The noon sun hung in the sky with a dull yet irritating heat. It was early Spring, and I was traveling to a place nobody had any reason to be, an empty valley in Central Utah. I grabbed the canteen swaying from my hip, took a hearty swig, and wiped the small beads of sweat slowly forming on my brow. The dry earth crunched with each trod of my heel, one after another like a rhythmic drum, each thud forming a slow monotonous beat.
I took in my surroundings. At surface level there was not much to see, canyon walls and plateaus, little wildlife, and less trees. What little vegetation was found here often amounted to sagebrush. It peppered the dirt in various shades of chartreuse, flowing lightly with the siblant hissing of the wind. I was two miles south of Marysvale, Utah, a small town with less than five hundred residents. On this particular expedition, I was alone.
The area I was headed to was the now abandoned Elbow Ranch. On my shoulders slung a backpack stuffed lightly with supplies: a fold up shovel, a pair of gloves, a chisel, a spray bottle of water, a rag, the morning newspaper, a loupe, and a geologists hammer. I also made sure to leave some empty space for any of the various specimens I hoped to collect.
I’d spent the earlier half of the day in the Durkee Creek area. Durkee Creek was much easier to reach than the hike to Dry Canyon had to offer. Most Rockhounds with already impressive collections probably wouldn’t have bothered spending the time there. The red-brown earth of Durkee Creek offered an abundance of zeolite, but they were often small specimens that didn’t equivocate to the effort involved.
It wasn’t until one o’clock that I found an area that had seemingly been untouched. I unfolded the shovel, wedged it between the cracked earth, and began digging. With each downward stroke I hope for the sound of metal scraping rock. It was four feet down where I found it: mordenite, an orangeish pink rock like rusted iron. With my chisel and rock hammer I chipped at the rock, a tedious process requiring delicate precision. When I’ve made enough of the outline I wedge the pick in and remove the specimen like a loose brick.
A quick spray from the bottle and a wipe of the rag gave the rock a quick polish. The mordenite was about half a centimeter thick, forming a crust for the interior of crystalized white quartz. I held it over head where the light could reach, twisting it in hand, watching it blink and shimmer in the afternoon sun. I recall thinking a familiar thought, an image of this same area long ago. A memory strung together from vague recollections of scientific studies and my own personal imagination. It was a hostile world, fiery and volcanic, but one small pocket of that world had been preserved. A fracture of time lying dormat, imprisoned and pressurized for thousands of years, found by me after a series of seemingly coincidental happenstances.
I tore a page from the classified section of the day’s paper and wrapped the mordenite with care, then I climbed my way out of the hole. The sun stood due west, glaring. My wrist watch read 4:00 pm. In Marysvale Utah many of the residents are returning from work, preparing for dinner and the days end. I grab the canteen, and wipe my brow. Then I gather my gear and continue on. I’ve yet to try my luck at the Blackbird Mine.
by Various Authors
The Must Have, if nothing else than to have an IDEA about the collecting spots in your state, the gem trails books are a wealth of information at a low price. The perfect beginner guides that are refrenced by serious field collectors! Click on the book covers to view them on Amazon, or search the eBay link below.
How to prepare your 4×4 for rock collecting.
Rock collecting may be a popular, family oriented activity, but how often do you think of the safety of your family first when you go off the beaten track to hunt for that one, perfect example of a billion-year-old rock? How often have you heard of people being stranded without food and water for days, just because the driver did not check his vehicle before leaving home? Don’t let this happen to you and yours! Simply follow the few easy-to-follow tips listed here to reduce the possibility of vehicle breakdowns when you could be hundreds of miles away from the nearest repair shop.
Check radiator hoses.
This might appear to be self evident, but according to the AAA, engine overheating is the leading cause of vehicle breakdowns in America. Radiator hoses must be firm to the touch, and free of oil, and even oil residue. Oil degrades the rubber of radiator hoses, which makes it imperative that oil contaminated hoses be replaced before your next trip.
Check all V-, and other drive belts.
You may think your belts are OK, but the most damage occurs when the pieces of a broken drive belt work themselves in under the other drive belts. This can cause all your belts to jump their pulleys, and because of their high rotational speed, the flying pieces can destroy the radiator, the battery, the radiator fan, and critically important wiring. When in doubt, don’t procrastinate, replace all the belts, and observe the proper tensions on all.
Check the charge rate.
The proper rate of charge on 12 V vehicles is 14.2 – 14.6 Volt. Anything above or below this value is indicative of a faulty alternator, or maybe worse, damage to wiring in places where you cannot repair it in the wilderness, so fix it now, while you can.
Check battery condition.
Don’t just look at the outside, and maybe clean off acid accumulations. A battery needs to be able to deliver specific currents at certain times, such as during starting. Have an authorized battery dealer perform a draw test, to determine the ability of the battery to deliver sufficient starting current. Also, compare the specific gravity of the electrolyte in each cell against the specs for your battery. Differences of one or two percent are normal, but differences or deviations that approach 5% are not, and you should replace the battery.
Check the suspension.
Check the suspension and steering systems for excessive free play between related components such as ball joints, tie rod ends, steering dampers, draglinks and control arms. You may think that since the tie rod ends have been a little loose for the last two years, they are OK because they have not pulled from their sockets yet, but off-road driving places extreme loads on a vehicle, and the last thing you want to happen is to lose your steering while going down a steep, rocky hillside. Think of your family, and replace all worn components before you leave home.
Check the brake system.
Check the entire system for signs of leaks, and do NOT forget to check the slave cylinders inside the brake drums. These cylinders can lose up to 60% of their effectiveness before they even start to show signs of leaking, which means you could be driving around with less than 50% of your braking capacity. Moreover, if you had been topping the brake fluid reservoir regularly, but cannot see a leak, remove the master cylinder from the brake booster to check if the brake fluid is not leaking into the booster. If this is the case, replace the entire master cylinder because you can never be sure the rubber seal kits available today will not fail you when you need them most; such as when you are going down a steep, very narrow mountain pass, with a 1000-foot drop off, and no safety barrier.
Better safe than sorry.
Performing basic vehicle maintenance procedures before heading into the wilderness is not a hassle: it is a vital precaution against being marooned hundreds of miles from the nearest repair facilities. It is also great way to prevent potentially fatal accidents caused by parts that failed because they should have been replaced months ago, but was not. Think of the safety of your family, if not your own, get your vehicle into great shape, and enjoy the rock hunting, which is what you go into the wilderness for, right? Only make sure that by taking care of your vehicle, you can safely make it out again!
Top 10 International Mineral Shows
By Jeremy Zolan
The newest finds and choicest mineral specimens are always the hottest items at the world’s biggest mineral shows. The most popular mineral shows are those that allow both businesses and the public the best and most exclusive specimens at the most competitive prices. Displays and activities also make shows notable. Many museums take the privilege to display extraordinary specimens rarely seen by others aside from the curators if they fit with the theme of the show, which many but not all shows have. Here is a selection of ten shows that currently attract the most notable attention, of course, as with all things in this world, in a few years, some of these shows might have ceased to be and new events will rise up.
#1 Tucson Mineral and Gem Shows- Tucson, Arizona, USA
One of the largest shows in the world, The Tucson Mineral and Gem Shows are held for about a month, starting in late January and running until mid-February. The environment is exciting and busy, perhaps overwhelming for some. At the main show at the end of the events, Vendors are typically larger, more established dealers selling mostly mineral specimens, but a few sell fossils or lapidary material as well. The displays at the show are very well known for highlighting extremely fine specimens with exciting themes. 2014’s main show theme was Diamonds and Gold. One of the greatest mineral show displays in history was featured at the 2008 Tucson Mineral and Gem show- the American Mineral Treasures exhibit. This show united many of the US’ finest native specimens in the same display cases.
Here is an ad for ONE of the shows, the Tucson Gem and Rock Crystal Show!
#2 Denver Gem and Mineral Show- Denver, Colorado, USA
The majority of the largest and most popular mineral shows in the US are held in the Southwest. The Denver Gem and Mineral Show certainly fits that category. This show is very similar to the TGMS show and is also themed. The 2014 show’s theme was be agate. It generally attracts a very similar crowd of dealers as well. The displays are especially famous- many of the world’s famous mineral museums and greatest private collectors put in mouth watering specimens.
The-Vug tours the Denver Mineral Show
Official site: http://www.denvermineralshow.com/
#3 Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines show, France
Outdoor mineral shows are always a great time, especially if they are held in an ancient mining town like the Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines Show! The gorgeous scenery and rich history of the French countryside setting make this perhaps the world’s most scenic major mineral show. It is one of the premier mineral events in Europe as well and has thousands of visitors. Last year was the 50th anniversary of the show. Check out this show from Thursday through the last weekend in June if you’d like to attend a superb European event!
Official site: http://www.sainte-marie-mineral.com/an_index.php
#4 Munich Mineraltage – Munich, Germany
This show takes place right around Halloween, late October, first days of November, typically. The show is located in three huge halls, which are formerly airplane hangers! The whole Trade Fair Center is the old Munich airport, converted into a giant convention center. The show has over 1,000 dealers from all over the world, separated into areas for mineral dealers, lapidary, fossils, crystal healing, and all sorts of other fun niches. Each year the show has a theme and the exhibits are never short of amazing. The show is run by the Keilmann family and you can see them breezing by on their scooters from hall to hall, ensuring that the show runs like clockwork.
Official site: https://munichshow.com/en/
#5 Tokyo International Mineral Fair- Tokyo, Japan
First held in 1988, the Tokyo International Mineral Fair is the largest and oldest mineral show in Asia. This show is focused on compact and high end booths geared towards a retail rather than wholesale audience. Rare and systematic mineral dealers are fairly numerous at the show due to the higher than average national interest in systematic mineral collecting. This is a good show to go to for those who are looking for unusual or specialized material. Japan also has many mineral localities that have produced wonderful specimens that are rarely if ever seen in the west. This is a great event to look at or purchase unique local Japanese material. The next show is being held on December 6th through 9th in 2014.
Official Website: http://www.tokyomineralshow.com/english/
#6 Rockhound Gemboree- Bancroft, Ontario, Canada
Every summer during the first weekend in August, Canada’s largest show is held in the nation’s heartland of mineral collecting. Bancroft is widely referred to as “Canada’s Mineral Capital” for having an abundance of abandoned mines and other mineral collecting localities open to the general public. This mineral show usually has an excellent selection of local material and esoteric specimens. It often attracts smaller dealers as well as major Canadian dealers. Swapping specimens is also encouraged at this show. Visitors looking for a fun outing in nature should consider mineral collecting in the region. Ask local museums or dealers what their recommendations are based on your experience. Many different kinds of minerals can be found like apatite, sodalite, rose quartz, and fluorescents.
Official site: http://rockhoundgemboree.ca/
#7 Quartzsite Gem and Mineral Shows- Quartzsite, Arizona, USA
This event has been an agate licker’s paradise for nearly 50 years. This unique series of mineral shows is held outside and dealers often sell specimens out of their RVs. Quartzsite offers a total of nine show locations with events being held from mid January to late February. These events are great for bartering or swapping of all kinds so bring plenty of trading material if you plan on going! While you are in Arizona for this event, you also may want to check out the many world famous mineral and gem shows in Tucson which happen at the same time.
#8 NY/NJ Mineral Fossil, Gem, and Jewelry Show- Edison, New Jersey, USA
The NY/NJ is the newest out of all the shows in this list but is a true up-and-comer. It is held yearly in Edison, NJ during mid-April and over 300 dealers attend making it the largest current mineral show held in the NYC metro area. There is something for everyone at this show and dealers selling material ranging from very inexpensive to the finest quality are present. Many dealers also have a small selection of locally dugs specimens too. Though the focus is mostly on minerals and fossils, jewelry and lapidary materials are sold in abundance too. The displays at this new show have big hits. They have featured wonderful classic East Coast specimens that have both been dug recently or are of historic importance.
Official Website: http://www.ny-nj-gemshow.com/
#9 Houston Fine Mineral Show- Houston, Texas, USA
The Houston Fine Mineral Show is one of the few major mineral shows that is free to the public to attend. Texas is home to many of the US’ finest recently assembled collections and their collectors, which means the displays at this event are typically some of the best that can be imagined. Dealers at this show typically specialize in fine minerals, meaning their specimens are of very high quality but are often quite expensive. Many of the world’s most advanced collectors visit this show and it serves as an important place for them to meet as well as purchase specimens.
Official Website: http://www.westwardminerals.com/finemineralshow/pages/houston.html
#10 Changsha Mineral and Gem Show – Changsha, Hunan Province, China
China has been cranking out plenty of new specimens over the past two decades so it should not be surprising that mineral collecting is getting extremely popular in this country. This is a new phenomenon; mineral specimen collecting culture is fairly new to China in comparison to other nations. Hunan province, where Changsha is located is home to many mineral specimen producing mines that are currently being worked. This mineral show is very large and growing quickly. It attracts international dealers and may soon become the largest mineral show in Asia. The 2014 show is being held May 15th through 20th.
Official site: http://www.changsha-show.com/html/en_index/
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!
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.
By: Jeremy Zolan
Difficulty Level: Easy to Medium
Crack Hammer and Chisel
Paper for Wrapping Specimens
Pick Axe (Optional)
Wheeler-Rex 590 Soil Pipe Cutter (Optional)
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
(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
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.
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.