Archived Article Detail
By Thomas P. Moore
WHAT'S NEW IN THE MINERAL WORLD ARCHIVE - posted on 3/1/2005
Here begins the first installment of "What's new in the mineral world"—available only on the Mineralogical Record website. This new forum should not be confused with the print column, "What's New in Minerals," which for 35 years has offered market reports on major mineral shows, keeping Mineralogical Record readers up to date on fresh discoveries. "What's new in the mineral world" will perform the same service by passing on news from shows and from dealers' websites, but the feature will also have other missions in mind...
I plan to keep in close touch with museum curators worldwide to pick up information about coming special exhibits, renovations of display space, research projects, personnel changes, acquisitions of collections, and whatever else the curators may choose to share. News about private collectors and their collections, shows, symposia, field trips, "human interest" events, and, in short, anything going on anywhere in the mineral world, will be of potential interest. If an exciting new mineral locality opens up, or an old one closes, or a mining effort with known or possible collector significance is underway, you may look for a news flash here. Books and other publications of interest to mineral collectors are always coming out, and the most important publications are reviewed in the Mineralogical Record, but more will be noted in this space.
There will be no regular schedule for posting new installments, as rates of information flow can be expected to vary greatly. When a new installment is ready, the previous one will be archived for later reference.
I will always be happy to hear from readers who contact me and share information which I might then post on the site: of all the means for maintaining a healthy file of items for "What's new...," input from readers will be perhaps the most important. At the same time, I will be interested in and grateful for any feedback I might receive, once "What's new..." has had an airing or two and its faults and merits have become clear to anyone who might be moved to e-mail, phone, or write. The quickest way to reach me is, of course, through my e-mail address, email@example.com.
A FEW NEW MINERAL DISCOVERIES
This year's Tucson Show saw, as usual, many new mineral occurrences debuting on the market. My full show report will appear (as it always does) in the May-June issue of the Mineralogical Record; here I will mention only three major new strikes of gemmy crystals from the United States which turned up at the Show. Two of the localities in question are long-known "classics" enjoying revivals, while the third is excitingly new.
Last year a single pegmatite pocket at Mt. Antero, Chaffee County, Colorado produced five specimens of what is probably the finest aquamarine beryl ever found in North America. The largest of the sharp, lustrous, gemmy, deep aqua-blue hexagonal prisms measures 2.5 x 2.5 x 16.8 cm, and rests on matrix of microcline, muscovite and smoky quartz crystals; on the other four specimens, smaller but equally fine crystals rise at various angles from the same pegmatitic matrix. The specimens have been reassembled from loose crystals and matrix pieces found lying in the pockets, but the humpty-dumpty job has been done expertly by the seasoned technicians of Bryan Lees' Collector's Edge dealership and specimen-mining company, in Golden, Colorado, and truly no one capable of appreciating these specimens in the first place will mind that they are reconstructed. These magnificent specimens are not for sale to private collectors, but are destined for a Colorado museum.
Mt. Mica, Oxford County, Maine is America's first-found source of gem-quality tourmaline, and despite intermittent production of fine elbaite crystals since the first discovery in 1820, the locality has been generally thought defunct. But this year in Tucson, hundreds of crystals which have been dug since July 2003 were offered by Graeber & Himes (firstname.lastname@example.org; MinAmer@aol.com), and collecting-team leader Gary Freeman showed the elite of the newly found specimens in a display case at the Main Show. These include amazing, gem-quality, color-zoned elbaite crystals to 12 cm in matrix, and loose gemmy crystals in many hues of dark green, pink, and even blue. Work continues at Mt. Mica, so we may reasonably expect more specimens to appear.
Then there were the dazzling crystals of amethystine quartz which Rodney Moore of Jackson, Georgia has lately begun to dig from a surface exposure of pegmatite on his property at Jackson's Crossroads, Wilkes County, Georgia. The amethyst crystals are very sharp, mirror-faced, and highly lustrous, and reach 20 cm across individually; loose clusters of crystals reach 30 cm, and matrix specimens get even larger. This is some of the best amethyst I have ever seen; specimens may be purchased from Terry Ledford of Mountain Gems & Minerals (email@example.com).
New on the Web
In the summer of 2003, a surface pocket on Mt. Antero, Chaffee County, Colorado proved to contain about a dozen wonderful, gemmy, sherry-colored topaz crystals. The zone containing the pocket had formerly produced good crystals of aquamarine such as Mt. Antero is famous for (see paragraph above), but topaz is very much rarer than aquamarine in the mountain's pegmatite pockets, and so the Collector's Edge dealership was pleased to offer these exceptional crystals on their website. The crystals range in size from 1 cm to the largest piece, an exceptionally brilliant, totally gemmy, undamaged, squat terminated prism 3.3 cm long. They are free of matrix, with healed and recrystallized faces on cleavage surfaces and growth hillocks on many of the pyramid and pinacoid faces. These are possibly the best topaz crystals ever found in Colorado, and so it is not surprising that all were sold within weeks of having been advertised. (A precedent has just been set: this column will sometimes mention items of major mineralogical interest even if specimens are no longer available on the market. Particularly if they have not been widely noted before, they will be described here for "reference" purposes, and to alert collectors to possible resales.)
In my print report on Tucson 2005 I complained that Mike Bergmann had sold out almost all of his new specimens of euclase from Paraíba, Minas Gerais, Brazil, before I could get to see them. Well, the dealership of Miner's Lunchbox was among the culprits who bought these crystals from Mike early on in the show, and you may see a few specimens of them on that website (www.minerslunchbox.com). The loose single crystals, averaging about 2.5 cm, are sharp, doubly terminated, highly lustrous and in general extremely impressive. They are transparent and color-zoned, in large part colorless but with a central blue stripe; i.e. they look exactly like the "racing stripe" euclase crystals earlier found near Equador, Rio Grande do Norte state, Brazil. Mike Bergmann swears, though, that Paraíba is the correct locality; his authority is the supplier, who says that he collected some of the crystals in the mine himself.
One very new item that, for some excellent reasons, all of which I will think of in just a minute, I didn't mention in the print report from Tucson, although several dealers were marketing specimens, is quartz with included fluorite crystals from a new strike at Miandrivazo, Fianarantsoa Province, Madagascar. Colorless and transparent prismatic crystals of quartz, many doubly terminated, to well over 10 cm harbor interior fuzzy blue-purple spots, which upon even cursory inspection can be recognized as euhedral, indeed quite sharp, crystals of fluorite to about 1 cm. The fluorite crystals are bluish purple octahedrons and cuboctahedrons; originally they had grown on the prism faces of quartz crystals, but then had been drowned by further quartz crystallization. They are still "swimming" in there, except in cases where tiny openings can be seen penetrating the quartz crystals and reaching to where the included fluorite had been, in which cases the fluorite has disappeared, leaving only crystal-shaped voids. Good single quartz crystals and crystal clusters to cabinet size are available from several web citizens including Arkenstone (www.irocks.com), Marin Minerals (www.marinmineral.com) and Wright's Rock Shop (www.wrightsrockshop.com).
Sometime in 2002, a place called Tha Peik Kyin, Mandalay Division, Myanmar (Burma) produced a few very pretty, unusual specimens of fluorite, as tight clusters of lustrous, transparent cubic crystals with mosaic faces; the clusters reach about 4 cm across and are rounded and gleaming, and in some specimens the cubes have "merged" to produce mushroom-shaped aggregates. The fluorite is basically purple but is color-zoned, some crystals showing yellow-green outer zones over dark purple cores. Kevin Dixon of Alpine Mineral Company (firstname.lastname@example.org) has these specimens, as well as assorted fine "Alpine" material from Pakistan and from the actual Alps, in selections of specimens showing impeccable taste (for a man from Kansas).
Cascade Scepters (www.cascadescepters.com) is a dealership specializing in quartz crystals doing creative things. The site advertises good-looking sceptered smoky quartz crystals from the Krystal Tips mine (also called Hallelujah Junction), Peterson Mountain, Nevada, with crystals to 16 cm long, singly and in clusters, in a price range topping out at $400. Here too are sharp, doubly terminated smoky quartz crystals to 8 cm from the volcanic flow fields of Moorala, South Australia, in nice specimens for under $60.
The old lead-mining district between the towns of Iglèsias and Cagliari in Sardinia's southwestern corner began working when the Phoenicians settled the area, ca. 1,000 B.C.; its best known products are the world-class phosgenite and anglesite specimens found in past centuries in the Monteponi mine. Ore production around Iglèsias ceased at last in the early 1990's, but local collectors continue to find respectable specimens, particularly of barite, in old workings and dumps. Several dozen good clusters of golden brown, translucent barite crystals with individuals to 5 cm were taken in 2004 from the Villamasargia area near the town of Domusnovas; the crystals are not endowed with high luster, but good cabinet-size specimens, with the sharp barite crystals scattered on "limonite" matrix, are available at www.ItalianMinerals.com.
At the 2005 Tucson Show, a recent strike of enormous and fine andorite crystals at the famous San José mine, Oruro, Bolivia made the top of the news when a few dealers marketed specimens, but another Bolivian record-setter was much easier to overlook: loose 1.5-cm crystals of the extremely rare species joséite from the Tasna mine, Potosí Department, in the keeping of Alfredo Petrov (email@example.com). The dull metallic gray blades are the first euhedral joséite crystals of more than micromount-size ever found, Alfredo told me. As they had been found embedded in massive native bismuth, I was not entirely surprised to find that the Tasna mine has also lately produced some very sharp, lustrous bronze-metallic crystals of bismuth, likewise quite exceptional for the species, i.e. easily comparable to specimens of bismuth crystals from around Schneeberg, Germany. Specimens are available on the web at www.minernet.it.
Speaking of well crystallized native elements, native copper in sharp, lustrous dendritic trees from the Trevassack and Countybridge quarries, in the area called "the Lizard" on the southwestern coast of Cornwall, England, are available at www.cornwalldevonmineralspecimens.co.uk. Clinging to the copper trees, which reach an impressive 10 cm, are massive calcite and chrysocolla, and microcrystals of cuprite; in some specimens the trees "grow" from pieces of serpentine matrix. The quarries have been closed and flooded for a long time, the site said, these specimens having been taken out sometime in the 1970's.
Another Europe-based site which I find intriguing is that of the French dealership Spathfluor Minerals (www.spathfluorminerals.com), which offers miscellaneous French specimens such as seldom make it to shows in the United States, and many of excellent quality too (to judge from the pictures). These include bladed single crystals and floater groups of translucent white cerussite crystals, thumbnail-size, from the mines of Chaillac; good, lustrous metallic gray bournonite crystals to 3 cm from Ste.-Laurent-le-Miniere, and white crested barite on matrix from the same locality; transparent golden barite crystals to 2 cm on matrix from Châtelguyon, Puy-de-Dôme; pink fluorite from Mont Blanc, Haute-Savoie; and very fine chalcopyrite and blue fluorite specimens from the Montroc orefield, Tarn.
Chris Dearing is a grandson of late-great collector F. John Barlow, and he has a site (www.barlowminerals.com) whereon he is selling specimens, including some of the finest ones, from his grandfather's famous collection. I had assumed that all of the Great Ones pictured in The F. John Barlow Mineral Collection (1996) had long since disappeared into elite collections and would stay disappeared for a while—imagine my surprise to see some up on the block presently (though for prices which do not bear most ordinary collectors' thinking about). These several wonderful specimens pictured in the Barlow Collection book, e.g. major golds and tanzanites, the old German acanthite seen on p. 38 of the book, the Italian "demantoid" garnet seen on p. 62 (sold!), and even the "Sinkankas" red beryl from the Wah Wah Mountains, Utah, which is clearly one of the finest red beryl thumbnails in existence (and it is still accompanied by the Sinkankas watercolor portrait of it—see page 361).
At this point I will squelch my journalistic jealousy and tip my hat to John Veevaart, whose Trinity Minerals website (www.trinityminerals.com) has for some years now included his running series of excellent you-are-there reports on the world's major mineral shows. John does a wizardly job of reporting show goings-on and selling minerals at the very same time, whereas I can barely manage the former goal for the two major shows I normally do each year (John does at least four). Whenever Tucson, Denver, Munich, Springfield, or Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines has just finished happening, visit this website of John's...it's amazing, each time, how much other stuff John finds which my own sensors somehow fail to pick up as I cruise the same scene, neanderthal yellow notepad in hand.
For a final what's-new mineral item I am indebted to Berthold Ottens, and equally to John White, who passed on to me Bert's note concerning the new epidote on amethyst specimens now emerging from China. I have seen scattered examples of this material, but no major stashes so far, except, about three years ago, with some Chinese dealers who had mislabelled the epidote as pumpellyite. In Ottens' (slightly edited) words to White:
"The green epidote on amethyst quartz came some years ago for the first time onto the market. At that time "Sichuan province" was the only locality data given, and several Chinese dealers called it pumpellyite. Now large quantities are coming to the shows. I saw in China during my last visit in December more than 3,000 pieces. A trustworthy dealer in Changsha told me that the locality is the Meigu area in the Liangshan Yi autonomous prefecture in Sichuan, and this] was confirmed by other dealers too. The mining site in the mountains can be reached only by a long tour on foot. It is not a quarry or a real mine, just surface activities at outcrops as in Tongbei [see "Tongbei," Mineralogical Record, vol. 36, no. 1]...Jordi Fabre...told me in Tucson that the species according to his tests is epidote and not clinozoisite. He believes that Chinese dealers gave the wrong name to get a better price."
Some specimens of this material are quite stunning, with highly lustrous, forest-green epidote crystal aggregates blanketed all over clusters of purple amethyst crystals included by epidote.
Wendell Wilson has recently finished compiling an Author-Title Index of the whole run of the Mineralogical Record, 1970-2004, and it is now available as a softcover booklet for $20; visit this website's Bookstore. A General Index for 1996-2004 is also now complete—I should know, since it took me almost two years to complete it—but this has not been published separately; you will find it posted elsewhere on this website, and of course you may, if you wish, print it out. Both works take up the indexing of the Mineralogical Record where the old hardbound Index for Volumes I-XXV (Clopton and Wilson, 1995) left off.
Also available at the Bookstore is the gorgeous, just-published book Masterpieces of the Mineral World, with text by Wendell Wilson, Joel Bartsch and Mark Mauthner and photographs by (mostly) Jeff Scovil. This coffee-table presentation of some of the greatest specimens in the Houston Museum of Natural Science is one of the best mineral picture books ever published, and copies sold very well at the recent Tucson Show.
Also a best-seller at Tucson was Minerals and Their Localities by Jan H. Bernard and Jaroslav Hyršl, an 807-page, encyclopedic listing of every known mineral species, with paragraph-size discussions for each species, emphasizing formation conditions and major worldwide localities. This book is valuable indeed for emphasizing localities to the extent that it does. For example, a chapter/table at the end entitled "The Richest Type Localities of the World" tells the reader exactly how many species have been discovered at Tsumeb, Långban, Franklin/Sterling Hill, Lovozero, Laurium, Freiberg, Crestmore, Bisbee, Vesuvius, Mont St.-Hilaire, etc., etc., and to what geological and geochemical type each of these famous deposits belongs. An additional virtue is that there are hundreds of color photographs to enliven the book's central body, which consists of an encyclopedia-style, alphabetical presentation of all the species. These pictures add vital visual interest to what would otherwise be an unfeatured sea of data and print, and, what's more, both the specimens and the quality of the photography are very good in a satisfying majority of the cases. The book is expensive, but worth it, for the advanced-generalist or "species" collector who wants to know just where, in every sense of the word, his specimens have come from. Again, if you're interested, visit the Bookstore.
Last summer the A.E. Seaman Mineralogical Museum of Michigan Technological University opened a new display hall devoted to Michigan minerals. Curator George W. Robinson's book Mineralogy of Michigan has just been published, and there is still more good news from this busy institution. The growing Seaman Museum collection has recently received some very important donations: Mark Weil has given a specimen from South Africa with a brilliant hematite crystal a foot across, perhaps the world's finest hematite specimen; the same donor has also given a specimen from Bolivia with a 15-cm bournonite crystal, and one from Michigan with a 7.5-cm copper crystal; Andrew and Christy Meieran have donated a 5 x 5-cm tabular aquamarine beryl crystal from Brazil; and Wayne and Laura Thompson have donated a 25-cm morganite beryl crystal, also from Brazil. And if you are anywhere near Houghton, Michigan during the summer, consider stopping in on the small show + symposium + field trip event called "Keweenaw Week," sponsored by the museum. For further information, telephone (906)-487-2572.
Well, just one bulletin, this first time...
In the last few years, serious collectors have become generally aware that there is a small handful of absolutely fabulous crystallized gold specimens from Brazil in circulation. They are not, to put it mildly, within the reach of collectors with merely average incomes, but they easily rival the older Venezuelan specimens which they resemble—and their source is not even close to the jungly goldfields from which the Venezuelan specimens come. Specifically, the Brazilian gold is from the state of Mato Grosso, in the southern Amazon basin. The gold-mining area very actively produced alluvial gold during the 1970's and 1980's, but mercury pollution took a toll on the environment, and mining now is small-scale and intermittent, the region having become popular with ecotourists.
This gold is found as alluvial crystals and crystal groups, to various degrees waterworn. The crystals are deeply hoppered, grooved, skeletal, or elongated, showing combinations of isometric forms, and the best pieces meet the highest aesthetic standards even while measuring in excess of 5 cm across. Victor Yount acquired four major specimens from Alvaro Lucio and sold them at the Denver Show last September; what was probably the best of these went to the Smithsonian. The same dealer had a few more, smaller crystals, acquired more recently, at the 2005 Tucson Show. In June of 2004, curator Tony Kampf of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County purchased an amazing Mato Grosso gold specimen from Alvaro Lucio in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and its picture is shown here. The specimen measures 1.6 x 4.4 x 5.9 cm and weighs 119 grams (3.82 troy ounces)—so this debut installment of "What's new in the mineral world" has been provided with a dramatic golden-sunset conclusion.
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