My Etsy Shop

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fluorite on Quartz Matrix Elmwood Mine, Carthage, Tennessee

"Buy minerals when they look common as dirt" Fender Family Maxim
Here is a case in point.  At one time in the late 70's throughout the 80's Elmwood was producing spectacular mineral specimens in large quantities.  The market became flooded and the effete started declaring them as common and not that important and why would you want one.

The Elmwood mine management cleverly and fairly allowed their miners collecting time.  In order that everyone would achieve the same market price the management would gather the minerals from the miners and auction them off in lots. Collectors became so bored with Elmwood that at some auctions only 2 dealers showed up - Chris Wright (Hot Springs, Arkansas) and Collector's Choice (Houston, Texas now closed).  Now these specimens command a premium.  You could have bought an Elmwood calcite for $20 25 years ago and now in some quarters that same specimen could reach into the thousands.

Buy minerals when they look common as dirt.

Currently you should be considering Mexican creedite,  African Shattuckite and Russian Uvarovite.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Golden Beryl from Maine

There is a long history of fakes and forgeries in minerals, fossils and particularly gemstones.  And of course you have all heard of the fake gold nuggets - lumps of lead electroplated with gold.

Fakes are worse than undisclosed repairs and renovations, which are bad enough.  I will cover that topic later.

Common fakes:

Crystal glued back on the right kind of matrix but it was never on that matrix.  common example - Cinnabars from China

Crystal glued on matrix that it never possibly occurred on - like the galena cubes glued into geodes from Morocco

Heat treated and dyed minerals.  Though heat treatments are somewhat acceptable in gemstones it is in no way acceptable in mineral specimens.   Examples - Heliodors from Tajikistan (though this is debated I believe at least 95% are treated if not all), Tanzanites (most are treated and some additionally have dye injected), some Emeralds from Colombia have dyed oil injected, many blue Topaz are heat treated and the ever famous Brazilian Citrine or as I call it "burnt amethyst"

Lab grown minerals not disclosed as lab grown. Some minerals are grown in labs, note that I say lab grown.  They are natural compositions but are lab grown.  (there is nothing that is not natural after all, so a unscrupulous dealer could say of course it is natural, yes, but is it lab grown?)  Now there is a legitimate market in synthetic minerals as long as it is disclosed.  Examples - Green amethyst (sorry, there is no such thing though there are some quartz with green inclusions), bismuth crystals, some rubies, some seed quartz, zincite from Poland (very pretty stuff) and many more.

So buy your minerals from a reputable dealer and ask questions.  Even a reputable dealer can get snookered but a reputable dealer will graciously accept a return.

Oh and one more comment.  There is a lot of bigotry about these fakes.  No particular country has a monopoly on forgers, they come from every corner of the earth.

Page of Website on fake minerals with detailled list of fakes

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Chrysocolla Pseudomorph after Azurite, Silica Pit, Ray Mine, Arizona

I build treasuries at Etsy showcasing jewelry artists who use all natural stones in their creations (link:  Treasury lists by Maryanne Fender on Etsy)  Coincidentally I had decided to showcase chrysocolla jewelry this weekend and here I have arrived at Chrysocolla in the thumbnail collection.  This is a pretty cool pseudomorph but I am a bit dismayed that this is the only Chrysocolla I have in my thumbnail collection.  I have sold some really great Ray Mine and Inca del Oro specimens over the years and have failed to keep one.  If I find a thumbnail specimen for my collection I will revisit Chyrsocolla on the blog.

A pseudomorph is a mineral that has taken the crystal shape of another mineral.  In this thumbnail this piece of the earth started life as an azurite crystal then molecule by molecule chrysocolla replaced the azurite. The Carnegie Museum has a page which shows examples of the different types of pseudomorphs:
Carnegie Museum of Natural History: Hillman Hall of Minerals ...

 A few years ago Jeff Young won the prestigious Desautels' award for his outstanding pseudomorph display.  At the same Tucson show he displayed an equally outstanding case demonstrating the process of pseudomorphism.  John Veevaert wrote about it in his show report.  If you want to know what is shaking at the major mineral shows be sure to bookmark John's show report, for mineral aficionados it is a must read: Mineral Shows - Trinity Mineral Co

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Chrysoberyl, Teofilo Otoni, Minas Gerais, Brazil
This was the first thumbnail mineral I purchased. It is a cyclic twin chrysoberyl.

I have been asked about cleaning minerals. First ask the dealer when you purchase the mineral. If that fails here are a couple of pointers for purchased minerals that are just a bit dusty. I will not cover cleaning mine run minerals because that can get a bit complicated. (mine run minerals- mineral straight out of the mine with all the matrix and dirt attached)

Prevent dust build up. The more you can prevent dust build up the less you will have to clean your minerals. Every time you clean a mineral you take the risk of harming the specimen. So store the mineral in a closed case, perky box or other contained environment. Prevent people, yourself included, from excessively touching your minerals. Finger oils dull surfaces and act as a dust magnet.

1) Research the mineral enough to make sure it is not reactive with water or water soluble, think halite. Water soluble minerals usually can be cleaned with isopropyl alcohol.
Water Soluble Mineral Species - John Betts - Fine Minerals ...

2) Are the crystals fine and acicular (needle like), think aurichalcite. Though some of these minerals can be washed I prefer that you hold the mineral upside down and gently blow away the dust. If you are very careful you can use canned air or a keyboard vacuum cleaner.

3) For the water washable minerals: Make sure the mineral and the water are at room temperature. Sudden changes in temperature can cause many minerals to cleave. Start with water and no soap. Swish around in the water and dry the mineral upside down. You dry it upside down so any dirt can drip off the mineral. Of course be sure the mineral can stand to be placed upside down. Common sense has to prevail sooner or later.
If swishing in water did not work add a little dishwashing soap to the water. This is not the dishwashing soap you use in an appliance but the kind you hand wash dishes with. Gently swish, then rinse. All water at room temperature. That did not work. Check the hardness of the mineral to make sure it is not ultra soft. If not you can use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub the mineral. Then rinse. That will usually clean most minerals.

4) Ultrasonic cleaners are fine if the crystals are firmly attached to the matrix and the matrix is rock solid. Ultrasonic can break fragile minerals or minerals on a fragile matrix. If you can use an ultrasonic it will remove fine dust particles deeply buried in the crevices.

5) In all cases make sure the mineral is thoroughly dried before returning to the display case or storage. Residual moisture can seriously harm some minerals, think pyrite. On humid days I place the mineral in front of a fan to be sure it is completely dried.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Chalcophyllite, Majuba Hill Mine, Pershing County, Nevada
Another rare and beautiful mineral, you see, not all rares are black uglies.
Majuba Hill is still being mined for copper, silver and gold.  

Some interesting gold lore:

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York holds the world's largest accumulation of monetary gold. The vault is 25 meters (80 feet) beneath the street and holds $147 billion worth of gold bullion. The bedrock of Manhattan is strong enough to support the weight of the vault, its door, and the gold inside.
GOLD | American Museum of Natural History

I really need to remember to buy a house with a stronger foundation.

The largest gold nugget ever found is the “Welcome Stranger” discovered by John Deason and Richard Oates in Australia on February 5, 1869. The nugget is 10 by 25 inches and yielded 2,248 ounces of pure gold. It was found just two inches below the ground surface.
50 Interesting Facts About Gold

So my favorite story about gold is from Tucson.  I was wandering about the Inn Suites hotel one day and came upon a room with just one large (very very large) gold nugget sitting on a table.  An elderly gentleman was sitting at a desk chair at the table.  I stood admiring this huge uncaged nugget of gold and chatting with this gentleman for about a half hour or so.  Well I had to get back to work but I had one question.  So I said the the man:  "You are very brave to sit here by yourself with this large and extremely valuable specimen of gold, don't you worry?"  He said "  no m'am, step around the back of the table and I will show you why."  He had the largest handgun pointed forward I have ever seen.  The thing was a bazooka.