Garnet – January Birthstone

Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club has decided to make 2016 the year of the Birthstone.  And isn’t garnet a great way to get started!

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Garnets are hard  (Moh’s hardness of 6.5-7.5), or as hard or harder than quartz.  As members of the isometric crystal system garnets are symmetric with three equal and perpendicular axes.  Garnets are colorful: red, yellow, green and many shades of each.  And garnet is the birthstone for all born in January.

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Ace of Diamonds for Stromatolites?

OK.  Admit it, you thought this would be a note about the spectacular doubly terminated clear quartz crystals hiding in vugs in dolostones.  Referred to as Herkimer diamonds, and known to mineral enthusiasts from across the country simply as “Herks” there has sure been enough written about them to last a lifetime.  And goodness knows we all like to travel to Herkimer County to collect them.  But no, this is not just another article about quartz.

Stromatolites are bio-chemically supported structures formed in shallow water when microscopic cyanobacterial material (formally known as blue-green algae) acts to bind and eventually cement sedimentary grains into what are essentially microbial mats.  Changing climatic conditions, water depth, sediment influx, or the biology of the micro-organisms themselves leads to finely layered biochemical accretionary structures.

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Yellow Mineral Sunshine

Yellow is the color of sunshine, of brilliant warm summer days.  It is the color of bananas, lemon meringue pie and butter pecan ice cream.  There are beautiful yellow breasted birds and wondrous yellow flowers.  Some cultures view yellow as the color of happiness, amusement, and even optimism.

All that is well and good, but yellow is also the color of wulfenite, sulfur, heliodor and a number of other wondrous minerals and gems.  And, of course, it is the color of gold.  It was with this appreciation of the color yellow that WCGMC convened in November for a celebration of “Yellow Minerals”.

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Indian Creek

There are many well known fossil collecting sites in the creeks and gullies draining into the Finger Lakes (places like Kashong Gully, Deep Run, and Portland Point to name a few).  But for every well documented site there are a dozen lesser known locales where drainages into the Finger Lakes expose the fossil rich strata of the 385 million year old Middle Devonian Hamilton Group.  Indian Creek, near Williard on the eastern side of Seneca Lake, is one such location.

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Dravite: A Variety of Tourmaline

This article was published in the November issue of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club News.  Ninety-one dravites from the WCGMC collection were used to wish the members Happy Halloween.

Dravite is a tourmaline within the Alkali Subgroup 1. This means that the X-site in the complex formula below is predominantly occupied by sodium (Na). In the case of dravite the Y site is occupied by magnesium (Mg) and the Z site is aluminum (Al). The boron cyclosilicate mineral is always dark in color, ranging from chocolate brown to almost jet black. Occasionally, there is sufficient chromium in the Y and/or Z site to impart a dark green color. Dravite is most commonly found in metamorphosed limestones and in higher grade mafic schists.

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Dolomite Gets No Respect

In mid-October, over 130 mineral collectors from several northeast states and Canada converged on Walworth Quarry in upstate New York for the annual fluorite hunt.  Every May, the same crowd treks to Penfield, NY when The Dolomite Group opens that quarry to folks hoping to score a nice transparent-purple fluorite or maybe some dogtooth calcite.  Closer to Buffalo the prized finds are dogtooth calcite, clear selenite, and, of course, small purple fluorites when clubs visit the Lockport Quarry.

Granted the fluorite and other less common vug filling minerals like sphalerite, celestine, and honey colored dogtooth calcite are nice finds and worthy of special attention.  But, there is another fine crystalline mineral hiding in the vugs of the Lockport dolostone.  Yes, I speak of the carbonate mineral, dolomite, or CaMg(CO3)2  Everyone shines their flashlight into the dark vugs of car-sized boulders hoping to see a flat transparent cubic cornered, multi-inch fluorite gleaming back at them.  Absent that observation, collectors move on to the next vug, the next boulder, the next quarry face.

In the next few paragraphs, I am going to try to convince you to take a second look into the vug.  Pause a few seconds to evaluate the white to pink dolomite crystals that you are categorically dismissing as unworthy of your collecting attention.  Are not most of the vugs lined with clean shiny dolomite crystals?  Is there a floater piece in the vug that can be easily removed that displays multiple tiers of brilliantly terminated rhombohedral dolomite?  If yes, just why are these not worthy of extraction?

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Obscure, Bizarre, and Defunct Countries

Over the course of the past couple decades, RPA Club member Steve Eisinger has assembled a rather interesting collection.  He collects stamps together with coins from tiny countries and enclaves around the world.  He keeps the stamps and coins together and organized geographically.  In October, Steve shared his collection with us with a presentation entitled “Confusing, Obscure, Bizarre, and Defunct Countries – Their Coins and Stamps”.

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Maclurites in Plattsburgh

The New York State Geological Association (NYSGA) held its annual meeting in Plattsburgh in September.  The event, hosted by SUNY-Plattsburgh, featured field trips to several Adirondack sites and I attended one on both days of the event.  But we will leave that to a subsequent post.  This note focuses on an outcrop just outside Plattsburgh where the gastropod Maclurites magnus can be found.  Encouraged to visit the site by a SUNY-Plattsburgh geology student, I found time Tuesday September 15th to spend a couple hours walking the outcrop with New York Paleontology Society Field Trip Leader Ray McKinney, who just so happens to live in Plattsburgh.  Meeting him on this trip was an unexpected bonus to attending NYSGA.

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Four days in St. Lawrence County

Prepared and published in the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club News, October 2015.      WCGMC newsletter Oct 2015

Our 14th collecting trip of the year (but who is counting) was, surprisingly, the first official WCGMC venture to St. Lawrence
County in 2016.  But what we suffered in tardiness, we made up for in quantity.  The trip was four days long and included seven separate collecting sites (one, Rose Road, was visited by members on three separate occasions over the 4 days).  Several of us stayed in a rented home on Star Lake, owned by Anita Persson, wife of George Persson, who helped us with the Benson Mines visit during the trip.

The trip was not scheduled to start until Thursday morning September 17th, but Bill Chapman and I had arrived in Star Lake early evening on Wednesday and we decided to take Bill’s black light to Rose Road in Pitcairn for an early start.  As always the lower area, known to many as the purple diopside mound (or PDM), lit up bright yellow under long wave with the mineral scapolite and the albite at the “wollastonite skarn” (or green diopside mound) lit up red under short wave.

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The Annual Visit to Spring Creek in Alden

Having been rained and flooded out in June, the WCGMC found a way to squeeze a trip Alden into its August schedule visiting the ever popular site on Saturday August 29th.  This time the weather was perfect, the water was low, and, as always the fossils were there to be collected.  The formidable Ledyard shale cliffs in the creek bed have been a favorite site for collectors for several decades, but winter erosion always seems to expose new ones to extract with a little digging.

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Turritella Agate … or Not

Sometimes things get named too fast and once labeled incorrect associations are very difficult to rectify.  Have you ever seen “turritella agate” at your favorite fossil dealer’s table?  It has often been polished into cabochons designed to display the whorls of the spiral shaped shell and the agate that has filled the apertures.  Raw specimens are attractive as well.

The cabachon on the left is 1.5” high and is from Utah.  The raw hand sample on the left is from south central Wyoming.  Both are incorrectly labeled turritella agate in their internet source.

The cabachon on the left is 1.5” high and is from Utah. The raw hand sample on the left is from south central Wyoming. Both are incorrectly labeled turritella agate in their internet source.

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Two clubs at Green’s Landing

It was a large, enthusiastic group of all ages from two local clubs that gathered on August 9th to trek into Green’s Landing on a fossil hunt.  Stephen Mayer led the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club contingent while Dan Krisher (also a WCGMC member) led the Rochester Academy of Science Fossil Group.  The total group numbered 27 with about an equal number from each organization.  It was a wonderful way for folks in each group to meet fellow fossil enthusiasts while doing what they enjoy most, digging in the Middle Devonian.  And Green’s Landing was ready for us with as diverse and prolific assemblage of fossils as one could imagine.

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Canada 2015 (Part 2- Eganville, Ontario)

After 3 nights in Cobalt (see August WCGMC newsletter), we headed to Eganville in search of more collecting adventure.

 Although the primary objective of our trek back to the Grenville Province was minerals, our first stop was at a limestone quarry where large cephalopods and coral could be found.  The Haley Quarry, 8 miles southeast of Eganville, exposes the Lindsey and Verulam Formations of the Upper Ordovician Ottawa Group which are known for their large cephalopods, some of which are exposed in nearby Bonnecherre caves.

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Ilion Gorge Fluorescence

WCGMC News article for September, 2015 –  By Ken St. John

My son, Isaac, and I joined the club on the field trip to the Jerusalem Road Gorge in Ilion earlier this year (see July 2015 WCGMC News).  In sorting through the material we brought back (yes, we left the deer skeleton) I exposed the rocks and minerals to UV light.  I thought that I’d share the pictures.

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Demographics of Stamp Collectors

Late last spring the Rochester Philatelic Association collected birthday information from its members.  No, the data has not been turned over to the NSA, the IRS, or even the APS, and your birthdays have not been, and will not be, posted on Facebook!  Rather, we thought it might be interesting to evaluate the demographics of stamp collectors.  Granted, we are a small club, and a regional one to boot, but there seems no reason to think that our little enclave of philatelic enthusiasts should be radically different from the overall population of collectors, or at least collectors who opt to join clubs.  So what did we learn?

demographics

The average age of the 88 members for which we obtained data (which was virtually everyone), was 70.7 years as of June, 2015.  A whopping 28 members, or almost one third of us, are over 75 years of age.  When portrayed in frequency format using 3 year increments, the modal population is 66-69 years old.  Our youngest member is 37 and she (note that pronoun, but that is a different demographic issue) just joined us this year.  We have/had only 3 members less than 51 years of age.  One just moved to South Carolina.  Ouch!

So those are facts, but what might this tell us, if anything?  Well, at first glance one might surmise that we are simply an aging group, destined to a slow but steady decline as the years and decades pass.  But one could argue that it might be more complicated than that.  Perhaps the fact that almost 40% of our members are between the ages of 63-72 just reflects the fact that folks turn to philately at/or near retirement.  Or that stamp collectors who are younger haven’t the time, or motivation, to join clubs such as ours until they retire.  Either way, it might be this demographic group (retirees or those approaching such) that the hobby, and clubs like ours, should target rather than thinking it can make significant inroads on attracting the 30 or 40 somethings who are busy working and raising families.

Of course, these are just my thoughts from an interesting data set.

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Cobalt Silver District, Ontario

During the third week in July, seven WCGMC members spent 7 days and 6 nights collecting in Ontario.  The first three days in Cobalt, Ontario are summarized here.  Part 2, three days near Eganville, will be reviewed in a subsequent entry.  Modified from August, 2015 WCGMC newsletter article. 

From its discovery in 1903 until around 1920, Cobalt, Ontario was a hotbed of silver mining and the center of Ontario’s economic mining industry as over 10,000 inhabitants opened more than 100 mines in search of silver.  Over 100 years later, and for 2 days in July, 2015, seven eager rockhounds from WCGMC followed in the old timers footsteps.

A typical scene from Cobalt:   Remains from the Crown Reserve Mine in the foreground, and mine dumps from the Kerr Lake Mine across the lake.

A typical scene from Cobalt: Remains from the Crown Reserve Mine in the foreground, and mine dumps from the Kerr Lake Mine across the lake.

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Balmat Hexagonite

In the July issue of WCGMC News, one of the club’s long time members offers his memories of a favorite site and a favorite mineral.  Ken Rowe, and his wife Rocky, have been club members for over 30 years. 

This is a brief reminiscence about my collecting at the Gouverneur Talc Mine and the Zinc Corporation of America Mine in Balmat, New York in the late 1980’s.  We began about 1980, when my wife and I were fairly new members of the WCGM Club.  We were guided by Jim and Marion Wheaton, the founding members of WCGMC.  At that time the Balmat site was an underground mine for zinc.

Just before our visit to the Gouverneur Talc Mine a cave-in had led to a partial collapse to highway 812 and repairs to the road required just about all the available tailings to fill in the damage to the road.  Upon arrival at the mine we were very disappointed because we were expecting some good specimens of hexagonite.  All we found were a few forgotten boulders around the perimeter of the site, so we (about 10-12 persons) made the best of it. Can you imagine all the hexagonite buried now beneath the road! Continue reading

Silurian Selenite near Syracuse

Published in the July, 2015 WCGMC News

In late June, seven of us mineral enthusiasts set out for a day of collecting near Syracuse.  We concluded the trip with a successful stop in Fayetteville where we recovered selenite.  The site is behind the town municipal building on Route 257.  The small outcrop is not a stand alone destination, but it does makes a nice ancillary stop on a trip into the area.  For us, that meant a 90 minute stop after spending several hours in Ilion Gorge (our second visit there in a month).  The Fayetteville ledge is not as pretty as the Ilion location, but it was a productive stop. Continue reading