Saturday, October 10, 2009

Mineral Mastery at an Early Age

Listed below are some of the mineralogical coups credited to 11 year old Jessica of Western Maryland.

  • A link to her photographically illustrated review of the East Coast Gem and Mineral Show is featured on the cover page of Mindat.

  • An exhibit at the Gemcutters Guild gem and Mineral Show in September was a display she assembled of selected minerals from her collection.

  • She has been asked to put together a display of her minerals on the floor of the Tucson Convention Center for the four day "Main" Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, Feb. 11-14, 2010.

  • By special invitation, she spent a day in the mineralogy lab at Penn State working with the scm microscope and "crystal maker" apparatus. The X-ray diffraction scope had broken the day she was there.

  • At the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History she rated a special behind the scenes visit that included entry to its legendary and highly secure "Blue Room" vault.

  • I finally got to meet Jessica and her dad Bob this past weekend at the 53rd annual Desautels Micromount Symposium where she was an active participant amidst numerous international Micromount Hall of Famers and at least two mineralogists who have discovered new minerals and after whom minerals have been named.

This young lady's prodigious quest for mineralogical knowledge (and minerals, of course) traces to a visit with her parents to the Catoctin Zoo when she was two years old. More than the animals, what fascinated her most that day was a granite pebble that she picked up in which was a grain of pyrite. Thenceforth, she became an aficionado of "pretty stones." The interest in identifying them and the related scientific components began about two years ago.

Her father has been with her every step of the way. Together, they take on at least two serious mineral excursions every month, including shows and localities. Among the latter have been the dumps of the Mineral Hill Mine in Carroll County; those of the Allah Cooper Mine in Mineral, Virginia; the Tripp Mine in New Hampshire; and the Jacobs Geode Mine in Missouri. Her "big wish" would be to "get into more localities."

Jessica is an enormous exception to a disturbing trend in mineralogical circles of diminished younger generation enthusiasm for minerals, or for that matter natural history in general. She confirmed to me that interest in minerals is practically nonexistent in her age group and that the handful of young enthusiasts she's met through club circles are a few years older.

Will Jessica's love and fascination for the hobby last? No one is saying. I asked her if she had yet found a "niche." She confessed she hadn't. Rather, by virtue of her age, her engagement with the hobby, and the dearth of others like her, Jessica exemplifies about as important and significant a niche as exists in mineralogy.

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