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James Zigras
(1981-    )

James Scott Zigras was born in Bergen County, New Jersey on June 12, 1981, the son of Barbara (nee Kahn) and Sergio Zigras, a now-retired engineer at Intel. He grew up in Paramus, New Jersey, and attended Montclair State University, receiving his Bachelor of History degree in 2004. In 2001 he worked at Deutsche Bank as assistant research analyst.

He became interested in minerals at age 12 after his mother took him to meetings of local gem and mineral clubs, including the North Jersey Mineralogical Society. The Upper New Street quarry was the first mineral locality where he and his mother went to collect. Eventually he became serious about rare minerals and traveled to Mont St.-Hilaire with his parents for monthly field trips. James had numerous early mentors but his two primary mentors in top-level collecting, whom he met while he was still in high school, were David P. Wilber and Barry Yampol. Other early mentors included Rock Currier, Charles Key, Terry Szenics, Wolfgang Vogt, Bill Larson, Cap Beesley and Richard Hauck.

James has a principle collection of crystallized Chinese minerals numbering about 4,500 specimens. This collection has many sub-suites including a suite of about 300 specimens from the Tongbei spessartine locality. His core collection varies, but focuses on around 100 world-class specimens, best-of-species, silver and rare species. His collection of Mont-St. Hilaire numbers about 9,000 specimens and is one of the most important suites from this locality outside of Canada. It was assembled at great expense through collecting, purchase and high-grading of many specimens and collections in the US. His general collection of micromounts and thumbnails numbers about 1,500 specimens. Because he operates a quartz mining company, he also has a quartz suite numbering about 250 specimens.

James was honored with the naming of the mineral zigrasite, which he discovered in 2005.

Around 1998 James first started to actively sell minerals he had field collected to support his collections. Around 2006 he stopped selling at shows and now mainly acts as a buyer and adviser for several top museums and collectors.

In 2009 he founded Avant Mining to initially purchase the two classic wavellite mines so he could get specimens of wavellite for his collection. The 50-acre portion of the McEarl mine that Avant owns is one of the premier localities in the U.S. for its potential for yielding great mineral specimens. Avant also owns nearly the entire McEarl trend, extending from the McEarl mine to the famous Coleman mine. This trend includes the Diamond Drill no.4 and 5 mines. The McEarl/Coleman trend produces some of the finest quartz crystals in the world. James estimates that this area has already produced at least one million pounds of quartz crystals.

He has put together the finest private amber collection assembled (see his website; it is currently housed at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. It contains nearly 10,000 specimens which contain as inclusions at least 1,000 species (insects, flowers, feathers, plants, reptiles, etc.) new to science. Highlights of the Burmese (99 million year old amber) portion of the collection include three complete reptiles, the largest assemblage of the oldest ants known including the new genus Zigrasimecia, 12 feathers (many of which are believed to be from dinosaurs), numerous ticks (some bloated with blood!), the most perfectly preserved oldest mosquito known, numerous flowers which happen to be the oldest perfectly preserved flowers in the fossil record, as well as perhaps 500 or more "iconic" specimens which represent the finest known examples of extremely rare inclusions. At the current rate of species descriptions at the museum, it would take more than 500 years to describe all of the inclusions in his collection. Numerous species have been named in his honor including Zigrasolabis, Tethepomyia zigrasi, Burmonyx zigrasi, Haidomyrmex zigrasi, Eulaema zigrasi, etc.

James is involved in the art world and is a patron of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. He is currently partners with the well-known musician Mark Mothersbaugh in a major art project in Los Angeles.

James can be contacted via email at:
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Mineralogical Record
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