Where Have all the Quarries Gone? – A statement as important today as when it was first written 40 years ago!

Why are the quarries closing down to mineral collectors

Editorial from The Mineralogical Record Volume 6 1975

As I looked over some old Mineralogical Records, I noticed a fantastic editorial by Marie Huizing, living legend in the mineral publication world, in charge of the wonderful magazine, Rocks and Minerals, since 1979. This editorial, published in 1975, is as relevant today as it was then, possibly even more so, as our urban centers have grown into sprawling suburbs. As the suburbs become more conjested, those looking to gain more peaceful environments have bought old mill sites, quarries and mines in order to build houses. Picture the Blue Bell quarry in Pennsylvania, now a private pond.

Litigation and multi-nation companies are another problematic factor. I can only imagine that our litigious society has grown into a worse state now than when this was originally written. In addition, many collectors have noticed that when a company based in a country other than America buys a local quarry, collecting access is typically closed.

Think of mineral collecting as a timeline of possibilities.

At the turn of the 20th century you could go nearly anywhere you wished, however, the buying market for specimens was very small.
During the 40′s and 50′s, collecting was huge – new mines were springing up, collecting on federal lands was not a problem, tons of mines in parks still existed. Underground collecting was just something you did.
As we moved into the 70′s underground collecting was still very popular, many mines were only 20-30 years old, still strong. Over the next few decades, many holes in the ground would be reclaimed and gated.
Now, many famous locations are completely off limits and as we sit by, locations that are less bodacious are sucked away into national park boundaries, converted into bat habitats and we are constantly at the mercy of a government that seeks to protect us from ourselves.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Enjoy what you can today, for tomorrow they may be gone. Celebrate new opportunity and do not wait for them to fall into your lap! There are always new locations to be found!

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Jewelry Making – Tips and Techniques covered in two new books

Over the past two months, I have given several lectures on both coasts of the United States, and during that time, had a chance to investigate two books by the authors.

Brad Smith, one of my early mentors in the Culver City Gem and Mineral Club, published a book called “Bench Tips for Jewelry Making”. One of the things about Brad is for a time he could not make it to many of the meetings as he was busy teaching jewelry making at LAUSD in Santa Monica. I did not know what to expect out of this book, so it was surprising to find out that it is, basically, my favorite kind of book for technical information. Full of short tips covering a wide variety of jewelry making, so much I was inquisitive about, so much that is not just for jewelry makers! Using Alum to remove a broken drill bit might be helpful to jewelry makers, but putting that idea in my head about removing broken bits of metal from non-metallic items, using Alum, was something I did not take home from science class 20 years ago. I’m going to keep it next to my copy of Gem and Mineral Data Book by John Sinkankas, both books, full of great tips!

Bench Tips for Jewelry Making - Available on Amazon.com

Bench Tips for Jewelry Making – Available on Amazon.com

Los Wax Casting - Available on Amazon.com

Los Wax Casting – Available on Amazon.com

While serving as the guest speaker for the Eastern Federation of Mineralogical Societies twice yearly Wild Acres Retreat I had the opportunity to visit with the classes and instructors. During this beautiful mountain retreat, classes in different lapidary and metal working are offered. I took a class on Geology, while others learned soapstone carving, wire wrapping, gem faceting and my roommate was very excited to take a class on Lost Wax Casting. He planned on making a setting for a beautiful gem yellow idaho opal. When I went to check on him, four days later, he confessed, this was not something you could just JUMP into and showed off his much simpler designs, sans opal. That class visit was fun, the instructor, Fred R. Sias Jr. took the time to run me through all the basic steps of casting in a couple minutes. Looking at the projects the class was working on, I can see this is not something you can do repeatedly, well, without some practice and experience. Fred has a book, which I can highly recommend, that speaks about the methods of wax casting, providing an amazing overview for someone who has never been introduced to this ancient art. For those who are already wax casting this might not provide a lot of new content, Ashanti casting might be something you have not been taught, and Fred Sias does a great job of illustrating this primitive technique.

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Field Trip: Midwestern Geode Localities

By: Jeremy Zolan

Difficulty Level: Easy to Medium

Supplies Needed:
Safety Goggles
Insect Repellant
Crack Hammer and Chisel
Paper for Wrapping Specimens
Prybar (Optional)
Pick Axe (Optional)
Wheeler-Rex 590 Soil Pipe Cutter (Optional)

Search for Minerals from Iowa


View a map of the locations of these geodes by visiting MinDat.org’s copy of this map
Click Here to Load Map
Geodes in the Warsaw formation of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois. Each ‘x’ is a geode location. Originally from Arthur E. Smith (1997): Geodes from the Warsaw Formation of Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois, Rocks & Minerals, 72:6, 420-423. Updated and colorized by William W. Besse.

Many sites in the tri-state area of southeast Iowa, northeast Missouri and western Illinois produce geodes of world class quality. In fact, nowhere else in the world is richer in geodes than this strange area of the Midwest, where the Mississippian geode bearing Warsaw limestone formation is exposed near the surface. The geodes can reach 20cm across or larger and are mostly lined with quartz crystals though a variety of minerals like calcite, dolomite, sphalerite, and even millerite have been found in geodes. Geodes can be found wherever the Warsaw formation can be found outcropping. They can also be dug from riverbanks. Many fee dig sites for geodes are found in the areas of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois rich in geodes.


A pipe cutter, specifically the model above (Wheeler-Rex 590 Soil Pipe Cutter) is great for opening geodes. Simply score the geode around the perimeter lightly with a hammer and chisel, clamp the cutter around the perimeter of the geode, and then carefully apply pressure until the geode splits. It is most desirable to split geodes into two equal sized hemispheres.

Large quartz geode from Keokuk area- 20 cm diameter. Collected by David Wixom. K. Nash specimen and photo.

Typical geode and associated minerals (calcite and dolomite) from Keokuk, Iowa area. 4cm x 4cm. Rolf Lutcke specimen and photo. Ex. Paul Griswold


Sheffler Rock Shop and Geode Mine:
RR1 Box 171
Alexandria, MO 63430
At junction of Highway 61 and 27, 6mi S of Alexandria

Tim Sheffler
(660) 754 – 1134
$25 per day for 50 lbs of material. 75 cents for each additional pound

Calcite and quartz geode from the Sheffler Geode Mine. A good specimen for the locality. 10 cm wide. Roger Sedgwick specimen and photo. Collected by owner.

Geodes are very abundant at this locality, hence the high limit for material. They are typically filled with quartz crystals but some other interesting mineralization can be observed. Dolomite, calcite, and pyrite are common accessories. It is best to use a prybar to free the geodes from the limestone matrix and open them at home or wherever they can be carefully cleaned, opened, and sorted.

Des Moines River, Iowa and Missouri

Geodes can be found abundantly in the outcrops on the shores of the Des Moines river. Bring a shovel to loosen geodes from the muddy banks and wash them in the river so the surface features can be seen. Some rocks at these riverbank localities may be deceiving and look like geodes but are just cobbles that have been well-rounded by erosion. These geodes can be filled with a wide variety of minerals and be of extremely varying but most will only contain quartz and typically at most one other species such as calcite or dolomite.

Jacobs’ Geode Shop and Mine:
823 East County Rd 1220
Hamilton, IL 62341
(217) 847-3509

Caption: Collector with large pile of geodes in Jacobs’ Geode Mine workings. E. Harrington photo.

Call before visiting. It is best to dig while the owners are around so they can show you the best technique to use at this site. It’s a good idea to call in advance to make sure they will be at the mine. The all day fee is reported to be $20. Apparently the owners only allow visitors to crack certain geodes on site so most of the prep work should be done at home. Reported to produce very nice material

7cm geode with 3.5cm calcite crystal. E. Harrington specimen and photo.

Modified by CombineZP
Marcasite crystal in geode. FOV 4.5mm. Collected and photographed by David Hanson.

Dennis Stevenson Geodes:
625 S. 18th St., Hamilton, Illinois
Call ahead to plan a trip: 309-337-3089 or 217-847-2952
$20 for one bucket, $15 for each additional one.

Mostly quartz based geodes, but some have nice calcite crystals as well. A staple Midwestern geode locality.

Find out what minerals Iowa is and has produced, check out what is new on eBay

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Collecting Copper in Michigan’s Copper Country

Field Trip: Copper Country Collecting in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula

By Jeremy Zolan

Difficulty Level: Easy to Moderate

Supplies Needed:
Safety Goggles
Insect Repellant
Crack Hammer
Wrapping Paper for Specimens
Sledgehammer (optional)
Prybar (optional)
Metal Detector (optional)


The Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan has been nationally famous for over 100 years for its history of highly productive copper mining. The local basalt is criss-crossed with many thick veins of native copper that made up the main ore of many of the mines. Solid natural masses of copper weighing hundreds of pounds were found with relative frequency at the mines. Though these pieces certainly were the most valuable ore, the best specimens from the area are clusters of well formed copper crystals. Other metallic minerals can be found with the native copper such as silver, domeykite, mohawkite, and chalcocite. Many other interesting minerals like datolite, analcime, prehnite, agate, and thomsonite are also abundant in the Keweenaw Peninsula. While all the mines of the region are closed to copper production, many are maintained as museums and fee dig sites. There are also many abandoned mines in the area that can provide good digging in the dumps but be sure to acquire permission from landowners before visiting any location on private land.


Central Mine:
US 41
Central, MI 49950

Photo by Dave Maietta


The large tailings piles of the Central Mine are visible from US 41 in Central, Michigan. Many collectors have had good luck recently working this location. Occasionally, contractors remove large quantities of tailings for construction purposes and this exposes fresh material. In addition to the standard copper specimens, copper included calcite and prehnite can be found here. Silver has also been found with copper here but it is rare. A metal detector is very helpful for sorting trough dump piles like those found at the Central Mine.

Caption: Calcite with copper inclusions. Central Mine, Central, MI 4.9 cm x 4.6 cm x 4 cm Ex. Rukin Jelks Rob Lavinsky Photo

Caption: Unusually large copper crystal. Central Mine, Central, MI. George Vaux collection at Bryn Mawr College. Scale bar is 1” long with rule at 1cm. Rock Currier Photo.central_mine_copper

Caledonia Mine:
Website: http://www.caledoniamine.com/
202 Ontonagon St,
Michigan 49953

The Caledonia Mine is a fee dig site that requires an advance reservation. When digging at this site, collectors are given a large pile of stockpiled copper ore and tools to go through it. Weekly collecting events on Thursdays and Saturdays are also held from the first Thursday in June to the last Saturday in August on the ore pile. Advance reservations are needed for these too. The workings of the Caledonia Mine are impressively preserved and tours are offered too. The mine tours aren’t necessarily just geared for casual guests. Many kinds of tours are offered, some with a very in depth historical or scientific focus. It is best to check the museum calendar to see if any events are happening during the time of your visit.

Caption: Representative specimen of native copper from the Caledonia Mine’s recent workings. 5.6cm wide. Rob Lavinsky Photo

A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum
Website: http://www.museum.mtu.edu/
Michigan Technological University
1404 E. Sharon Avenue
Houghton, Michigan 49931-1295
E-mail: tjb@mtu.edu
Telephone: (906) 487-2572

Michigan Tech’s A.E. Seaman Mineral museum is among the finest mineralogical museums in the world. Its laboratories are also critical in performing much of the cutting edge mineral research currently being performed. During the period of most intense copper mining in Michigan, many specimens of local minerals were donated to the museum. Their collection of Michigan minerals is the finest in the world and there is a strong local emphasis on their displays.

Check out our custom search and view all the minerals from Michigan for sale on eBay. Not only will you see lots of neat stuff for sale, you’ll also get an idea of what localities are producing in the region.

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Field Trip: Fluorite and Secondary Lead-Zinc Minerals from Marion, Kentucky

Field Trip: Fluorite and Secondary Lead-Zinc Minerals from Marion, Kentucky

Site Description:

The Illinois-Kentucky Fluorspar district is world famous for the enormous quantity of huge, gorgeously crystalline purple and yellow fluorite that originated from the now defunct mines near Cave-In-Rock Illinois. Just take a look at the amazing samples on eBay to get an idea of the current prices and selections. Many collectors do not know that despite the closure of the by far most significant fluorite localities in the region, there are still places in the area to find gorgeous fluorite. While many of these localities are abandoned mines that require deep underground exploration to retrieve specimens, the mines in Marion, Kentucky have specimen rich dumps that are easily worked by hand from the surface. While aesthetic material is plentiful, many of the workings are quite muddy and messy to dig in. It is important to keep in mind that while many gorgeous specimens can be had with minimal digging, specimens of similar quality to those seen in the nearby Ben E. Clement Museum, which features local minerals, are hard to find.

Perhaps the best central location to access all the mines in the region from is the Ben E. Clement mineral museum (http://www.clementmineralmuseum.org/). In the museum, they have many of the finest American fluorite specimens on display. Many are from the collection of the museum’s namesake- a giant in the local fluorite mining industry. It is amazing to see the near infinite color variation that fluorite possesses, especially the great diversity within the region. The museum has scheduled digs for fluorite and other kinds of minerals beginning late April through October. In addition to daytime digs, night digs for fluorescent specimens are held too. The museum can also arrange custom digs. Regardless, pre-registration is required.

Difficulty Level: Moderate

Supplies Needed:
Safety Goggles
Insect Repellant
Hand Lens
Crack Hammer
Wrapping Paper for Specimens
Sledgehammer (optional)
UV Light (optional)

The Ben E. Clement Mineral Museum
205 N Walker St., Marion, KY 42064


The following is a list and brief description of common minerals found at the Marion area mines.

Calcite: A common gangue mineral. Rarely forms crystals good enough to keep. Often fluoresces red.

Cerussite: Very nice cerussite crystals come from the Marion mines and they are often overlooked. Forms colorless to smoky gray highly lustrous crystals associated with galena and hemimorphite. They either occur singly or are twinned and reach about 1cm in size. Crystals have diverse habits.


Image: http://www.mindat.org/photo-207070.html Caption: Cerussite- Hickory Cane Mine, Marion, KY 17x13mm Steve Bonney Specimen and Photo

Fluorite: The most sought after mineral at the Marion mines. Found in sharp purple cubic crystals with a maximum diameter of about 3cm. Very easy to identify- the only purple colored mineral at any of the local mines. Found as micro to large cabinet sized specimens. The Marion area is world famous for fluorite.


Image: http://www.mindat.org/photo-76574.html Caption: Fluorite- Eureka Mine, Marion, KY Crystals to 7.5mm Peter Cristofono Specimen and Photo

Galena: Small cubes of galena to around 1.5cm can be found. Often they are weathered.


Image: http://www.mindat.org/photo-226066.html Caption: Columbia Mine, Marion KY 6x7cm Steve Bonney specimen and photo.

Greenockite: Rare naturally occurring cadmium sulfide that occurs as ochre colored powder with sulfide minerals, especially weathered sphalerite. Sometimes colors smithsonite yellow.

Hemimorphite: Hemimorphite forms druses of colorless to yellowish crystals in vugs and on weathering zinc minerals. Can cover areas to several cm with glittering crystals. Common, but often overlooked.


Image: http://www.mindat.org/photo-172178.html Caption: Hickory Cane Mine, Marion, KY 1.7cm FOV Steve Bonney specimen and photo.

Hydrozincite: Powdery white secondary zinc mineral. Fluoresces blue under SW UV light.

Quartz: Typically occurs as small drusy or isolated crystals to 4mm. Some are smoky.

Smithsonite: Ususally forms thick, liberal coatings of colorless to tannish botryoidal material. Some specimens are crystalline and some are yellow colored due to the presence of greenockite inclusions. Cabinet specimens are known.


Photo: http://www.mindat.org/photo-305765.html Caption: Marion, KY 7.5 x 6.5 x 5.8cm Rob Lavinsky photo

Sphalerite: Small aesthetic crystals of sphalerite to about 3mm are abundant. They are typically very lustrous and orange-brown in color.

By Jeremy Zolan

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