Thursday, February 8th - Today I attended the opening day of the 47th annual "Tucson Gem and Mineral Show" hosted in the Tucson Convention Center by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society each year during the final four days of the Show, which is also known and popularly referred to as the "Main Event".
The TGMS Main Event Show is the gem and mineral show that spawned "Tucson" nearly 50 years ago and is today orbited by approximately 30 satellite shows, several of which eclipse the Main Event nowadays as specialty shows depending on your specific interests, such as the fossil show at the Ramada Inn. The Main Event Show held by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society in the Convention Center is of course open to the public and the dealers here are retail oriented. In years past I have also heard the "Main Event" referred to as the "Retail Show" as historically there have been less satellite shows with retail oriented dealers.
This year's Main Event's theme was "Minerals from Russia" and this year's Convention Center Show featured nearly 240 dealers, and I counted up about 40 special exhibits and 70 guest exhibits in addition to competitive cases vying for awards. Competition categories included the TGMS regular competition for cases featuring all thumbnail, miniature or cabinet specimens, with other categories for particular localities or species as well as special trophy competitions for the best case, the best single specimen, the best micromount and best of species competitions for the annual theme mineral or locality.
The TGMS Main Event is the only Tucson Show I'm aware of that charges admission ($5.50 this year), but attendees of this show definitely get their rockhound money's worth. In addition to all of the displays and dealers, the Main Event also hosts numerous educational seminars, many of which are geared to the annual theme mineral or locality. Here is the schedule for the 2001 TGMS Main Event seminars and meetings:
A rather overwhelming seminar line up, and the 2001 Main Event was the place to be to learn more about Russian minerals and localities from the presenting experts. And of course there were numerous examples of fine and truly stunning mineral specimens from Russia and the Former Soviet Union on display to admire and study in the public cases on the floor of the arena in the Convention Center. This year's TGMS Show Chairman, Bob Jones, deserves a special acknowledgment for his service and role in making all this happen, along with the rest of the TGMS Show Committee and the rank-and-file TGMS members who volunteered and performed the countless hours of work that go into making an event of this scale happen.
This year's Main Event Show was accompanied by a good deal of preceding promotion and publicity hype over collections of Fabergé objects from Tsarist Russia which were brought to this year's Show as a draw for the public at large and to mesh with this year's Minerals from Russia theme. Many people are familiar with illustrations of these fine pieces of art and particularly the opulent bejeweled eggs which were created by Fabergé on commissions from the last Imperial family prior to the unpleasantness of 1917 that culminated in the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II and the assumption of power by the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies.
Prior to this year's Show I could not recall actually ever seeing such Fabergé objects with my own eyes and I have become increasingly interested in and appreciative of such fine things due to my interest as a practicing hobbyist in the lapidary and jewelry making arts. While I was very impressed and enchanted with many of the Imperial Russian Fabergé objects in that I was able to see, I'm sorry to have to report I was unfortuantely unimpressed and rather disappointed with the display of Fabergé objects from the Forbes Magazine Collection.
My disappointment concerned the Forbes Collection displays in particular and not the Fabergé objects contained within them. Sadly the objects in the Forbes cases were somewhere between difficult and impossible for the admission paying public at large to really appreciate due to being roped so far back away from them. Each of the Forbes cases had dedicated uniformed Tucson police officers to guard them and I assume the spaced out, double set of curtained ropes erected as barricades separating the proletariat from the Forbes cases as depicted above left were mandated and placed there due to security concerns.
For all the significant effort and expense that went into promoting and transporting these Fabergé objects to this Show and back home afterwards, due to these barricades they actually required field glasses to be able to see and appreciate the fine detail and master craftsmanship that distinguishes and separates the Imperial Russian Fabergé objects from lesser works. Even those Main Event goers with cameras with telephoto capability were out of luck in employing their camera or camcorder optics to resolve and view the detail on objects in these cases as the Forbes Collection had forbidden any photography of their displays, and the police officers were very sensitive and reactive to anyone who pointed their cameras in even the general vicinity of the Forbes Magazine Collection cases. Just following orders and doing the job they were hired and instructed to do of course...
I'm generally pretty tenacious and persistent about seeing things I want to see so I left the Show to fetch and return with the compact binoculars I normally carry while hiking and backpacking after realizing I was going to miss being able to really appreciate a significant amount of the Imperial Fabergé objects displayed via the Forbes Collection at the Main Event without optical advantage, and also that it was of course unreasonable to expect to convince the security I would only view and not photograph while looking through the zoom lens on my camera. Even my field glasses excited officers mistaking them for a camera during several ensuing incidents, but I thought it well worth putting up with such annoyances and irritations for this Missouri farm boy to get a proper look at the objects for myself. They don't call Missouri the "Show Me" state for nothing, know what I mean...? For my own future reference I did my best to sketch one of the Forbes Collection objects, a circa 1896 Bird Charka cup fashioned from silver and adorned with garnets and tiger eye, which I found particularly appealing as a possible subject for a reproduction piece.
To my way of looking at things, what was missing here to facilitate viewing and really seeing these objects were simply properly constructed display cases, sufficiently robust and "hardened" with Imperial quality, bullet and nut proof glass to satisfy Forbes' security requirements and concerns. Such cases could have been combined with the same physical barriers somewhat rearranged to implement functional crowd control and route the people past the cases single file to inspect the contents up close in an orderly and more easily supervised manner instead accumulating them all about the roped off perimeter in disorganized mobs. Forbes appears to be pretty good at building a publishing empire as well as their collection of Fabergé objects but in this rockhound's opinion they've still got a ways to go in terms of displaying them for the appreciation and education of public.
Due to their no photography policy regarding their Fabergé objects, I unfortunately won't be able to show and share any pictures or detail of those from the Forbes Collection with you through my show report. But all was not lost in that regard as there were some interesting objects here that were more accessibly and better displayed, most notably a number of pieces from in a collection that was shown and provided according to their labels as courtesy G.R. Hansen, Ph.D.
Depicted above is a Russian Enamel Egg, featuring artistic constructions underlying champleve enamel, and further adorned with diamonds, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. This object was about 4" high overall. Its label identifies it as hallmarked AK (Anton Kuzmichev), Moscow circa 1896-1917. It was designated item 2853 and shown courtesy G.R. Hansen. I thought this piece was pretty appealing and I think a doing a modern day replica or similar project inspired by this egg would be a pretty interesting project. Maybe what I really need is a an ornamented enameled egg cup encrusted with gemstones along this style to encourage me to eat a proper breakfast more regularly...
Shown above left is the Mackay Emerald Necklace, which was displayed in its own dedicated case and diligently guarded by its own dedicated Tucson police officer. This stunning piece features the largest cut emerald in the National Gem Collection at the Smithsonian Institution. Above center is a close-up of the approximately 2" overall, 168 carat Muzo emerald incorporated as the pendant. It is set in a diamond and platinum art deco necklace designed by Cartier which was given to his wife Anna Case Mackay by Clarence H. Mackay in 1931 as a wedding present. Anna was a prima donna of the New York Metropolitan Opera from 1909 to 1920 and she bequeathed this necklace to the Smithsonian in 1984.
Above right is a stunning amazonite and smoky quartz with goethite after siderite from Lake George, Colorado. This piece was about 12" overall and from the Ordway collection.
Shown above left is a gorgeous pink tourmaline, about 10" overall. This tourmaline is from Paprok, Afghanistan and it was presented in case 136 courtesy Stuart and Donna Wilensky Fine Minerals and Irv Brown Fine Minerals.
Pictured above right is "The Sister", an octahedral fluorite that was recovered in 1997 from the William Wise Mine, Westmoreland, New Hampshire. This piece was about 12" or so overall and the big octo had longest edges about 6" in length. It was displayed in case 122 courtesy James S. Tovey, Toveco Specimen Mining.
While interviewing K.C. Pandey earlier in the Show at Superb Minerals' Room at the Executive Inn, K.C. pulled this one out of its carrying case and I had the fortunate privilege of a more private, up close inspection of the humongous, steely blue aquamarine crystal from southern India depicted above, aka "The King". It was shown here publicly displayed in an endcap case at the Main Event. K.C. informed me this aqua crystal was 31 cm in length and tipped the scales at 9.7 kilos. Note the unusual and interesting termination detailed in the picture above right. This royal Indian beryl was for sale and it wanted just $300,000. I told K.C. I thought there was a pretty good "cutter" contained in within this crystal, in the area just beneath the termination... ;)
Anyone interested in the "The King" would of course just have to have "The Prince", shown above, as a must-have companion piece to go with. "The Prince" was very gemmy and weighed in at about 2.3 kilos. It featured a termination similar to "The King" and its color was more to the blue-green. The King and The Prince were holding court in their case at the Main Event with two "Courtiers", additional companion aquamarines depicted at left that weighed in at 650 and 280 grams.
Shown above is an overview and detail of a silver gilt and enamel Fabergé cigarette case. It was about 4" overall. Although I somehow managed to quit that nasty habit cold turkey about 6 years ago after more than two decades as a two-pack-a-day smoker, I still appreciated and thought the finely detailed, red white and blue tessellated pattern of hexagons employed in this cigarette case very aesthetic and appealing. According to its label this piece was marked Gabriel Niukkanen, Imperial Warrant, Moscow 1892. It was identifed as item 2850 and shown courtesy G.R. Hansen.
Pictured above is another Fabergé case incorporating silver, gold gilt, enamel and sapphire. This case was about 2" across and I appreciated the effect of the transparent purple enamel applied over the guilloche engraved silver case. Its label identified it as item 2495, Workmaster Anders Nevalainen, St. Petersburg, circa 1900. Shown courtesy G.R. Hansen
Shown above left is a Russian cigarette case that was about 3" overall and incorporated enamel, demantoid garnet, silver gilt, tourmaline and green onyx to good effect. According to its label this one was hallmarked AK (Anton Kuzmichev), circa 1890 and its general appearance and style was very similar to the Anton Kuzmichev egg shown above. This case was identified as item 1409 and it was shown courtesy G.R. Hansen.
Pictured above right is an ornate Fabergé bell push featuring silver, pearlescent enamel over guilloche and moonstone. This piece was about 2" overall. I hate to admit this, but I'm not sure just what a bell push is, so I'll theorize it is something used to summon one's servants or subordinates by pushing on the high dome moonstone cabochon. If that's the case, I can see how the Petrograd Soviet of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies were somewhat hacked off and the Communist Revolution was ripe to ferment out of the 1917 food riots in Moscow as the rulers rang away while the proletariat starved from want of bread and potatoes. According to its label this piece, identified as item 3253, bears the mark Fabergé. Workmaster Karl Gustav Arunfelt, St. Petersburg, circa 1904-1916. Shown courtesy G.R. Hansen.
Shown at right is a Fabergé pill box employing gold, garnet and enamel over guilloche. It was about 1" overall and its label gave it as bearing the Cyrillic initials of Fabergé, Moscow circa 1899-1908. This pill box was identified as item 2688 and shown courtesy G.R. Hansen.
Pictured at left is an original Stegosaurus stenops skull. It was discovered and excavated by the Siber-Team at the Howe-Stephens Quarry near Shell, Wyoming. This Stegosaur was found in a highly unusual mass grave that contained a complete Allosaur, a Stegosaur, a Camarasaur, major parts of five Diplodocus, a Camarasaurus baby and a fossil tree. The result of this excavation can be seen at Sauriermuseum Aathal in Switzerland.
A real treat at the Main Event this year were three superb cases featuring native coppers, silvers and golds, assembled from a number of collections. Shown above is an overview of case 134, which harbored some awesome coppers. This case of coppers was evoking a lot of favorable comments and oohs and ahhs from rockhounds when they encountered it. Let's take a closer look at some of the specimens displayed within...
Shown above left is a copper from the Osceola mine, Houghton County, MI. This specimen was about 4" overall and shown courtesy the Leicht collection.
Above center is a copper specimen from Houghton, MI. This one was about 3" overall and shown courtesy the Meieran collection.
Depicted above right is a wiry copper from the Copper Falls mine, Keweenaw, MI. It was also about 3" overall and shown courtesy the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum collection.
The magnificent copper shown above left was about 7" overall and from the Copper Falls mine, Keweenaw, MI. This piece really had some presence and it was shown courtesy the Bergman collection.The copper pictured above center was about 3" overall and from Keweenaw, MI. It was shown courtesy the Brown collection.
The copper specimen above right was about 2 1/2" overall and also from the Copper Falls mine, Keweenaw, MI. It was shown courtesy the Bergman collection.
The aesthetic copper shown above left was about 1 1/2" overall and from Houghton, MI. It was shown courtesy the Larson collection.
The copper crystal above right was about 1 1/4" across and was also from Houghton, MI. It was shown courtesy the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum collection.
The copper depicted above left is from the Central mine, Houghton County, MI. It was shown courtesy the Leicht collection.
Above right is an Arizona copper from Ajo, AZ. This specimen was about 6 inches overall and it was shown courtesy the Presmyk collection
Shown above left is a copper from Rudabanya, Hungary. This specimen was about 1 1/2" overall and shown courtesy the Berman collection.
Pictured above right is another Arizona copper, this one from Ray, AZ. It is about 4" overall and was shown courtesy the Meieran collection.
Now here is a pretty Russian specimen depicted above left. It is a calcite with galena from the Second Sovietskiy mine, Dal'negorsk, Primorskiy Kray, Russia. I thought the butterscotch colored calcite crystals provided a great contrast for the associated galena. This piece was about 4" overall and shown courtesy the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History in case #103.
Also on display by the Cincinnati Museum of Natural History in the same case as the butterscotch calcite with galena was this interesting hand size Russian pseudomorph, a calcite after ikaite shown above right. It was from Tietiuche, Timir Peninsula, Russia.
I usually manage to find a nice Sweet Home mine rhodochrosite or two that wants into my show report. At this year's Main Event there was an endcap case on display featuring seven Sweet Home specimens and the odd, contrasting pinkish rhodochrosite ball from the N'Chwaning mine, Kuruman, South Africa that's shown above right. The rhodo ball was about 2" in diameter.
My personal pick as the sweetest piece from this case is shown at right, a stunning rhodo rhomb perched on a bed of acicular quartz crystals from the Blueberry Pocket, Sweet Home mine, Alma, Colorado. The lone ranger rhodochrosite crystal had a longest crystal edge of about 1" and I thought the contrast between it and the quartz crystal covered matrix it's perched on was outstanding both in terms of colors and shapes.
While not the largest or most populous Sweet Home piece I've seen by any means, I considered the quality and aesthetics of this specimen to be the equal of the best Sweet Home rhodochrosites I've had the privilege and enjoyment of seeing displayed at a number of shows. From the collection of Eugene and Rosalind Meieran, Phoenix, AZ.
This cabinet size specimen of the gemmy Nevada barite shown at right was about 8" overall and I considered it to be the best individual out of a case full of these barites which were shown by Geoprime Minerals. The specimens displayed in their case #121 were from a new find, recovered 12/07/00 in Barrick Gold Corporation's Meikle mine, Goldstrike Pocket, 4480 ramp, near Carlin, Elko County, Nevada.
Hung in the back of Geoprime's barite case was the interesting work of art depicted below.