Cascade Canyon Ruby Crystals – A Los Angeles Hidden Gem

Ruby crystals found near los angeles glow bright red under long wave UV light.

Cascade Canyon, located exactly 1.7 miles southwest of Mt. Baldy, is the home to many interesting, if small, minerals and veins of interesting polishable minerals. Collecting around the top and bottom of the canyon, we have found various qualities and sizes of corundum var. ruby along with small veins of beautiful, if hard to come by, pieces of lapis. In addition, we have found minerals that the area is not well known for, including small dravite crystals, epidote, diopside and uv reactive calcite.

1.7 miles from Mt. Baldy, on the south side of cascade canyon, ruby crystals are found.

The lapis deposit is near the top of the mountain, with no access that would be considered even reasonably obtainable by anyone who is not well versed in mountain climbing. In addition, the area of the deposit was covered in an avalanche years ago. Anyone attempting to reach this deposit would be doing so at risk of life itself. In the upper streams of cascade canyon, before it turns into what would be impassible for most, bits and pieces of lapis can be found. Most people we have interviewed who have collected there in the past are happy with one visit to the location.

On Barrett-Stoddard Road, though closed to vehicle traffic, you can find interesting mineralization along the roadside, which is now a popular hiking/biking trail. Calcite veins with Diopside crystals have been located, however, the diopside is not crystallized well, with a melted appearance. The corundum locations along the roadside give the viewer a understanding that the deposit of “ruby” stretches along the entire mountainside.

Along the bottom of the canyon, on the south side of cascade canyon, along the area where the mountain follows the river on the lip of the eastern mountainside. While boulders of ruby bearing matrix can be found EVERYWHERE along the mountainside, the most popular collecting location is a small canyon that dumped out the contents of several rockslides into the valley below, creating a field rich with broken chunks of rocks with small ruby crystals inside.

Ruby crystals found near los angeles glow bright red under long wave UV light.

We were delighted to read Natalie Weisiger’s article about her trip to Cascade Canyon with the Gem and Mineral Council of the Los Angeles Natural History Museum. You can read about it, right here at It is very interesting to read about the California ruby coming from the ground and into a piece of jewelry. You can certainly believe that is one unique piece of jewelry!

Natalie Weisiger in front of the landslide pile of ruby bearing rocks on the south side of Cascade Canyon

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This “Living Rock” is as CRAZY as a talking mammal on two legs!

The Ancestors of Us All

By Jeremy Zolan

If you’re friends with scientists, nature lovers, or enthusiasts of everything strange, you may have seen the article Crazy living rock is one of the weirdest creatures we’ve ever seen by Grist making rounds on social media lately. Prominently featured at the top of the article is a picture of said creature, which is actually an ascidian called Pyura chilensis- piure if you speak Spanish, a member of a subphylum called the tunicates. Diverse in color and morphology, these primitive inhabitants of oceans worldwide aren’t part rock, but actually are very close relatives of vertebrates due to their peculiar nervous system. Although they are technically invertebtrates because they have no bones or cartilage, they possess a very primitive spinal cord called a notochord that renders them closer relatives to fish. In the larval stage, most tunicates look like microscopic fish or tadpoles and freely swim until they find substrate to attach themselves. When they do, they change shape into a sessile form with siphons similar to those of clams to feed on plankton in the water column. The tail of the larval tunicate shrinks, the notochord dissolves, and the body becomes enlarged. Some species such as the piure live in colonies of many individuals and some are invasive and have outcompeted native benthic fauna, especially those found in the Mid-Atlantic and New England region.


Typical cluster of Pyura clustered together, creating a meaty looking rock.

Pyura Chilensis being served as food

Pyura Chilensis being served as food

Equally as peculiar is the mysteriously high concentration of vanadium found in the tunicates. Vanadium is an unusual but not uncommon metal that exists in many brightly colored oxidation states. Usually, vanadium as the vanadyl cation (vanadium in its 4+ oxidation state double bonded to oxygen) is only necessary as a minor trace element in biology. Tunicates however have up to ten million times the amount of vanadium in their bodies that other living things do. They use it in the form of a vanabin- a vanadyl-protein complex possibly employed for oxygen transport. This is somewhat of a mystery; there is no scientific basis for this because tunicates another oxygen binding metalloprotein as well- hemocyanin, a blue copper containing complex found in many kinds of marine life. It is thought that this molecule could handle all of a tunicate’s needs for oxygen transport. Much research is being done in this field so we may know the answer.

Tunicates are also edible and while you may be unappetized by something that looks like the Horta from Star Trek, many Chileans, Japanese, and Koreans call them dinner. In Korea, they are typically eaten raw as hoe (raw seafood) with seasonings like soy sauce and chogochujang, a spicy chili paste. Koreans do use them in soups, stews and other dishes like bibimbap. In Chile, the rocklike piure are eaten raw with lime or in a soup which is a bit like a Chileno bouillabaisse. Tunicates are quite common on the seashore and though they may look extremely terrifying, in this day of farm to table eating and waste-not want-not ethos surrounding food, why get all squeamish over trying a bit of alien looking seafood?


Pyura Chilensis cluster


Michibata H, Uyama T, Ueki T, Kanamori K (2002). Vanadocytes, cells hold the key to resolving the highly selective accumulation and reduction of vanadium in ascidians. Microscopy Research and Technique. Volume 56 Issue 6, Pages 421 – 434

Tatsuya Ueki et al (2003). Vanadium-binding proteins (Vanabins) from a vanadium-rich ascidian
Ascidia sydneiensis samea

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2013 Gilsum Rock and Mineral Show Report

Show Report: 49th Annual Gilsum Rock Swap

by Jeremy Zolan –

The Gilsum Rock Swap- is one of the more popular New England mineral shows and is held in the rural town of Gilsum. New Hampshire. Gilsum is at the heart of an area very rich in pegmatites, many formerly mined for mica and beryl. New Hampshire has many great and diverse mineral localities. It is well known for its pegmatites which are both numerous and mineralized in rare species including several type localities most numerously found at the Palermo No. 1 Mine The miarolytic granites in the White Mountains region have produced many large, well crystallized pocket specimens of smoky quartz, amethyst, microcline, topaz, and rarer minerals such as arfvedsonite and danalite. Low temperature hydrothermal veins in the southwest corner of the state have produced fine fluorite crystals of a deep apple green color, notably from the William Wise mine- Gilsum Rock Swap is an awesome way to celebrate the amazing mineralogy that New Hampshire has to offer.

In addition to being one of the few outdoor mineral shows in the region, a very large percentage of the material offered by vendors attending has been found locally. It’s also a great opportunity to catch up with field collectors and learn about recent finds and new localities. Swapping is encouraged at this show, so people often show up with their own personal finds to show off and trade. There were also two talks by Steve Garza on prospecting for mineral specimens and one by Bill Petronis on how to find Herkimer diamonds. I think it is great that the focus of the presentations is teaching practical skills in finding mineral specimens. The Gilsum Rock Swap is one of my favorite mineral shows and is still going strong after it’s 49th year.

This year’s Gilsum Swap was the first mineral show I attended as a dealer, however I did also take much time to look around and talk to local collectors. I am always amazed at the abundance of fine, local material available for unbeatable prices at this show; proof of that was the stock of Tom Minnich. Tom is an avid field collector and member of the Keene Mineral Club. He has collected many fine specimens throughouth New England, New York, and Nova Scotia.

A nice quartz cluster from Chesterfield Hill, Keene, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire. Specimens from here aren’t well known but quite nice. Some pretty big scepter quartzes have been collected from this near monomineralic vuggy low temperature hydrothermal quartz vein deposit in Clough quartzite. Tom is the guy to go to for these specimens.

Another nice quartz specimen from Diamond Ledge, Stafford, Connecticut. I really loved the aesthetics of this piece.

Tom also had this great large cabinet specimen from the now closed Green’s Farm Garnet Mine in Southbury/Roxbury Connecticut. Here’s a closeup view. This past year the property received a new land owner that does not approve of collecting in the mine. It’s a real loss for Connecticut’s mineral heritage- this used to be THE PLACE for taking people just getting into mineral collecting considering the abundance of well formed garnets at the locality.

There weren’t many new local finds from New Hampshire at the Gilsum Swap but Patrick Bigos from Midnight Minerals ( had large, vibrant yellow fluorescing pieces of fluorescent manganapatite from the Ham and Weeks Quarry in Wakefield, NH. Yellow fluorescing manganapatite is found in many New England pegmatites but these specimens from Ham and Weeks are very large and brightly fluorescent.

A rare chance to get your own seventeen year cicada!

Here’s a specimen of beryl from an odd locality- Cucumber, Maine!! Robert Batic had bits and pieces from several old local collections at the show featuring many interesting locality pieces and some old classics too.

Mr. Batic also had this huge actinolite specimen from the Carlton Talc Mine in Chester, VT. Some big crystals on this one!

Friends from Mindat Linda and Don Kauffman of Lindon Mineralogy had a lot of esoteric New England material. Of particular note was this small well-formed triphylite crystal from the G.E. Smith Quarry in Newport, NH.

Rocko Minerals had quite a few awesome Herkimer diamonds with calcite, dolomite, and pyrite from the Benchmark Quarry. These came from an old and very fine collection of Herkimer material. This locality formerly produced amazing Herk combination specimens but is now totally off limits to collecting. It’s tragic that amazing pieces like this are now just tossed into the rock crusher!

Rocko also had this huge baryte crystal with pyrite from the Niobec Mine in Quebec- this carbonatite hosted niobium mine is famous for giant crystals of baryte. This is a pretty good one.

My former mineralogy and petrology professor Dr. Peter Nielsen of Keene State College showed me this wonderful scepter topaz from the Kandahar Mine in Braldu, Pakistan

Dr. Nielsen knows that I enjoy unusual specimens more than anything else, so he showed me these two great specimens of Heulandite-Ca from the type locality of Torch Hills, Scotland. I’ve never seen specimens from this locality in person! Apparently they were collected within a day’s time from the base of a dam when the water levels were unusually low.

D. Robinson Minerals usually has amazing things from unusual localities. My favorite that he had were his Korean specimens. Here’s a schorl that was collected right outside of Pyongyang before the Korean War.

The Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan have some rich pegmatites that unfortunately don’t produce many specimens. This tiny rubellite with a foitite (not proven but likely) cap show the kind of potential the region has.

Doug also showed me this Yaogangxian piece that featured both twinned bournonite and twinned fluorite crystals!

Wayne Corwin of Toveco is an avid Mindat member and always a familiar attendee of the Gilsum Swap. Wayne mines the Tripp Mine in Alstead, New Hampshire for aquamarine specimens and gem rough. He also encounters specimens of other material such as almandine garnets and schorl at this mine. He showed me some especially large trapezohedral almandines in matrix.

Jim Tovey of Toveco had several specimens of amethyst from Hopkinton, Rhode Island at his booth. This large cabinet specimen was probably the best of them

The 49th Annual Gilsum Rock Swap was yet again a great event! Although it was not as busy as it has been in previous years, it was still a lot of fun. Some pros: strong emphasis on locally sourced material and a great place to talk to other collectors to learn about New England mineralogy and mineral collecting. Quaint, peaceful setting in a small New England town. Cons: There were no booths primarily focused on swapping despite the name. In previous years, the show sponsored collecting trips to local pegmatite mines. Now unfortunately, most if not all the pegmatite mines in the vicinity of Gilsum are technically off limits to mineral collecting. You can buy maps to many of these localities at the show but you can’t actually visit most of them. I’d like to see accessibility to these localities change in the future. Celebrating the local pegmatite mines is the reason why there is a mineral show in Gilsum, after all.

On my way home to Connecticut, my collecting partner Mike, and I found a new locality for titanite crystals at a large construction site near Waterbury, CT. Above you can see many orange brown titanites to 4cm in a coarse grained amphibolite matrix. They were also granules of purple fluorescent scapolite associated with the titanite. I just thought I’d throw this picture into the report because it was such an interesting find!

Here at, we encourage all of our visitors to visit a local rock show! You can be sure, there is one around your area at some point in the year! Check out the BEST Rock and Gem Calendar online on

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Quartz collecting in Peterson mountain

A poster on the Reddit community “r/Rockhounds” posted a Imgur gallery of 60 photos showcasing his trip to Peterson Mountain. We are happy to be able to share the story behind the photos, by user iseriouslydislikeyou, though I’m sure he might like you, fellow rockhound!

Typical abundance of quartz, found loose at Peterson Mountain

This is Peterson mountain off of highway route 395, outside of Reno. I heard about it from a friend a long time ago. It is very rich in quartz throughout the mountain. You can pretty much start digging anywhere and you will find something worth taking home.

View of the valley below from Peterson Mountain

Please note that the very top of this mountain is a commercially mined active claim and you are NOT ALLOWED to mine into the top. I say it so stringently because the man who owns the claim, Yon Johnson, is a complete gentleman who is worried about safety, above all else. There are tempting rock walls at the top to dig in for pockets, but they are his walls because he made them so don’t trespass.
Down the mountain on the CA side, at the state line, is where is claim seems to end so you can dig in. Alternatively, there are rubble/waste piles on the top that enthusiasts can sift through for some fun stuff. It is a mountain and there is quartz everywhere. You can find it, if you only attempt to try.
The conditions are hostile at best. During the day it is wicked high-altitude hot, and at night it is freezing. The best month to go is June near as I can tell from some research and experience. There is NOTHING out there so you need to bring everything you will need. Just remember anything you leave there stays there, and it is a beautiful and precious land, so don’t litter.

You can stay in Reno and make a day trip of the mountain if that is your thing.
A view of the collecting area in Peterson Mountain, California

My understanding is that scepters of this magnitude only occur here in the world which makes it a real treat. The scepter examples in my imgur link are the best I have ever found out of four trips. I have never found a WHOLE one.

Scepter Quartz from Peterson Mountain

There is some killer stuff in their commercial dig from 2006 check it out: Scott Klein of Great Basin Minerals Collecting Report at Peterson Mountain

Dirty Citrine Quartz Crystal

Beautiful Gem Grade Amethyst from Peterson Mountain

Amethyst Crystal from Peterson Mountain

So there are certainly good crystals to be found there. The intersection of 395 and 70 is called Hallelujah Junction. 5-7 miles past the junction on 395 is where you want to hit the dirt. You will see it the path, the is a janky barbed wire fence.

View Peterson Mountain Quartz Collecting in a larger map

The land is BLM land so it is federal property. BLM land is a great, you can even primitive camp on BLM land. Snakes and Scorpions abound; bring gloves, boots, sun hat, and sun screen.

In addition to smoky and white crystals and scepters you can find gem quality amethyst.

Please be respectful of the claims and the land. Four-wheel drive is a must for these rugged dirt roads.
To see the full photo set, visit this photo gallery
To clean up after a long day, or weekend, collecting at the mountain, check out for great deals on local hotels and go take a hot shower!

Here at, our FAVORITE dealer to go to for great professionally collected Peterson Mountain quartz is ScepterGuy, Joe George.
You can find him on eBay by clicking this banner.
Cascade Scepters on eBay

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When the weather is warm, St. Lawrence County is one of our favorite New York Locations for collecting!

Find more about Weather in Potsdam, NY
Click for weather forecast

Thinking about the East Coast quite a bit, our minds are set on the display cases for the NY/NJ mineral show in Edison New Jersey, April 12-14. We found ourselves involved in organizing all of the cases, nearly 50 six foot tall wall cases, filled with great minerals from the NorthEast, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The trees are blooming here in Southern California and it makes me wonder what it is like in St. Lawrence County, one of our favorite collecting regions in the United States. Well, as of the end of March, 2013, it looks like Potsdam is still getting the occasional snow flurry. So, keep an eye out for days of sunshine and take a trip to St. Lawrence County, a real wonderland of minerals. published an issue of their printed magazine on St. Lawrence County and Chester County Pennsylvania, two diversely mineralized areas popular to collectors of the 1800’s. Because of the remoteness of St. Lawrence County, many of the locations for collecting are still available to collecting. Specifically, the deposits on Selleck Road and Power’s Farm, located a short distance from the college town of Potsdam, offer interesting crystals to those who make the trip.

Selleck Road Tremolite Collecting
Tremolite from Selleck Road

map to collect tremolite and uvite at power's farm and selleck road in st. lawrence county, new york

The Tremolite is abundant and easy to collect, you can simply roam the forest floor and find several different styles of crystals. The more uncommon find at this location is the brown dravite tourmaline crystals. Either way, I would enjoy spending another day or three at this location.

Selleck Road Tremolite Collecting

Selleck Road Tremolite Collecting

Selleck Road Tremolite Collecting

To the north a few miles, Power’s Farm is the home to one of the most famous New York locations, the classic black Uvite tourmaline crystals are found.

Collecting at Power's Farm in New York

You can read more about it in the book reprint of Magazine, which is available for purchase at this link, it is very colorful and inexpensive!

You can read that issue, online, hosted by by clicking the magazine cover.

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Hotel rooms in Potsdam are available on, a great town to visit!

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