Orpiment with Baryte - Peru
A few specimens of bright orange botryoidal orpiment topped with a scattering of clear to milky barytes first appeared in Denver in 2009, but little of this brightly colored material followed until this year in Tucson. Suddenly, half a dozen dealers had it, and the prices were very reasonable for such highly aesthetic specimens. The specimens come from the Paloma Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru (although they have been attributed to "Paloma" mines in several other regions in Peru, this is the correct locality). The orpiment forms as radiating spherical crystal aggregates that are a nice translucent orange color. There are also some well-formed and sharp clear to white baryte crystals perched on and amongst the orpiment. The color and contrast on this material is spectacular, with the sharp baryte crystals sticking out of the red- to yellow-orange botryoidal orpiment as if glued on (they're not!). The Paloma Mine is an old mine located between Julcani and San Genaro that has been closed for years, but is currently being worked by freelance miners looking for specimen material (obviously with great success!). Check here for available specimens.
6.4" Orpiment with baryte, Paloma Mine, Castrovirreyna Province, Huancavelica Department, Peru
Benitoite - California
Mine owners Steve Perry and John Vaevert have been unable to work the Benitoite Gem Mine in Benito CO., CA since the area was closed in 2005. They are still allowed access to the property, and they have been bringing out small loads of dump material and processing it to uncover the spectacular neptunite and benitoite crystals which made this locality an American classic. This year they brought a particularly impressive lot of new material to the Tucson Gem, Rock and Mineral Show, and because I made an appointment well in advance, I was the first to pick from the new material on the morning it arrived in town. Besides the "usual" selection of benitoite and neptunite on white natrolite matrix, there were a few very noteworthy large single crystals of these rare minerals, including a few very rare benitoites over 1" and some neptunites over 2". Check here for available specimens.
8" Benitoite with neptunite on natrolite and crossite, Benitoite Gem Mine, Benito County, California, USA
Ametrine Crystals - Bolivia
Only a couple of years after the last big pocket of ametrine, the Anahi Mine has produced another batch of even larger, sharper, and more colorful ametrine crystals. The mine, located in the La Gaiba District, Sandoval Province, Santa Cruz Province, Bolivia, is the only source in the world for natural ametrine crystals. The new find includes many large individual crystals, many with distinct terminations and recognizable faces. Previous material has almost always been blobby, as if the crystal had partially melted or been dripped with wax. This is probably because the iron chromophore which acts as a coloring agent interferes with the growth of flat planes and sharp edges. Here's what my supplier had to say about the new ametrines: The newest batch of ametrines from the Anahi Mine in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, were the nicest lot I've ever gotten. I handpicked the best of the lot. I just talked to my contact at the Mine and they have no current production so I won't be getting any more in the near future.
Check here for available specimens.
5.5" Ametrine, Anahi Mine, La Gaiba District, Sandoval Province, Santa Cruz Province, Bolivia
Vivianite - Bolivia
Thomas Nagin had an exclusive on a superb new find of vivianite from Bolivia. The overall quality on these is incredible, as the crystals allow the light to shine through, revealing a rich emerald green color that is breathtaking. He had one small shelf of crystals, with specimens both on and off matrix. While these were quite tempting, the prices started in the high 4 figures, and went up to 6 figures. I'm hoping this is just the tip of the iceberg for this new material, and that there will be more (and more affordable) material in the future. Check here for available specimens.
10" Vivianite, Huanuni Mine, La Paz, Bolivia
Sulfur - Bolivia
A surprise lot of Bolivian sulfur turned up in the room of one of the large wholesale dealers this year. The surprise is because the El Desierto Mine in Potosi shut down in 2007, and since then the supply has dwindled to nothing. The dealer who was showing the material reports that his warehouse is so crammed with material that he doesn't know where everything is any more. Not long before Tucson, he found a freight container full of material from 5 years ago that he never finished unpacking, so he prepared a pallet load for Tucson. That sold out in 2 days, so he sent another pallet. We were in his showroom the day he opened the doors (it was our first stop after landing), and were able to select a number of fine specimens from the first flat, then returned again when the second pallet arrived. The mine is still not producing, so this was a fortuitous anomaly for mineral collectors who want to add a top-notch specimen of this classic material to their collection. Check here for available specimens.
7.5" Sulfur, El Desierto Mine, San Pablo de Napa, Daniel Campos Province, Potosí Department, Bolivia
Iceland Spar - Bolivia
The same dealer who discovered the sulfur in his warehouse also had about 10 flats of top notch polished rhombs of Iceland spar. The material is mined in an undisclosed locality in Bolivia, then sent to Brazil for polishing before they are exported to the U.S. These specimens feature a nearly flawless interior that is much higher quality than the Mexican material from Naica, and even clearer than the Brazilian Iceland spar we have offered for the last few years. I was amazed by how gem-like these specimens are, even in the largest sizes. They are exquisitely bright, rainbow filled, superb quality specimens. Check here for available specimens.
4.7" Iceland spar (calcite), mined at an undisclosed location in Bolivia, polished in Brazil
Cuprite - Russia
The Poteryaevskoe Mine, the new Siberian cuprite locality, continues to produce lots of good quality specimens. How long this will continue is anyone's guess, but this is the first time any mine has produced so many nice cuprite crystals. When production does stop, I think that these will become classics. The best new cuprites from 2011 mining were translucent, revealing a translucent, dark, ruby red color, but the prices on these were stratospheric, and it's too early to tell whether they will tarnish to a dark silver gray which will hide the color. When these cuprites were first displayed at Tucson in 2010, the supply was limited and the prices were pretty stunning. In 2011, more were available, and the prices fell a bit. This year, prices were finally at a point that I could work a deal so we could offer them for reasonable prices. If you have ever wanted a cuprite specimen in your collection, now is the time. Check here for available specimens.
2.6" Cuprite, Poteryaevskoe Mine, Rubtsovskoe, Rudnyi Altai, Western-Siberian Region, Russia
Brochantite - Mexico
I can't really call the brochantite from Milpillas, Mexico new, because it first appeared 2 years ago. But this year, I was able to secure 3 flats of top notch specimens from the original find, which sort of qualifies it as new. This mine is famous for the fine azurite and malachite after azurite specimens which have been found there in the last few years. Brochantite was discovered there early in 2010, and none has been found since. It was immediately hailed as the finest brochantite ever found, commanding steep 4- and 5-figure prices. When I found some, I high-graded 2 flats of fine specimens from a wholesale dealer's warehouse, then a few days later made a parking lot deal with one of the top echelon dealers, picking up another flat of even higher quality material. This meeting was a bit dramatic, with the two partners surreptitiously opening the trunk of a beat up sedan in the parking lot behind one of the big hotel shows, to show me 4 flats of the material. I looked the pieces over carefully, then picked out one flat that had the best pieces. Fortunately, I was able to buy these for a surprisingly reasonable price, especially compared to what they cost when first discovered. Check here for available specimens.
7.5" Brochantite, Milpillas Mine, Cuitica, Mun. de Santa Cruz, Sonora, Mexico
Azurite - Mexico
As long as we're talking about Milpillas, I want to mention that the little tent on the grass in front of the City Center Hotel (Inn Suites) where these extraordinary azurites are sold was again a beehive of activity this year. Sharply crystallized and lustrous azurites from this world-class locality were lined up on display in brightly lit glass cases, in undiminished quality (and ever-higher prices). The pseudomorphs of malachite after azurite that were so prevalent during the early days of the discovery were conspicuous in their absence, as mining in the oxidation zone of this mine has passed through the section which produced them. In discussions with several dealers, what I heard was that it is inevitable that the spigot will be turned off when the oxidized zone is mined out, and when it is, prices will skyrocket the way they have with Illinois fluorite, Tsumeb azurite, Sweet Home rhodochrosite, etc. One dealer said he was putting aside a top piece for his retirement fund, which probably isn't a bad idea at all. Check here for available specimens.
1.4" Azurite, Milpillas Mine, Cuitica, Mun. de Santa Cruz, Sonora, Mexico
Crocoite - Tasmania
After opening the magnificent and historic best-in-ten-years 2010 Pocket in December, 2010, Adam Wright wasn't expecting much from his mining at the Adelaide Mine during the 2011 mining season. Fortunately for us, he did encounter several rich seams which yielded some very fine specimens, in a quality similar to what he found in the 2010 pocket, just in smaller quantities. Luckily, I got there not long after he finished unpacking, so I picked out some really fantastic new material to temp you with this year. We still have a few choice pieces and single crystals from the 2010 pocket available, and these will be clearly labeled so you know which find you are looking at. Check here for available specimens.
5.5" Crocoite, Adelaide Mine, Dundas, Zeehan District, Tasmania, Australia
Herkimer Diamonds - New York
While Herkimer diamonds have been around for centuries, this year my friend Ted Smith hit some fantastic pockets from which he extracted large spectacular clusters at his Ace of Diamonds Mine in Herkimer (Middleville). I dropped by his booth early so I could take an early look at his new specimens, and came away with some incredible new pieces, including half a dozen really large groups that are always hard to find. Check here for available specimens.
8" Herkimer Diamond (Quartz) cluster, Ace of Diamonds Mine, Middleville, Herkimer Co., New York
Pyrite - Spain
My friend Pedro operates the Navajun Mine in Logrono, La Rioja, Spain, and I always make it a point to visit his room in Tucson as soon as he opens the door. This year I was especially glad I did, since the 2011 mining season was spectacularly successful. Depending on what section of the mine he works, some years the cubes are distorted, other years the cubes are small, and sometimes the matrix is too hard and all the specimens that come out are damaged. Not this year. His room was filled with shiny, brassy gold, near perfect pyrite cubes in large singles, multi-cube groups, and terrific specimens on matrix. The output was prolific, so he was wsell stocked with goodies, though as usual, the best pieces go fast. I picked out a great selection of specimens, which we will be photographing and offering online over the coming months. Check here for available specimens.
2.5" Pyrite cube on 6" sandstone matrix, Navajun Mine in Logrono, La Rioja, Spain
Calcite & Chalcopyrite - Missouri
In 2011, mineral miner Stan Esbenshade extracted a large lot of spectacular calcite and chalcopyrite specimens from pockets at the Brushy Creek Mine in Missouri's Tri-State District. He had a couple of hundred flats of these processed and cleaned for the Tucson Gem, Rock and Mineral Show. Most of them are reminiscent of the material Stan mined back in the 1990s, which had elongated grayish calcites with a dusting of rainbow-colored chalcopyrites around the base of the crystals. This lot has many similar crystals, plus a few outstanding golden calcites, to boot. Many of the crystals show stand-out phantoms, and the best look a bit like torches, with large single crystals surrounded by slightly smaller crystals that climb up the sides of the central crystal. The pocket also produced many spectacular chalcopyrites, in neon colors ranging from brilliant turquoise to magenta to gold and more. I went through all of the flats of this new material, picking out the finest examples. Check here for available specimens.
8" Calcite with chalcopyrite, Brushy Creek Mine, Tri-State District, Reynolds County, Missouri, USA
Petrified Wood - Madagascar
It seems like there must be an endless supply of petrified wood from Madagascar, as there are always a dozen or more wholesale suppliers who offer everything from entire logs to thin, polished, coaster-sized slices. I'm always comparing prices to see who ahs the best deals, and this year I found a new supplier who was offering high quality polished slices and log ends at very competitive prices. He also had something new to me - large, colorful slices of petrified wood that measure up to 18" or so, and that are about 2" thick. These big slices also have bark on the outside edges, and are sawn from large logs before polishing. The most outstanding feature of these big slices is the color: most have rich shades of red and reddish brown, rather than the usual tan and brown colors. These big slices weigh around 25 pounds apiece, so they will require special, heavy duty stands for display (though they'll also make terrific table-tops that are impervious to spills and dirt). Check here for available specimens.
17" Petrified wood slice, Antsirabe Region, Antananarivo, Madagascar
Cretaceous period, 96 million years old
Aqua Aura Quartz - Arkansas
This year we are offering better aqua aura than any that was available anywhere in Tucson. Now that sentence should make you say, "Wait a minute! I thought this was a report on the material you found in Tucson. How could you have better than that?" This requires some explanation: Because there are almost always middle men in the mineral business, and because each of them gets his or her cut, I'm always looking for a way to get to the source so I can get the best material at the best price. Well, this year I found the source - a guy who actually has the equipment and the knowhow to do the sputter coating that turns an ordinary quartz crystal into an aqua aura quartz crystal. In addition, my perennial gripe about aqua aura quartz has always been the quality of the crystals. For some inexplicable reason, the material I find almost always has dinged or busted crystals. Because it is costly to infuse quartz crystals with gold, the result is too often crummy crystals at a very high price. And most of the dealers selling aqua aura put the same price per gram on their entire inventory, regardless of quality. This means I have to spend hours picking through batches of crystals to find the few that are undamaged. I asked the producer why so much low quality quartz is used, and he said that most of his customers send him their batches, and he simply processes the crystals. Since he doesn't have a source for good quartz himself, his material is also pretty much all damaged. After discussing the price for making quartz into aqua aura, I went to my own source, and bought about 15 pounds of AAA, best quality available Arkansas quartz specimens. I hauled the box over to my guys room, and he has done the processing for me. So that's how we came to have better aqua aura than anyone in Tucson . When you see it, I think you'll agree that this is the finest quality aqua aura you've ever seen. Check here for available specimens.
5" Aqua Aura Quartz, Jim Coleman's Mine, Hot Springs, Arkansas, USA
Celestite Geodes - Madagascar
There's a big change coming in the supply of celestite geodes from Madagascar. I was told by several suppliers that new export laws have been enacted in Madagascar regarding the export of celestite, which will require that the geodes be processed into lapidary art (spheres, eggs, etc.) rather than sold as is. Clearly the intent is to provide work for Madagascar residents, but it sounds a bit short-sighted to me. The result was already apparent, as wholesale dealers had already double or tripled their geode prices, anticipating a shortage. Fortunately, I found one supplier whose prices were still quite reasonable, so I was able to get a good batch of the large, high-quality geodes at a relatively affordable price. Next year, who knows? Check here for available specimens.
10" Celestite geode, Sakoany deposit, Katsepy Commune, Mitsinjo District, Boeny Region, Majunga Province, Madagascar
Gold Nuggets - California
From a California gold miner, I was able to purchase some lovely gold nuggets from the North Fork American River, upstream from Sutter's Mill, the site of the 1849 Gold Rush. These are from a placer deposit, which is an accumulation of gold formed by gravity separation during sedimentary processes. Nuggets are naturally occurring pieces of native gold that were broken off of the original gold vein, and then carried by water and erosion to a new location. If you're a fan of the Gold Rush show on TV, check out how much bigger this nugget is than even the largest ones the miners find on that's how.) Check here for available specimens.
18mm 7.8 gram Gold nugget, North Fork of the American River in El Dorado County, California, USA
This is Part 1 of our show report; please click here for Part 2.