My Etsy Shop

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hello.  It has been so busy in the shop I have been unable to keep up with the blog.  I do occasionally comment on the mineral world on my google+ page.  Please join me there.  Thank you.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hemimorphite and Vesuvianite available later this weekend in the shop,

So how do I go about pricing minerals.  Truthfully some minerals are so abundant and easily obtained they are a commodity.  Pricing for those when they are abundant is basically by the pound.  A dealer will negotiate the lot price based on the overall weight and grade of the mineral.  Brazilian amethyst is an example of this type of pricing.  There are different grades of Brazilian amethyst based on color, crystal size and perfection.  Each grade has a price per pound.  Of course the most expensive would be a deep purple amethyst with large size crystals that have the luster and clarity sought after by both the jewelry and mineral markets.

Recently there has been a bit of an amethyst craze developing in China.  This is driving up the price of amethyst.  At both Tucson and Denver this year there was a noticeable lack of Brazilian amethyst of collector or jewelry quality.

When I resell these abundant minerals it is strictly by a formula which considers the cost of doing business.  Unless it is an exceptional example there will be no premium built into the cost.  In minerals, as in jewelry, you definitely pay to have the "pretty one".

We are hosting the Mountainview College Geology club this afternoon, so more on this later.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grossular Garnet on Vesuvianite from Lake Jaco, Chihuahua, Mexico.  Available in the shop

Today is the first year anniversary on Etsy.  It has been a great beginning and I want to thank all of my wonderful customers for contributing to the shop's success.  I look forward to serving you in the future.

The grossular garnet pictured is a vintage specimen.  It was collected 20 to 30 years ago.  I nabbed it from a friend who was selling some old inventory.  Mexico has just become far too dangerous to seek minerals.  Most of my Mexican mineral sources has quit traveling to the mining districts.

Generically "garnet" is used as if it were the proper name of a mineral.  However mineralogically "garnet" is the term for a group of minerals related by chemical formula and crystallographic structure.  The most commonly known of the garnet group are almandine, andradite, pyrope, uvarovite, spessartine and grossular.

Almandine is the brownish red color and is known for occurring as giant crystals.  Andradite occurs in a wide variety of colors but popularly the black andradites are known as melanites, green as demantoid and topazolite is an andradite.  Popular grossulars are hessonite and tsavorite.

So as I tell the school children Garnet is the mineral's last name, it's first name is Grossular and it nickname is Hessonite.  So Grossular Garnet, aka Hessonite.

Monday, October 1, 2012

I am finally home.  We first went to Denver for the big mineral show.  I immediately left from Texas to go to the southeastern US.  On my second day traveling I stopped in a rest area in Mississippi and there was the nifty Lunar Lander training vehicle in the parking lot.  Being in Mississippi it was on a platform autographed by Fred Haise of Apollo 13 fame.

So after switching drivers we headed over to Auburn to visit my nephew's dusty plasma lab.  They are still awaiting the mega magnets.

After a visit with a good friend in the area we headed over to Callaway gardens for a night and spent the next day enjoying the gardens. This time of year there is not much in bloom and the leaves had not started changing colors.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Denver - finished, now on to the Southeast.  Lucky John gets to stay home.
 I will be back in the Etsy shop full time October 1 with brand new listings.

Lovely Arizona Chrysocolla necklace.  I purchased one cab from this cutter.  I will post it to the Etsy shop in October.

Delicious crackers from China.  My neighboring vendors at the show kept me fed.

Our booth at the show

A day off with a little sight seeing at the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs

An early start to the next destination

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Wulfenite with Mimetite, San Francisco Mine, Sonora, Mexico, available in shop

I want to thank all our wonderful customers for our best August sales ever.  We appreciate your loyalty and look forward to helping you build your mineral collection in the future. Please tell your friends about the shop.

Show season is upon us and the online shop will be closed from September 7 - 18.  Send me your wish list so we can find those special items while at the shows.

Etsy hides the listings while the shop is on "vacation" but you can see all of the photos here

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Photos:  Montana Smoky Quartz and Amethyst

We are getting ready for the autumn show season.  I will try to post photos from the shows in the upcoming weeks.

Our friend from Missoula, Montana, Russ, just sent us some photos of his summer digging.  He says it was his best summer season ever.   If you ever get to Missoula look Russ up at Tower Pizza - great pizza.

This is 40 inches X  14 inches and weighs 300 pounds

This one is 100 lbs, pristine and transparent on the termination

and finally the Spring Queen, an elegant deep purple Amethyst

Monday, August 20, 2012

Photo - Elmwood, Tennessee Barite on Fluorite on Sphalerite available on Etsy

My shop is on Etsy where vendors are only supposed to sell supplies and/or vintage.  I do sell cabochons and raw crystals for jewelry as well as sell mineral specimens which can be used for mixed media fine art.

You can see the sculptures of Steve Potts here:
Steven Potts - Branching Out  Steve uses many of our minerals in his work.  I also sell to a number of cutters.  Megan of Dion Jewelry has been cutting some azurite malachite specimens she acquired from the shop:  Dion Jewelry.  Other jewelry artists who are using stones and crystals from my shop can be found here: Favorite Shops

I was recently quizzed about the vintage aspect of my specimens as I do sell vintage specimens on Etsy.  Etsy defines vintage as anything produced prior to 1993.  The question was how would I know if a mineral specimen was mined prior to 1993.  Mines do not produce indefinitely.  The ore body may run out, the conditions become much too dangerous, the economics of digging further and deeper may not work and sometimes better use for the land is found.  An example of better use is when a nation becomes developed and it is economically more sound to house the expanding population than to mine the land.  There are many many communities built on old mines.  Sometimes this causes problems.  I have heard a recent report that sinkholes are developing in residential neighborhoods of Butte, Montana.  Occasionally a creative person reclaims an old mine as a natural preserve.  Butchart Gardens near Victoria is a wonderful example:
The Butchart Gardens - Home

Mining and mineral collecting are both well documented activities.  One can easily do research to determine the period in which a mine was active.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Smithsonite, Kelly Mine, Magdalena, Socorro County, New Mexico - available later today in the shop.

Mineral collecting can become all consuming.  People's lives can change dramatically and beneficially from collecting.  If only you ever buy minerals to enhance your living space and never read a mineralogy book you still have deepened your knowledge and connection with nature just knowing that crystals exist.

Parents of budding collectors often ask me if this is a useful pursuit.  I tell John's experience.  As a young child he discovered minerals on a family outing to a flea market.  That was it.  The whole family joined the local mineral club the very next month.  Both he and his parents became avid collectors.  It also introduced him to geology.  Being a bright lad his teachers encouraged college and he was accepted with scholarships to numerous fine institutions. But which one?  He plotted on a map the field collecting areas around each of the institutions.  New Mexico School of Mines won hands down.  (He collected the smithsonite pictured today.) He would be able to maximize his field collecting while in college.  He initially studied geology but switched to geophysics and mathematics.   Upon graduation he immediately had job offers.

The adult collector can enjoy a pursuit which provides continuing education, aesthetics and competition.  You will also develop a social network among collectors based on common interest not politics, social station or other barriers to friendship.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Acquiring Minerals - Collections

Photo is Brookite, Moses Hill, Magnet Cove, Arkansas

Now that you have inspected the collection and made an assessment my preference is always to give a written offer with a "null and void" date usually 2 weeks hence. In the offer description you should include how you will pay. Even if you come to agreement immediately this written offer will stand as a bill of sale.

I recommend to collectors never to accept any kind of financing or paying forward arrangement, it is not in their best interest.  If you need financing I would suggest seeking third party financing. (I usually give a 10% down cash (truly cash) deposit and the remaining amount in installments as I pack.  So if it is going to take my 3 loads to haul away.  I give 10% down then 30% by check with each load I take.  That needs to be detailed in the offer.  Of course if it is a one load collection payment is due the day of moving.)

If the offer is not accepted immediately be old school - send a hand written note of thanks the next day.  The non-monetary part of selling a collection is very important.  The collector spent a lot of time and effort into putting the collection together it is important to them to know that work is appreciated.

Be prepared for a bit of negotiation.  You may be competing for the collection and may be in a better position to compete than a dealer.  The dealer needs to resell and their offer will reflect the wholesale value.  Refer to your notes when considering the counter offer.

So there it is.  The hardest part about buying collections is finding one for sale.  With a healthy checkbook and a gracious respect for other people it is really not that hard.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Acquiring minerals

Photo is an Arizona azurite malachite available in the shop

I am going to ignore purchases made strictly for resale. That would be a business plan discussion which is not the point of this blog

As you become more intertwined in the mineral world you will develop a network of collectors you with whom you associate. There may come a time when one of those collectors for their own reasons decides to sell their collection. Or you may come across a classified ad on the web or in one of the mineral publications.

The most common reason a collector sells is either to upgrade or a change of focus. Of course common travails may also be a factor.

Bring your largest vehicle stocked with wrapping and boxes. Just leave the packing materials in your truck, this is just a precaution. Sometimes the deal is struck quickly and the person wants you to move on it quickly.

Now that you are in the house please be respectful. Let the person walk you through the collection. You may be inclined to get down to business but you will learn a lot from these introductory sessions. Do not, I repeat, do not start criticizing the collection. You are not there to critique or appraise. You are there to make an assessment and offer. So you have spent a respectable time being introduced to the collection. Politely ask what is the price? It would be nice if everyone had a price in mind but actually it is quite uncommon. They will then ask what you think it is worth. Instead of making any rash statements say instead if you could give me some time to privately consider the collection then I can come up with an assessment.

When reviewing the collection take notes. Remember you may not be taking the collection that day. It may be weeks before you make the purchase and you will need to refer to those notes. Include in the notes your assessments especially of the top 10%. You will need to discuss beforehand the physical handling of specimens. If you are given permission please use your best judgement. These are not yet your minerals

I will leave it here tonight and try to finish early next week. Thank you for stopping by and please do visit my Etsy shop

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Things in my Etsy Shop

For a quick look at items in the shop you can look here.  BLOGGERS - you are welcome to use the pictures please give a link to my Etsy shop.  Thanks

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Acquiring minerals continued

Photo is Chalcedony stalactite from Guanajuato, Mexico

Before I discuss making large purchases of collections, warehouses and buyouts (next post) I should mention the tools of the trade.

Here is what you need to carry in your mineral buying daypack.
Good hand lens

Notepad and pen - ok I have tried the PDA or the phone it is just not as good for quick notes as a memo pad and pen. Sometimes there may not be a label or the dealer has information not on the label that you will want to record. Even if there is a label I write it down in case the label is misplaced. I also write down the price paid which is more important for a dealer but may become important in the future for appraisal purposes

I carry a calculator other than your phone. Calculators passed back and forth between you and the dealer are wonderful negotiating tools. Plus not all dealer's first language is English.

Wet wipes Handling rocks can be dusty work.

Water and munchies so you don't have to leave in the middle of a good show.

I carry a bit of newspaper. At smaller shows not all dealers/swappers are equipped to wrap minerals. I don't get bent about that I just come prepared
And we carry boxes in the truck to stash everything for the ride home. If you collect small items you may want to carry tissue and small plastic bags.

And dollars, lots of dollars. Of course at big shows most dealers take credit cards and checks but not as much at smaller shows and swaps.

Remember to wear comfortable shoes

I look forward to meeting you some day at a show

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Brazilian Tourmaline, available in shop

Continuing the discussion about how to acquire minerals.

Purchasing minerals at shows

We sell at Tucson (Arizona - Martin Zinn Expositions) and Denver ( Colorado Mineral & Fossil Show (Fall) - Martin Zinn Expositions) US based international shows.  These are very large multi-location shows.  We take turns sitting the booth freeing one of us to shop.  If you visit these shows plan on days of long hours to have enough time to visit many dealers from around the world.

  You will get better prices if you are willing to buy minerals in lots as opposed to buying one at a time.  Before we were in business John would travel with a small group of like minded mineral collectors and they would purchase the lots together.

Dealers are not inclined to negotiate on price for a single item.  When I purchase a single item from a dealer I generally hope the dealer will give me a "dealer discount" in hopes of future business.  If you haggle over every single item you may wear out your welcome.  So look around a dealer's booth and see if there isn't something else you want.  Nothing aggravates a dealer more than someone who points to a single item and requests a discount, then another, then another.  Group what you want before starting the negotiation.  And remember if you admire the dealer's stock - don't try to put them out of business by wanting a cut throat price.

Smaller shows and swaps (Show Dates | Rock & Gem Magazine)  I just love going to smaller shows and swap meets.  This is where I find most of my classic locality vintage treasures.   It is time consuming and requires travel but if you are a rabid mineral shopper it is worth it.  You may come away from shows with nothing but when you do it can be a real treat.
Be prepared to spend hours searching through boxes.  Ask the dealer if they "have anything under the table to look at"  If they allow you under the table here are the rules:

Gently unstack and restack the flats, don't fling or hold sideways (mineral people call the large boxes with minerals flats from the days when we would put our minerals in beer flats)

Move out of the way for other traffic walking in the booth, don't be an impediment to other customers.

At my booth you are welcome to pull out "maybes" but I usually expect only to have to put away 10% of what you pulled.  It is a lot of work to return the minerals to their flat.  So be nice.

One more thing about swap meets.  Seek out the "old collections" and diggers.  People trying to dispose of Dad's collection want to move the inventory not make a career of it and diggers want to move out the old stock so they can go dig some more.   I have found that many of the people trying to destash or cull their own collection tend to overprice their minerals.  They look on the internet and find the highest price and put that on their item regardless of quality.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Photo:  Naturally yellow hematite included Quartz Crystal Cluster from Santa Eulalia, Mexico (available in the shop)
Uvarovite Garnet - will be available in the shop soon.

Where do mineral dealers find all of their minerals?

When we started our business we offered our field collected inventory.  These are the minerals we went into the quarry or mine and dug out.  Sometimes people refer to these as "self collected".  You, too, can field collect.  For the new collector it might be beneficial to join a gem and mineral club with an active field collecting group.
You can find a club in the US here:  Club Sites
Canadians can find a club here:  CCFMS Central Canadian Federation of Mineralogical Societies ...

There are also fee collecting areas you can visit.  For a fee, some modest, some exhorbidant, you are allowed to collect minerals.  These include the areas that allow you to pan for either gems or gold.  Please be sure to ask if the panning material is salted or not.  Most mines when quizzed will tell you if you will be panning authentic local material or if it has been salted with material from a foreign source. (foreign in the sense it is not mined at the panning location).  Some famous locations that have fee collecting areas are:  Maine for Tourmaline, North Carolina for Rubies, Montana for Sapphires and Colorado and California for gold.  Just google "mineral fee collecting areas"

Some mines have open houses where for one or two weekends of the year they allow field collecting.  These are a bit harder to stay informed about but there are some yahoo groups that may be useful to join to keep informed of open houses in your region.

Field trips associated with minerals shows and rock swaps.  Many clubs, see links above, host field trips during the weekend of their annual Rock and Mineral show.  You can check Rock N Gem's show calendar for listings:
Show Dates | Rock & Gem Magazine

Because of our business connections we are often invited onto private claims.  This is not as readily available to the general public because of liability issues and protection of the claim.

Next blog:  where we purchase our minerals.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Photo:  Dioptase from Tsumeb, Namibia

The locale a mineral is collected from can command a price premium, knowing this will help you understand mineral pricing.

Certain localities are famous for their sheer wealth, diversity and superior quality of minerals.  Classic examples are Bisbee, Arizona, Tsumeb, Namibia and Mapimi, Mexico.  All three of the locations produced gorgeous specimens.  There were enough specimens to create a marketing momentum and enough diversity to keep it interesting.  All three locations are also known for some absolutely stunning rare minerals.  A collector could spend a lifetime collecting just one of the locations and have a diverse, beautiful and deep collection.

Some localities command a premium from the number of collectors in the marketplace who prize that locality.  US localities seem to command a premium not only because of the high cost of production but also because there is keen competition among US collectors seeking the local specimens.  It can be an economic indicator.  Recently better Chinese minerals enjoyed an escalation in price as Chinese wealth grew.

Certain localities are defunct and/or antique.  Just as in any collectible minerals do carry a premium for provenance and/or antique value.

Listing of Classic Mineral Localities: Classic Mineral Localities

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

July's Birthstone is Ruby.  The two rubies below are from the shop.  The first is ruby in marble matrix from Pakistan and the second is a ruby crystal from Madagascar  Ruby is a variety of corundum, the other gem variety of corundum is sapphire.

For more info on Ruby mineral data: Corundum: The mineral Corundum, Sapphire, Ruby info & pictures

The most frequent question I get when customers purchase ruby and sapphire is "can I have this cut for jewelry?"  When you examine a gemstone sample note its clarity and color - no amount of cutting and polishing is going to improve the color or clarity.  The best are facet grade rubies and generally these will not be offered as mineral samples because of the greater demand from the jewelry market. When a mineral is demanded in more then one market the forces of competition escalate the price.  The Madagascar ruby below is jewelry grade - rubies of this quality and from this deposit are polished into beads and cabochons.  The Pakistani one is also pretty good but the rubies from Pakistan tend to get murkier (occluded) the larger they get. In today's market Ruby mineral specimens are readily available from Pakistan, India, Madagascar, Afghanistan and Vietnam. They are occasionally available from Burma (Myanmar) though because of the excellent quality they are quite expensive.

Many gemstones are oiled or heat treated.  This is a generally accepted practice in the jewelry market but is unacceptable in the mineral market.  It can be difficult to determine if a mineral specimen has been tampered with.  Ask the dealer.  Dealers sometimes do get snookered but a good mineral dealer keeps up with current literature and gossip to be aware of malfeasance.  In either case, mineral or jewelry, any "enhancements" should be disclosed.

A good article on color in rubies:

Ruby - About Colored Gemstones

World Famous Rubies:  The Delong Star Ruby
The Midnight Star Ruby
The Mogok Ruby
The Rosser Reeves Star Ruby

Saturday, June 30, 2012

We had a great trip and look forward to visiting all of our friends again.  We were out seeking stones, crystals and minerals from Carlsbad, New Mexico (Carlsbad Mineral Show), up through Cloudcroft and Alamogordo to Socorro, New Mexico (New Mexico Tech), then to Taos, New Mexico (Taos Rockers), up to Colorado Springs (Tom Johnston, Tom cuts many of the stones I sell if you are in the Springs please visit his shop The Mineral Adit) then on to a few days in the Montana wilderness then home by way of Rapid City and all the great rockshops there.  I look forward to showing you some great stones this summer.  Well here are the rest of the pics from the trip:
1) Tom schooling me in cabochons
2)Montana's largest smoky quartz crystal
3) Lunch fit for miners
4) John eating his Cornish miner's pocket sandwich, a Butte, Montana culinary delight
5) Morning Walk flower on path
6) I ask again, where are these Clarendon, Texas aragonites coming from
7) World's largest sand calcite specimen from South Dakota

Sunday, June 17, 2012