Archived Article Detail
By Thomas P. Moore
WHAT’S NEW IN THE MINERAL WORLD ARCHIVE – posted on 3/13/2008
March 13, 2008
Hello, and here we go with the thirteenth installment of the online “what’s new in the mineral world.” It is shorter than any of the previous twelve, but also it comes harder on the heels of its predecessor: Number Twelve was posted less than two months ago, in advance of the Tucson Show. I am experimenting, this is to say, with a new rhythm, to be characterized by shorter reports at shorter—but more timely—intervals than the three- month interval I’ve been averaging so far. I hope that the new strategy will serve better to meet most regular visitors’ needs (your needs, gentle readers) for truly current intelligence, especially during the long draughts between major shows such as the spring draught which, alas, we’re now entering.
Below, besides posting alerts of some post-Tucson mineral offerings on the web, I will mention a couple of things on the web which were also on view in Tucson, thus foreshadowing my print report (to appear in the May-June issue); and I will pass on a couple of bulletins from the museum world. As always, feedback is welcomed, and fresh information is heartily solicited.
On The Web
Brazil. Rob Lavinsky specimen and photo.
On February 26, Rob Lavinsky of Arkenstone (www.irocks.com) added to his website a page of eight fine specimens of brazilianite, surprisingly cabinet size for the most part, from the Marcel Telirio mine near Linópolis, Minas Gerais, Brazil. The Telirio mine was opened around 1970, abandoned after a cave-in in 1972, then reopened in the mid-1990’s; it began as a 20-meter open pit with two lower adits, but probably now it is more extensive. The mine lies near the original Córrego Frio type locality and other sites where superb brazilianite has been found, but it is a distinctive locality nevertheless, as its characteristic brazilianite crystals are not blocky as are most of the others, but prismatic with wedge-shaped terminations, and tend to occur in jumbled groups, in some cases resting on large, white microcline crystals. Rob’s website quotes Wendell Wilson’s opinion that the Telirio mine is “Brazil’s most under-rated occurrence”—well, Wendell happens to be strongly smitten with brazilianite, but his point is well taken, and this magazine would, as he says, love to have an article on the locality submitted to us by someone someday. Rob’s new specimens show lustrous, yellow-green brazilianite crystals, some doubly terminated, to 6 cm, most of them part-gemmy (one crystal is opaque but that fact is forgivable, since the crystal is 11 cm long). Brazilianite from the Telirio mine has not been especially scarce on the market during the last ten years (a spectacular lot appeared at the 2007 Tucson Show: see the report in May-June 2007), but Rob’s specimens are very fine, and they are big.
Rob Lavinsky specimen and photo.
On his site Rob also shows a few crystals from a recent discovery of spessartine from near Loliondo, Tanzania—close to Serengeti National Park and 7 kilometers from the Kenyan border. These gorgeous, gemmy, tangerine-orange trapezohedral crystals came onto the gem market when Masai tribesmen began bringing them into Nairobi late last year. The gem-diggers have been finding the spessartine crystals loose in the topsoil, and word is that the deposit is probably finished already—but as this paragraph is one of those foreshadowings of the print report on Tucson 2008, and as information is still fragmentary, I’ll leave the backgrounding at that for now. Nearly all of the loose garnet crystals (matrix specimens exist, but they are very rare) are as beautiful as the one in the picture here, and they range in diameter from about 1.5 to about 5 cm. Most of the crystals show small black flecks of included hematite, but most, too, offer generous tracts of pure gemmy orange-ness within. OK, they are pricey—Rob asked, and has already gotten, $1800 for the 2.3-cm crystal shown here—but it’s hard to exaggerate the force of the beauty-jolt you can get just by rolling a typical crystal around in your hand. Already, stray examples of the new Tanzanian spessartine are appearing around the web, but Rob’s Arkenstone and one other dealership (Green Mountain Minerals,firstname.lastname@example.org ) are the two primary conduits to the U.S. at this stage.
In the past I’ve cited Mike Keim’s Marin Minerals website (www.marinmineral.com) a time or two, as this strictly-web dealership usually has a generous and diverse selection of minerals new to the market. Especially notable among Mike’s post-Tucson offerings are a few terrific wire silver specimens from the Imiter mine, Ouarzazate, Morocco, and a few lovely, part-gemmy to gemmy diopside crystals from Tanzania. To mention both of these items here assuages my conscience, as I gave only passing notice to the Imiter silvers in my last Munich report (January-February 2008), and I failed to mention the diopsides from Tucson 2008, though I did see a couple of examples there.
Mike Keim specimen and photo.
As to the Imiter silvers: they have been getting better and better since the time, only five years or so ago, when Imiter mine specimens in general began to be widely known. The silver wires are thin, immaculately bright white, and crazily tangled as they rise from acanthite matrix; they suggest some old crazy-filigree specimens from Freiberg except for that preternatural-looking whiteness, which contrasts beautifully with the dull gray of the underlying acanthite. Although these specimens look laboratory-grown, they are in fact natural and honest, according at least to one very trustworthy source on the scene (see remarks near the end of the Munich report, January-February 2008).
Tanzania. Mike Keim specimen and photo.
Marin Minerals also offers loose crystals of glowing lime-green, part or wholly gemmy diopside from the Karo mine, Merelani Hills, Arusha, Tanzania. The crystals range in length from 1.4 to 4.4 cm, and all are sharply terminated on at least one end, with complex modifying faces. Some have adhering patches of lustrous silvery graphite, reminding us that the famous gem tanzanite crystals of this locality often are seen to have grown in/on a matrix of graphite. In others of Mike’s diopside specimens, tiny, lustrous, white calcite crystals form belts around parts of the prisms. As mentioned, I saw two or three brilliant Tanzanian diopside crystals like this around the Tucson Show, but decided that they are not yet plentiful enough to “write up,” and I now thank webmaster Mike Keim for proving me wrong by offering ten of them on his site.
Itauz mine, Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan. Mike Keim specimens and photo.
If you insist, I’ll show you one more item from the Tucson-Show-gleanings section of the Marin Minerals site (providing another foreshadowing of the print report in May-June 2008). The new copper pseudomorphs after cuprite from the Itauz mine near Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan are odd-looking indeed, and a pseudomorph specialist’s dream: lustrous, coppery-colored, tiny, elongated copper crystals form coarsely textured meshes, each aggregate mesh a simple octahedron which was once a sharp cuprite crystal. Mike Keim’s 12 specimens are groups of lightly attached pseudocrystals, mostly without matrix, between 1.5 and 5 cm, with individual octahedron forms to 2 cm.
Province, Peru. Guy Russo specimen and photo.
Desert Winds Gems & Minerals (www.desertwindsgemsandminerals.com) is a new site run by New Mexico’s Guy Russo, and currently it offers some very lovely specimens of gypsum on halite from Peru. According to Guy the specimens come from the “Otuma mine, Pisco,” but probably they come from the “Las Salinas halite mine near Otume village south of Pisco,” Ica Province—to quote from Jaroslav Hyršl’s and Zolina Rosales’ “Peruvian Minerals: an Update,” in the May-June 2003 issue of the Mineralogical Record. The largest gypsum/halite specimen on Guy’s site (pictured here) looks almost identical to the one pictured in the Hyršl/Rosales article, except that the pictured specimen shows a mottled brown matrix whereas in Guy’s specimen the sharp, lustrous, bright orange and totally transparent gypsum crystals rest on a white mass of rough cubic halite crystals. Anyway, the gypsum crystals (in both specimens) are “swallowtail” twins to 4 cm, and are strikingly beautiful. The Desert Winds site also offers a few small-miniature specimens consisting of loose gypsum twins to 4 cm. Guy says that he found this little specimen-hoard at the 2007 Tucson Show, and that he has seen no other such pieces since then—and neither have I.
Senegal. Jordi Fabre specimen and photo.
The abundant website of Jordi Fabre (www.fabreminerals.com) is always worth a surf-through, especially just after a major show. Commended to you this time are a few attractive miniatures of the very rare phosphate senegalite—named for its type locality, also the source of Jordi’s specimens, which is designated in the new 2008 Fleischer’s Glossary as the “Kouroudiako iron (magnetite) deposit, Falémé River basin, east Senegal”…Jordi’s version is “Kourou Diakouma, Linguere, Tambacounda, Senegal.” Lustrous yellow microcrystals of senegalite line fissures and vugs in dark brown “limonite,” over very thin coatings of baby-blue turquoise; some specimens feature solid druse coverages of senegalite to several square centimeters. Jordi says that these specimens are from “a very recent rediscovery.”
Cantabria, Spain. Jordi Fabre specimen and photo.
Also offered on Jordi’s site are some excellent specimens of gemmy red-brown (or “honey”-colored) sphalerite from the world’s best locality for it, namely the old Las Mánforas mine, Áliva, Picos de Europa, Cantabria, Spain. He had about a dozen specimens of the material in Tucson, and I did not write them up, but I think (or rationalize) that the specimens shown on the website are better, anyway: the transparent, twinned sphalerite crystals reach 3 cm and rest on white dolomite matrix, though some specimens are loose sphalerite crystals with sprigs of dolomite sparingly adorning surfaces. The trick with Spanish gem sphalerite is to find crystals which are satisfyingly well individualized, complete on all sides, and, as Jordi likes to say, “aerial” in their relation to matrix—and several specimens on the site fill this bill quite well.
The Jim and Dawn Minette Collection
One of the major excitements of the “Main Show” at the Tucson Convention Center in 2008 was the sale, at just two dealers’ booths, of the fabulous mineral collection assembled over decades by the late James Minette and his equally collecting-bugbitten wife Dawn, of Boron, California—see the obituary for Jim on page 202 of the May-June 2002 issue. When writing the print report on the Show I lacked space to get into this story in any detail, but as a thumbnail collector I wanted to…in all likelihood this was (until its sell-off) the finest accumulation of thumbnail-size specimens in the world, uniformly of topmost quality piece-for-piece and remarkable in its variety, too, having been as rich in old classics as in occurrences which flowered in the Minettes’ own time. Also there was a very fine “general” collection of miniature and cabinet-size pieces with (naturally) a strong California borate emphasis, but the thumbnail collection was the heart of the matter. Thus all of the zany-but-lovable thumbnail collectors (I do not presume to exclude myself) who were on hand at Tucson awaited with, well, extreme zaniness the first hours—the first moments—of the Main Show, when Dave Bunk and Dan Weinrich at their respective stands would begin selling off the Minette collection. Dave and Dan had decreed that no pre-show sales would take place, and so in the hours—in the moments—before the Show officially opened, long, charged-up, thrashing lines formed, like dangerous downed power lines, at both dealerships’ booths, and at several junctures the show officials moved in to tell us to break up, disperse, relax, clear a passage, get lives. But then came the Time, and a furious crush at both booths, and then the commerce continued for four solid days, and Dave and Dan ended up much richer and much happier fellows when it was all finally over.
The present point is that some former Minette specimens are being offered online right now by Dan Weinrich (www.danweinrich.com), and more may be offered later (some are being reserved for the Denver Show in September). Actually Dan started posting specimens from the collection on February 2, a week before the Main Show at Tucson began, and traffic on the site, of course, started out very heavy and stayed that way. Of the original 147 Minette specimens put up, there remain today 69, about half of them thumbnails. Of course the average quality of the pieces has somewhat declined, the greatest dazzlers having been long since snapped up. But a fair number of absolutely terrific specimens—especially thumbnails—remains, and only their fairly steep prices account, I must think, for some of these beauties remaining unsold. As evidence I show here the former Minette specimen of pyrargyrite from the great classic locality of St. Andreasberg, Harz Mountains, Germany. OK, it costs $3500, but don’t let that stop you at least from admiring it, even if it stops you from buying it. Go to Dan’s site and ogle your fill.
Former Minette collection. Dan Weinrich specimen and photo.
A few months ago there was good news concerning minerals from my undergraduate Alma Mater, the University of Delaware, at Newark, Delaware. Longtime Mineralogical Record readers may recall Peter B. Leavens’ article in November-December 1983, describing the mineral collection of Irénée DuPont (1876-1963), inherited by the University in 1965. The DuPont collection has been displayed for a long time in a small room in Penny Hall, the Geology Department’s building, and, more importantly, for many years after 1965 the collection was augmented, updated, and immensely improved in general by Peter Leavens’ expert curation. But then hard times came, and for awhile now the collection has been without a curator—John White’s sensibly adverse reactions to this state of affairs may be read in his “Gallery Reviews” column in the July-August 2006 issue. Now, though, happily, there is a new University president, new bureaucratic arrangements, and new funding, and a new curator has been hired. She is Dr. Sharon Fitzgerald, and she has big plans: to repair damage from recent neglect; to continue Peter’s work of enlarging and modernizing the collection (with a renewal of regular visits to the Tucson Show); to oversee construction of a new display facility; to conduct outreach programs; and generally to make the mineral display at Delaware fully competitive on a national level with other university mineral displays. For more information on these developments, check out www.udel.edu/museums.
Finally, Tina Walker, manager of the Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum at 205 North Walker St., Marion, Kentucky 42064, has asked me to pass on a word or two “…about our world-class museum. At the museum we have one of the world’s finest collections of fluorite and related minerals from the KY-IL fluorspar district…A couple of things we do to promote the museum are an annual Gem and Mineral Show (this year’s show is June 7th and 8th)…[and] monthly digs where people come and dig at the old mine sites.” The museum’s website (www.clementmineralmuseum.org) explains that Benjamin Edwin Clement (1891-1980) accumulated huge collections of minerals, fossils and gemstone carvings, and of documents, photographs and artifacts related to “fluorspar” mining in Illinois and Kentucky. The museum, founded in 1990, displays the minerals in a large, spacious hall. Hours are 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM, Wednesday through Saturday; phone is 270-965-4263—and if you’re going that way in early June, why not visit the show as well?
For questions about this column, please email Tom Moore.