Category Archives: Minerals

EMERALD – MAY BIRTHSTONE

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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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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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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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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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!

garnet 7

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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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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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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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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