Tucson Gem, Rock & Mineral Show 2013 - Part 1

Write By: tmmadmin Published In: Mineral Show Reports Created Date: 2015-02-02 Hits: 5965 Comment: 0

Here is Part 1 of our 2013 Tucson show report, showcasing more of the treasures we brought home that year. Please click here for Part 2.

The 2013 Tucson Show was bigger than ever, sprawling all over the city, packed into hotel rooms and hotel ballrooms; tents from 10' x 10' to those larger than a football field; plus the Big Show at the cavernous Civic Center and adjacent hockey rink. In all, there are over 40 shows in Tucson between the end of January and the middle of February, featuring everything from mineral specimens to beads to jewelry. There were several new shows to visit as well as the older, established ones that are perennial favorites. And at every show there was a changing cast of characters, with dealers who had moved to new venues since last year, or added new satellite locations, or had simply disappeared. We were in town for 20 days, and only took 1 day off to visit family and a half day to pack the tractor trailer that brought our purchases home. Almost every day we shopped from 10 am to 6 pm, then had dinner to "talk rocks" with vendors, customers, other dealers, or friends. Our 13th year of the Tucson experience was crazier and more overwhelming than ever: we spent our days looking at literally thousands of specimens, picking out the ones we liked the most, then negotiating for the best discount possible. And I loved every minute of it! It is an experience no collector should miss, so even if you can only spare a few days, why not make plans now to attend the Tucson Show in 2014?

Here are some of my favorite new finds from this year's show. I've included links to the specimens that are listed online already, and the others will be listed within the next few days. As of this writing, none have sold and all are currently available. If you are interested in any of these pieces, or if you want to see other material from the same find, please email us.

And at the bottom of this page you'll find some of our snapshots from the show. Enjoy!

Crocoite - Tasmania
Crocoite from the Adelaide Mine, Dundas, Zeehan District, Tasmania, Australia is popular with collectors for its enthusiastic flame red color and amazing crystals. The best material from the Adelaide features elongated needle-like crystal sprays in an eye-popping red-orange color, bright luster, and undamaged terminations. Specimens from this mine are widely considered to be the very best in the world. Now the Red River find has rewritten the history of this famous mine. Opened in August of 2012 by mine operator Adam Wright, the new pocket has produced specimens of a quality never seen before. I had been negotiating with Adam to buy a new lot of specimens during the week he opened the Red River pocket, so he was kind enough to give me first pick of the new crop of specimens. He brought these and dozens more to the Tucson Gem, Rock and Mineral Show in 2013, where I picked up my reserved special pieces plus selected many more from this historic find. There is a lengthy article detailing the find in the Jan.-Feb. 2013 issue of Mineralogical Record.

View of the Red River find, upper area. The farthest area is about 9 feet away
Adam Wright photo

Adam Wright, operator of the Adelaide Mine, with a case full of the specimens he mined from the Red River find

4.2" Red-orange crocoite crystals on matrix; 2012 Red River find, Adelaide Mine, Tasmania, Australia.

Close up of the square crystals, all terminated

Wire Silver - Morocco
Here's a rare specimen of native wire silver on matrix that came from the Imiter Mine in Djebel Sahro, Ourzazate Province, Souss-Massa-Draa Region, Morocco. Specimens of silver wire on matrix are hard to find, and this one is exceptionally stunning. I purchased a box of 7 outstanding specimens of wire silver from a Moroccan dealer who was set up in a tent outside the Days Inn Show. Actually, it wasn't quite as easy as that makes it sound, because it took 4 days to do the deal. Day 1 I was shown the box of specimens by the vendors nephew. He couldn't give me a price, but I made an offer and said I would come back later that day. The guy who ran the booth made a counteroffer, but it was too high. I raised my offer a bit, and he refused, so I left. The next day I returned and after considerable back and forth, we agreed on a price. Jeanne took out our checkbook and started writing the check. He freaked out, and said the deal was cash only! We never carry cash at shows, and he would only take cash, so the deal fell through. Two days later I had a flash of inspiration, and we returned to the man's tent. This time, I brought along another Moroccan friend with whom we have done business for years, and he vouched for us. As soon as the man saw this guy, he was all smile and ready to take our check!

4.1" Superb bright wire silver crystals in curling, twisty wires; Morocco.

Pyromorphite - China
Sometimes the best specimens are purchased before the show even starts, and never even make it onto a dealer's shelf. That was the case with a lot of 8 bright apple-green pyromorphite specimens that came from recent work at the Daoping Mine in Guangxi Province, China. They came to me from a Chinese dealer friend, one of the young, up-and-coming Chinese dealers, who I first met about 5 years ago, Now, when I send him special requests, he checks with his extensive contacts and finds me top-quality specimens. In late 2012, I asked him if he could find me some really nice pyromorphite specimens, since the ones I have been seeing at shows were not very good quality. This piece is the pick of the litter from the lot he brought to Tucson for me.

Bright apple green glassy sharp pyromorphite crystals to 1/2" on matrix; Daoping Mine, Guangxi, China.

Azurite with Malachite - Milpillas
By now you probably know that the Milpillas Mine in Sonora, Mexico has mined out the zone that produced what are arguably some of the finest azurite crystal specimens ever found - equal to (or better than) material from classic localities such as Tsumeb and Bisbee. Since 2006, the shiny blue crystals, sometimes accompanied by (or replaced by) bright green malachite, trickled out of the mine in spite of the mine operator's efforts to keep miners from carrying out specimens. By the spring of 2012, underground mining had worked through the oxidation layer, and had begun to exploit the solid mass of cuprite that lay below. This marked the end of this short-lived, "instant" classic locality. As soon as news of the impending demise of this phase of mining got out, dealers and collectors alike began to hoard supplies of azurite, and prices began to go up. This year, the prices rose again, and stocks were noticeably picked over. The two biggest Mexican dealers were offering damaged specimens at prices higher than they had asked for pristine examples just a few years ago, and I had given up on buying any new material this year. To my shock and delight, while in Tucson I was contacted by a Mexican miner from Milpillas who wanted to sell me some azurite he had stockpiled. After exchanging half a dozen emails, with photos of his supply, we finally arranged to meet in Tucson on our last day in town - less than an hour before we were scheduled to pack our truck. The miner's two cousins (who live and work in Tucson), showed up in the parking lot of our motel, where we exchanged greetings. In the bright sunlight they began unwrapping the cloth-enclosed azurite pieces and laying them out on the tailgate of their truck. After I had examined every piece, I made an offer, which they turned down. They made a counteroffer, which I turned down. Then they called their cousin in Mexico to seek guidance. The back and forth went on for almost n hour, entailing half a dozen phone calls to Mexico. Twice I started to walk away, and once they started to pack up their pieces, until finally we reached a compromise acceptable to both sides. We immediately packed the crystals into boxes and hauled it off to the freight terminal and stowed it in our truck for shipment back east. Here is a picture of two of the boxes of the material from this lot, in their original "as is" condition:

5.4" Outstanding shiny blue azurite & green malachite, Milpillas Mine, Sonora, Mexico.

Fluorite - Illinois
From deep purple to amethyst, sky blue, sea green, sunny yellow, and crystal clear - the mineral fluorite comes in all colors. In operation since 1823, the last fluorspar mine in the Southern Illinois Fluorspar district closed in December, 1995, marking the end of of an era. During this run, the mines produced what is without doubt the finest, most colorful, and widest variety of fluorite specimens in the world. The volume of specimen production was so enormous that it took over 10 years before the prices of Illinois fluorite began to go up. Since then, collectors and dealers have been wisely investing money in fluorite, in anticipation of future increases in value. Today, prices are at all-time highs, and continue to climb. So, when I was offered an old collection of high quality Illinois fluorite specimens in Tucson this year, I wrangled a good price and bought the lot. Below are a few of my favorite pieces.

5.5" Blue with purple phantoms cubic fluorite crystals; Denton Mine, Illinois.

Emeralds - Colombia
Recent emerald sales have set new record prices for fine emeralds, for both cut stones and specimens. The old record for a fine cut emerald was $40,000 per carat. Recently, a 9 carat emerald cut stone was sold for almost $90,000 per carat - more than doubling the previous best price. Today there is a new recognition of the rarity and value of a very fine emeralds with their spectacular combination of color and transparency. This awareness has attracted a new class of buyers and mineral collectors as well, especially since the stock market and real estate no longer offer the returns they once did. Out in Tucson I reconnected with an old friend from Colombia, a man who's family has been buying and selling emeralds for over 8 generations. He brought me a number of matrix specimens and gemmy crystals to pick over, so I was able to purchase a number or really great specimens. This incredible matrix piece, which my friend prepared himself, is my favorite:

4.3" Gemmy green emerald crystals on matrix, Coscuez Mine, Colombia.

Copper - Michigan
Starting in the 1840s, copper mining in Michigan's Upper Peninsula boomed for almost a century, until most mines closed during the great depression as a result of depressed copper prices. The last big mining operation ended in 1995. During these glory years, thousands of fine copper specimens emerged. Today, fine specimens only become available when old collections are recycled. This year in Tucson, we acquired a number of outstanding examples of historic Michigan copper specimens from the Central Mine, White Pine Mine, Northeast Mine, etc. This is my personal favorite:

7" red-orange copper crystals, Central Mine, Upper Peninsula, Michigan.

Spirit Amethyst - South Africa
Spirit amethyst from near Magaliesburg, South Africa has been on the market for just over a decade, though it is rarely seen in any quantity or quality these days. So we were stunned when we showed up our second day in Tucson at the room of our dear friend from South Africa, as he was unpacking a pile of banana boxes full of large, colorful, plates of spirit amethyst. We haven't seen material of this quality in years, so we joined in the fun of unpacking the boxes with relish, setting aside our personal favorites as we went. Even in the early days of larger scale production, I never saw anything as stunning and attention-grabbing as this material, which came from a recent discovery in late 2012.

8" Vivid purple spirit amethyst, terminated crystals with cactus sides; South Africa.

Amethyst - Uruguay
Speaking of amethyst, who doesn't love the wonderful super dark, richly saturated purple amethyst found in the mines south of Anahi? No other amethyst in the world comes close to the rich, vivid, deep purple color of this material, which at its best grows in knobby stalactite tips covered on the top and all sides with large, lustrous crystals. It was a particularly good year for mining at the La Genuina mine last year, so the prices were good on the wealth of specimens that came to earth down there. We found some really choice specimens, some with large stalactites growing straight up out of a sea of amethyst crystals, and others with large geode-like pieces that were mounted in attractive stainless steel display stands.

6.5" World-class purple color amethyst with 3" stalactite and crystals to 1.2" - Uruguay.

Malachite - Congo
One of my most exciting finds in Tucson was a batch of top notch specimens of polished "brain" malachite from the Musonoi Mine, Katanga Province, D.R.Congo. The massive malachite was hand polished by skilled Congolese craftsmen. The pieces came from the collection of a well-known Congo mineral dealer, the late Sam Chatti. I purchased the top dozen pieces from his collection. This collection dates back to 1994, when a spectacular batch of malachite was recovered from the Musonoi mine. Chatti decided to have this material polished by hand, rather than using the grinders and polishers that give polished malachite its smooth, flat faces. Here is one of the best pieces:

6" Dazzling vivid green hand-polished brain malachite, D.R. Congo, ex-Sam Chatti.

Calcite - Tennessee
Although the mine at Elmwood, Tennessee remains closed, the Cumberland Mine recently reopened. Unfortunately, the miners are forbidden, on penalty of being fired on the spot, from bringing out mineral specimens. That makes the rest of the specimens on the market worth more - especially the finest ones with great color and no damage. At one of the shows this year, we found a man who had cashed in his IRA and used it to buy an old collection from an old, retired miner. Since his IRA wasn't growing, this was certainly an interesting approach to retirement! And the amazing thing was that the quality of the pieces he had purchased was truly amazing. Rarely do you find calcite crystals like his that glow from within with the rich orange color of his pieces, and almost never do you find crystals with all their termination points intact (most are cleaved off by nearby blasting or are damaged in collecting). I think you'll agree that pieces like the one below are exceptional examples of the best to come from the Elmwood mines.

6.7" Gem orange calcite with double terminated crystals, undamaged tips; Elmwood, Tennessee.

Red Fluorite - India
We rarely buy anything at the Westward Look Show in Tucson, because it is a retail show aimed at the very big spenders. For example, one year we watched a man buy a $25,000 gwindel quartz without bargaining, and without even asking to have the dealer take it out of the case so he could look at it. Since we are pickier than that (and can't afford that level of specimens), we usually do our shopping at wholesale dealers with much less extravagant price tags. This year, however, we found a couple of excellent bargains, admittedly from dealers who didn't have 5- or 6-figure price tags on their stuff. This red fluorite was one of them, and it is not only the finest one we have seen, the price - even after a modest markup - is actually quite reasonable.

5.4" Dozens of smooth red fluorite balls to .8" on quartz; India.

Elestial Smoky Quartz - Brazil
For me it was love at first sight. As soon as saw this piece from across the room, I knew I had to have it. I'm a big fan of elestial smoky quartz anyway - you know, the kind that's also called jacaré quartz, with all the parallel faces that appear to light up a the same time. Well this is the ne plus altra of elestials, the ultimate in excellence. As amazing as it is in the photo, it is 100 times better in person.

11.8" Jacaré (elestial) smoky quartz; Macao Mine, Sao Geraldo do Baixio, Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Gold - California, Nevada, Mexico
Gold dipped to a temporary "low" while we were in Tucson, so we took the opportunity to pounce on some gold nuggets, crystals and wire gold specimens while the price was relatively affordable. We found some great specimens from three different localities, most notably from the American River, sight of the original Sutter's Mill discovery that triggered the 1849 Gold Rush. Here are some of the finer pieces we brought home.

1.1" 8.9g Bright shiny yellow placer gold nugget; American River, CA.

.9" 2.2g Bright butter yellow wire gold mass; Mad Mutha Mine, Humboldt, Nevada.

.4" .8 gram lustrous butter yellow crystallized gold nugget, Baja California, Mexico.

Pyrite - Spain
One can't help but be amazed by the near perfection of the pyrite cubes from Navajun, La Rioja, Logrono, Spain - "perfect" natural crystal cubes, formed by Mother Nature so sharply that it looks as if they were machined. The 2011 mining season was especially productive, as the quarry yielded some of the sharpest, most damage free cubes in years. When the cubes are set on a cream white sandstone matrix, the brilliant, lustrous crystals really shine, reflecting light off of each mirror bright face. The edges of the Logrono pyrite crystals are exceptionally sharp, universally acclaimed as the best in the world. The color is the typical bright silvery gold, which contrasts nicely with the white matrix. The most common question people ask about these is, "You mean they came out of the ground just like that?" Yup! These near-perfect cubes on matrix from Spain are amongst the most striking crystals in the mineral kingdom. I found a number of fabulous specimens of this material in the room of the Spanish dealer who operates the mine in Logrono.

Brassy gold pyrite cubes to .8" on 9.5" white marl, Navajun, La Rioja, Logrono, Spain.

Plancheite - D.R.Congo
This copper silicate mineral - Cu8(Si8O22)(OH)4·H2O - is rarely found in good crystals, so when a pocket was breached at the Shinkolobwe mine in late 2012 pocket, it was big news. Like so many of the secondary copper minerals, it is colorful, highly aesthetic, and has an interesting its fibrous, radial habit crystal habit. Its turquoise color is vividly flamboyant, and makes a great addition to a copper minerals suite. It is named for J. Planche, who first brought specimens of plancheite from the Congo region to the mineralogical community.

12" Turquoise plancheite with radiating crystals - Shinkolobwe Mine, D.R.Congo.

Amethyst - Bolivia
One of my favorite stops on the Tucson circuit is with the guy who has an exclusive on all the material from the Anahi Mine in Bolivia. That includes ametrine, large single amethyst points, and this year's new discovery - large clusters of multiple amethyst crystals. The color is a delightful royal purple, and the crystals show excellent clarity, and are virtually damage free. I arrived on opening day at this fellow's room, so I had the pick of the goodies piled in boxes underneath one side of a large table, while another buyer, a French dealer, picked through the stuff on the other side. Luckily he was looking for small pieces, so we never actually came to fisticuffs.

9" Transparent purple-tip amethyst, multi-crystal cluster - New Find! - Bolivia for sale.

Again, if you are interested in any of these pieces, or if you want to see other material from the same find, please email us.

Now, here are some of our snapshots from the Tucson Show.

5 pound ametrine crystal (amethyst & citrine) from Bolivia

Adam Wright shows Eric some of the boxes of crocoite from the Red River find

A box of the specimens Eric selected

Jeanne flanked by a cut open amethyst geode

A 212 gram, $10,000 piece of ametrine gem rough from Bolivia

An exceptionally blue aquamarine from Pakistan

The City Center Hotel courtyard was filled with full size dinosaur replicas

Jeanne is surrounded!

The new find of green apophyllite

Jeanne and I unpacked three 55-gallon drums jammed full of crystals in search of the best elestial jacare smoky quartz

A new find of exceptional scolecite

A room filled with Spanish pyrite specimens

A graduated string of pyrite cubes, from 1/8" to 2"

Eric with a giant microcline crystal

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