Jean M[errill?] (Hart) Hamel was born in San Diego, California, on July 7, 1918, the daughter of Merrill Condon and Henry L. Hart, an oil refinery worker. In 1960, at the age of 43, she married Harry E. Hamel and together they founded a mineral business called Hamel Mining and Minerals in their home at 6451 West 84th Place in Los Angeles. Jean did most of the local shows and had a very large and fine personal collection. Harry worked for the telephone company teaching men how to climb poles and fix problems with the lines. Jean and Harry used to do quite a bit of field-collecting together in their younger years, and had even constructed a wire-and-rebar cage that they would use to lower themselves down into abandoned mines. She would also buy specimens from all the local field collectors and other mineral dealers.
Jean and Harry advertised in the Mineralogical Record almost continuously from September-October 1972 to July-August 1988. Their first ad announces "a truly major new find of colemanite crystals from Death Valley National Monument, Inyo County California. We believe it to be the finest colemanite in the world." The brilliant, blocky crystals measured up to 10 inches across. Subsequent ads offered arborescent to dendritic silver from Northwest Territories, Canada, and hydroboracite from the Thompson mine in Death Valley.
Harry and Jean accumulated an enormous amount of specimen material which they stored in flats in their house. Their two-car garage was also full, with cabinets of drawers and glass display cases. There was an equally large out-building behind the garage that was full, and also a 10 x 15-foot steel shed on a concrete slab that was filled with flats of minerals.
Harry died in 1990. For Jean, walking eventually became too difficult and she had to stop going to shows. In her last years she was in and out of the hospital and assisted living facilities, and hired a woman to live with her. Jean's close friend, Kay Robertson, and Jean's sister Helen began to sell off Jean's collection in order to pay for the continuing costs of her care. Kay called in her old friend, mineral dealer Scott Williams (q.v.), to help dispose of some of Jean's collection and specimen stock. Scott would arrive with a station wagon and a trailer and load them both up with minerals to sell for the estate. He did this several times over the years. Kay also picked out a few boxes of specimens that she wanted for her own collection, which she purchased through Scott.
Eventually Scott Williams (who was getting old himself) declined to take any more, and mineral dealer Forrest Cureton (q.v.) was called in; he disposed of large quantities of specimens as well. Forrest eventually turned the job over to Rock Currier (q.v.), and Rock cleaned out what was left of the estate—which was still a great deal. For ten days straight, Rock and his helpers would take two vans and a 14-foot trailer over to Jean's house and fill them up. Rock paid about $700 for the privilege (though he says a lot of that went towards the expense of a dumpster to throw away unsalable specimens). Rock did find a great deal of good specimen material to sell through his business, including many good colemanite specimens from the Thompson mine in Death Valley, but (thanks to the previous picking over by Scott and Forrest) very little that was of sufficiently high quality to keep for his own collection—only a good native iron from Disco Island, Greenland, a small bottle of industrial-grade rough diamonds, and a superb Michigan copper-in-calcite (which he purchased through Scott Williams' daughter Ann).
Jean Hamel died in Los Angeles County on May 3, 1999.
California Death Index
Social Security Death Index
CURRIER, R.H. (2007) Personal communication
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[Citation format for this entry:
WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
Biographical Archive, at www.mineralogicalrecord.com.]
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