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


written for the Feb-April 2015 issue of Hinges and Tongs

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.


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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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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