting is currently “going in two ways.”  One of them, he said, favors “typically sizeable, expensive and showy aesthetic minerals.” The other is species collecting, which is of greater interest to science and to micromounters.

 Dr. Pagano then described and offered slides relating to Sicily’s sulfur mines and the sulfur they produced. Through most of history, Sicily produced most of the world’s sulfur. He noted that the island’s well known volcanos were not pertinent to Sicily’s sulfur mining heritage and the great specimens they produced.  Instead, the sulfur for which Sicily is famous came mostly from underground sedimentary deposits. The conditions under which the miners, many who were young children, worked until well into mid-20th Century, were brutal.  Dr. Pagano wrapped up his presentation with slides of other notable Sicilian minerals that  included spectacular crystals of celestine, calcite, and hauerite.

 Before the next presentation by inductee Mike Seeds, Baltimore Mineral Society Treasurer and Micromounters Hall of Fame member Steve Weinberger added perspective to Quintin’s earlier introduction. Steve was present years ago when Mike first became discovered micromounting. He described how Mike, Professor of Astronomy at Franklin and Marshall University, after spending many years looking upwards at the stars through a telescope, became enthralled by looking down at minerals through a microscope.

 Mike’s presentation was entitled The Universe in a Micro Box. Noting that astronomy accounted for the source of all elements, atoms, and minerals, he clearly communicated verbally and with slides the most basic truths as to how this all happened. It spanned from hydrogen, the big bang, helium, stars, explosions in space that created atomic elements, then planets and ultimately some very exquisite micromounts. Mike amazingly conveyed this information within but a few minutes so that anyone could follow and understand. Particularly impressive was the exuberant response from participants, some well trained in science, others with less education. 

Nearly three hours had now passed. It was time for Al Pribula, President of the Baltimore Mineral Society to stage the Society’s annual voice auction.  It hardly mattered that the offerings were so much fewer than if the event had been in person. The high level of enthusiasm that had been apparent at the outset had persisted and grown as if to a crescendo.  Every minute had grasped the interest of those present, and it made the auction all the more fun.

 The 64th Annual Desautels Micromount Symposium, although virtual, proved to be tremendously successful. That could well prognosticate a bigger live conference than ever next year.

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 

Sunday, August 16, 2020



 Three of us headed from Baltimore in search of piemontite on a hillside near Hamiltonban Township in the South Mountain area of Adams County, Pennsylvania. We parked along Mount Hope Road near Gum Springs Road. If we were going to find piemontite  we knew it would occur in outcrops where reddish pink metarhyolite dominated. Soon we were following a trail along the base of the ridge.


Within a few minutes, we spotted some large boulders through the trees. Although no hint of a trail led to them, we bushwhacked about 20 yards uphill,  found the reddish pink metarhyolite we were looking for and soon spotted some piemontite. It occurs mostly in adamantine radiated microscopic prisms exclusively at or near where  quartz has intruded the metarhyolite. We believe we were in one of six known South Mountain area piemontite localities, at least four of which date from the 1890’s

We were also within about a quarter mile of seriously overgrown dumps from copper prospects dating back yet further into the 19th Century.  This was one of  about 20 known localities for native copper in the South Mountain area. Always found in volcanic metabasalts,  the copper was from deposits that were much smaller than but otherwise closely resembled the enormous and lucrative Keeweenaw deposit in upper Michigan. Although extensively prospected well into the 20th Century, the copper never proved plentiful enough to be viable.  

The South Mountain area has long fascinated geologists.  Their focus has always been less on the copper than  the geologic history exposed by rocks over hundreds of millions of years of  erosion.  Research regarding the  piemontite occurrences, while thorough and specific, was limited to separate studies. 

This region prominently straddles the Maryland line into Frederick County, where the geology is similar. The Pennsylvania side calls it South Mountain, Maryland calls it the Catoctins. Geologists have extensively studied the rocks on the Maryland side as well.  Nearly all the studies, however, have been specifically  limited either to Pennsylvania or to Maryland.

Some of the Pennsylvania studies at least acknowledged the presence of piemontite, even though sometimes referred to as “rusty epidote,” or "piedmontite."   In one of a series of articles entitled Chronicles of Central Pennsylvania Mineralogy, the late Jay Lininger described the phenomenon: "Like the comedian Rodney Dangerfield who didn't get no respect." In Maryland, piemontite got less than no respect.It has received no mention. 

Yet, piemontite has aesthetic qualities that make it a highly appealing mineral species as a member of the epidote group, like zoisite and allanite.  John Sinkankas in Gemstones of North America even listed “piemontite in rhyolite” as “semi-precious gem cutting material.” Its presence shows less weathering and better luster within freshly broken rock. Though usually in radiating microscopic crystals as described, a few specimens that are less common bear larger crystals up to about 15 mm. x 3 mm.  Nearly all such crystals have been fractured upon recovery. Seeing perfection is unrealistic. Piemontite is neither common nor highly valued relative to many other species, but regard for it is rising. .

A few years ago, this writer was working a booth at a show in the Towson, Maryland Armory. A man walked by with the most spectacular South Mountain piemontite specimen I’ve ever seen. I’m sure he intended to sell it, but he did not mention a price. After I complimented the specimen, he moved on. Had this happened today, I would happily have emptied my wallet.

Nothing short of synchronicity could make sense of how this writer personally collected piemontite in Maryland’s Frederick County only three weeks before our recent collecting trip. I was clueless that piemontite was in a specimen picked up in a field less than a mile down a road leading west from the tiny hamlet of New London.

 In typical fashion, I had stopped to check out some minor excavation and a small pile of rocks and dirt along the south side of the road.  Standing out among the rocks lying on the ground was the piece of pink metarhyolite pictured above at right.  Just as I knew that  metarhyolite of such color existed in Frederick County, I also realized how conspicuously misplaced it seemed compared to other surrounding rocks. So I picked it up and took it home. No thought of piemontite ever entered my mind. Upon arriving home, I threw it onto the rock pile in my back yard and never mentioned the find to anyone.

Three weeks later by sheer coincidence, a collector called and asked me to join him to look for piemontite in Adams County and write a post about it if we found any.  We went, we found piemontite, and it was obvious that the material in which we found it was the same as the piece I’d collected near new London. Doing my research, I read something in the aforementioned article by Jay Lininger that aroused my curiosity. The article stated that that the renowned late geologist Dr. Florence Bascom, in a her PhD thesis about piemontite,  proved that some of the pink colored rhyolites drew their color from included piemontite.I should mention that Dr. Bascom was the first woman in the United States to earn a PhD in geology and later went on to establish the Geology Department at Bryn Mawr University.

So I went out to the rock pile in the back yard and grabbed the metarhyolite I’d found near New London. A presence of piemontite was readily apparent. I did not report this as a new find for Maryland because it seemed quite obvious that the specimen was not indigenous to the field where I collected it.

However,  metarhyolite has an established presence just a few miles further west of New London  in Maryland’s Catoctins. As long a some of it is the same color as the  ubiquitous reddish metarhyolite on the Pennsylvania side of the state line, piemontite will very likely be present., Once uncovered and verified, it could be a legitimate new find for Maryland.    

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Remnants of Maryland's Historic Patapsco Mine

Those in regional mineralogical circles know that the internationally cherished bright silvery cobalt bearing sulfide carrollite is eponymous with Carroll County Maryland. Carrollite, best known for magnificent cubo-octahedral crystals from Democractic Republic of Congo, is the only mineral species of the more than 5,000 that are known for which Maryland is the type locality.  A  2009 Mineral Bliss post  explains the interesting mineralogy relating to the  "carrollite" as it occurs  in Carroll County.

The specific type locality for carrollite in Carroll County was known as the Patapsco Mine(s), an operation that actually consisted of two mines: the Orchard Mine and the Wildeson Mine. Mining commenced in 1850 at the Wildeson Mine and in 1851 at the Orchard Mine. Both sites were mined for copper and by the 1870's iron.

A costly attempt to exploit a 1852 discovery  of a vein rich in cobalt ore led the identification and subsequent publication of carrollite.  It also led to the financial failure of the mines in 1854. Thereafter mining  resumed for copper through leases and different ownership.

Soon after the discovery of carrollite, specimens bearing similar cobalt sulfides turned up elsewhere in southeastern Carroll County's Sykesville Mining District at the Mineral Hill Mine and the Springfield Mine. These occurrences were small enough that mining was never considered. 

At least a few of the  dumps, shafts, and pits of the Patapsco Mines, though overgrown and difficult to locate, were still accessible to a few cognoscenti in the late 1990's. By the turn of the millennium, remnants of the mining had been reclaimed or were considered to be lost. Collectors demonstrated minimal concern. The same kind of material  the Patapsco Mines had yielded was easier to collect on the dumps of the Mineral Hill Mine. 

A collector friend succeeded in locating what appeared to have once been a pit from one of the Patapsco Mines.  On the ground nearby, we found lying on the ground several decent magnetite specimens with notable cleavage as well as rocks bearing significant malachite. Also present in a few rocks were very small amounts of epidote, pyrite, chalcopyrite, and bornite. We found no evidence of "carrollite."

After penetrating the surrounding dirt with a garden trowel, we found more that was too dirty to examine on site.  The highlight of the day presented itself inside a rock that we broke open. Pictured at right,  it appears to be chrysocolla,  albeit  of a deeper blue color than expected, some of which visually almost visually suggested azurite.  The Natural History Society of Maryland's 1940 Minerals of Maryland publication by Ostrander and Price reported both species.

Having found significant  magnetite but no hint of cobalt sulfides (carrollite), we  believe that our filled in with soil apparent former pit may have been associated with the Orchard Mine. We base this conclusion on a Summer, 1998 article by Johnnie Johnsson in Matrix: A Journal of the History of Minerals (also our source for specific earlier given dates) that limits discussion of carrollite to the Wildesen Mine.

The same literature from 22 years ago describes other workings of the Patapsco Mines in a manner that  begs for exploration. It mentions  a "600 foot adit for extraction or drainage purposes." as well as  "depressions in the area of the site near the river that could be from prospecting work, an adit, or remnants of the wheelhouse, crusher or furnace structures."                                                                                                                                       
There may yet  be more to seek.


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.