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What's New and Cool at the Denver Gem and Mineral Show
Preparations at the Merchandise Mart

Thursday 9-17 was my first day to visit the Denver Gem and Mineral Show at the Denver Merchandise Mart, located at 451 E. 58th Avenue. Today was set-up day for the approximately 135 dealers and 100 exhibitors, prior to the public opening of this show tomorrow. I accompanied John Veevaert as he scoped out the dealers' inventories and scored numerous wholesale buys on specimens for the Virtual Denver Show. Here's an early on view of the main arena for minerals, which was soon filled with dealers setting up their booths. This spacious arena is surrounded by numerous halls and rooms which create the effect of a huge catacomb of mineral and lapidary dealers.

Running down the length of this arena in the center isle are many display cases which will harbor competitive and educational displays. There are two other large areans like this at the Merchandise Mart, one hosting the 1st Annual Colorado Fossil Exposition, and yet another filled with gemstone and jewelry dealers showing at the wholesale only International Gem and Jewelry Show, Inc.

The Denver Gem and Mineral Show is hosted by the Greater Denver Area Gem & Mineral Council, a non-profit umbrella organization with participation by 10 area clubs: the Colorado Mineral Society, the Denver Gem & Mineral Guild, the Flatirons Gem & Mineral Club, the Colorado Chapter of the Friends of Mineralogy, the Gates Rock & Mineral Club, the Littleton Gem & Mineral Society, the Mile-High Rock & Mineral Society, the North Jeffco Gem & Mineral Club, the Rocky Mountain Bead Society, and the Western Interior Paleontological Society. These clubs and societies collectively represent about 1400 members, and countless hours are volunteered by dedicated show committee members to plan, organize and host this show. Special acknowledgement for this year's show is due rockhounds Carol Smith - Show Chairperson, Ron Snelling - Facilities Coordinator, and Regina Aumente - Publicity.

Virtually all of the show proceeds are used for donations to museums, schools, magazines, and other earth-science related educational projects. The Council donates as much as $20,000 annually to local institutions, Rocks & Minerals magazine, and was instrumental in providing support for publication of Minerals of Colorado and Antero Aquamarines.

A Pair of Pentagonal Barions

Here's a couple of rather spectacular pentagonal barion cut gemstones which were shown to me by Lance Kanaby of Mine Design. Above left is a very showy blue topaz which measures 24.6 x 24.6 x 16.8 mm and weighs in at just over 67 carats. This stone is on the cover of Lapidary Journal's Colored Stone Fall 1998 Show Guide. I think this stone is a great example of simpler can be better as it is a basic barion design with only 47 facets, but has a real 'presence'. I asked Lance what he wanted for it but he did not seem inclined to part with this jewel. He told me it has appeared in 17 or so magazines to date.

Life is strange. When I first met Lance 5 years ago or so, I only half-teasingly accused him and his ilk of being rock butchers. Now I'm a mineral murderer myself...

Above right is another of Lances's stones, also a barion pentagon, this one cut from Bolivian ametrine. It is even larger than the topaz and weighs in at 91.93 carats. This ametrine was gorgeous too, and for sale at just $16 per carat. Gemstones are extremely difficult subjects to photograph even under studio conditions, and I'm sorry but these 'shoot 'em where they lay' golfing frame grabs don't even begin to do Lance's stones justice. But I don't feel too bad about that, because neither do the pictures in Lapidary Journal's stuff...

Lance is a custom cutter and gemstone dealer who is a real road warrior and attends numerous shows throughout the United States every year. I didn't want to bother him too much as he still had case upon case of gemstones to set up. Lance is also a dealer for SoLux display lighting, which produces a very white light compared to other halogens and is ideal for illuminating color critical subjects such as gemstones and mineral specimens.

I am continually amazed at how many dealers display high-end, four and five figure rocks practically in the dark or under cheapie, yellow household incandescent light bulbs in student desk lamp fixtures. Doesn't do much for their sales and it makes it very difficult to impossible for me to photograph them... ;) Just one sale for many of these dealers would more than pay for a really first class SoLux setup. Hey guys - time for you wake up and see the light!

Shown by Mine Design - The Spectrum Network

Dead Rocks

They say you get what you pay for and I think that's generally true with rocks as it is with most other things. However, whenever I run across bargain basement rocks I just can't resist taking a gander, ever hoping to find that gem benitoite or red beryl hiding out among the kiddie rocks. This dealer had a large layout of really cheap rocks and I spent some minutes scanning them. So what's cheap? How's flats full of 3 for $1 rocks? With boxes and labels no less. Last time I checked, driveway gravel was going for more than that... Hmmm, how about a driveway full of quartz cyrstals, calcite, aragonite, pyrite, garnet, halite, crinoid stems, bornite, fluorite, fossil shells, chalcedony, onyx, et al strike you?

David Crawford had more pricey bargain rocks too. Next level up was $1 each or 6 for $5.00. Then there were flats and flats of rocks most of which were well under $10. I didn't find any benitoites or red beryls among them, but I did find several I couldn't resist. Guess the merchandising strategy worked, huh?

I acquired these two for recreational rock murdering (faceting into gemstones). The 1.0 x 3.0 cm chunk of kunzite above left is from Gilgit, Pakistan. It set me back all of $3.50. Even if I decide to let it live, it's still worth keeping around unimproved to demonstrate orienting for color. It's rather pale until oriented so you're looking down the c-axis, and then the pink really screams. I hear spodumene can present some significant challenges to the faceter, and this one might die in practice so that another of its kind gets to glory.

The 3.0 x 7.0 cm Madagascar smoky quartz above right is too dinged up to want as a specimen crystal, but except for one unproblematic veil that can be readily oriented out, it is clean clear through inside. This one is definitely going onto death row when I get it back to Tucson, and it will be reincarnated into a large and fine smoky gemstone. I perhaps overpaid a buck or two at $6.50 for this one, but I could have easily spent half a day or more trying to find a $4.00 one as good.

Crawford Minerals also had more expensive specimen grade rocks on their back tables and cases, and John Veevaert cherry picked a specimen or two from there for the Virtual Show while I was nosing around the cheap stuff in front. I'm just a kid at heart, I guess. BTW, when he thought I wasn't watching, I caught John scanning the kiddie rocks looking for benitoites and red beryls too... ;)

Shown by Crawford Fine Mineral Specimens - 1308 Halsted Rd., Rockford, Illinois, 61103

Macroconchs and Microconchs

A number of display cases for educational and competitive displays were under construction and Steven Jorgensen caught my attention as he was making fine adjustments to the positioning of labels in his case of Didymoceras fossils. He was obviously taking great care to get everything just so. Didymoceras is a genus of Ammonoidea found in the Pierre Shale of the Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming. They date back 77 to 74 million years ago and are employed as marker fossils in determining the age of geologic strata.

After talking to Steven for a few moments it became apparent that he is an authority on these critters and I learned that all of the specimens in the case had been self-collected by him through collecting activities spanning the last two decades. In fact, he pointed out one specimen that he said was a 'Christmas present', having been collected in Fall River County, South Dakota on Christmas Eve in 1975. Now that is what I call hard core rockhounding...

Steven said he had been waiting for years to display this case at this particular show, as this year's theme for the Denver Show is fossils. A competitive case with just three specimens he entered in the 1992 Denver Show took both Best Fossil and Best Field Collected Fossil. This year he was entering his case as an educational display.

In the course of conversing with Steven I learned some interesting tidbits regarding this ancient animal. The females of the species are macroconchs and are substantially larger than the males, which are microconchs. They occurred with both left and right hand shell spirals, equally distributed across both sexes. The above right picture illustrates two individuals with opposite shell spirals. When I asked how long it had taken on the average to find, recover and prepare a specimen, he replied he really had no idea. He related finding them was often a matter involving sustained patience and returning to the same outcrop over a period of years as it was worn away by erosional processes. Steven placed the market value on these specimens as somewhere around $2500 to $3000.

Shown by Steven D. Jorgensen, Professional Certified Geologist - 6434 Ponderosa Circle, Omaha, Nebraska 68137 Phone: (402) 895-6932

New Find! Canadian Garnets

While visiting with Helen Tyson of Tyson's Fine Minerals I inquired if she had any new material and she directed my attention to several exquisite gemmy pink grossulars on green diopside which were from a small find around late July at the Jeffrey Mine in Asbestos, Quebec, Canada. Only a dozen or so specimens were recovered, so these are very rare and will be highly prized by any garnet collector. The one shown in the two views below measures about 2.7 cm x 1.5 cm.

I thought these were very aesthetic due to the contrast in both color and shape between the garnet and diopside crystals. John Veevaert agreed and snapped up three of them on the spot. John later remarked to me that he was really kicking himself in the butt for not taking them all. Apparently he went back the next morning to buy the balance but the rest were already history. John's already sold one of his trio, and another's reserved.

These grossulars serve to punctuate a usually hard learned lesson about acquiring rocks at shows that more times than not has to be repeated a couple of times before it sinks in. If you see a specimen that is fine and of limited supply, want it, and can afford the price, it is often a mistake to walk away to 'think about it'. There's a very good chance that when you return, someone else who thinks faster than you will be the new owner of 'your' rock.

Shown by Tysons Fine Minerals, Inc. - Tysons Fine Minerals

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