Here's a run-down of the shows: The first to open was the tent show behind the Coliseum (which is really a gigantic cement Quonset hut). We stopped there as soon as we got off the plane, and scrounged up a few things from the many Moroccan, Madagascar and assorted other dealers. In the same huge parking lot was the Miner's Cooperative Show, which was devoted to tailgate-style displays of material mostly self-collected by the vendors. Sunday we spent all day at the new "Jump Start" version of Marty Zinn's Colorado Mineral and Fossil Show at the Ramada Plaza, which officially opened on Wednesday and ran through the end of the week. Monday we visited 4 warehouse shows, the most productive being Dave Bunk's stockroom and the Collector's edge wholesale building. Tuesday we went to the opening day at the Coliseum, which was pretty sparse, though we did find a few goodies. Wednesday we spent back at the Ramada, taking in the official opening day of the show, where we focused on the dealers who had not come earlier. Thursday we spent all day packing our finds and shipping them home, then Friday we attended the grand opening of the 3-day Denver Gem & Mineral Show at the Merchandise Mart. Whew! Busy as this may sound, for Jeanne and me this was light duty, compared to the hustle and bustle of 17 days in Tucson visiting dozens of shows and over a thousand dealers. When we finally returned home, some of our friends asked, "So, how was your vacation?" We could only laugh when we thought back to our whirlwind week in the mile-high city.
Somewhat surprisingly, there were no major new finds that debuted at the Denver Show. In years past, there have been many examples of astonishing new material that was first unveiled there, including the first rhodochrosite from the Sweet Home Mine, the wonderful green fluorites from Riemvasmaak, and the amazing azurites from Milpillas, to name just a few. Two notable near-misses include the superb barite crystals from Linwood, Iowa (which surfaced only a month earlier at the East Coast Show), and the world-class Russian tenorite crystals in cinder matrix, which also premiered in Springfield. Fortunately, there was some interesting brand new material to be found, with a little digging. Here are my top picks:
Green Phantom Quartz, China (or Madagascar?)
3.5" Green Chlorite Phantoms in Clear Quartz - Xinjiang, China (Madagascar?)
Several dealers had specimens of clear quartz with bright green chlorite(?) phantoms. What was odd was that the best of this material was being offered by a Chinese dealer, who says it comes from Xinjiang, China, while 2 Madagascar dealers (one just down the hall at the Ramada) were offering what appeared to be the same stuff, but they said it came from Madagascar! I'm leaning toward China, and have labeled it as such, mainly because if it is from Madagascar, then this would be the first time to my knowledge that material from outside of China was being sold as Chinese. Of course, in the late 1990's and early 2000's it was extremely common for Chinese localities to be purposely misstated, to disguise the actual sources and preserve the monopolies, but I thought the new generation of Chinese dealers were more professional than that. No matter how it turns out, I have no doubt the mystery will be solved by the time we get to Tucson in February, and then we'll all correct our labels once the truth is known (of course I'll pass along the correct information, when available). All the controversy doesn't detract from the fact that these are some of the most attractive phantom quartz specimens we have seen in a while, with eye-catching, brilliant, colorful green phantoms in sculptural clusters of water-clear quartz crystals that have exceptional display aesthetics.
Löllingite, Inner Mongolia
5" Lollingite Crystals, Inner Mongolia
Here's another new and startling find from Mongolia: the rare iron arsenite mineral, löllingite (a species related to arsenopyrite). The large bundles of sharp crystals come from the prolific Huanggang Iron Mine, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad League, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China, which has produced so many world-class stunners over the past few years (think ilvaite, arsenopyrite, and hedenbergite, to name just a couple). The löllingite from this mine is being hailed as "best of species" quality, and it's hard to argue with that when you look at the large, spear-shaped, lustrous, silvery crystals to around 3 inches that are coming out of the mine. Only one Chinese dealer had these, and when the word spread, other dealers descended on the room in a wave and bought out all the new material in a couple of hours. I was there first, and rubbed elbows with Marcus Origlieri as he and I unwrapped the one box of specimens our friends Jing and Yanna had with them. He reported that he had done an X-ray diffraction of some of this material at the University of Arizona, which confirmed that it is indeed löllingite, and also identified the darker material coating some of the crystals as molybdenum.
Andradite Garnet, Inner Mongolia
5.5" Andradite Garnet, Inner Mongolia
Not to be repetitive, but here's yet another new find from Mongolia... and it also comes from the Huanggang Iron Mine, Huanggang Iron Mine, Hexigten Banner, Ulanhad League, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. These are andradite garnets, the best of which are even larger and sharper than the fine material that was brought out of Mali by Rock Currier around 2004. The crystals are colored in a range that extends from a dark golden green (like the topazolite from Stanley Butte, Arizona), through reddish brown to jet black. Only one Chinese dealer had any of these - the same one who had the arsenopyrite and the iridescent pyrite described below.
2" Sulfur Crystals on Matrix, Sicily
I love a good mineral story, and I especially love the tale that goes along with the sulfur from this new find. These are newly mined sulfur crystals from an old, closed-long-ago locality in Sicily - the Corroducci Mine in Sicily, Italy. You may recall that in a fairly recent article in Mineralogical Record on the history of Sicilian sulfur, the author concluded that there would probably be no more new specimens. Luckily, there is a new source... reportedly, the son of a Mafia godfather in Sicily is a mineral collector, and he has supposedly made some officially unauthorized collecting expeditions into the Corroducci Mine to collect new sulfur specimens. The specimens I found were from a lot of this material we found at the big show in the room of a California dealer. Who knows if there will be more, bigger, or better. In any case, the story is intriguing, and adds a fascinating bit of provenance to these sharp, lustrous, brightly colored sulfur specimens.
Iridescent Pyrite, China
3" Iridescent Pyrite, Guangdong, China
Yet another new find from China are these colorful pyrite crystals from the Shangbao Pyrite Mine, Leiyang Co., Hengyang Prefecture, Hunan Province, China. The quality varies widely on these, but the best show neon-bright, brilliantly iridescent lavenders, reds, gold, yellows. The iridescence occurs due to natural oxidation of ball-like pyrite formations on a shale like matrix. Fortunately, prices on these were low - especially for a new discovery.
WHAT'S ALMOST NEW
In addition to the Linwood barite and Russian tenorite, we saw more of the stellar mottramites from Mapimi which were available at very affordable prices (compared to the prices for the same material in Tucson in February this year). Here's an update on these:
Barite - Iowa
5" Double Terminated Barite, Linwood Mine, Iowa
A large pocket lined with exceptional barite crystals was encountered at the Linwood mine about 6-8 weeks before the East Coast Show at the Linwood Mine, Buffalo, Scott Co., Iowa, USA. The pocket was underground, and we were told that one guy bought the entire lot from the mine operator, and was wholesaling them to various dealers. The best of these specimens were proclaimed to be comparable to the famous English barites from Frizington, and they are close. These are certainly the best from this locality, which is also known for having produced very nice calcite crystals. Several dealers had specimens from the find, and the price tags varied enormously depending on who was offering them. Not surprisingly, we saw pieces priced in the hundreds of dollars on one wholesaler's table that were better than those offered by several of the "big boys" for $5-10,000.
Tenorite - Russia
2.8" Tenorite crystals to 1", Tolbachik volcano, Russia
Russian dealer Dmitriy Belakovskiy had more of his self-collected best-in-the-world tenorite crystals in volcanic cinder from the Second Scoria Cone (Northern Breakthrough), Big Fissure Eruption, Tolbachik Volcano, Kamchatka Oblast', Far Eastern Region, Russia. He took these from active fumeroles on the side of the cone, and had to abandon his collecting boots at the bottom of the hill because the soles had melted! As reported earlier, the crystals are in two habits: needles and clumps of tabular scales.
Mottramite - Mapimi, Mexico
5.6" Mottramite, Mina Ojuela, Mexico
In one wholesale dealer's tent we found a couple of new flats of the same new world class mottramites from the Ojuela Mine we saw at the East Coast Show, again at a surprisingly low price. I say surprising for 2 reasons: one, out in Tucson we saw comparable quality material with prices starting around $5,00 for a cabinet size specimen. Second, some of the big time dealers at this show had very similar material, but they were asking $10,000 and up for big, museum-size specimens that we'll be offering for well under $1,000. The ones I got are remarkably damage-free, and have also been identified as mottramite by the folks at the University of Arizona, who used X-ray diffraction and unit cell refinement. Specimens of mottramite of this quality haven't been available since the glory days of Tsumeb.
Zoned Fluorite - Okaruso, Namibia
3.6" Zoned fluorite, Okaruso, Namibia
Zoned fluorites from Namibia were all the rage a few years ago, with their sharp two-color sectoral zoning that is the best ever seen. After disappearing for a few years, Mark Kilbaso cleaned up a 20 flat lot for Denver, and had his mom and dad put them on display for him. I can't say for sure it was the same batch, but it probably came out of a batch of material I saw him divide up with another dealer outside Stan Esbenshade's warehouse. The stuff was ugly, completely covered with dirty quartz that totally disguised the quality and color of the pieces. Cleaning it is a nasty and dangerous business requiring hydrofluoric acid.
These are my hands-down favorites from all the goodies I discovered in Denver this year.
Citrine Quartz Cathedral with Enhydro Bubble, Brazil
9" Transparent Gem Smoky Citrine Cathedral Crystal with a Huge Enhydro Bubble - Sapucaia Mine, Galileia, Minas Gerais, Brazil
Sometimes when I am at a mineral show, I'll spot a crystal that seems to be in a spotlight. In the case of this specimen, it was sitting alone on a table in front of a tent that was filled with extraordinary quartz specimens from Brazil. The sun was shining, highlighting the crystal's fine golden yellow citrine color, and as I moved toward it, the light glinted off the complex crystal faces that are the hallmark of a cathedral crystal. I was already stunned by the beauty of the crystal, but when I picked it up to examine it more closely, I was amazed to see a large enhydro bubble sloshing around just underneath the surface of one of the faces of the termination. I've never seen a more stunning, almost completely gem crystal with so much going for it - citrine color, complex cathedral crystallization, impressive, large movable bubble, perfect termination. This is a unique find, truly one-of-a-kind, in a quality that is simply over the top. Rarely is a crystal of this exceptionally fine quality and dazzling aesthetics available to any collector.
Red Beryl on Matrix, Utah
1.4" Ruby-Violet Red Beryl (Bixbite) 2 Gemmy Crystals to .3" on Matrix - Ruby Violet Claims, Utah
Here's a superb double-terminated crystal of gemmy red beryl (bixbite) In association with hematite pseudomorphs after garnet crystals. The crystals are brilliantly lustrous, in a lovely raspberry violet red color with magenta overtones. On both crystals, the smoothly perfect faces meet to form sharp edges, and both crystals are terminated. This is a matrix specimen, with a nice chunk of the original whitish rhyolite for contrast. Red beryl crystals of this size, color, and sharpness - especially on matrix - are now quite rare, as the mine has been closed for years.
1.5" Ruby-Violet Red Beryl (Bixbite) 6 Gemmy Crystals to .5" on Matrix - Ruby Violet Claims, Utah
Vanadanite on Matrix, Morocco
6.8" Vivid Blood Red VANADANITE Brilliant Shiny Crystals to .5" - Mibladen, Morocco
This is an exceptional vanadinite specimen which features blood red crystals in the best color you'll ever see for the species. The crystals are glassy and lustrous, and are and formed as sharp six-sided hexagons. All the crystals surfaces are smooth and lustrous, and the edges are exceptionally sharp. The large vanadinite crystals, which are up to .6" across, cover most of the specimen. The whitish tan matrix provides a strong contrast to the rich, red crystals. This is a spectacular and flamboyantly colorful display piece from the new find at Coudya.
Rutilated Quartz Crystals, Brazil
7" Gemmy RUTILATED QUARTZ Crystal Packed w/Golden Rutile Needles - Bahia, Brazil
I was really impressed when I first saw this spectacular cluster of rutilated quartz crystals. The crystals are very sharp and exhibit textbook form, which is often lacking in rutilated quartz crystals. The rutile inside the crystals has long, fat needles which are very easy to see through the smooth surfaces of the crystals. The termination, which has been polished, is nearly perfect to a high luster, allowing you to look deep into the depths of the crystal. Large, extremely high quality crystals like this are very rare, and highly sought after by quartz collectors.
Liddicoatite Tourmaline Slice, Madagascar
7.7" 476g Multicolor Triangles LIDDICOATITE TOURMALINE SLICE Madagascar
This exceptionally aesthetic slice of liddicoatite, a rare precious variety of gem tourmaline, is one of the largest and finest to appear on the market in decades. It was cut from a huge, nearly eight inches thick liddicoatite crystal with a fascinating history (see below). It was unearthed in Madagascar in 1948, made its way to the Smithsonian, disappeared for over three decades, and was rediscovered in 2011. The slice is from an extraordinarily large liddicoatite crystal. The rim of the crystal is complete, which is rarely the case, and is colored a very dark green, almost black (this is an identifying characteristic of the crystals from the famed 1948 type locality pocket). The interior of the crystals is brightly colored, with a large 5" isosceles triangle formation with banded, nested, triangular sectoral zoning (see below) with very sharply defined edges. The color starts in the center as a pale, pinkish lavender, then as the triangles get larger, the color transitions through 1/8" to 1/4" ribbons in shades of gold, greenish yellow, olive green and golden green to a grassy green background. The opportunity to acquire this best-of the-lot specimen from this distinctive lot of liddicoatite, with its remarkable history and provenance, is unique.
Emerald Crystals on Matrix, Columbia
1.9" Vivid Green Emerald Crystal on 4.7" Calcite - Muzo, Colombia
We found a couple of superb specimens of emerald from Muzo on matrix from an old collection, one of which features a lustrous green terminated crystal that's over 3" long. Prices for even little 3/8" 3 carat emerald crystals are up to almost $100 per carat wholesale - a price rise fueled by investors seeking refuge from the continuing economic mess.
Villiaumite Crystals, Russia
5" Superb Deep Purple-Red VILLIAUMITE Rare Crystals - Kola Peninsula, Russia
Villaumite is a rare halide mineral composed of sodium fluoride, NaF, found at only a few localities in the world. The source for probably the finest material is on Russia's Kola Peninsula. The color of the Russian villaumite is extraordinary, a deep reddish purple that is unique in the mineral kingdom - perhaps only rivaled by the finest erythrites from Morocco. This piece is highly unusual because it has actual crystals of villaumite - which is a rarity. Most of the Russian material is rhombohedral cleavages, which are easily mistaken for actual rhombohedral crystals. Here, there are still traces of pocket mud to confirm that these are truly crystals.
Pezzottaite crystals to 1" on matrix - Madagascar
I only found a few specimens of this rare variety of beryl, which came out of the original find at the Sakavalana mine, Ambatovita, Mandrosonoro area, Ambatofinandrahana District, Amoron'i Mania Region, Fianarantsoa Province, Madagascar, (now depleted). Pezzottaite was discovered in November 2002 at the Sakavalana mine located about 87 miles southwest of Antsirabe in southern Madagascar. They are being described as raspberry beryl, and I was lucky enough to pick up one matrix specimen and two loose crystals.
Wulfenite, Red Cloud Mine
4.5" Wulfenite crystals on matrix - Red Cloud Mine, Arizona
Good matrix specimens of Red Cloud Mine wulfenite have become very scarce, but in Denver this year I managed to dig up a flat of great specimens in the Collector's edge warehouse. This is one of the best of the lot, featuring a 4.5" chunk of limonite that is bejeweled with dozens of 1/4" and larger crystals on the display side. The hue is the rich reddish-orange the mine is famous for, and the color and quality of the crystals approaches those from the renowned 1938 Ed Over pocket. Matrix specimens like this one are few and far between these days, and with no distracting damage, it's rare to find a piece this good with a price tag with only two zeros on the end.
Barite, Elk Creek, South Dakota
4" Barite with terminated crystals to 1.5" - Elk Creek, South Dakota
Here's a killer specimen of barite from the renowned Elk Creek barite locality in South Dakota. There are two large crystals to 1.4" with perfect, undamaged terminations, lain out on a matrix of pale yellow calcite crystals. The top half of the crystals is transparent and gem clear, in a lush root beer brown color that contrasts well with the calcite. The luster is glassy, and the crystal faces are smooth, with crisply defined edges. The barite fluoresces electric blue under LW UV light. Mined and prepared by Collector's Edge, this is an excellent piece from this American classic locality. This is a spectacular large specimen of orange BARITE crystals with yellow CALCITE from Elk Creek, Meade County, South Dakota. As you can see, the quality is superb: the barite crystals are gemmy and are unusually large and very sharp. It is a remarkable specimen from this classic American locality, which was mined by Collector's Edge around 2008, and is is now considered exhausted. Because the crystals form in large, extremely hard, boulder-sized septarian nodules, collecting undamaged specimens is exceedingly difficult. I found this one at the Denver Gem, Rock & Mineral Show.
1" Dark Blue Sparkling Rare Clinoclase Crystals - Nevada
The new clinoclase specimens I found in Casey Jones' room at the Ramada are definitely not new, but are new to the market. They were collected in the 1970's by a Nevada-based collector, and rescued by Casey from the collector's widow's basement. These azure blue clinoclase microcrystals on matrix came from the Tin Stope at the Majuba Hill Mine (Mylar Mine), Antelope District, Pershing Co., Nevada, USA. They are arguably some of the finest clinoclase specimens the locality has ever produced, and are delightfully colorful with an enchanting sparkly twinkle.
THE FEATURED EXHIBIT:
Copper & Copper Minerals
At the Denver Gem & Mineral Show this year, copper was the featured mineral. This proved a popular theme, as dozens of well-lit display cases were filled with exceptional copper minerals from around the world. Contributing displays were all the major museums, including the Smithsonian, Museum of Natural History, Houston, Los Angeles, Denver, Harvard, and many more.
PHOTOS FROM THE BIG SHOW
PHOTOS FROM THE OTHER SHOWS
The floor of the Coliseum
A row of Brazilian dealers' tents at the Quality Inn
A huge montebrasite crystal from Brazil
Jeanne admires an enormous Uruguayan amethyst geode
The line up of tents at the Quality Inn
The tent of a Brazilian dealer at the Quality Inn
Moroccan quartz geodes... dyed purple (others were dyed blue, red, green, etc.)!