Awesome Ammonites

There are so many known fossil collecting sites in western New York that one rarely elects to “explore” new creeks or seek out new locations.  And the Middle Devonian Hamilton Group is so well known in quality, quantity, and diversity of species that there seems little reason to hunt elsewhere.  But on July 11, that is exactly what five members of the Rochester Academy of Science Fossil Group decided to do.  We stepped up section into the Upper Devonian and headed for a gully exposing the Cashaqua Formation near Middlesex, NY.   Continue reading

Cabochons, smabochons

Published in the July 2015 WCGMC Newsletter

I have a confession to make.  Yes, I admit it, for the first few decades of my adult life I collected minerals while scoffing at the notion of cutting rocks and polishing their surface to produce symmetric reflective surfaces.  Cabochons, smabochons, … spheres, smears, I would say, or something to that effect.  Well, since joining the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club I have come to realize that some rocks, even some minerals, are best displayed and enjoyed after they have been carved, sliced, ground, and polished.  What is more, that process can be fun and there is art involved in the creation of a polished stone.  I am not a total convert, I still cherish and generally prefer natural crystalline specimens, preferably on matrix and often in association with other minerals, but I am now capable of collecting, and yes even, horrors, purchasing a polished cabochon.

OK, with that admission of past guilt, or new guilt depending on your persuasion, I decided to peruse the GemFest floor for particularly interesting pieces that had been butchered by a saw and then beautified by some process of trimming and polishing.  I found several that caught my fancy.  But I must warn you, beauty, color, and symmetry are not enough.  The rock or mineral must tell an interesting geologic story and just like a classic mineral specimen it must have a provenance, a banded agate from somewhere just won’t make my short list no matter how beautiful it might be.  So what did I find?

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Ilion Gorge Revisited

One of my favorite upstate New York sites for a few hours of collecting is Ilion Gorge on Jerusalem Road in Herkimer County, NY. Each winter erosion in the gorge exposes new banded travertine that can be collected in the creek or chiseled from the boulders that have fallen off the gorge walls.  The site is pretty with short waterfalls and lots of green.  When the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club decided to visit the site on May 39th, I was there with 10 other club members.  We were ready for a day of collecting and camaraderie.

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Sheds Fossil Site

Sheds, NY roadcut was the “Site of the Month” in the June 2015 WCGMC News

Many of us have become familiar with exposures of fossil-bearing Middle Devonian Hamilton Group in the creeks and gulches draining into the Finger Lakes. And we may have ventured west to Penn-Dixie or other Buffalo region sites. But there are also numerous sites within these same geologic units in central New York. One small site is a simple roadside exposure on Dugway Road, just 2.4 miles northeast of Sheds, Madison County, NY (GPS N 42º 49.94’, W 75º 47.72’).

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Wulfenite !

Note written for the June 2015 WCGMC News

Mineral collecting can be both stimulating and reflective. Does your mineral collection bring back fond memories of trips and times past? Does it re-invigorate you each time you re-organize, recatalog or otherwise peruse your collection? I am often brought back to earlier periods and places in my life just by the simple act of focusing on a self-collected piece in my collection or by seeing a mineral specimen I had not viewed in a long time. Last month I opened a box of Arizona wulfenite in the garage that had been securely wrapped in 30 year old tissue and newspaper and it was deja vu all over again. It was like I was in the Total Wreck Mine in the Empire Mountains of Arizona all over again.

Wulfenite from the Total Wreck Mine in Arizona.  Collected in the early 1980's by the author.

Wulfenite from the Total Wreck Mine in Arizona. Collected in the early 1980’s by the author.

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A Trip to Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania and the Limestone Products Quarries in Mt. Pleasant Mills and Middlebury beckoned a number of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club collectors south for May Day.   The day started with the annual dig atop the quarry collecting wavellite.  As the cover photo suggests, we dug high, low, left, and right in the third cut atop the hill, but  unfortunately we were not as successful as in past years.  Lots of color but not many full balls and none of the deep green the Buffalo Club had on display at its show in March.  We probably did not dig deeply enough to deserve quality pieces.  But, yes, that is Jerry Donahue in the middle of the photo with his sampling tool.  It was great to see him back in the field with us.

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Fossils Tell Stories with Stamps

Fellow fossil collector and stamp collector Stephen Mayer wrote this piece for the May, 2015 WCGMC News and has permitted me to add the piece to my blog. Thanks, Stephen

In the WCGMC March 2015 Newsletter, Fred Haynes introduced a method of collecting minerals and gems in the winter when the ground was covered knee-deep in the white stuff.  Simply they can be acquired by collecting postage stamps. Fossil hunters shall not be left behind!  Fossils are also depicted on many postage stamps.  In fact, the American Topical Association (ATA) lists more stamps with fossils than minerals.  The ATA recognizes 3535 stamps from around the world depicting fossils ranging from diminutive invertebrates to enormous dinosaurs.

In 1982, the US commemorated fossil fuels with a stamp that included both a Carboniferous fern and a trilobite.

In 1982, the US commemorated fossil fuels with a stamp that included both a Carboniferous fern and a trilobite.

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Field Season Has Arrived

Spring has arrived and Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club  did not let any grass grow under its feet before activating its field season.  In fact, we did not even let the snow melt.

It was April, it was opening day, and there were diamonds involved.  But no, it was not baseball. Rather, April 1 is opening day for “Herkimer diamond” hunting at Ace of Diamonds Mine in Middleville, NY and 12 intrepid WCGMC members put on their boots and their woolies and made the annual trip.  Exposure was limited and the snow prevented the owners from bringing in new rock.  But there were still “diamonds” to be found and the sun was out to warm our hearts if not our hands. April 1 may actually be more tolerable than August 1.  We even signed up a new member while digging, welcoming Donna Dow to our growing family of crazed collectors.

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Sphere making !

Those of us who visited the Rochester Lapidary workshop for an open house in March were both fascinated and  impressed by their pair of sphere making machines.  But while most of us went home wishing we had one, Glenn Weiler went home and actually built one!  When we all arrived on April 11th for our monthly workshop Glenn was working on his fifth sphere.  While he admits the “contraption” needs a few design improvements before achieving perfection, Glenn’s ingenuity was once again demonstrated.  Below is a picture of the machine and his first five products.  The small blue sodalite sphere at the top is gorgeous.  The layered orange sphere looks like Jupiter to me, except it is not made of gas!  Glenn will have a complete Solar System soon.   And can you see the Herkimer diamond at the right end of the vug in the largest sphere?

Rose Road Fluorescent Minerals

Another very interesting guest article for the April 2015 WCGMC newsletter.   Ken St. John has graciously permitted me to place his note onto my website.  Clearly, the information contained here complements that I had previously posted about this most interesting location.

By Ken. St. John (WCGMC Club member)

To be honest, I can’t remember when I made my first trip to the Rose Rd. site in Pitcairn.  It was a few years ago and Bill Chapman was involved in the introduction to the site.  My first visit was a daytime affair with the Wayne County club in search of titanite.  I do recall that titanite was something new to me at the time and that I was excited to be there with the club and my kids.

The site is a wooded outcrop beside a phone tower road.  No problem at all in getting to the place.  There are essentially two parts to the site up and downhill and during the first visit we pretty much worked the downhill location.  My nicest pieces contained wollastonite, titanite, apatite, albite and diopside.  The titanite is a dark brownish color while the diopside is a rather coarse light purple massive mineral.  Mixed with green apatite and white wollastonite specimens were both interesting and attractive.

It was much later when doing a routine sweep of my collection with a short wave UV light that I discovered that the Rose Rd. rocks were more interesting under the UV light than they were in daylight.  It’s not unusual to see a three color response with wollastonite fluorescing a light tan, albite a cherry red, and an invisible coating glowing a bright green.  As a member of the Fluorescent Mineral Society and a Franklin collector, I was impressed.  So were the other FMS members to whom I showed the pieces at the annual meeting.  From then on, I collect at Rose Rd. with an eye toward the fluorescent.

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Purple Mineral Night at WCGMC

Written for the April 2015 WCGMC newsletter

Since the days of the Roman Empire, purple has been the color of royalty.  As a combination of red and blue, purple is not a spectral color and therefore lacks a defining spectral wavelength.  However, that has not prevented people from claiming purple to be their absolutely favorite color.  Women build their wardrobes around their purple dresses, folks paint their bedrooms purple, gardeners plan their seasonal blooms from tulips to irises to petunias, and yes mineral collectors must have plenty of purple in their displays.  Fortunately they have some wonderfully gorgeous minerals from which to choose.

March 13th was Purple Mineral Night for the Wayne County Club.  Members brought in their purple minerals and we all drooled over them. Naturally there was lots of amethyst in attendance.  Simple clear quartz (SiO2) is colored to various shades of purple when small amounts (< 20 ppm) of iron (Fe) replace Si when the quartz is naturally exposed to ionizing irradiation.  The smaller iron atom leads to lattice distortions that effect light passage imparting the color variation. With a hardness of 7, amethyst makes a wonderful gemstone as well as a colorful mineral specimen.

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RAS Fossil Night for Science Olympiads

The weather outside was frightful, but the fossils inside delightful!  Twelve local Science Olympiad students from five Rochester area schools and their coaches braved the freezing rain to take advantage of the Rochester Academy of Science’s Fossil Night on March 3rd to bone up for their upcoming competition on March 14th.   The event was held in the Brighton Community Center behind the Public Library.

The students brought their notebooks and their inquisitive minds while several club members set up labelled exhibits from their personal collections.  In addition, a test table was set-up where the students could work on their own to try and identify more than two-thirds of the fossils from their Science Olympiad list of 93 animals and plants. [Continue Reading to see some pictures of the event]

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Herkimer Diamonds – A Book Review

All New York mineral collectors have a soft spot for Herkimer diamonds and now there is a comprehensive book dedicated to one of our favorite minerals. herk2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks to Mike Walter, a teacher and mineral dealer by trade, but a true collector by heart, we can learn more about the little (and sometimes not so little) doubly terminated clear quartz crystals than most thought probably could be known.

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DiPleura dekayi

A Middle Devonian Trilobite of New York State                                                      By Stephen Mayer

Stephen Mayer is a member of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club and wrote this piece for the March 2015 newsletter.  It is certainly an informative and appropriate entry for my blog and with Stephen’s permission I have included it.

Whether collected by oneself in a creek bed, road cut or quarry or just simply observed in a museum’s exhibit, trilobites have fascinated people for thousands of years. Excavation of early burial grounds 50,000 years old have revealed trilobites with human remains (AMNH, 2015). Their fossil forms have been the basis of numerous studies by everyone from paleontologists to school children.

Trilobites are extinct arthropods distantly related to the modern marine lobsters and horseshoe crabs. In the Burgess Shale in the rugged high peaks of the mountains of British Columbia, Canada an amazing group of soft-bodied organisms have been found including Trilobitamorpha – fossils that appear to be like trilobites but just have not fully evolved yet.  Then true trilobites first appeared during the Cambrian Period about 521 million years ago during the “Cambrian Explosion” as a result of the development of a chitinous exoskeleton which permitted fossilization of these organisms.

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PbMoO4 is LOVE

Wouldn’t you agree, Valentine’s Day seems like the appropriate day to place a post simply entitled “PbMoO4 is Love” ?  Or so was the expression in Arizona in the 1980’s when my graduate student colleagues and I would tramp about the state looking for that elusive wulfenite specimen at some 30 odd locations known to offer the brilliantly colored spectacular mineral.  Heck my 1970-something Ford Falcon collecting wagon even hosted a bright bumper sticker that simply read “PbMoO4 is Love “.  That car saw them all.  There were, of course the famous locations:  the Red Cloud Mine in Yuma, the Silver Bill Mine in Gleeson, the Rawley Mine in Theba, the Glove Mine in the Patagonia Mountains.  But there were also the not so famous mines and where panes of wulfenite could be coaxed from adit walls or broken out from dump material.  My favorites were the Total Wreck Mine in the Empire Mountains (see cover photo), the Finch Mine in Gila County, and the Dogwater Mine in Araviapa but that list too is long.

wulfenite on cover

It is not hard to understand why  Neil Bearce decided to adorn the cover of his 2006 book “Minerals, Fossils, and Fluorescents of Arizona” with a gorgeous Rawley Mine wulfenite.

But those days have passed for me, and now I must be content with seeking new locality wulfenite pieces from mineral shows (or on stamps!).  There just aren’t many wulfenite locations in the northeast USA and in eastern Canada.

Another way to collect minerals

Published in the March, 2015 newsletter of the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club (www.wcgmc.org)

It is the middle of February in upstate New York and the weather outside is not particularly conducive to mineral and fossil digs.  Yes, I can plan, and I am.  Yes, I can clean and organize last year’s bounty, and I try to make time for that, but even the rocks in the garden remain covered and out of reach.  BUT, there is another way to collect minerals in the winter and I keep busy doing just that when the spirit moves.  They can be collected on postage stamps.

Did you know that there is an international organization of folks who collect gems and minerals on postage stamps?   They call themselves the Gems, Minerals and Jewelry Study Unit (GMJSU) and they are one of 52 active affiliate organizations of the American Topical Association (ATA), a philatelic organization with almost 3000 thematic stamp collectors worldwide.  The GMJSU publishes a quarterly newsletter called Philagems International and maintains an Excel spreadsheet listing all stamps depicting minerals, gems, and mining.  At last count there are over 2700 individual listings although many reflect sets of stamps so the list of actual stamps is larger.  Of those listings, over 1500 are identified as strictly mineral stamps and over 400 as gem stamps. Over 90 countries are represented on the list.

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Pyrite from Glendon, NC

Written for the February, 2015 WCGMC News

The month’s site article is leaving New York again and is headed for the Piedmont region of North Carolina. No, not because it is necessarily warmer there, although it probably is, but because I am the editor and I decided it would.  But seriously, who doesn’t like pyrite cubes and when I discovered some in a bucket in the Weiler’s barn/club workshop last month I asked where they were collected.  Turns out they came from the Standard Mineral Company Mine in Glendon, North Carolina.  WCGMC had ventured south on at least two occasions (2009 and 2010) to dig pyrite on trips organized by the Mountain Area Gem and Mineral Association (M.A.G.M.A.) of North Carolina.

It sounded like an excellent opportunity to revisit some club history. And then I got really lucky.  A visit to the M.A.G.M.A. website yielded photographs from those trips and bingo there was Bill Chapman in his orange collecting uniform holding up a 2” pyrite cube for all to see.  The gentleman just behind his right shoulder is Bill Lesniak.  I considered this is clear proof that they had actually made the trip south and I set off to learn something about the mine.

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Earth’s Most Common Mineral

Do you know the most common mineral in planet earth? Quartz? Nope. Feldspar? Nope. Ah, you say: All that limestone, the answer must be calcite. Wrong again. OK, you think it is a trick question. Maybe it is ice with all the polar ice sheets. Nice try, ice is a mineral, but not correct.

What if I told you this mineral cannot be collected anywhere and that it was not officially named until last year even though it comprises ~38% of the earth by volume.  Why, you might ask?  How about because no one had been able to find a sample to analyze? Are you catching on?

The newly christened mineral is bridgmanite. For a long time, scientists have known that a significant portion of the earth’s lower mantle is a very dense magnesium-iron silicate mineral.  However, lacking a sample they could not characterize the material and without crystal structure information it could not be properly studied and named.

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Two WCGMC Workshops

On December 13th, 17 Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club members convened for a day of sawing, polishing, faceting and camaraderie.  The event marked the inaugural session in the club’s newly christened workshop.  With several saws, three polishing machines, and a faceting machine the fun commenced.   The cover photo shows Gary, Ed, Ken, and Sue working on their rocks.

Ed instructs Gary on how to facet.  In the background Scott watches Glenn adjust a slab in the polisher

Ed instructs Gary on how to facet. In the background Scott watches Glenn adjust a slab in the polisher

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Christmas Seals

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written for the Feb-April 2015 issue of Hinges and Tongs  http://www.rpastamps.org/hingesandtongs/ht-2015-02.pdf

Rochester Philatelic Association member Florence Wright  opened the first RPA  meeting of 2015 by asking the 28 in attendance if they knew what these five items had in common.

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Of course, we knew the title of her talk so it was a bit of a rhetorical inquiry, but we all learned a lot in the next 40 minutes as Florence explained the 108 year history of Christmas Seals.

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