Flooded roadway behind the Inn Suites Hotel
When I think about going to Tucson in late January I imagine blue skies, palm trees, warm temperatures in the low 70s, and wearing shorts and short-sleeve shirts for several weeks. But Tucson 2015 surprised us by setting two weather records: one for the most rain ever in a 24 hour period (1.3") and the other for the hottest temperature ever recorded in February (92º F). So, one day we were watching cars driving through muddy water up to the top of their hubcaps, and a few days later we were suffering through record heat. I don't expect much sympathy from my fellow New Englanders who were enduring blizzards and below freezing temperatures, but it was definitely a different experience!
Eric unpacking a box of carnelian to find the best pieces
This year was every bit as hectic, frenzied and overwhelming as past years, speeding from room to room and show to show in search of the best specimens as well as the new arrivals. Every purchase must be haggled over to determine the price, then the pieces must be wrapped up and boxed so we could carry them to our car and cart them away to our storage locker. People who come to Tucson for the first time are almost universally so beleaguered that even the hardiest are burned out after just 2 or 3 days. And those who make it past that point have usually blown their budget long before they made it to all of the 41 or so venues.
Marie Huizing holds a copy of Rocks & Minerals magazine
Of course we found time to re-connect with many old friends, including customers, other dealers, family, and friends. One especially memorable moment was seeing Marie Huizing, editor of Rocks & Minerals, and picking up copies of the Jan-Feb 2015 issue which included my article on collecting Spanish pyrite. There are many wonderful restaurants in Tucson, so we could always find a good spot to enjoy a delicious dinner. I hope you will go to the 2016 Tucson Show: it is an experience you will never forget.
As I write this, we have unpacked, priced and labeled all 450 boxes of new material form Tucson. However, we have only listed one specimen of each new acquisition so far, so there are many, many more to come. Here's a sampling of the newest and most notable that we picked up.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Plumbogummite Pseudomorphs after Pyromorphite
Arriving early at the Tucson Show gives us a chance to see (and buy) specimens that get snapped up early on. That's the story with the plumbogummite pseudomorphs after pyromorphite that we spotted our first day in Tucson, a week before the show officially starts.
On this new material from the Yanshuo Mine in Guangzi, pyromorphite crystals which started out green have been replaced molecule by molecule, from the outside in, with turquoise blue plumbogummite, a very rare lead phosphate. The crystals retain the same shape as they had when they started life as pyromorphite. Many of the centers of the crystals are still green, indicating the pyromorphite was only partly pseudomorphed. On the best specimens, the pyromorphite crystals would be exceptional even without the replacement, but they are even more valuable and desirable as pseudos.
We purchased all we found that were any good, even though we did not know at first what the turquoise material was - just recognizing them as something really new and different. The Chinese dealers didn't know either; they called them turquoise pyromorphite! Other buyers also spotted and snapped up these new goodies, because all the specimens had disappeared by the end of our second day in town. And then they began to reappear - this time in non-Chinese dealers' rooms, at prices 5- to 10-times higher than the ones we bought! This is definitely a Tucson phenomenon - buying material low and selling it high just a few days later. In fact, some dealers make a specialty of this, particularly those who exhibit at the main show (the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society show in the convention center). What a great example of the entrepreneurial spirit (some would call it greed) that inhabits the mineral world!
Vanadanite on Velvet Goethite Stalactites
2.4" Red VANADANITE Set on Black Velvet Stalactites of GOETHITE Morocco for sale
It was love at first sight when I saw this new material, which is the latest vanadanite craze from Morocco. And it comes in two flavors: red vanadanite on black goethite, and yellow vanadanite (presumably arsenic rich), also on black goethite. Of course the contrast is out of this world, which I believe makes for some of the most aesthetic specimens out there. But this stuff gives you a bonus: The goethite has formed as a miniature landscape of stalactites sticking straight up, with the bright red or yellow vanadanite crystals randomly growing on the sides or on top of the miniature stalactites. In both colors the vanadanite is bright and lustrous, and the goethite is smooth and velvety, which is really a treat. The ones I found were free of damage.
Red Quartz from Morocco
4.1" Bold RED QUARTZ Sharp Terminated Crystals over Clear Quartz Morocco for sale
New from Morocco this year was a profusion of red quartz that showed up in nearly every Moroccan dealer's tent or room. This is ferruginous red quartz from the early 2014 find in Tinejdad, reportedly from a cave-sized pocket that goes deep underground. The good crystals are sharply terminated, with sides covered by druzy red quartz, similar to cactus/spirit amethyst from South Africa. Very aesthetic! The specimens were available as both single crystals and complex clusters. The crystals have a core of clear quartz that is completely covered by a 2 to 4 mm crust (not a surface film) of a second generation of red quartz. The color ranges from a bright red to brick red, with some low grade specimens available in a brownish red ochre. You could buy all the pieces you wanted that had obvious broken crystals and unsightly damage, buta few good ones were available, scattered here and there around the show. It is a bit unusual to find so much material so widely distributed around Tucson from a new find (there was none of this stuff for sale last year). That made it very important to do comparison shopping. When I first spotted this material I stopped at a Moroccan dealer's tent and saw he had some very nice specimens. To get an idea of the market, I picked out 8 good damage free pieces and asked for the guy's best price. He wanted $1,400! I said, "That is ridiculous - it's only quartz!" He wouldn't budge from his price, so I left. After shopping around some more I found a dealer who had both excellent quality and much more reasonable prices. I picked out some superb pieces for which I paid about a third of the first guy's asking price! I've seen this happen dozens of times in Tucson, so it's a case of "buyer beware". Here's one notable example from the 2014 show: In one place I saw sugilite selling for $4,000 a kilo, and elsewhere I found similar material for $400 a kilo.
Chrysocolla Pseudo Azurite
2.4" Electric Turquoise CHRYSOCOLLA Pseudo of Malachite & Azurite Congo for sale
I first time I saw this material was at the East Coast show last August, but there were only a few pieces available. This time there was more, but the supply was still very limited. I bought my pieces from my friend Max who brought his family over from the Congo (he has brothers and cousins in the Congo who purchase and ship him new material). He was the only one who had this extraordinarily colorful and attention grabbing material. It is chrysocolla which has grown as an epimorph over malachite pseudomorphs of azurite from the D.R.Congo. The malachite is visible in a few places on some specimens, but the azurite has been completely replaced. The brilliant turquoise color of the chrysocolla is out of this world, and it has grown in unusual spiky formations that are really amazing. This may be chrysocolla crystals, which are very rare. Because of the astonishing color, this material will really stand out on your shelf.
Chabazite-CA from Morocco
3.7" Superb Sharp Wet Look Rare RED CHABAZITE Crystals with Calcite Morocco SOLD
Chabazite is typically orange or pinkish orange, but this year I found a few exceptional specimens on which the color was nearly red! They came from a new find in late 2013 near Imilchil, Morocco. The crystals are razor sharp and have a dramatic wet-look luster resulting in a very flashy appearance. Some pieces were red, some rich pink, and others pastel pink. I bought these from the only dealer who had them, and they are very popular already.
Willemite Pseudo After Descloizite
2.4" Superb Pseudomorph of WILLEMITE after DESCLOIZITE Nakhlak Mine Iran for sale
Mimetite crystals on willemite
2.5" WILLEMITE PSEUDO after DESCLOIZITE Crystals Orange & Green Iran for sale
Mimetite crystals on willemite
Again, only one dealer had any material from this new find of rare pseudomorphs of willemite after descloizite from the Chah Milleh Mine. The descloizite crystals are completely replaced by sparkling dark brown microcrystals of willemite, which fluoresce a dull green. The pseudomorphed descloizite crystals stand up straight and are notched, retaining their wonderful Christmas tree-like shape on the best pieces. On many there is a later deposit of bright orange mimetite sprinkled on the Christmas trees. There were very few examples of this new material available, but some turned up at the Westward Look Show at quadruple the price set by the original dealer.
Japan-Law Quartz Pakistan
3" Superb Gem Clear JAPAN-LAW QUARTZ Terminated Twin Crystal Pakistan for sale
I had never seen japan-law twinned quartz from Pakistan until I walked into the room of a Pakistani dealer at the old Inn Suites Hotel. Sitting on his table were 4 magnificent specimens, each an excellent Japan-law twin, featuring absolutely clear rabbit ears to over 2", with pristine terminations and no damage. On some there is a thin white vertical line down the middle, demarking the point where the two arms began growing. The angle where the crystals joins looks like it is a 90 degree angle, but all the sources say the angle is 89 degrees (sorry, I lost my protractor).
Chrysocolla with Malachite D.R.Congo
4.3" Sparkly Dark Green MALACHITE Crystals on Turquoise CHRYSOCOLLA Congo for sale
At the Mashamba West mine in 2014, a large pocket produced a quantity of very colorful chrysocolla. Since there has been so little chrysocolla available for the last 3 years, this was a welcome discovery. Though there were some great specimens of both natural and polished chrysocolla, I think the best material from this find was the stuff with islands of dark green and very sparkly malachite crystals floating on a sea of bright turquoise chrysocolla. These were carefully collected, so most have no damage.
2.6" Shiny Golden RUTILE Crystals Sunburst Epitaxial on HEMATITE Brazil for sale
Back in the early 2000s, a new find of "stars" of twinned golden rutile on hematite was made at Novo Horizonte in Brazil. These showy specimens, which look like rays of the sun bursting from behind a dark cloud, took the mineral world by storm. The golden rutile crystal needles appear to grow directly out of silver gray hematite - a formation mineralogists call epitaxial growth. The rutile crystals are v-twinned every 60 degree angles resulting in a star-shaped cluster, and range from under a quarter inch to several inches in length. One of my Brazilian suppliers arrived in Tucson with a handful of superb specimens that came from the very first find, and they are arguably amongst the finest ever found.
Red Beryl from Utah's Ruby Violet Claim
9.2ct 14mm Rich Gemmy RED BERYL Bixbite Crystal Dark Raspberry Red Utah for sale
You probably know that the Ruby Violet claim that produced red beryl (aka bixbite and red emerald) closed in the mid-2000s, and has not reopened since. This mine in Utah is the only place in the world these rare crystals have been found. That means that top quality crystals of this precious gemstone are rarer than any other gemstone - some say they are 1,000 times rarer than emeralds! The mine owner, Gary Harris, brought me some extremely sharp, gemmy and very lovely crystals of red beryl from his own collection. All the crystals he brought are very nicely crystallized examples and have great magenta-crimson color, glassy luster, and perfect, pristine terminations. He had crystals ranging from one carat to over 10 carats, some with good gem quality material that could be but. At this point it appears unlikely that the claim will ever be reopened.
That's it for now, but we will sharing more of our prized finds from Tucson in the next issue of this newsletter.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Here are some photos from Tucson 2015:
Raphael Venturini had some excellent citrine for us
One of our Chinese friends brought 3 boxes from the new wulfenite find at the Jianshan Mine
Dick Holmes admires a large crystal from the McEarl Mine in Arkansas
A spectacular 18" vanadanite from Morocco
A prize-winning vesusianite from Asbestos
This 20" crocoite from the Adelaide Mine sold for a high 5 figure price
Adam & Erica Wright, managers/operators of the Adelaide Mine
The Sokoloskis - our Polish crystal growing friends
Aquamarine crystals on quartz from Brazil -
unaffordable at $1,200 a pound (wholesale!)
Our Brazilian friend holds a specimen of emeralds in schist (we bought lots from this find)
The Brazilian tent city at the Clarion Inn Show
Daniel, an associate of the Spanish pyrite guy Pedro Ansereno, shows off his Ferrari Spyder sports car
Jumbo plates of fossils from Morocco
This 12" shattuckite specimen has been hailed as the finest in the world