Our favorite minerals come in many forms and colors and it is fun to collect the variety that is available. But did you ever stop to think how many different spellings there are for your favorite mineral in all the world’s languages? One way to get started on such an investigation is through worldwide postage stamps. Here is an example using the important sulfide mineral from which most of the world’s zinc is resourced. There are certainly more languages than represented by these stamps from 12 countries and ten languages, but they do cover the world!
Do you need an idea for a gift for that favorite mineral collector on your shopping list? Or perhaps you are like me, and you are looking to buy yourself a nice present? In either case, I may have the perfect book idea for you. How about “A Collector’s Guide to the Balmat District”?
Porphyroblast: I’ve always thought that was such a neat word, maybe even interesting enough for a story. Say it out loud three times (“pore-fur-o-blast, pore-fur-o-blast, pore-fur-o-blast”). Now don’t you want to learn more, perhaps even own a few?
Porphyroblasts are those large recrystallized minerals that grow in the groundmass of a metamorphic rock, most typically in schists and gneisses. In New York State, we immediately think of the bright red almandine-pyrope garnets in the gneissic rocks in the Gore Mountain area, but the truth is the metamorphic schists and gneisses throughout New York and New England often contain garnet porphyroblasts. Unfortunately a lot of New York’s garnets are hosted in high-grade metamorphic gneiss and they don’t display crystal faces when the rocks are broken. Nevertheless they are large, colorful and fun to collect.
There are many reasons to plan and participate in joint club trips like the recent Labor Day trip to Kentucky where folks from several clubs joined together (see acknowledgments at the end of this note). The obvious is new places and new friends and we sure encountered both during our three days in Kentucky.
Perhaps you are familiar with mineral dealer David Joyce’s song about “Crystal Systems” and the refrains about the isometric system. They go something like this:
BUT, did you know that despite the myriad of modified isometric forms that minerals like pyrite, galena or fluorite can display, there are only six basic isometric crystal forms. It is the interesting and often complex interplay and superpositioning of these forms that create the aesthetic beauty.
One of the sites I visited with the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club during the June Massachusetts trip was the large dump beside the Quabbin Aqueduct shaft #10 in Hardwick, Massachusetts. The 25 mile aqueduct connecting the Quabbin Reservoir to Boston was completed in 1939 and has been a primary source of water for the Boston region ever since. Rocks excavated from the #10 shaft include the Hardwick granite, the Monson gneiss, and a number of other metamorphic rocks. The dump is expansive and although it is becoming overgrown it remains a popular site for mineral collectors.
On arrival the location does not look like a typical mineral collecting site. There are not any rocks to be seen. The GPS coordinates provided by Beard (2013) are smack in the middle of a cultivated field filled with small evergreen trees just off Fruitville Pike in Lancaster, PA. The field is flanked on two sides by subdivision housing and on a third side by a pair of little league baseball fields. Your first thought is that you botched the directions. Continue reading
I purchased a new toy in March. I acquired a Carson zOrb 65x Digital Microscope. Although not a tool for advanced photographers, I hoped that it would give me a simple tool for illustrating details I could not depict well with my Nikon. And for $50 I decided it was worthy of an experiment.
Last month I wrote about the Arkansas portion of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club’s November field trip south (quartz, quartz and more quartz). But we did not stop there. After three days of collecting SiO2 in and around Mt. Ida, Arkansas, ten of us pointed our large black van east and headed to Tennessee and North Carolina. There was still a bit of space to fill in the van and in the trailer and we simply could not head north without filling all possible nooks and crannies. Here is how we did it! Continue reading
Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club throws a marvelous Christmas party each year and 2017 was no exception. When it came time for me to select my club gift from the table of bright red boxes at the holiday party I did not hesitate. I took one from the middle of the back row and went back to my table to see what I had been gifted. I was not disappointed. I opened my bright red box and pulled out a colorful blue layered rock. The label simply said “Peruvian opal”. I was pleased for two reasons: first I did not have any opal from Peru, but more importantly I knew nothing about it. I would have fun back home while the snow fell outside researching my new “acquisition”. A third bonus: as a rough piece, it will also give me something to cut and polish at an upcoming workshop. Continue reading
In November of 2017, Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club undertook a 9 day collecting trip to Arkansas-Tennessee-North Carolina. This is mostly a photo essay from the first half of the trip in the Arkansas quartz district of Mt. Ida and Jessieville. Published in WCGMC December 2017 newsletter. Part II on the rest of the trip will follow.
3300 miles and 3300 pounds of Arkansas quartz: the miles are accurate, but the weight may be a bit of an understatement. Once someone started putting large clusters and quartz-covered pieces into the trailer (I think it was Glenn!) it seemed contagious. Everyone simply needed more! Buckets were filled at three sites, half bushel baskets with crystals encased in red Arkansas mud were purchased, we traded for yet more, and eventually even the spaces under the seats in the van were dedicated to Arkansas quartz. And we hadn’t even headed to North Carolina yet!
Once in a while I like to combine my two primary hobbies, philately (stamp collecting) and mineral collecting. This is “once in a while” version 2017. This summer I participated in two separate week-long trips to Ontario to collect minerals: once with the Niagara Peninsular Geological Society of St. Catharine’s, Ontario and once on the annual Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club Canada trip. Now back home and with October baseball on TV, I decided to revisit my mineral finds and pictures from those trips and mix in a bit of philately. This first installment focuses on the historic mining district of Cobalt, Ontario, a site visited on both trips.
Sometimes the history of a mining/mineral location can be as interesting as the mineral collecting itself. Loudville, and the Manhan Mine, is one such example. The mineralization at this historic location in western Massachusetts was discovered by Robert Lyman in 1678. When lead was first recovered two years later, the site became the first lead mine in North America. Lyman is said to have traded information on the location to Marshall Pynchon for one cow, and Pynchon worked the mine for about 20 years. It was during this time that the oxidized ore (with the prized pyromorphite and wulfenite) was thrown aside on the dumps. Only the primary sulfide ore, rich in galena, could be processed.
If you read my blog much, you know that I am an active member of the Wayne Country Gem and Mineral Club of western New York State and that I edit the club newsletter. You may even know the club motto: WCGMC is always looking for new places to dig. Well, this fall we ventured in New England on two occasions looking for new opportunities to include in our 2018 field trip season. In mid- September, two of us scouted out four sites in western Massachusetts and came back happy to report that several of them could form the basis of a trip to that region. In mid-October several of us plan a similar trip to visit several sites in western Connecticut. Later this fall or winter I’ll probably summarize that trip.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the Massachusetts trip was collecting rhodonite at the Betts Manganese Mine in Plainfield, MA. Rhodonite is the Official State Gemstone of Massachusetts and after a few hours hunting in the dumps it was easy to see why. After the location’s Minerals Coordinator, Rick Cernak, showed us the two quarries on the property and the location of the dumps, we set to work pounding and breaking rocks covered by dark black dirty manganese oxide.
This note was published in the the Sept. 2017 WCGMC Newsletter
How do you try to identify an unknown mineral? If you are like most folks you start with color, which can help, but can also mislead. Trace elements and other types of inclusions can alter the color or many minerals. Does it have crystal faces? Maybe, but often not. Can you see a cleavage direction? Can you even distinguish crystal faces from cleavage? Calcite has rhombohedral cleavage, galena is cubic, but then fluorite is a cubic crystal with octahedral cleavage. That isn’t even fair. Luster helps with metallic minerals. Hardness can be helpful, but no one wants to scratch a prize find.
What about density, or more accurately specific gravity (sg). If it is magnetite or galena you can tell it is dense when you pick it up, but what about other minerals with specific gravity closer to the common minerals? Or heavy minerals that are not magnetic? Is there a method to easily measure specific gravity?
For the second consecutive year, members of Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club joined with the Niagara Peninsula Geological Society for a several day trip to mineral sites in Ontario. We thank Ashley Pollock for organizing the trip and I thank Ashley for writing this short summary of one of the sites we visited and allowing me to publish it in the September, 2017 WCGMC newsletter and also this this blog.
It rained and then it stopped and then it rained again as we drove north to start our week long summer collecting trip. But when we met our Wayne County Club friends at our first collecting stop along the French River south of Sudbury, the clouds had parted and the week of fun began.
The Rutter Pluton is a nepheline-syenite intrusion within/ straddling the border of the Grenville Front Tectonic Zone (GFTZ) of the Grenville Province. The 10 km long, 2 km wide igneous body is dated at 975 million years. Like much of the Precambrian terrain in Ontario, the igneous rocks have been metamorphosed to a gneissic texture. Mineralogically, the pluton consists of nepheline, albite (plagioclase feldspar), potassium-feldspar, and biotite mica. Quartz is absent.
The annual test of aging bones and muscles that we call the Wayne County Gem and Mineral Club quest for really old Ontario rocks was in July this year. The event lasted five days for several and eight days for four of us who continued on to Cobalt, Ontario. I am happy to report that all of us survived, and we have the pictures, stones, bruises, and mosquito bites to prove we were there. The whirlwind trip included collecting beryl and rose quartz in two pegmatites, a day in Eganville for apatite and biotite, a quarry stop for fossils, Princess Mine for sodalite, Schickler Mine for fluorite, Desmont Mine for mosquitoes, and Essonville Line roadcut for fluoro-richterite. Four of us carried on to Cobalt, grabbing some garnets along the way and finding one very nice silver-laced boulder at a mine dump in Cobalt.
The highlight of the trip had to be the day we spent with Canadian collector George Thompson on his mineral claims off Gibson Road in Tory Hill. We all thank him for sharing his calcite vein-dikes with us and allowing us to carry home memories of a fine day in the field. Oh, we took home some minerals also. And thus this note focuses on George’s property and the fifth day of our adventure. Continue reading
What do you call chemical compounds that are comprised of isolated silica tetrahedron: that is, where the tetrahedrons do not share any corner oxygens with other tetrahedron, but rather are connected by cations in various configurations? Why, orthosilicates, of course. Olivine, garnets, zircon, staurolite, and topaz are orthosilicates, to name a few. So is titanite, one of our favorite Bancroft, Ontario minerals.
When Dr. Robert Lauf arrived at the Rochester Mineralogy Symposium in April he was carting several boxes of his newly minted book entitled “Collector’s Guide to the Silicates: Orthosilicates”. After his Friday morning talk on the topic, the line to obtain signed copies was predictably long. I got there early to secure mine, but I do believe Robert was prepared and everyone who desired a signed copy at the symposium was rewarded. Continue reading
Published in the February 2017 WCGMC Newsletter
OK, I know, most of us have heard of the mineral wollastonite and many of us have collected it at the Valentine Mine in Harrisville, or at Rose Road in Pitcairn or Cascade Slide in the Adirondacks. You may even know that 100% of North America’s mined wollastonite comes from two quarries in New York, the aforementioned Valentine Mine and the Lewis Mine near Willsboro. If you voted in the election of 2013, you may remember Proposition #5 in which the operators of the Lewis Mine sought to trade 1500 acres of their property for 200 acres in Adirondack Park immediately adjacent to the quarries west wall.
But did you know that wollastonite is just one triclinic silicate mineral within what is known as the Wollastonite Group? These minerals are all single chain silicate minerals in which every third silicate tetrahedral is “twisted”. Calcium cations connect parallel chains in wollastonite leading the chemical formula CaSiO3. The lesser known members of this mineral group employ different elements as noted in the accompanying table.