Snapshots from the Tucson 2005 Gem and Mineral Show
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Hey rockhounds, greetings from Tucson and welcome to my online 2005 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show report!

Just Bad to the Bone

Thursday, January 27th was my first day out at the Tucson Show this year. My intentions were just to do a little early birding and work on a few stock type photos for use in banners, future articles and whatnot as photo opportunities presented themselves. It's still a couple of days before the first big wave of shows kicks off this year on Saturday, January 29th and most of the dealer rooms and tents that I surveyed today were still vacant or in the initial process of being set up.

While on my way through downtown Tucson en route to "the Strip" I passed by the Arizona Geological Survey office at 416 W. Congress Street, which is located just a couple of blocks away from the Tucson Convention Center where the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society "Main Event" Show is held. This is one of my favorite information resources in Tucson. If you mix Arizona field collecting with your Tucson pilgrimages and should ever be needful of topological or geological maps or professional geological literature for Arizona, these are your people.

Note that geological map of Grand Canyon displayed on the wall in the AGS literature room. These are a work of art and an absolute must-have for anyone interested in the Grand Canyon and its geology. This map is large - about 5 feet across and the amount of detail and geological information presented on it is wonderful. I own several of these, one of them cut up into relevant parts to save bulk and weight when it comes with on Grand Hikes. And one of the best things about this map is it only costs $12 when purchased from the AGS.

If you could use an Arizona Geological Survey Publications List, which is a healthy 51 page booklet, you can order one free of charge from the AGS. Hey its our tax dollars at work. :)

Arizona Geological Survey WWW: 416 W. Congress Street, Suite 100, Tucson, Arizona 85701 Phone: (520) 770-3500 Fax: (520) 770-3505

I hadn't actually planned on kicking off my 2005 report for another day or two. However, I stumbled across one of those "being there" type opportunities in the Gem Pavilion tent at the Day's Inn Globe-X Show that is just begging me to share it, so ready or not, here we go...

Meet Jim Haas and Cathya Savage from Moab, Utah. Most of the Gem Pavilion tent at the Globe-X Show was still empty when I checked it out this afternoon. Jim and Cathya were in the process of setting up their area and of course I was immediately drawn to them when I spotted the tubs they were in the process of setting out and filling with slabs of assorted fossilized dinosaur bone.

As soon as I began conducting a closer inspection of the material I realized that all of the slabs in one of their tubs which is depicted above right were marked at just $1 or $2 each. These were not all low grade pieces - some were very fine to my eye. Many were simply smaller pieces remnant from the sawing of larger slabs - very sufficient as rough for many projects as well as nice specimens of dino bone in their own right. In spite of already owning at least a decade's supply of dino rough at the rate I work (a good deal of which was acquired during previous Tucson Shows) and being firmly resolved to only acquire more rough as needed to maintain par with I've actually cut and consumed, this was simply too good an opportunity to pass up on some stockpiling and adding to my assortment of dino bone without blowing my entire show budget in the process.

Sometimes I am just dumb as a donut, and before I had availed myself of an opportunity to serenely make the first pass on this tub, my mouth moved without brain engaged and I blurted out some appreciation to the effect of "Wow this tub of bone is simply outstanding - some of this dino is definitely coming home with me!"

Of course that indiscretion had the immediate effect of alerting and drawing several early bird competitors to the tub who were none too shy about moving right in on it and commencing to rapidly fill several trays with choice pieces. My brain was still off in a stupor somewhere but my hand knew down in the bones it was time to move. Somehow it managed to maneuver into position without my help to secure that $2 slab of orange-yellow bone displayed in hand above right. I would have deserved it if my hand had slapped me awake but fortunately it waited for the rest of me to catch up.

One of my competitors for the first pass turned out to be a rather personable chap from Victoria, Canada. Turns out he just opened a new shop in Victoria for his Ocean Stone business, where he sells sectioned ammonite specimens which he lapidaries and prepares. Once we got to chatting I related an interest in ammonites to him and that was all it took to get me a standing invitation to go ammonite collecting with him, which I sincerely appreciated. I guess didn't mind sharing some of the bone with him so much after that...

Think you'd recognize a chunk of dino if you came across one out in the field? Shown in hand at left is a piece that Jim selected and brought forth to illustrate what this material looks like in the rough state. Jim related that most of the material he showed had been collected from the Morrison Formation on a large private ranch south of Moab, Utah.

The Morrison Formation is a complex series of clays, shales, and sandstones deposited in lowland swamps, lakes and meandering streams in Jurassic Utah. Lower units of the Morrison consist of light gray, greenish gray, and red shales, thin gray limestones, and occasional sandstones. Upper units of the Morrison consist of interbedded layers of sandstone, siltstone, and red sandy shales. The Morrison sediments are believed to have been deposited about 150 million years ago, during Late Jurassic time. They were transported by streams and rivers from ancient highlands sometimes referred to as the "Ancestral Rockies" and deposited in swampy lowland environments.

The Morrison Formation is legendary for containing the fossils of many dinosaurs including Allosaurus, Apatosaurus, Barosaurus, Brachiosaurus, Camarasaurus, Camptosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Diplodocus, Dryosaurus, Dystrophaeus, Marshosaurus, Stegosaurus, Stokesosaurus, and Torvosaurus. Jim related that most of the dinosaur material he handled was widely scattered and of unknown origin as to species. However, it was obvious from the size of some of his rough that it did not originate from small animals.

Jim showed dino bone slabs graded by size in a number of tubs. The largest and best of them wanted between $20 and $30 per slab, which I consider a bargain when I reflect on what this material is. This is relatively rare stuff as rocks go and it seems improbable to me that God is going to make any more of it... Pictured above left is another piece from a tub of intermediate sized pieces which was the largest and most costly of the 22 pieces of dino that went home with me today. This beauty set me back $12... Shown above right is close detail from one that unfortunately got away. I made the mistake of setting this one back down in the tub while I was fumbling around in my camera case for another disk, instead of immediately carrying it over to my tray after photographing it. By the time I came to, someone else with more snap than me had already made off with it...

Depicted above left is the tub containing the largest of the dino bone slabs - many of these pieces were 5-6 inches or more across and would cut some awesome sets. Shown in hand at right is one of the larger slabs which I thought to be quite nice either as a specimen or for rough. It wanted $15. Somehow I resisted this one at the time and as I look back on the picture of it while working on this article I recognize that as mistake on my part.

Shown above left is my new Canadian collecting buddy's tray of bone, which tallied out at about $150 by the time he was done. He received a 10% discount for purchasing more than $100 worth. Jim related he also awards a 20% discount on $1000 or more. I'm afraid I'm just bad to the bone when it comes to dinosaur fossils and can't help myself despite my best intentioned resolutions and self-imposed restrictions regarding the acquisition of more rocks. Depicted above right is my own tray, which contained 22 pieces when I quit and which weeded my billfold of $45. Hey folks, that's just over two bucks per slab on the average for some rather nice dinosaur bone... :)

By way of rationalization, I recently finished a set of shelves which currently facilitate the display all my dino bone along with a good deal of other high cool factor rough in my collection that I'm going to get around to cutting "one of these days". In the meanwhile, they do make some pretty nice display pieces in their own right and of course I'm going to put these latest acquired pieces out on display with the rest.

Jim said he had a total of about 1000 pounds of dino bone available at the 2005 Show. He has chunks as well as slabbed material. The chunks were priced by the piece but Jim explained they are basically classified by him into 3 grades - ok grade which was priced at approximately $10 per pound, good grade which was priced at approximately $20 per pound, and top grade which was priced at approximately $30 per pound.

This is his fifth year or so attending the Day's Inn Globe-X Show and Jim said he has sold out all the bone he can bring each year. I see why. If you happen to be in the market for some dino bone for lapidary work or specimen pieces that won't send you to the poor house, you will appreciate a visit with Jim and Cathya. But Do Not Procrastinate, because this material won't last long...

Cathya related that due to the one-of-a-kind nature of their products they don't do a web site or fill phone orders. Their venue is strictly shows. They accept credit cards and cash, no checks... If you would like to be on their mailing list regarding future shows email Cathya at with your name, street address and email address.

Jim also lapidaries and smiths dino bone cabochons and jewelry. Sitting out atop one of his cases was the tray of oddly figured cabochons depicted above left. When I inquired as to what these were used for, were Jim replied "tongues". Now that nomenclature was a new one on me and I have to admit that my first response his answer was to envision some kind of peculiar stone carvings with dino bone lounges sticking out of their mouths...

Of course the actual function of "tongues" is to serve as pendant or drop-like pieces in jewelry. To illustrate Jim brought out and handed me the finished pendant depicted above right. Now the stone in this particular piece looked rather plain and nondescript compared to the more colorful tongues populating the tray. At first I was at somewhat of a loss to understand why anyone like Jim who could cut any flavor of bone he wanted would select a piece like that, or how it could possibly want $125.

So Check it out against a light to appreciate what makes this one a very special piece... Pretty huh?

Close detail of agatized dinosaur bone 'tounge' from the Morrsion Formation in Utah

Shown above left and right are a couple of trays of dino bone cabochons cut by Jim. I appreciate Jim's treatment and overall approach to jewelry making with dino bone, which is to keep the cabbing and silver basic and leave it to the material to carry the piece and do what interesting material does. That's a quarter included for scale in the photo of the cabochons above left. The cabochons in this tray wanted from about $45 to $100 each.

Depicted above right is a tray populated with somewhat smaller cabochons which wanted from about $20 to $35 each. Jim explained the cabochon's each prices equated to approximately $2-$3 per gram. Of course Jim has more labor involved in his cabs than his slabs, but those of you who can also do this yourself may find it interesting to compare the price of the cabs with the slabs. Shown in hand at left are 4 cabs from tray of smaller ones. These ranged in price from $18 for the orange/yellow oval to $33 for that striking red/orange 42mm arrowhead shaped piece.

Pictured at left is a dino bone necklace and earring set in sterling silver made by Jim. The largest cab is approximately 2". This set wanted $495. When I asked Jim how long he had been doing silver work he snapped off "13 years" without hesitation. His response was so immediate and positive I had to ask if his getting started with smithing was somehow extraordinarily memorable for him. He explained he was simply fast with the answer, having already supplied it hundreds of times in response to customer queries while they owned and operated their store in Moab, a business from which he and Cathya have recently retired.

Shown below is some more of Jim's work. The largest trilobite is about 2 inches. They are also Utah fossils, from near Delta. The largest crystal is about 2 1/2". The trilo in sterling set wanted $425 and the rock crystal in sterling set wanted $595. When queried Jim replied that he also makes matching earrings from these sets available separately.

Close detail of fossilized dinosaur bone from the Morrsion Formation in Utah

Stoneage Jewelry by Jim Haas - Savage Silk by Cathya Savage, Gem Pavilion Tent at the Day's Inn Globe-X Show - Moab, Utah Phone: (435) 719-4097 Email:

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