No eggs, just rocks

July was a busy month for Bill Lesniak and his travelling rock and mineral kit stand.  If you have not seen his operation, Bill sets up at whatever event will allow him and, on the behalf of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club, offers free rock and mineral kits to youngsters.  They do have to earn them though.  They must cut out labels, display dexterity with glue sticks to apply them to the egg cartons he provides and then, with help, locate the 12 specimens (this summer:  6 rocks, 4 minerals and 2 fossils).  In the end they go home with something that looks like this:


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Trilobites to Tertiary Topaz

Many thanks to Stephen Mayer for writing this collecting trip note for the August WCGMC newsletter and also for allowing me to post it my blog.

By Stephen Mayer

Tammy and I are back from a vacation in the desert southwest.  Naturally, we took some time between visits to National Parks to do a little fossil and mineral collecting in Utah.  The setting and geology are quite different than in western New York.

Very thick shale and calcareous mudstones are widespread in Millard County, west-central Utah and contain some of the best Cambrian biotas in the world.  Not only are there 505-520 million year old fossils abundant, but also recent volcanism in the same region has left its mark with abundant rocks and minerals.  Specifically, well preserved trilobites and beautiful topaz crystals can be collected.

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Collecting Minerals on Mercury

Published in the July WCGMC Newsletter

Admittedly, some of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club collecting trips are out of this world.  However, that’s figurative speech as we have not yet actually figured out how to visit any true planetary bodies.  No, Cobalt, Ontario does not count, not even Sudbury.  But suppose we could travel to another planet to collect.  What might we find?  Let’s consider Mercury for starters.

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Pulpit Road Graphite

When I ventured to New Hampshire and Maine with three other intrepid collectors in search of aquamarine, topaz, smoky quartz, and other pegmatite riches, we  did not pass by the planet Mercury (see posting of June 30, 2016).  However, we did find an interesting spot to collect a little graphite.  The site is in extreme eastern New York between the northern end of Lake George and the southern end of Lake Champlain.  Along Pulpit Road, one half mile east of Route 22 in Putnam, NY, a large pile of boulders lay just 50 feet off the roadside.  Bob, Linda, and Gary provide scale to the boulders in the cover photo.

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Drumlins in Wayne County

Published in the June 2016 WCGMC Newsletter

All of us who live or travel in Wayne County in western New York State  know it is easier to travel north-south than east-west.  Most of us know that is due to the elongated hills called drumlins that cover much of the region.  And we also know that those geomorphological features were formed by the continental glaciation that covered western New York with ice a mile thick until their final retreat 12,000 years ago.

BUT, did you know that until very recently, glacial geologists could not agree on exactly how these elongated parallel hills came into existence.  It was known that the drumlin fields were aligned with the glacial flow and retreat, but it was unclear whether they represent debris built up progressively during glacial advance and retreat or whether they were sculpted out of older sediment from previous glacial deposits.  The debate has raged for over 150 years.

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A Field Guide to the Empire State

BOOK REVIEW:  New York Rocks and Minerals: A Field Guide to the Empire State, by Dan and Bob Lynch (2016)

There is a new publication available entitled “New York Rocks and Minerals: A Guide to the Empire State”.  It is authored by Dan and Bob Lynch and published by Adventure Publications of Cambridge, MN.  The 2016 book is available online for less than $20 on Amazon.

For each of 105 rocks, minerals, and fossils found in New York State this book provides a page of pictures designed to illustrate the specimen’s most characteristic identifying traits and an opposing page providing information on environment, what to look for to identify it, size, color, occurrence, and a notes section with other pertinent information.  The format and presentation is very easy to use.  In addition, beginners should enjoy the several page overview of New York geology.  The 14 page “Quick Identification Guide” based on color and then expanding into other properties may be just the ticket for some.

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It seems we have been here before!  The May gemstone is a repeat of the mineral beryl.  Yes, emeralds are a different color than the March gemstone aquamarine, but mineralogically a beryl is a beryl is a beryl.

The striking green color of an emerald is caused by the introduction of just 0.1-0-5 percent chromium substituting into the aluminum spot of the beryllium silicate mineral.  A small amount of vanadium is also present.  It is truly amazing that just a fraction of a percentage of an element can impart such a striking difference in color.  While the richness and intensity in color is paramount in valuing an emerald, the presence of visible inclusions is also important.  Emeralds lacking inclusions to the eye are considered flawless and carry more value than those with visible inclusions.

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A Little Local History: Geologic History That is

It was not that long ago that Wayne County and the rest of western New York were located just south of the equator while basking in tropical temperatures.  A large and shallow inland sea dominated the region with high mountains to the east and a shallow continental margin to the west.  The sea was replete with life.  Invertebrates dominated the sea bottom, corals and brachiopods filtered nutrients from the seawater to survive, while trilobites, cephalopods (squid), and a host of other scavenger and predator species roamed the benthic (sea bottom) region feeding on them.  Numerous species of gastropods (snails) and bivalves (clams) were abundant also.  The seas above were dominated by large armored fish (i.e. Dunkleosteus) and a multitude of smaller fish.  It was the Devonian Period of earth’s history.  It was the age of fish.

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Seneca Stone Quarry

It happened in a flash.  At our April Friday club meeting, trip leader Bill Chapman announced that we had been granted permission to enter Seneca Stone Quarry on the upcoming Monday and wondered who might be free and interested.   Seneca Falls is quite close and apparently we either have a lot of idle folk in the club or a lot of anxious collectors ready to get busy.  Eleven folks indicated interest and in a slight mist all eleven converged on the quarry site just south of Seneca Falls ready to collect on Monday morning April 11th.

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Creativity at the WCGMC Workshop

published in the April, 2016 WCGMC Newsletter

If you have yet to visit the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club workshop in Wolcott during one of the club’s monthly Saturday events, then you are missing out on the opportunity your club membership provides you to saw, slab, grind, and polish rocks into cabochons, spheres, or whatever geometric (or non-geometric) design you wish.  Not to mention the camaraderie provided when 10-15 or more rock hounds come together to partake in such activity.  But there is even more you are missing.  Each month we convene it seems that our Workshop Coordinator, Glenn Weiler, has managed to introduce something new and creative to the shop.  Continue reading


Diamond – April Birthstone

Published in the April WCGMC Newsletter

Diamonds are found in very unusual magmatic intrusive bodies called kimberlites or in alluvial deposits resulting from the weathering and erosion of kimberlites and the concentration of the hard and resistant gems in placer deposits.  Kimberlites are pipe-shaped igneous intrusions that erupted from great depth.  With high gaseous and volatile content, they were able to fracture and penetrate the very thick continental crust, often encapsulating blocks of the fractured host rock as they ascended. (Kirkley et. al.,1991).  Their pipe-like morphology is evident in the picture of the kimberlite pipe quarry from Kimberly, South Africa pictured in the header of this article.

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all four cards

South African Mineral Maxicards

A Maximum Card (often referred to as a  maxicard) is a  philatelic postcard with a postage stamp placed on the picture side of the card. The stamp and card match or in some way relate to each other.   Maxicards are officially released by many of the world’s postal services, but they are also generated personally by individuals combining a stamp issue with a simple souvenir postcard.   In most cases, the cancellation is also related to the image on the front of the card and the stamp.   

As a collector of minerals, mining and geology on stamps South Africa’s 1984 four-stamp set commemorating some of the country’s strategic resources was a fine add to my collection.  It was not until a couple of years ago, however, that I learned that the officially released Maximum Cards S10-S13 for these stamps featured geologic maps.  Not only would this satisfy another of my topical interests (maps on stamps), but as a retired geologist I found the inclusion of geologic maps on the “Maxicards” most interesting.  Thanks to a tip provided by a fellow member of The CartoPhilatelic Society on the club’s shared discussion site, I was able to purchase a complete set via an online source.

Now it seemed only fitting that I research the stamps and maps a bit.  This note will be constructed to accommodate both Philagems and The New CartoPhilatelist, newsletter of the Maps on Stamps Study Units, as the cards are equally collectible for members of both ATA study units.

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Aquamarine – March birthstone

Written for the March 2016 Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club newsletter

The mineral beryl is hard and can sparkle with exceptional clarity and wondrous color when free of inclusions and defects, clearly justifying its lofty gemstone status.  In fact, not just one gemstone, but several depending on the color imparted by trace amounts of iron, chromium, manganese and other transition elements substituting into the crystal lattice.  Aquamarine, emerald, morganite, and heliodor are all gemstones of the mineral beryl.  But it is sky blue variety that has our special attention this month as aquamarine is the March birthstone.

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Titans of the Pleistocene

co-authored with Stephen Mayer for the March 2016 Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club newsletter

As geologists and amateur fossil and rock hounds, many of us focus on the Proterozoic minerals of the Adirondacks and/or the Paleozoic fossils of western and central New York State.  However, two very important and much overlooked prehistoric animals roamed New York State approximately 10,000 years ago.  The Woolly Mammoth and the American Mastodon were prominent residents in our own backyards.

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The Many Names of Quartz

Published in the February issue of WCGMC News

Quartz is simple.  Right?  Just a silicon (Si) atom nestled in the center of a tetrahedral form surrounded by four oxygen atoms.  Build them together, let the silica-centered tetrahedral motifs share oxygen atoms and bingo we have SiO2.  Quartz crystals grow from this.  They grow into beautiful clear, milky or smoky trigonal crystals with six-sided prisms terminating in six-sided pyramids, simple as a childhood erector set or a Lincoln Log cabin (with that distinctive green roof).  Herkimer diamonds are our favorites, but amethyst and citrine colors are nice too.

OK, but now we are told that quartz which grows rapidly or under “special” conditions can be cryptocrystalline, a condition that exists when the individual quartz crystals are too small to see even with an optical microscope.   And this apparently changes everything.  No longer are we collectors satisfied to apply the common mineral name, albeit with a few modifiers for color (amethyst, citrine, rose quartz).

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Amethyst – February Birthstone

Everyone likes the color purple and mineral collectors like shiny crystal surfaces and perfect terminations.  Therefore, is it any wonder that amethyst attracts attention?   Whether it is spotted in a 2” miniature specimen off matrix, filling a small geode, or covering a huge Brazilian crystal cathedral, eyes are always drawn to the splendor exhibited by a fine amethyst piece.  Given its appeal, is it any surprise that amethyst is the February birthstone?

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