Zoltan Terry Szenics was born in Queens, New York, on October 24, 1947, the son of Theresa Woik and Zoltan Michael Szenics, commercial artists and cartoonists for Archie Comics and some Marvel comics. (Terry is the grandson of Hungarian immigrants John and Emma Szenics.) His interest in minerals began at age six, when his father took him to visit the Morgan Hall of Gems and Minerals at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "It was passion at first sight," he says. In 1960 Terry and his family moved to Westwood, New Jersey, just 14 miles from the Paterson basalt quarries that are so rich in zeolites and other minerals. He rode his bike to the quarries to collect specimens, and by November 1962, at the age of 15, he was advertising minerals for sale in Rocks & Minerals, mostly from Paterson and Franklin at first, then expanding into micromounts.
Terry's first venture into serious specimen mining came in 1966-1967, when he leased the famous Pulsifer quarry at Mount Apatite, Auburn, Androscoggin County, Maine. Under the tutelage of Frank Perham, Terry recovered many world-class specimens. His success there in finding superb purple apatite crystals and fine green tourmaline gem rough gained him national attention as a field collector and mineral dealer (his work there was described in an article in Lapidary Journal).
In 1967 Terry rediscovered the "lost" diopside locality on the Calvin Mitchell farm in Dekalb Junction, New York, and recovered a fine pocket of classic diopside crystals. Later that same year he became one of the first American mineral dealers to bring back specimens from the now-famous Jeffrey quarry in Asbestos, Quebec. All of his finds during this period were marketed through a company called Commercial Mineral Corporation in New York, operated by Ron Romanella and Herb Obodda.
In 1968 Terry rediscovered another "lost" locality, the axinite occurrence at Coarsegold in Madera County, California. The site was famous for having produced some of the finest axinite crystals ever found in North America.
Then, in 1969, Terry met California collector Ed Swoboda and together they embarked on a venture to reopen the Stewart Lithia mine at Pala in hopes of finding pink tourmaline. They were successful beyond their wildest dreams (as illustrated by an article in Lapidary Journal).
Returning to Maine in 1974, Terry purchased the Havey feldspar quarry in Poland, Maine and worked it for two years with fair success. But at the end of 1977 his life changed dramatically when he took a job as specimen buyer for a New Jersey firm, and visited many countries buying the finest mineral and gem crystals available. His operating headquarters were in Lima, Peru, where for eight years he was one of the leading buyers and exporters of mineral specimens from Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Venezuela, and also made buying trips to India, Pakistan, Morocco and Nigeria. For a year he lived in Brazil, buying great gem crystal specimens, and was on hand when the famous Jonas mine pocket was discovered.
From 1986 to 2001 Terry was a partner in Aurora Mineral Corporation in New York, at that time the largest East Coast wholesaler of amethyst geodes from Brazil. Terry acquired a wide range of Chilean and Argentinian minerals for the company as well, and spent a year on-and-off living in Buenos Aires while buying and exporting large quantities of Catamarca rhodochrosite stalactites.
In 1983 Terry met Marissa Leandro, a young woman in Lima who was also a mineral dealer, and after working together for several years they were married in 1990; they have two sons, Michael and Matthew, born in Lima in 1989 and 1990.
By 1991 Peru was suffering through a war of insurgency by the "Shining Path" guerilla movement and Lima became too dangerous for Terry's comfort, so he moved his family to Santiago, Chile. There he already had buying connections, so business continued, but he was also able to do more field collecting and prospecting again. On a trip to the copper mines of the Atacama Desert he came across a small working mine called the Manto de Tres Gracias, that was producing superb specimens of drusy quartz on chrysocolla; it became a best seller for Terry for the next 12 years before the mine finally shut down in 2003.
While on a buying trip for chrysocolla, Terry and Marissa stopped at a small mining town nearby and visited a mine called the Jardinera #1, a known source of brochantite. They noticed a peculiar apple-green mineral in the ore piles which Terry eventually identified as powellite colored by copper. He also found an unfamiliar malachite-green mineral that occurred in sheaves like torberniteóbut uranium was nowhere present in northern Chile. The mine operator let him gather up as much of the odd material as he could, and Terry even went underground to see where the last of the zone had just been mined out. In due course the mineral was examined by mineralogists and found to be new to science; it was named szenicsite in honor of Terry and Marissa as discoverers.
Since then Terry has teamed up with a young Chilean geologist and brilliant field collector, Arturo Molina, and a hand-picked group of Chilean miners to investigate and work many other occurrences. They have recovered exquisite, peach-pink microcrystals of miguelromeroite at the Veta Negra mine near Tierra Amarilla; superb microcrystals of lindgrenite at the San Samuel mine in Carrera Pinto; the best known crystallized lammerite and beautiful crystals of the new species guanacoite from the Guanaco mine; the world's best crystallized penfieldite from the Margarita mine in Sierra Gorda; and bright red, chromium-rich wulfenite and over a kilogram of the (formerly!) extremely rare mineral iranite from the Chapacase mine near Tocopilla. During Terry's ten-year period in the field (1993-2003) he discovered a total of six new mineral species (szenicsite, lemanskiite, christelite, gordaite, changoite and herbertsmithite).
In 1998 Terry moved his family to Long Island, New York, while still visiting Chile regularly. In 2008 he and mineral dealer Kevin Downey rediscovered the "lost" garnet locality at Russell, Massachusetts. They now live in Oyster Bay, New York, where Terry works as curator for Scott Rudolph and manager of Scott's online mineral business, Shelterrockminerals.com.
In recognition of Terry's lifelong commitment to minerals and his diligent field work discovering a great many important and beautiful mineral specimens in North and South America, he was presented with the 2016 American Mineral Heritage Award at the 2016 Tucson Show.
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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||Ad in Rocks & Minerals, March-April 1964|
||Terry and Marissa (2009)|