Category Archives: Minerals

Titanite is Everywhere

Article I wrote for Oct., 2014 WCGMC News

Who knows the most significant event of 1982?   Could it be:

  • The Epcot Center opens in Orlando, Florida
  • Britian overcomes Argentina in the Falklands.
  • Chariots of Fire wins Oscar for Best Picture.
  • MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imagery) makes its medical debut.

Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.  The most significant event in 1982 was when the International Commission on Mineral and Mineral Names (CNMMN) adopted the name titanite and discredited the mineral name sphene. Unlike those other events, the impact was immediate and worldwide. OK, maybe a few of you missed the event, but now you know.

WCGMC flirted with titanite collecting all summer.  Perhaps not as infamous as the cry “It must be an amphibole”, but “ooh, it’s another titanite” was commonly heard in the field this summer.

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Ilion Gorge, NY

Cold Water Travertine at Ilion

Some 30 years ago, Herkimer County decided that the annual flooding and requisite road repair on Jerusalem Road (Co. Rd 16) south of Ilion was not worth the cost and effort and a one mile section of the road was permanently closed.  In the 30 years hence, the road has been washed out repeatedly and is now a mere paved path in the woods.  In fact, there is not much left of the old road (note the asphalt along the right side of the cover photo).

About half way along this section of road there is a series of springs which exit the shale that is exposed in the gully.  At this point fractures in the shale have been partially filled and coated with travertine (a form of calcite).  Varying in color from yellow to orange to various shades of brown this material has become a favorite of local collectors.  Our club has generally scheduled an annual trip to this location.  This year nine of us visited on June 24th and were not disappointed.

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Bancroft, Ontario 2014

Article I wrote for August, 2014 WCGMC News

Amphiboles, Apatites, and a Whole Lot More

Wonderful weather and a glorious suite of minerals greeted the eleven WCGMC members who spent 5 days and 4 July nights camping and collecting in the Bancroft, Ontario area.

bancroft1

The group did not let moss grown under their collecting feet.  After setting up camp on Monday afternoon, it was off to the Graphite Road outcrop north of town for tremolite and biotite and our first set of mosquito bites.  As a small and readily accessible roadcut listed in the 2013 Bancroft Chamber of Commerce collecting site book, this site is heavily visited, but we still found it worthy of an hour or two of dedicated digging and collecting and quite a few pounds of tremolite and biotite went back to the campsite for cleaning and packing.  Back at the campsite we enjoyed Eva Jane’s chicken casserole and dreamed of the huge apatites and titanites to come.

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St. Lawrence County (2014 Trip #2)

Article I wrote for the June-July, 2014 WCGMC News

SELLECK ROAD, POWERS FARM

On June 21-22, the WCGMC returned to St. Lawrence County for more mineral fun.   Green growth now obscured the rocks a bit and mosquitoes and black flies greeted the 19 club members who arrived at Selleck Road in Pierrepont on Saturday morning.   The two day trip would also include the Powers Farm and two sites where Pierrepont ZCA zinc ore has been stockpiled for road use (or perhaps for collectors?).

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St. Lawrence County (2014 Trip #1)

Article I wrote for Jun-July WCGMC News

BENSON MINES,   ROSE ROAD

Twenty-three WCGMC members converged on Star Lake, NY on the morning of Saturday May 31st for a visit to Benson Mines.  We found lots of sillimanite, some fresh, some altered a pretty light green, lots and lots of magnetite including small crystalline surfaces along with massive ore, and huge muscovite books.  Jerry Curcio explored ahead a bit at the north end of the property and found an orange calcite boulder that contained large green crystals that appeared to be sillimanite.    We later confirmed that identification with Marian Lupulescu.  For more on Benson Mines see his paper in the Rocks and Minerals February, 2014 issue or go back to our Feb. 2014 newsletter where it was highlighted as the Site of the Month.

benson sillimaniteGreen sillimanite offset in orange feldspar, a very pretty combination. 

In mid-afternoon it was on to Fine, NY for a quick stop at the skarn outcrop just off the parking area at the intersection of highways 3 and Highway 58.  Steve Chamberlain has proclaimed the coarse grained pyroxene (diopside?) and feldspars from this location to be “aesthetically challenged”, but that did not prevent us from scavenging a few for our gardens or collections.  Etched and dull, these large dark green pyroxenes and their long and varied cleavage surfaces may not end up in too many mineral display cases, but they can look nice in a garden or on a patio wall.

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Ontario for Minerals

A small, but hardy group of five Rochester Academy of Science mineral enthusiasts spent their Memorial Day weekend collecting minerals and mosquito bites in the Bancroft District of Ontario, the self-proclaimed mineral capital of Canada.  Dick and Jeanne Phillips, Mario and Debbie Errico, and me made the 5 hour trip around Lake Ontario to Wilberforce and Bancroft for a whirlwind 3 days of rockhounding in the famous district.  Dick led the group to 8 separate sites, including a night dig with black lights at the CN rock pile right in Bancroft.

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A Pennsylvania Excursion

Article I wrote for “Site of the Month” in May 2014 WCGMC News

Technically, Mount Pleasant Mills is not in New York, but I am going to claim editor’s license to divert this month’s “Site of the Month” south of the border and to invoke multiple sites.  You see, on April 12th and 13th, thirteen Wayne County Club members gathered up their passports and headed south across the border in search of warmer weather and mineral/fossil treasure.  We found both!

With temperatures well into the 70’s, the group converged on National Limestone Quarry in Mount Pleasant Mills where we were cheerfully greeted by the quarry owner Eric Stahl, who had cleared the road to the ridge atop the quarry in anticipation of our visit.  Up we went, backing in the final section until we were all lined up adjacent to one of the wavellite spots atop the hill and collecting commenced (see cover photo).

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Tourmalines

An article I wrote for the April, 2014 WCGMC News  (www.wcgmc.org)

ALL TOURMALINES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL

When we venture to Ace of Diamonds to dig clear quartz crystals we are seeking a very simple mineral, silicon dioxide (SiO2).  Just simple SiO4 tetrahedrons joined together with each large oxygen atom shared by two small silica atoms in a six-sided prism, ideally terminated by 6-sided pyramids.  And when we seek that elusive fluorite at the annual Walworth Quarry dig, it is just calcium and fluorine combined into a cubic lattice motif with Ca atoms centrally located and F at the corners.  This time each of the 8 fluorine corner cube atoms are shared by four unit cells with the formula CaF2.  In both minerals inclusions generate color variations which get neat names (like amethyst or citrine).  Of course, quartz can twin or show spectre form, but there is no elemental substitutions of note into the lattice of either mineral, and there are no solid solutions to confuse collectors:  just simple SiO2 or CaF2, just quartz and fluorite.

It is not as simple with tourmaline.  When we travel north to St. Lawrence County to collect dravite at Powers Farm, or fluor-uvite at Bush Farm or Selleck Road we are focusing our attention on one of the most complex mineral structures known.  The mineral lattice of tourmaline actually has five structural sites where elements can be swapped and traded, six if you count the rare substitutions of aluminum or boron into the Si site.  These substitutions can be complete or partial, and often occur in zonal patterns such that the center of the crystals actually may qualify as distinct minerals from their outside layers.

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Lewis Mine, Willsboro, NY

Article I published in March, 2014 WCGMC News

Mineral collectors appreciate the golden amber grossular garnet and green diopside offset by the brilliant white of the matrix wollastonite.  Students of SUNY-Plattsburg learn about contact metamorphism from Dr. Mary Roden-Tice during field trips to the locale.  Economic geologists appreciate the mine as one of only two active wollastonite producing mines in the United States, both of which are in New York State (the Valentine Mine near Harrisville is the second).  But to many New Yorkers, the Lewis Mine of Willsboro Township in Essex County, New York went about its annual production of about 60,000 tons of wollastonite (~10% of the world’s production) in quiet anonymity.

lewis mine 1

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Selleck Road, West Pierrepont, NY

Occupying an east-west ridge just south and parallel to Selleck Road in West Pierrepont this location has been collected for decades.   The main part of the ridge is on state land and accessible without much walking, thereby adding to the popularity of the site.  Tremolite is everywhere, tourmaline (v. uvite) is much more localized along the ridge.  Both the light green tremolite and the uvite is typically etched and non-gemmy, however isolated pockets of very gemmy material has been found.

Selleck road

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Benson Mines, Star Lake, NY

Have you driven Route 3 in southern St. Lawrence County?   Did you know that as you pass just east of the small hamlet of Star Lake you are just hundreds of feet south of what was once the largest open pit iron mine in the world?  That’s right, in 1958, during the height of its life, the Benson Mines open pit iron mine held that lofty title.  The pit was 4 kilometers long, 250 meters across and 400-600’ deep.  Today the pit is host to a whole lot of brilliant blue water and the surrounding Adirondack Park region is forest covered and virtually pristine wilderness.

The high concentration of iron in the rocks of the region was first recognized in 1810 when engineers surveying for a military road found their compasses wandering.  But until the timber industry built a railroad to the region the iron ore could not be exploited.  Even with rail, the area was still remote and from 1890 to 1940 mining was sporadic and limited.  In 1941, Jones and Laughlin Steel Company leased the properties and constructed plant facilities. Continue reading

Minerals on Stamps

On November 14, 2013 I presented a program simply entitled “Minerals on Stamps” to the Rochester Philatelic Association.  As a retired geologist, collecting minerals and other geology related topical stamps is a natural merger of my collecting interests.

Did you know that the checklist of gems and minerals on stamps maintained by the Gems and Minerals Study Unit of the American Topical Association has over 3000 entries?  Or that all 8 of the US mineral stamps depict specimens that reside in the Smithsonian?  The FDC with the four 10 cent stamps issued in 1974 is depicted shown below.  The mineral specimen in the bottom stamp is affectionately referred to as “The Postage Stamp Tourmaline.” It is from the pegmatite mines outside San Diego, CA.

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Rose Road, Pitcairn, NY

An article I wrote for the WCGMC News in December, 2013

One of the more popular mineral locations for upstate New York rockhounds this year was Rose Road off Route 3 in Pitcairn, a daily fee site owned by Mr. Richard LaPlatney who lives at the property.   Although the silicate skarn mineralization flanking the Grenville age white marble hill has been visited by mineral collectors dating back to 1880’s the location seems to have been rejuvenated after Walter highlighted the mineralogy and collecting history in his 2007 book “Field Collecting Minerals in the Empire State”.

The major “digging” there this year was focused on the first site encountered after passing LaPlatney’s home just off of Rose Road.  At first glance the exposed rock seems to be dominated by lavender diopside, calcite, albite and red brown phlogopite..  A Scanning Electron Microscopy/Energy Dispersive Analysis (SEM/EDA) of the lavender diopside indicated elevated Ti, likely substituting into the Mg spot in the lattice to generate the lavender color (S. Chamberlain, pers. comm.).  There is also less Fe in the purple diopside than in the green version found just a few hundred feet farther up the road.

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A New Tremolite Location in Canton, NY

A friendly local mineral collector shared a new site with Dick and Jeanne Phillips and Fred Haynes during the St. Lawrence County show in Madrid, NY in August.  Apparently, Wildwood Road east of Colton, NY was not draining well and the county decided to level the ground on both sides of the road to improve runoff.  In doing so they exposed bright white marble outcrops that were cut by zones of orange calcite, light green serpentinite and green tremolite.  And right on the road !

This pretty garden rock consisting of dark green shiny tremolite and orange calcite set into a finer grained lighter green serpentine was just sitting on the side of the road waiting for us.  Dick just backed his "truck" right up to the 50 pound puppy.

This pretty garden rock consisting of dark green shiny tremolite and orange calcite set into a finer grained lighter green serpentine was just sitting on the side of the road waiting for us. Dick just backed his “truck” right up to the 50 pound puppy.

Two St. Lawrence County Sites

On Tuesday August 20th, nine RAS members met outside St. Lawrence Zinc’s famous #4 mine in Balmat, NY.  The party included Gary Mosbruger (who was helpful in setting up the visit), his sons Alan and Bryan, John Klahn with his sons Anthony and Ryan, Jerry Curcio, Paul Dudley and me.  Once at the mine location, we were met by Bill deLorraine, Senior Geologist for the mine and also the President of the St. Lawrence County Rock and Mineral Club.

Bill led us upstairs for a safety briefing and to view some of the large fine mineral and ore specimens that have been recovered from the lower levels of the mine.  Then he turned us loose on the ore piles and drill core pieces that were conveniently stacked adjacent to the main shaft.  We were able to collect what we could carry.  Much of the ore was massive to near massive red-brown sphalerite, often speckled with small disseminated pyrite cubes.  Elsewhere the sphalerite swirls through the host marble as jelly in a jelly roll.   Unfortunately the nature of the occurrence does not lend itself to crystalline ZnS, but cleavage faces sure reflect sunlight making for pretty rock specimens.  Sphalerite is soft (hardness of 3.5), so cabochons and other polished surfaces do not make good durable jewelry pieces, but they can be most decorative.

Does anyone want to guess how many pieces of core Paul managed to get into his blue backpack ?

Does anyone want to guess how many pieces of core Paul managed to get into his blue backpack ?

I have not done much with the drill core I packed out, but I did make sure to recover a little of all available rock types.  In addition to the red-brown sphalerite swirling through the white marble, pure white marble, light-green serpentinite (often spotted in marble), and orange calcite were all represented in the core..  In addition some of the metasediments (now schists and gneisses) are pretty in their own right when captured in a 1 3/8th inch diameter core.

My selection of drill core

My selection of drill core

We left Balmat a little after noon and headed over to Rose Road off Route 3 in Pitcairn.  Everyone was intent on finding that elusive big sky blue apatite together with the pretty lavender diopside at the northern most digging on the property.  We did find some, but recovery was not easy and most were small.

Paul and I puzzled over this bluish mineral  intergrown with the diopside, red-brown phlogopite, and calcite.

Paul and I puzzled over this bluish mineral intergrown with the diopside, red-brown phlogopite, and calcite.

Paul speculated that this mineral might be scapolite at the outcrop, but we were less certain once back in Rochester as scapolite was not in the previously published mineral list for the property.  I sent a picture to Steve Chamberlain given the locality was included in his recent book.  Steve responded promptly telling us that significant scapolite had been recovered at the site this season and that our samples were definitely scapolite (~ 50% each end member Na-rich marialite and Ca-rich meionite by SEM/EDA).  He sent this picture of one of his specimens.

Scapolite (var. meionite) from Rose Road.  Specimen and photo by Steve Chamberlain.

Scapolite (var. meionite) from Rose Road. Specimen and photo by Steve Chamberlain.

An  SEM/EDA analysis of the lavender diopside indicated elevated Ti, likely substituting into the Mg spot in the lattice and likely affecting the lavender color (S. Chamberlain, pers. comm.).  There is also less Fe in the purple diopside than in the green version just a few hundred feet up the road.

We continued to that second site and collected green diopside with albite and occasional chocolate brown titanite..  I particularly like the samples with bright white crystalline albite intergrown with the diopside.  And naturally, everyone took their fill of blue calcite from the boulders that line the road to the radio tower.

Chocolate brown titanite crystal, two green diopside crystals, floating in diopside psuedomorph after wollastonite, a very interesting mineralogic piece.

Chocolate brown titanite crystal, two green diopside crystals, floating in diopside psuedomorph after wollastonite, a very interesting mineralogic piece.

Before leaving, Paul and I explored a bit behind the radio tower atop the marble hill and believe we discovered a previously unknown mineralized outcrop.  Everything was covered by moss and lichen, but I took a couple pieces home and applied bleach.  The result showed orange calcite, green diopside and white albite.  Strongly etched on this surface sample, but perhaps a new site to dig come spring ?

Diopside, orange calcite and and white albite from a new location behind the radio tower.

Diopside, orange calcite and and white albite from a new location behind the radio tower.

Before leaving, Paul and I explored a bit behind the radio tower atop the marble hill and believe we discovered a previously unknown mineralized outcrop.  Everything was covered by moss and lichen, but I took a couple pieces home and applied bleach.  The result showed orange calcite, green diopside and white albite.  Strongly etched on this surface sample, but perhaps a new site to dig come spring ?

 

 

Owen Prospect, Pierrepont, NY

Unlike many St. Lawrence County locations, the Owen Prospect off Irish Settlement Road in Pierrepont is a newly discovered site.   But like many others, the mineralization here is scattered and geologically diverse.   Exposed outcrops of marble are cut by silicate bearing assemblages.  As the silicates are a bit “softer” it appears that the best collecting process may involve finding some loose weathered out mineralization in the dirt and digging down to bedrock.   The few locations that have yielded nice specimens to date do not appear to have been found from outcrop.

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Benson Mines, Star Lake, NY

September 14, 2013:  I met up with the St. Lawrence Mineral Club and the SUNY-Plattsburgh Geology Club for an interesting visit to Benson Mines in Star Lake, NY.   Approximately 12 members of the St. Lawrence Club and 15 undergraduates from Plattsburgh were guided through the property by the current caretaker of the property, George Peerson.

Benson Mines was an open pit iron mine that exploited a magnetite-martite rich unit in the high-grade metamorphic terrain of the Appalachian Lowlands. The pit is not a beautiful tree-lined lake just north of the town of Star Lake on Route 3.

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New York Mineral Collecting

New York is rich in mineral collecting sites.  Many have been known for hundreds of years, but others are being found every year.

The purpose of this site is to capture personal knowledge of sites I have visited, and others that I would like to visit.  This input includes maps, field pictures, mineral photos, and literature references.   It is not meant to be complete in any category, and I intend to continually add to the site as I explore New York geology and minerals.