Snapshots from the Tucson 2000 Gem and Mineral Show
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Feeding Frenzy at Top Gem

The weather was bright and sunny today on Saturday, January 29th with an official high of 67°. It was a picture perfect day to attend the opening of the wholesale only show at the Top Gem Minerals warehouse at 1201-B North Main Street, which is just what I did. Top Gem's warehouse is just across the street and a block or so south of the Executive Inn. Top Gem is owned by Mike and Norma New who are well known wholesale distributors of mineral specimens from localities in Mexico and the US including Los Lamentos, Mapimi, and San Luis Potosi, Las Vigas, the Elmwood Mine, Brushy Creek, and others. You must be a dealer with a resale license to attend this show and make purchases, with a $500 minimum purchase requirement at Top Gem.

Mike and Norma, above right, go all out for Top Gem's opening day at the Tucson Show and they really pack in the dealers who come from overseas as well as all over the US to buy at Top Gem. They traditionally provide a complimentary Mexican food buffet for lunch for their opening day dealers. I didn't have time for breakfast this morning, so by lunchtime I was pretty ravenous and I really appreciated their spread which included enchiladas, chimis, rice, beans, salad, salsa, chips, dips, sodas and Corona beers. Mike and Norma even call in the Mariachis!

The Los Diablitos de Sunnyside Mariachis are students from Tucson's Sunnyside High School and they provided some great local flavor and entertainment with their colorful 20 piece band. Their performance was well appreciated by the dealers in attendance and the students also seemed to be enjoying themselves. I couldn't resist and shot a 60 second MPEG video during their performance which you can download and play by clicking on the still image of them above. The video file size is about 1.34 MB so the download will take a bit - about 4 minutes with a 56K modem and a hot connection. I'm afraid the MPEG technology built into my new Sony FD-91 Mavica digital camera doesn't do the student's performance justice, but it sure is fun to play with.

I wasn't exaggerating when I told you Top Gem really packs in the dealers on their opening day. Here is the waiting line just prior to their 10 AM opening, which extended well beyond my camera's field of view. Top Gem operates year-around here in Tucson although they close for a few weeks prior to the Tucson Show. When they reopen for the Show the inside of this facility is packed to the ceiling with flats and tables loaded down with mineral specimens priced right. The extreme frenzy starting at the 10 AM opening is pretty much over and everyone mellows out by lunch, but those first two hours are pretty hectic and chaotic.

Tables piled high and underslung with flats of specimens line the outside wall of the front of Top Gem's warehouse, and pallets stacked with more flats line the other side of the dock. This outside display distracts some of the dealers who stop short to begin digging for pay dirt through that material. However, most of the dealers make for the inside of the warehouse, as that is where the choicest and most rapidly picked over and depleted specimens are located. This is not a good place to be on opening morning if you can't stand being crowded, are claustrophobic, or shy about about asserting yourself.

Above and left are some overviews of several isles inside the Top Gem warehouse which I shot as the dealers poured in. Most of the dealers are well behaved and try to make the best of such close proximities and competitive conditions. Make no mistake about it though, these folks aren't here just killing some spare time before lunch, and the whole object right now is to get there first.

Since I live in Tucson and can conveniently visit Top Gem year-around, I mostly dutifully concentrated on documenting what was going on about me. I did say mostly, because there's something highly contagious and infectious in the ether when a frenzy like this is underway. I'll have to admit to being caught up in it during several weaker moments myself and just couldn't resist some cursory rifling through a few flats here and there...

These tables was piled high with flats of mostly thumbnail sized specimens and it was seeing a lot of action. What you see behind the table is the interior of a truck which has pulled up to one of the loading bays at Top Gem so the dealer could load up their purchases as they were selected. The opening at Top Gem is also not for the indecisive. If you stop to think about it here, someone else who's thinking a little faster than you is quite likely to be taking it home with them.

Flats of thumbnail sized spays of Zacatecas, Mexico topaz crystals on matrix caught my attention right away. There were a number of 54 piece flats net priced from $25 to $40. Click on the image above right for a higher resolution image of some of the specimens inside a 54 piece, $25 flat. Most of the flats at Top Gem are net priced with no sorting or cherry picking allowed. However, distributed throughout their inventory are also flats containing individually keystone priced specimens for cherry pickers such as myself. I'm seldom inclined buy specimens by the flat but I was overcome by these topaz sprays so the two best $40 flats I could find and a dozen or so cherry pickers went home with me.

Another eye catching item on the thumbnail table were these marcasite stalactites from the Da Chang Mine in Guang Xi Providence, China. This was the first time I had seen this material and I thought these marcasites were pretty unique. They were also inexpensive at $6 each.

Also on this table was a single flat of loose pink San Luis Potosi, Mexican danburite crystals which were priced at $60 per pound. Danburite is a silicate mineral in the orthorhombic crystal system. It has an indistinct cleavage and a hardness of 7, the same as quartz, and a refractive index of 1.63, which is a little better than quartz at 1.54. Danburite's dispersion is also higher than quartz and its physical properties indicate it should be unproblematic to facet. I've been wanting to try cutting a danburite so these crystals were of interest. After about 15 minutes of sorting through the lot and some close inspections with a loupe I came up with about half a dozen crystals with good potential as cutters which are shown above right. At $60 per pound these worked out to $10.20 worth.

In another room off their main warehouse floor, Top Gem displayed several tables covered with larger Dactylioceras ammonite specimens from Schafhausen, Germany. I thought this 16 inch specimen the most attractive of the lot. The largest ammonites were about 3 inches in diameter. This specimen was keystone priced at $240.

Also in this room were tables of these selenites from Ouimica del Ray, Cohuilla, Mexico. Some of these were pretty good sized and attractive specimens, but I didn't get to this room until about 11 AM. While checking out the selenites on the tables I noticed a dealer hauling several boxes out to a truck which contained what looked to be the largest and nicest of them. However there were still some nice specimens remaining among his leaverites, especially if pretty was more important than big. Above right is a nice 18 cm cabinet sized piece in hand that I thought quite nice, especially at the keystone price of $24.

The sole area inside the Top Gem warehouse where there was any breathing room during their opening was back in an alcove where there were several sets of shelves with these Missouri Brush Creek mine calcites. These characteristically grey calcites can display aeshtetic formations of crystals - and some are enhydrous and you can hear water slosh around inside the calcite crystals when you move them which adds considerably to their cool factor. But they generally aren't all that inspiring to the eye in and of themselves. However, they often have areas coated with associated druzy marcasite and chalcopyrite crystals providing flashy iridescent colors and some appealing eye candy.

I've considered a Brushy Creek calcite for my own collection at several points over the last few years. They made a pretty big hit when they first appreared at Tucson some Shows ago. However, these didn't seem to be getting much attention from the dealers at Top Gem's opening. These calcites have been available for a while so I think the market for them may slow due to being somewhat saturated... It's probably a good time to buy one actually, but most of the more recently seen haven't impressed me as being as high in quality as some of the earlier material to come out. The pieces on these shelves varied considerably in size and were keystone priced from about $8 to several hundred dollars.

I thought the piece I'm showing in hand above right one of the better ones. It wanted $80 keystone. It had an aesthetic shape and the calcite crystals were well formed, clean and undamaged. If only the associated druzy on it had a little more zap...

Top Gem Minerals Web: Top Gem Minerals PO Box 50251, Tucson, AZ 85703 Phone: 520.622.6633 Fax: 520.792.2928

Tyson's Fine Minerals

Also showing at one end of the Top Gem warehouse was Tyson's Fine Minerals, a Canadian wholesaler of mineral specimens and spheres owned and operated by Rod and Helen Tyson. They collect and specialize in Canadian minerals but also carry specimens from other countries as well as stone bead jewelry and spheres and eggs.

Above left is a spread of apatite crystals both on and off matrix from the Yates Uranium Mine in Otter Lake, Quebec, Canada. These ran in price from $25 for a smaller, single crystal to $5000 keystone for the top dollar getter, shown above right.

Tyson's also presented a spread of another flavor of apatite, these were from the Liscombe Deposit, Monmouth Township, Wilberforce, Ontario, Canada. These pieces were keystone priced from about $25 to $500. I thought the $200 piece I'm showing in hand above right to be one of the better ones.

I appreciated this gypsum rose from the Red River Floodway, Winnepeg, Manitoba, Canada. I'm starting to contemplate educational and competitive cases and I think 'Gypsum and Selenite Roses from Around the World' might be an interesting one. The fact that roses are relatively affordable compared to many other types of specimens makes that idea all the more interesting. You wouldn't have to spend a fortune to assemble a really nice collection of roses. $50 keystone is what this rose wanted. I'll bet many of you have spent more for a dozen of the floral variety for your significant other that were dead and ugly in 3 days.

Tysons also showed eudialyte spheres which were made in Canada by their contract geologist, Ken Eisenbarth. Eudialyte is a silicate mineral in the hexagonal crystal system. The spheres ran in size from about 1 3/4 to 5 inches in diameter and were keystone priced from $150 to $3000. That's the five incher at $3000 in my hand at right.

Here's some wire silvers from the Keely-Frontier mine, South Lorraine Township, Ontario, Canada. 'Wires' have always been something of an enigma to me - I dunno, maybe it's got something to do with having worked as an electronic technician, but I just don't seem to 'get it' when it comes to most wires. Shown in the center picture is one where I could see some redeeming aesthetics. It was about 3 cm high and keystone priced at $80. Above right was the top dollar getter in the wires, also about 3cm high and wanting $250 keystone. It's really more of a 'trunk' than a 'wire'. What does it look like to you?

Here's several tables covered with another elemental metal, native coppers from the Calcedonia mine, Ontonagon County, Michigan. While some of the better crystallized coppers are very appealing to me, these lumpy and amorphous forms just don't generally tick my clock. These were keystone priced from about $8 for the smallest piece to about $160 for the largest I saw. I'll admit that at the keystone price of $20, the piece in hand didn't look too shabby.

Tyson's Fine Minerals Web: Tyson's Fine Minerals Tel: 780.452.5357 Fax: 780.451.9541

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