Snapshots from the Tucson 2001 Gem and Mineral Show
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Fairy Stones and Shivalingams

I revisited the fossil show at the Ramada on Saturday, February 3rd to accompany my Tucson buddies Tom and Jerry after breakfast that morning at Peppy Lou's, a favorite greasy spoon and breakfast spot of ours that's located about half a dozen or so blocks north of the Ramada on Oracle Road.

While there I scored a handsome 5" Douvilleiceras sp. ammonite for my collection from a dealer specializing in Moroccan ammonites who had just received a new batch of specimens due to a late arriving shipment he had been expecting for several days, and who was selling the customer's pick of these Douvilleiceras by weight at just $40 per kilo. Shown at right is the largest specimen I purchased which weighs in at 970 grams, and a couple of smaller ones, for total damages of about $52. What I appreciated regarding these Douvilleiceras and this dealer's other specimens is they were still pristine and not carved up by native labor like a lot of the ubiquitous Moroccan ammonite specimens one sees all about various shows at Tucson, which are often just as much "art" as fossil, especially in the region of the detail in their inner whorls and ammonitella. The smaller specimens are likely to serve as the subjects of my first attempts at fossil preparation and cleaning to see if I'm up for the two pounder before taking it on.

Both Tom and Jerry also purchased several ammonites from this same dealer and then they spread out to browse the dealer rooms and outside tables in the courtyard when I stopped to do some show report work in another dealer's room.

Larbi Import Ramada Inn Room 101 - Box 3135, 10362 Stolkholm, Sweeden Phone: 468.935541 Fax: 468.212491

Besides the new ammonites, I thought I'd seen just about everything at the Ramada this year having spent several days there already. When I found and joined back up with Jerry he directed my attention to some "Fairy Stones" which had just been put out on display about an hour previous by Michael Marlow in Room 171, Carroll & C - Enterprises.

On display in were about five flats of interesting calcium carbonate concretions from Abitibi, Quebec, Canada that ranged in size from 2 to 10 inches across and priced from $3 to $10. The story was these were field collected by an individual about 10 years ago, laid around until now, and had been consigned by the collector to liquidate them.

Shown above left is a 2 3/4" specimen that I purchased for $3 with a bola tie in mind. Above right is one of the $5 class fairy stones that suggested an eye to me. Note the penny for scale.

These concretions usually occur as small round masses or flat concentric discs of varying diameters, which, when juxtapositioned, form mosaics. They occur in loose Quaternary deposits, having settled in lakes left by receding glaciers and are considered to be calcite after clay pseudomorphs. It is believed these concretions developed in a permeable layer within the deposits through which water slowly filtered and circulated. The water of percolation, high in carbon dioxide, probably dissolved the classic limestone, and the concentration of the resulting solution continued to increase until the limestone was deposited, thus producing the concretions.

Above are a couple more $5 fairy stones. I think Jerry got the one on the left and the 4" one on the right went home with me for another friend.

Shown above left is the $5 fairy stone Tom took home. It is about 4" overall. See the reclining woman figure in it? Pretty cool, huh? Above right is another $5 stone I took home for me, about 4 1/2" overall. I'm not sure what it reminds me of but I like the shape at an abstract level.

Shown above was one of the largest of the lot and more interesting to my eye. It is easy to see why the shapes of these concretions, which often suggest anthropomorphic and zoomorphic stylized figures fascinated native inhabitants of Quebec and led to all sorts of myth and how they became known as "fairy stones". I'm not sure what this one suggests to me other than it seems somewhat insect like and I don't think I'd want whatever it is chasing me around in the dark. This piece was only $10 but I didn't take it home with me as one of the minor blebs growing off it on the bottom where it contacts my hand had a broken edge, so I judged it to be a damaged specimen and somehow resisted it on that basis. After working with its image after the fact I am now regretting that, and it is going to be mine if it is still there when I check back up on it. The ding is minor enough that I could actually rework and 'restore' the bleb so as to render the damage imperceptible if I decide it really detracts from the piece that much. Hey, if the fossil restorers and composite sculptors can do it with trilos and fish, what's a little mineral restoration on a fairy stone? Of course it might be less effort to just rub the stone and simply wish the broken edge away. They are, after all, fairy stones...;).

BTW, it looks like my buddies and I made out on the cost of the fairy stones we purchased from Michael as I subsequently saw a much smaller group of more or less equivalent Quebec fairy stones priced from between $30 and $60 each by a dealer at the Inn Suites. :)

Michael also showed some cute miniature 'hourglass' selenites from the Permian salt beds of the Great Salt Plains in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma. Their name derives from an hourglass shape formed by two opposed sprays of intersecting crystals that is considered a classic form for this material, although they of course occur in many other more abstract shapes as well.

Michael related to me that he brought some larger cabinet size pieces of this material to the Show this year but that they were all wiped out within the first several days of the Show. The miniature size piece shown above right exhibits the classic hourglass shape and was a couple of inches overall. It wanted just a couple of dollars but unfortunately it was inadvertently broken just after I took this picture by Michael as he was moving it, which brought home just how delicate and prone to damage selenite specimens like these are. They are difficult to get home in one piece unless packed very carefully and transported with care, and I can tell you from experience they don't mix very well with kids. The selenite specimen shown at left exhibited a more abstract shape and was about 4 1/2" overall. It was priced at $12.

Mountain Boomer Rock Ranch - Ramada Inn Room 171 - PO Box 117, Clarita, OK 74535 Phone: 580.428.3116

While at the Superb Minerals India tents at the Mineral and Fossil Marketplace I couldn't help but notice mass displays of these elongate ovoid shaped rocks which ranged in size from about 1" to more than a yard in length and in price from $1 to $2250. The smallest of the rocks in the foreground of the picture above right was about 9" in length and priced at $35. Note the floppy disk I placed on a larger one behind it for scale.

I also couldn't help but notice a more than casual interest was exhibited in these rocks by some of the other browsers and customers who were closely inspecting and holding these rocks prior to making a pilgrimage to the cash register. When I observed one of them closing her eyes and appearing to meditate while selecting her rocks I began to suspect I was onto some kind of healie feelie thing and my curiosity was aroused. When I made an inquiry, I was informed these were Shivalingums, which originate as naturally shaped river rocks from the Narmada River in India.

It turns out the Shivalingam is one of the most sacred icons of the Hindu religion and is employed by Hindus in their temples and homes with water, flowers and oils in religious ceremonies. The lingam is symbolic of the divine creative manifestation. As "lingam" is a term for the male sex-organ, and the "yoni" (its pedestal) is a term for the female organ, their union represents the creative aspect of Shiva. This pedestal is designed so as to drain off the water offered during ablution ceremonies. The upper portion of the Shivalingam may be of various shapes, cylindrical, elliptical, umbrella shaped. Images may also be (rarely) carved on a Shivalingam.

Hindu legend has it that Parvati fashioned a Shivalingam with a fistful of sand at Kanchipuram and worshipped Shiva; this lingam is known as the Prithvilingam, denoting the primordial element Earth. Shivalingams in several temples are Swayambus, which appeared on their own, or which are untouched by a chisel. There are also temples where the Shivalingam is carved out of stone and installed. The highly polished Shivalingams of the Pallava period bear several stripes, as in the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. In temples such as Kanchipuram, abhishekam is offered only to the pedestal and not to the Shivalingam made of sand.

The Shivalingams shown on the table top varied in size from about 7" to 14" or so and wanted from $15 to $125. Also available were smaller Shivalingams going all the way down to about an inch in length which were selling for a buck apiece your pick, and they were also available prebagged for quantity buyers.

While I am not a Hindu and tend to have what most people would consider to be a secular orientation, as I learned more about Shivalingams I began to appreciate them as cultural artifacts and also I was fascinated by their shape, never having encountered river rocks like these before. Plus some were just plain cool looking, so I decided to see if I could find a Shivalingam that liked me. I found the strongest attractive energy radiating from a table covered with modest sized ones. I have come to appreciate that size is a relative thing and doesn't matter too much on human scales to God, in whose eyes these are all pretty small rocks. Plus their price was right for my "cool rocks" budget... ;)

Shown above are several close encounters. The Shivalingam above left was about 6" in length and priced at $12. I liked the big red spot. Above right was a little over 9" and priced at $30. It doesn't show that well in this picture, but the long brown spot resembled a spiral galaxy floating in the foreground against a background sea of other galaxies and stars. At left is a 6 1/2" piece that wanted $15 that I liked due to it being cut almost perfectly across the its long axis by red and grey halves. Kind of a balance, yin-yang or light-dark type thing, depending on how you look at it...

As products of erosion and natural processes, their elongate and nearly perfect elipsoid shapes fascinated me apart from their markings and appeal as cultural artifacts. I am curious about things like columar jointing (?) of the mother rock, the grade and flow rates of the Narmada, and other conditions in the locality where these originate that are responsible for the natural ellipsoid shapes. However, I ultimately decided these were leaverites when I learned they were probably not Swayambus, or "that which appeared on their own and untouched by a chisel". Note how their ends are somewhat blunted compared to the shapes of the one inchers shown in hand above. Apparently the ends of these larger rocks are particularly vulnerable to damage and they are subject to some cleaning up by their recoverers prior to export.

BTW, as I was doing a little Internet research and searching on "Shivalingams" I ran across several healie feelie oriented commercial web sites that were offering these very same rocks for truly exhorbitant prices compared to the going rate here at Superb Minerals in Tucson, which is very likely where those skallywag metaphysical dealers acquired their inventories of sacred rocks. While I suppose it can be argued that everone's karma is ultimately going to catch up with them, it is disturbing to me when I see such outrageous predation upon ignorance of the marketplace. If you are a healie feelie type or interested in a Shivalingam as a cultural artifact or decorator item, here is a karma expediting, you get your pick from among thousands baseline for you, as given on the retail price schedule posted in the Superb Minerals tent:

1" - $1
2" - $2
3" - $3
4" - $5
5" - $8
6" - $12
7" - $15
8" - $20
9" - $30
10" - $45
11" - $60
12" - $75
13" - $100
14" - $125
15" - $150
16" - $175
17" - $200
18" - $250
19" - $300
20" - $400

I think something that any rock collector with an acquistional interest regarding Shivalingams needs to appreciate is that these ovoid shaped rocks are only half of the Hindu icon. While I guess it can be argued that the female aspect of existence is implicit in any symbolism of the male aspect, to my way of thinking these lingams are symbolically incomplete. I'd also want a matching yoni to go with if I were collecting a lingam as a cultural artifact. Having the lingam sans yoni just seems to me to be somehat like having the mano without a metate to go with, know what I mean?

However, I just happen to have it on good authority that as far as Shiva is concerned a mop bucket yoni will function just fine in a pinch for ceremonial purposes if your head is in the right place. Similar to the cross as an icon of Christian religions, the physical lingam and yoni simply serve as symbols employed by Hindus in paying homage to their Lord Shiva. But as a secular rock collector I think a boy rock is just a whole lot cooler if you have the girl rock to go with...

If I do eventually wind up collecting a Narmada River lingam I will also probably hold out for a guaranteed Swayambus. I did appreciate Sidartha and perhaps I shall one day have the opportunity to make my own river journey in India for a first hand look at that country rock and to find that one, special Shivalingam created by Shiva with this rockhound's destiny in mind.

Superb Minerals Mineral and Fossil Marketplace - WWW: Superb Minerals of India Email: Shyam Castle Brahmgiri, Nashik Road, Maharastra India 422101 Phone: 91.253.555237 Fax: 91.253.554598

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