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What's New and Cool at the Denver Gem and Mineral Show
Conglomerate from the Show

And now the really good news. My camcorder problems turned out to be due to some moisture which had condensed inside it while making the return flight from Denver back home to Tucson. Of course it didn't dry out until after I'd had it out of the zip-loc for a day or so and spent a significant amount of time, nervous energy and $18.99 procuring a cleaning cartridge that's still in the wrapper... But my baby's back and I'm continuing with more frame grabs and show report. BTW, I'm going to continue to transport and store my camera equipment in zip-loc baggies, but now they're going to include those desiccating packets...

Small Packages

The displays of thumbnails and miniatures in the exhibition cases at the 1998 Denver Gem and Mineral Show really drove home the old saw about good things coming in small packages. Each of the specimens in this case had it where it counts in the quality department. They are from the collection of Ralph D. Clark of the Littleton Colorado Gem & Mineral Society. While the property of 'quality' in specimens can be rather elusive and nebulous to define, most rockhounds seem to just know when they're looking at it. Not only were each of Ralph's specimens aesthetic and of high quality, the overall display provided effective and clean integration of them into a visual whole.

Note the white platform under the minerals, serving to define the display area, provide a neutral and non-competitive background for the specimens and also to reflect light to backlight transparent crystals. The platform outline also adds some subtle eye appeal and suggests the shape of a crystal, and is 'floated' on black to further concentrate the focus.

The crystal shown above is one of the constituent specimens, an absolutely gem and perfectly shaped spinel crystal from the Moguk District in Burma. The light areas at the top of the crystal are caused by overhead lights reflecting on that crystal face, not inclusions or internal flaws. Spinels are hard (8 on the Mhos scale) and exhibit a wide spectrum of colors. Alluvial, water worn 'pebbles' of spinel are very much in demand by faceters and the gem trade, and the cost of gem quality spinel rough has become significant. However, this crystal has already been perfectly faceted by God and doesn't need any improvement. Below are three more specimens from this exhibit:

Above left is a corundum (ruby) crystal aesthetically perched on matrix. It's from Jegdalaek, Afghanistan. Center is a lustrous spray of cobaltian adamite crystals from Mapimi, Durango, Mexico. More than one rockhound remarked on this adamite specimen while I was taking these pictures.

Above right is a classically shaped benitoite crystal from San Benito County, California. Note the 'stand', which is natrolite matrix. The crystal had been carefully etched out of the natrolite to leave just a minimum amount of the matrix showing from the front.

The Photo-Atlas of Minerals CD Released

The Photo-Atlas of Minerals is a really great mineralogical reference on compact disk for Windows 3.1, 95, 98 or NT systems. It was developed by Dr. Anthony Kampf and Dr. George Gerhold, with the mineral property data compiled by Lanny Ream, and principal photography by Wendell Wilson and Louis Perloff. It is produced by the Gem and Mineral Council, Los Angeles County of Natural History. A beta of this CD was demonstrated and distributed at the Tucson show earlier this year and the first production version was released shortly before Denver.

Above left is Dr. Gerhold giving a live demo of the Photo-Atlas in the main arena of the mineral show. This CD provides descriptive data for all known mineral species and features more than 6,500 high resolution specimen images. Above right is a reduced version of a representative program screen. Not all the species are illustrated with pictures, in fact, most minerals are not photogenic. However, with over 800 species illustrated, virtually every one of normal interest to collectors is depicted with lavish photo galleries featuring multiple images displaying specimen colors and crystal forms from various world-wide localities. A fine touch is the mineral name pronunciations by Forrest Cureton - you simply click on the species name and Forrest says it for you...

The Photo-Atlas also details the origin of mineral names, mineral synonyms and varieties. It provides information on crystal forms, symmetry and twinning, and on mineral localities with index maps, as well as Strunz mineral classification by Dr. Hugo Strunz and Alexander Hoelzel, a hyperlinked glossary of mineral terms, and is cross-indexed for searching. You can copy and print the images and data. It requires a 486-33 PC or better running Windows, CD-ROM drive, 24-bit graphics, a mouse and a sound card (for mineral names).

I have a release copy of this CD and am working a detailed review of it to be published in the near future at Bob's Rock Shop. However, I'll share up front that The Photo-Atlas of Minerals stands heads and shoulders above any other efforts in this vein to date. If you're interested in a great mineralogical reference on CD, the decision to acquire one these is a rockhound no-brainer at $49.95.

The Gem and Mineral Council, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90007 Phone (213) 763-3326 Fax (213) 749-4107

A Large Case Loaded with Deccan Traps Zeolites

This case full of cabinet sized Indian zeolites and associated minerals was exhibited by Keith and Mauna Proctor of Colorado Springs, Colorado. Above right is a group of stilbite crystals displaying various forms, including a really classic bow tie. These specimens shine with a vitreous, pearly luster and include various associations of heulandite, apophyllite and chalcedony and are from Jalgaon, India.

The origin of these rocks dates back 70 million years ago when repetitive outpourings of molten rock laid down the largest basalt formation in the world, reaching depths on the order of 10,000 feet in the vicinity of present day Bombay and originally covering an area of half a million square miles. This formation is known as the Deccan Traps, and even after heavy erosion it still covers an area about a third again larger than California. Some of the basalt flows were riddled with entrapped gas pockets which were eventually filled by mineral laden permeating water. Over time, conditions in some of those pockets have been conducive to the formation and preservation of mineral crystals such as these.

At right is a large, characteristically coffin shaped heulandite specimen with stilbite, apophyllite and chalcedony, also from Jalgaon. Zeolites are a family of related species whose crystal structure consists of silica and alumina tetrahedra interlaced with water molecules and metals such as sodium, potassium and calcium. Zeolite crystals which are colored tend towards subtle pastels rather than highly saturated hues.

The name zeolite comes from Greek for "boiling stone", due to a puffing up effect as if they were boiling when heated. Stilbite and heulandite are both hydrous sodium calcium aluminosilicates, as is mesolite, another Deccan Traps zeolite popular with collectors which forms elegant, spherical sprays of very thin and delicate crystals.

The specimen producing regions of the Deccan Traps cover an area about the size of New Jersey and many tons of specimens have been exported from numerous quarries in India over the last several decades, making Indian zeolites some of the more readily obtainable and reasonably priced minerals for silver picking. Aesthetic cabinet sized specimens with large crystals are within the budgets of many collectors, although as with everything else, the rarest and top quality pieces command substantial prices.

Carriers of Gold Fever

The above pictures were taken in the Gold Prospectors of Colorado's room, which was located in the labyrinth of hallways and exhibitor's rooms surrounding the main arena of the gem and mineral show. They had several tanks set up where fledgling prospectors and rockhounds could learn technique and catch gold panning fever. I observed adults having just as much fun as the rock pups in this room...

The Gold Prospectors of Colorado is a fraternal, social, non-profit association whose primary function is to enhance family outdoor recreation. They accomplish this by establishing programs to educate all members in the identification of and prospecting for gold and other precious metals and minerals. The club has 6 claims leased from the Forest Service which members may use, and publishes the Prospector's Quill, a monthly newsletter.

This organization has members from many states and there is a wide range of prospecting experience in the club, from greenhorn to professional miner. All interested people are welcome to join no matter what their experience or where they live.

The Gold Prospectors of Colorado, PO Box 1593, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80901

An Unusual Quartz from Mexico

Here's an unusual quartz specimen from Charcas, San Luis Potosi, Mexico. The specimen shown is the largest of about half a dozen pieces acquired by Blue Chip Minerals, reportedly from a recent and unusual find of very limited extent. This material displays characteristics which suggest possibly stalactitic and/or pseudomorphic origins. Dubbed 'Red Skin' quartz, it is covered with a druze of small quartz crystals which cause it to sparkle and twinkle as your viewing perspective changes. It is also incredibly light and ethereal, and reminds one of pumice when lifted. The piece depicted measured about 15 inches in overall length and was offered at $450.

Blue Chip Minerals, 6172 Mount Pleasant Road, Beford, Kentucky 40006 Phone: (502) 268-3413

Gargoyleosaurus parkpini

Named just this summer, Gargoyleosaurus parkpini is a ankylosaur, or armor plated dinosaur, dating back to the late Jurassic period 145 million years ago. The fossilized specimen was found in the Morrison formation, Albany County, Wyoming. It was donated to the Denver Museum of Natural History by Western Paleontological Laboratories. This cast of the original was displayed on the floor of the gem and mineral show arena and it attracted lots of attention and questions from children as well as captivating many adults.

This species was very heavily armored and covered with a shell-like array of bony plates to protect it from attacks from large predators and meteorite showers. ;) It is very appropriately named. In spite of its rather ghoulish and menacing appearance, its small teeth and wide body indicate this species dined on Jurassic broccoli.

Another paleontology related exhibit in the gem and mineral show arena showed the remains of a conical appendage gracing the top of the head of 'duckbill' dinosaurs, which is theorized to have served as a resonant chamber for making deep and carrying vocalizations. A computer simulation of the sound one these dinosaurs could have made with its 'horn' was recorded and available at the push of a button. It reminded me of a cross between a tuba and a whale. A herd of duckbills during mating season must have put on quite a symphony...

Lapidary Demonstrations

Gem and mineral shows often present opportunities to learn about lapidary processes through demonstrations, to ask questions, and meet enthusiastic and selfless club members who serve as mentors and teachers to beginners and newcomers.

At left an interested browser pays close attention to faceter Gary Hess during an ongoing faceting demo which was provided as an educational and outreach exhibit on behalf of the Denver Gem and Mineral Guild. Gary was one of a number of faceting and lapidary demonstrators manning how-to exhibits by sponsoring clubs and societies.

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