Snapshots from the Tucson 2001 Gem and Mineral Show
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Agate, Jasper and a '48 Nash

Tuesday, Jan 26th - Today I visited with Reed Waldron of The Agate Showcase in Room 411 at the Inn Suites Motel, who has in Shows past displayed and offered some beautiful agatized corals in addition to a tremendous horde of cut and polished agate nodules, agate geodes, agate slices and agate and jasper cabochons that he has acquired from numerous sources and collected over his many years as an agate fancier. I did a buy-and-run at Reed's room about a week earlier when I was doing a round of early bird shopping. At that time Reed had the entire surface of a large table in his room plus a smaller one covered and crammed full with polished and wonderfully diverse and aesthetic slices of select Brazilian agates.

I didn't have to consider very long before I snapped up the Brazilian piece depicted above as a no-brainer acquisition at $45 for my friend Tom who had put me at liberty to make three or four $50 class purchases of "cool rocks" for him to use for Christmas presents. At 800x600 system video resolution it is rendered 1:1 and is shown full size. I thought this piece was surpassed only by a matched pair of elliptical agate geode sections easily twice the length of this one that were also cavity lined with a handsome druze of quartz crystals. They wanted $100 each and when I expressed an interest in them Reed volunteered he was willing to split the pair.

I just couldn't see splitting them as the matched (face-to-face) pair displayed together produced way more than twice the effect of one displayed solo and I think splitting matched pairs like that produces bad rock karma. Unfortunately the $200 they wanted together was beyond my own remaining budget for unplanned purchases of opportunity, and also standing authorization from my friends like Santa Tom to make purchases for them, so they didn't go home with me. Reed related to me that shortly thereafter, he sold the big pair to a Japanese buyer who just walked in, did a once-over, and purchased them and nearly every other polished Brazilian agate slab he had on display in his room on the spot. Reed reports he has also had big hits like that in the past during Tucson from German agate collectors who have snarffed up entire portions of his agate offerings with single buys.

As soon as the bulk of the Brazilian slabs went bye-bye, Reed quickly rearranged his room to give more prominent exposure to twenty some cases of cabochons cut from aesthetic and classic agates and also a good deal of fancy jaspers from renowned Oregon localities that he has accumulated over the years.

Note the few remaining polished Brazilian slabs on stands off to the far right in the above picture, dregs of the lot formerly covering this entire table.

Shown above left is an oval cabochon cut from some classic Biggs Jasper from Oregon. This one is way up there as one of the most interesting scenes I've ever seen in a cab and I think it does a good job of illustrating what Biggs Jasper is all about. It measured approximately 2 1/2" overall and was priced at $150. Above right is a cab of some really gorgeous Deschutes Jasper, about 2 1/2" overall and perfectly shaped stone for a bola. Deschutes is another classic lapidary material from Oregon named after the Deschutes River.

Pictured above left is some more of that Deschutes Jasper. This piece was just under 5" across and was really more of a specimen slab than a cab, unless you like your bolas really big. $350 for this magnum. I asked Reed to show us his personal favorite cabochon out of all he brought with and above is Reed's selection, which he considers to bear a remarkable resemblance to a 1948 Nash. The car image is about 1 5/8" in length from rear bumper to grill. This freeform cabochon is cut from Mexican Imperial Jasper and Reed wanted $400 for it. I dunno Reed, after a studied inspection of the image, this one looks more like an old Tucker to me... ;)

Both of the above cabs are fashioned from Owyhee Jasper, yet another classic material from Oregon that is very popular with rockhounds and jewelry makers. These two specimens do a good job of illustrating why this popular material is also commonly known and referred to as Oregon Picture Jasper. The cabochon above left measured about 2 5/8" overall and had a nice shape for a bola stone. I thought it had a great canyonlands type scene complete with a mountain range in the background and clouds in the sky. It was priced at $125. The oval shaped cab above right measured about 2 1/2" and is oriented to make a nice stone for a belt buckle. This one looked like a farm in a valley scene to me. Up front are cultivated fields, behind them an orchard where the creek flows through and beyond that the horse and cow pastures further north up the valley. This entire spread wanted $100 for some rock farmer to take it home for cultivation...

The two pieces above are cabbed out of an awesome dendritic plume agate from a locality that was unknown to Reed for sure. He explained that when he first began collecting agate he bought pieces based principally on their aesthetic appeal to him and that the locality information was a secondary consideration and often was not available or unknown to the sources he purchased them from. Reed said if he had to guess these were probably from somewhere in either Montana or Brazil. However, Reed wasn't too apologetic about the unpedigreed locality when it came to pricing these two. The piece above left measured about 2 3/16" across and the piece above right was about 2" overall. Both were commanding $500 apiece.

Depicted above left is another piece of that mystery plume displaying some really pretty dendritic fractal "fronds". This more or less square shaped cab measured about 1 1/4" across and it was priced at $275. Pictured above right is a cab fashioned some Medicine Bow Plume Agate from Wyoming, no doubt from somewhere in Wyoming's Medicine Bow region west of Laramie. This piece was about 2 1/4" overall and the palm tree image in it was about 1 1/8" high. It was asking $100.

Above left is a 2" oval cab cut from agatized marine sediments composed of fossilized Turritella shells. Turritella is a genus of very enduring and widespread marine gastropods (aka "snails") characterized by turreted, cone shaped shells exhibiting long slender whorls with spiral ribbing. Ancestors of contemporary Turritella have left countless shells in Earth's oceans for hundreds of millions of years, all the way back to the Lower Permian Period of the Paleozoic Era. A great many of these Turritella shells became fossilized as these marine sediments lithified into limestones, and some of this rock was subsequently silicated and agatized, producing this beautiful material. This cab wanted $50.

Hmmm... I have a handsome 3 1/2" square slab of agatized snails in my cabbing rough box that's a dead ringer for this material. I had hypothetically marked out the 'most beautiful' cab on it for a bola, which I was going to cut out at the expense of wasting the balance of the slab... wasted, at least, in terms of being able to get another bola size piece out of it. I don't recall paying a whole lot for that slab, but if 2" oval cabochons of this stuff are worth $50, maybe I better take another look at that bola stone layout before I cut it up...

I also noted with interest feedback from one of my report browsers questioning the identity of the fossils in this material as Turritella, who maintains it is most likely from lake sediments composing the Green River Formation of Wyoming. According to this gentleman the the high-spired snail shells are of a Goniobasis sp freshwater snail or close relative. Tom believes the idea that the shells are marine and of the genus Turritella has somehow crept into the lapidary trade, but is unlikely to be true.

Because this material has become so ubiquitously known as "Turritella agate from Wyoming" in the lapidary trade, I would like to hear from someone who digs it and can help authoritatively identify the formation from which the Wyoming agatized snail material originates. There are unfortunately many "trade names" in common use in the lapidary and jewelry industries which are actually misnomers, some innocently propagated through hearsay, and some not so innocently propagated for financial motives. While I don't think this particular material is lessened trade wise if it turns out to be "Goniobasis agate" instead of "Turritella agate", in the interests of paleontological accuracy I'd like to help set the record straight and correct the Turritella misnomer if that is in fact the case.

Above right is shown an aesthetic polished rectangular slab of material from Italy popularly known as "Ruin Marble" with markings that greatly resemble a range of relatively young mountain peaks such as the Tetons. It was about 3 1/2" overall and priced at $85.

Above left is another polished slab of Italian Ruin Marble. This material appears to have been shattered at one point in its geologic history and subsequently relithified into sold rock. At least that's my theory to explain the apparent offsets and displacements that resemble little faults. This piece was also about 3 1/2" wide and it suggests sandstone walls in a canyon to me. This piece wanted $75.

Pictured above right is an interesting cabochon fashioned from a really colorful and finely banded jasper from another locality which was not known to Reed. This one measured about 2 1/8" overall and it contained a beautiful mesa scene that my image just doesn't do justice. This cab wanted $125. Although it appeared to contain alternating bands of softer and harder material that produced a somewhat stepped rather than perfectly smooth surface when polished it was nonetheless very beautiful and I sure hope I stumble across at least a slab if not an outcrop of this stuff some day...

The Agate Showcase Room 411 Inn Suites Motel - Email: 403 Kresson Road, Cherry Hill, New Jersey 08034 Phone: 856.428.4874

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