Here's a very attractive specimen of BENITOITE with NEPTUNITE from the Benitoite Gem Mine, San Benito County, California. The crystals have been skillfully etched out of the protective bed of natrolite, so there is no damage on the piece whatsoever. I purchased this very select specimen from a California dealer who sets up at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show every year. He and his partner own the mine, and have been taking out small loads from the old dumps to be processed using the very time-consuming techniques they have developed to remove the white natrolite from specimens without damaging the crystals.
The news about the old Dallas Gem Mine is not good. During the summer of 2008, the EPA discovered that there is asbestos in the area of the mine. For the protection of those involved, they closed it down for further mining, so it would appear that the days of collecting at this classic locality have come to end. Since there has been only a slow trickle of specimens from the mine since the Collector's Edge people shut down, there really isn't much left in the pipeline. From here on out we will probably only see specimens that come from old collections. We found this one in the room of one of the larger wholesale dealers out in Tucson this year. He had dug out one old flat of material dating back to the 1980's, and I scooped this piece up as soon as I spotted it. What else could I do? They ain't gonna be makin' no more!
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