Snapshots from the Tucson 2001 Gem and Mineral Show
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The Saturday Night Dinner

The TGMS Main Event lasts for four days and is held on the final Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the Tucson Show. I usually attend the Main Event for all four days. Between everything there is to see on the floor of the Main Event and the educational seminars on mineral photography, micromounting, theme minerals and localities and other topics throughout the duration, even four days doesn't provide enough time to take in everything there is to see and learn here. Usually by the the time they close and boot everyone off the floor of the Main Event at 6pm on Saturday I'm pretty beat and ready to go home.

However, this year I attended the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society Saturday Night Dinner, which is just the second time I've attended this annual function. My first was several years ago when Rock&Gem's Senior Editor Bob Jones was presented the Carnegie Mineralogical Award, the highest honor in the mineral community, at that Saturday Night Dinner.

The Saturday Night Dinner incorporates a cash bar, silent auction, banquet style dinner, awards ceremony and a slide competition. The items up for auction, which are donated from numerous generous sources as fund raisers for TGMS, are displayed on tables along with bidding sheets for each item. The auction ran from 5:30 to about 7:30pm, during which time participants circulated among the tables and wrote down their names and bids for each item they were interested in. Of course anyone else participating was free to come in behind you and up the offer on the object of mutual desire. When the bidding was announced as officially closed, whoever had the high bid recorded on its sheet got to take that item home, after settling with the auction cashiers of course.

There were approximately a dozen long tables worth of goodies up for grabs, which consisted of everything from jewelry and gemstones to mineral specimens to fossils to meteorites to a stack of back issues of the Mineralogical Record. The silent auction area is depicted above left towards the beginning of the auction around 6pm, just as they were closing the floor of the Main Event. The space between the tables soon filled up with participating bidders who made cyclic, cake-walk type rounds to inspect the items and check to see if someone else had recorded a bid topping theirs on objects of desire. I had a lot of fun participating in this silent auction and bid against other participants on three different garnet specimens, a meteorite specimen, a group of ammonite fossils, a moldavite necklace, several faceted stones and a piece of lapis lazuli.

The bidding remained what I considered to be ridiculously low on a number of these items for quite some time, advancing sporadically, usually in just one dollar increments. I started to congratulate myself as by extrapolating the rate of the increases against the duration of the auction I could see that I was going to walk off with some unbelievable gongas. However, the action became non-linear during the last 20 minutes or so as bidders who really wanted particular items began weighing in more seriously on their bid sheets.

I saw potential in this chunk of Afghani lapis lazuli with calcite and pyrite from Panjsher and wanted it for my rough box with the intention of cutting it up for incorporation in some jewelry. Lapis lazuli is a gem material of historical significance and has been treasured at least as far back as ancient Egypt and Babylonia for jewelry, healing and in the making of burial ornaments (I guess that was for when the healing properties failed to manifest themselves...). Powdered lapis was the also the original source of the paint pigment ultramarine, now artificially produced.

Modern mineralogy has demonstrated lapis lazuli to contain lazurite, mica, calcite, pyrite and in some varieties lesser amounts of scapolite, plagioclase, orthoclase, apatite, titanite and zircon. The blue in lapis comes from the mineral lazurite (Na,Ca)7-8(Al,Si)12(O,S)24[(SO4),Cl2,(OH)2], a rare sodalite group silicate that occurs due to contact metamorphism in limestones. The sodalite group is unusual in regards containing chlorine and sulfur which are elements usually absent in the silicates.

I think the highest quality lapis is traditionally regarded to be material with a homogeneous deep blue color, but I liked the aesthetics of this material with its pattern of interspersed calcites and flecks of pyrite the moment I laid eyes on it. Must be the mineral collector in me.

I figured to walk away with this rough for cheap cheap, as most of the folks in attendance were mineral people from the school that if it doesn't have terminated crystals it's not a rock, if you know the type... ;) However, it turned out one P. Modreski wanted this chunk of lapis lazuli almost as bad as I did. It seemed very time I circulated back through to check on this one, he had topped my bid by a buck. I think P. Modreski must have appreciated the interspersed calcite and pyrite too.

Towards the close of the auction the serious contenders for some of the items began guarding their bids and hovering nearby them, ready to respond immediately if some last minute interloper should happen by and top their high bid. At the end I was still in the running desire and budget wise for one of the garnet specimens I had also been bidding on, which was being guarded. I tried ramping up my increments on this lapis to discourage my competitor for it so I could also hover nearby the garnet on a higher duty cycle. But each time I looped back by to check on the lapis, P. Modreski had topped my bid. Finally we identified each other just prior to the announcement that closed the bidding and he asked me if I liked lapis. I responded that I liked this piece of lapis, which was going home with me. And it did too, for $30...

I'm sorry to have to report that garnet got away from me sometime during the final 60 seconds or so of the auction. But I think I've got this silent auction thing and being in more than one place at the same time figured out now. Next time, I'm bringing helpers... ;)

After dinner a presentation was given featuring Ms. Tatiana Fabergé who presented slides of some Imperial Fabergé objects and historical and anecdotal information regarding them, their creators and the Imperial family. An awards presentation was also held for the winners of the regular TGMS case competitions as well as special awards including the Destautels, Lidstrom, Yedlin trophies and the Carnegie Mineralogical Award.

Each year the Carnegie Mineralogical Award is presented during the TGMS Saturday Night Dinner to a person or organization promoting mineralogical preservation, conservation and education ideals embodied in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems.

This year's recipient of the Carnegie Mineralogical Award was Dr. F. John Barlow, a collector and appreciator of fine mineral specimens who is legendary in the mineral community for having assembled one of the finest private collections of crystallized minerals which has been characterized as the "Golden Yardstick" for serious (and well healed) mineral collectors. He received the Carnegie Award for his life long commitment as a mineral collector and connoisseur, writer, editor, publisher, engineer, industrialist, philanthropist, and community and civic leader.

Dr. Barlow has made selfless donations of his time and finances funding and enhancing education in the physical sciences. He has shared his unmatched mineral collection with many promising geology students, made generous donations to the local planetarium and mineral museums, and endowed fellowships in the Geology Department at the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Barlow helped spearhead the push for a new building for the A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum and has been very instrumental in strengthening that museum's position

Dr. Barlow was unfortunately unable to attend the award ceremony at the Saturday Night Dinner so Joel Bartsch (on the left in the above photos), Curator of Gems and Minerals at the Museum of Natural Science in Houston, Texas, graciously accepted the Carnegie Award on Dr. F. John Barlow's behalf.

The recipients of the Carnegie Mineralogical Award include:

1987Tucson Gem and Mineral Society
1988John Sinkankas
1989Frederick H. Pough
1990Paul E. Desautels
1991Miguel Romero Sanchez
1992Carl A. Francis
1993Cornelius Hurlbut, Jr.
1994The Mineralogical Record
1995Marie Huizing
1996Cornelis Klein
1997Bryan Lees
1998Robert W. Jones
1999Sterling Hill Mining Museum
2000F. John Barlow

The Saturday Night Dinner concluded with a traditional mineral photography slide competition presented by highly regarded photographer Jeff Scovil, author of the book "Photographing Minerals, Fossils & Lapidary Materials" (published by Geoscience Press - ISBN 0-945005-21-0). Jeff is one of my heroes and I have an autographed copy of his book, which I highly recommend as a primer and reference for anyone who wants to improve their rock pics. There were two competition categories, one for macro specimens and and one for micros. Jeff had pre-judged and selected five finalists from each category with the idea that the audience would vote and pick the winner of each category.

Unfortunately there were problems getting the room lights dimmed by Tucson Convention Center personnel for the beginning of Tatiana Fabergé's slide presentation, and the lights never were dimmed for Jeff to present the competition slides. Jeff is to be commended for dealing with that situation as best he could and I'm confident the glitch with room light control for slide presentations will be addressed at future Saturday Night Dinners.

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