Category Archives: Minerals

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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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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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

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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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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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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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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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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Hope Diamond in the Mail

I wrote this note for the Feb-April 2015 issue of the Rochester Philatelic Association newsletter, Hinges and Tongs

The picture above is the Hope Diamond, which was recently acquired by the Rochester Philatelic Association.  OK, that second part is fiction, but there are two bits of interesting philatelic news related to this famous gem.

Did you know that the Smithsonian Institute obtained the Hope Diamond in November of 1958 when New York City jeweler Harry Winston donated the famous gem.  He hoped the donation would stimulate further donations and lead to a world quality gem exhibit.  It did.  You knew all that?  OK, but do you know how the stone was sent from New York to Washington D.C.?  Turns out Mr. Winston wrapped the stone in brown paper and shipped one of the world’s most famous and valuable gemstones via USPS registered mail.  The shipment, with insurance, cost him $145.29, of which only $2.44 was for postage.  The Hope Diamond was then valued at 1 million dollars. Below is the envelope used with the meters and auxiliary markings.

This remarkable Auxiliary Marking envelope is now on display at the National Postal Museum in DC.

This remarkable Auxiliary Marking envelope is now on display at the National Postal Museum in DC.

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The Hope Diamond

Article I wrote for the Dec. 2014 WCGMC News

The Hope diamond is one of the most recognized and well known jewels in the world.  At 45.52 carats (9.104 grams), the 1” by ¾” pear-shaped blue jewel is currently valued at more than 200 million dollars.  From its undocumented discovery in India in the 17th century (or before), the diamond has seen owners in India, France, and Britain before coming to the United States early in the 20th century.  It has been re-faceted on several occasions to improve quality and luster.  The gem has resided in the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History since 1958, when Harry Winston, a jeweler from New York City, donated the famous gem with the hopes it would stimulate further donations.  It did and the National Gem Gallery at the Smithsonian is a must visit for anyone trekking to Washington D.C.

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Valentine Deposit, Harrisville, NY

“Site of the Month” article for Dec. 2014 WCGMC News

You can call it the Gouverneur Talc Company No. 4 Quarry, you can call it the Valentine Mine, or you can just call it that quarry off route 3 south of Harrisville, NY.   Regardless of the name, in the business of wollastonite, the small quarry/mine in extreme northern Lewis County is pretty important.  Together with the Lewis Mine of Essex County (see Feb 2014 entry on this website), the two quarries provide all of the US production (and 10% of the world’s supply) of the industrial mineral wollastonite.

As an operating quarry, the site is not generally conducive for collecting, however one of the field trips associated with the New York State Geologic Symposium this past October included a two hour stop and a visit to the quarry floor (Robinson and Chamberlain, 2014).  Steve Chamberlain and George Robinson led the trip and given their past work on the mineralogy of the locale (Chamberlain et. al., 1999), those of us who participated learned a lot in the brief time we were there. Continue reading

St. Lawrence County (2014 Trip #3)

Article I wrote in Nov. 2014 WCGMC News 

Benson Mines, Rose Road (de ja vu all over again)

The leaves were changing (and even falling), but that did not deter a group of WCGMC folks from making a fourth trip to St. Lawrence County in late September.  This time we were joined by 16 undergraduate geology majors from SUNY-Plattsburgh and their professor Dr. Mary Roden-Tice. It was truly wonderful to see so many young and eager folks enjoying geology and a day of collecting.  The brilliant sun and the absence of mosquitoes did not hurt either.

Half of the SUNY-Plattsburg students have gathered near the top of the original Rose Road skarn site.  Sky blue apatite has been spotted.

Half of the SUNY-Plattsburg students have gathered near the top of the original Rose Road skarn site. Sky blue apatite has been spotted.

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