Snapshots from the Tucson 2006 Gem and Mineral Show
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Conglomerate from the Clarion

On Sunday, Jan 29th I visited with some rocks at the Clarion Hotel, which is a relatively new Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show location, 2005 being the first year for this venue. The Clarion is located at 102 N. Alvernon which is one block north of Broadway. Many former Executive Inn dealers migrated to the Clarion in 2005, following promoter Marty Zinn and the Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show there after it left the Executive. The Clarion is a nice facility although the parking situation there looked like it could be problematic during peak traffic periods. I noted approximately 75 dealers listed in the 2006 dealer directory for this location.

If you are an old Executive Inn mineral junkie, you will feel at home at the Clarion with dealers here such as Fabre Minerals, Mineralien, XTAL, Heliodor, Peter Megaw Minerals, Piritas de Navajun, The Sunnywood Collection, Superb Minerals India, Vasconcelos, Excaliber, and more from the old vanguard. The Mineralogical Record and Rocks and Minerals Magazine have also migrated their presences from the Executive to the Clarion.


Upon entering the Saguaro Room at the Clarion I was attracted to this display of Chinese specimens offered by Lisa Li of Unite ZYL International. Among them was this rather showy cluster of quartz crystals. This Leshan, Sichuan, China (East Tibet) specimen was approximately 12" overall with the largest crystals being about 3.5" in length.

A close inspection revealed several broken off crystals, damage which tends to hide in a specimen like this unless you make a critical and systematic point by point inspection of the piece. While the broken crystals did not significantly diminish the overall presence of this specimen, they do impact its desirability and value on the collector market. It was priced at a negotiable $850.00.

Unite ZYL Int'l Inc., Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show at the Clarion Hotel (102 North Alvernon) Saguaro Room - Email: liqing21@hotmail.com PO Box 331, Alhambra, CA 91802 - Phone: (626) 457-8933 Fax: (626) 284-5477


Piritas de Navajun S.L. filled the walls and tables on one end of the Saguaro Room with the ever popular pyrites from Navajun, La Rioja, Spain. The pyrite mine at Navajun began operations during the 1960s with its production being used exclusively by collectors and for decoration purposes.

This mine sources what are perhaps the most widely recognized and classic pyrite specimens known to the mineral collecting community. Outstanding specimens from Navajun grace the some of the most prestigious mineral collections in the world.

I developed an interest in and was learning about fractals and fractal math concurrently with moving to Tucson about 20 years ago as a poor electronics student. I can still vividly recall the influence of an early on viewing of an aesthetic Navajun pyrite specimen with wonderfully intergrown and stacked crystals displayed in a case at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society main event show at the Tucson Convention Center. It was a paradigm and highly intuitive example of fractal relationships in the growth of mineral crystals, and I wanted it! However, I can also vividly recall a price tag on that pyrite of $140, which at the time seemed quite exorbitant and irresponsibly indulgent to me. Although I have a somewhat different perspective now, it took a couple years of gainful employment combined with the exotic and intoxicating temptations of several Tucson Shows to lure me across that $100 threshold.

I should mention in retrospect that had I acquired that pyrite for $140 twenty years ago and was inclined to sell it today, we would part company with the benefit of an extra c-note or two in my billfold over and above my initial investment, in addition to the enjoyment of it in my rock collection for a couple of decades. Of course such hindsight is inevitably 20-20. Hey no wonder they call this stuff fools gold.

The approximately 4.5" specimen depicted above left was one of the nicer under $100 matrix pieces to my eye. It wanted $65 to come home to your own pyrite collection. The visual contrast between the brassy pyrite crystals and the grey-white country rock of the Navajun specimens is superb. There were a dozen distinct pyrite crystals populating this specimen, not counting the intergrowths.

Shown above right is another Navajun matrix piece with intergrown crystals that stood out to my eye. The country rock on this piece is about 6" overall with the largest cube edges being approximately 1.25" in length. This one wants $290. I think the overall aesthetics of this particular specimen could benefit from some further reduction of the matrix, but I wouldn't want to be the one operating the rock breaker on it.

Depicted at left is another matrix piece I thought nice due to the way the pyrite crystals are intergrown and perched. I also note the matrix is trimmed so this specimen nicely makes its own stand, always a plus... Approximately 3.5" overall with the largest cube edges being about an inch. $120.

Of course in the process of mining and preparing the matrix pieces a good deal of pyrite crystals are separated from the country rock. Exceptional matrix pieces may be repaired by reattaching separated crystals. However a great many detached crystals are simply sold that way. The bags of pyrite crystals depicted above left each contained about 10 crystals up to about 5/8" in size.

There were also numerous flats of detached pyrite crystals as well as matrix pieces offered on the tables. The $130 flat of intergrown crystals depicted above right contains 48 specimens, the largest cubes having approximately 1" edges. That works out to a cost of $2.71 each.


Shown above right is a $150 flat containing 9 matrix pieces. The largest crystals have approximately 1" edges. That works out at $16.67 each.

The larger matrix piece depicted above right was about 26" overall with largest crystal edges of about 1.25". It wants $2900. I personally did not care much for the preparation of this specimen, as it is very matrix heavy to my eye. Sometimes less is more. If I were going to invest three grand in a Navajun pyrite, frankly this would not be the one.

Piritas de Navajun S.L., Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show at the Clarion Hotel (102 North Alvernon) Saguaro Room - WWW: www.piritas.com Email: piritas@terra.cl Calle Abajo S/N, Navajun, La Roija, 26533 Spain - Phone/Fax: 349 411 97076


Inside Passage Arts showed some eye catching ivory and bone carvings at their booth in the Saguaro Room. This Skagway, Alaska based dealer specializes in native arts of Southeast Alaska.

I seem to be developing an increasing interest in sculpting and carving, so I take every opportunity as I make my Show rounds to check out unique and exceptional works. My attention was drawn right off to the reindeer antler carving depicted below, which is titled "50 Walruses". This carving has a lot of presence. The dealer related that it took Eskimo carvers Luther Abyan and his brother about a year to produce this piece, which was significantly longer in the execution than initially anticipated. However, this turned out to be a special piece with the finished result worth the wait.


There are of course 50 walruses rendered on this approximately 31" overall piece of antler. The image below left provides a closer view of the detail adorning the walruses. 50 Walruses wants $3200 retail, with "room for resale".

Inside Passage Arts exhibited and offered the smaller works of about 30 different carvers in various cases at their booth. The price spread on the carvings in the case depicted above right ranged from about $20 to $150. To my eye the most interesting of these were the horny toads carved from mineralized walrus tusk by a native Indonesian carver in Bali, a pair of which are detailed below.

The larger of the two horny toads depicted here is approximately 3.5" in length, the smaller being about 3". The mineralized walrus tusk these are carved from is somewhere between 1000 and 10,000 years old. I thought the execution of these carvings exquisite and was rather astonished to learn that this carver can produce one of these toads in just a day or two. The masterful three dimensional relief and undercutting employed on the horns and spines really works to an exceptional effect on these pieces. When I inquired regarding the tools and process used to achieve this, the dealer informed me the carver employs various self-made hard steel gravers ground from files to perform this fine shaping and undercutting.

I think it would be fascinating and quite instructive to observe and watch the work in progress on a horny toad carving as it is created. Unfortunately, that seems to entail a field trip to Bali, the cost of which would pay for quite a few of these horny toads at $60 to $90 each, as well as a pretty fair collection of carving tools and fossilized ivory rough to boot...



Inside Passage Arts also showed and offered ivory and bone carvings done in more traditional Indonesian and Asian motifs by several Bali carvers, such as the dragons depicted at left and above.

The dragon carving shown at left was fashioned from "oosik", which is a Yupic Eskimo word connotating "boy". It is approximately 5.5 inches tall and wants $225 to join your own dragon collection. In polite English conversations this material is called "walrus baculum". The baculum is a unique bone found in the penis of most mammals. This bone aids in copulation when mates have only a short encounter. The baculum from smaller mammals is referred to as a "hillbilly toothpick" in some dialects. The largest Baculum in the mammal kingdom apparently belongs to the walrus, which can reputedly reach a length of 30 inches.

The Alaskan mammoth ivory dragon and sage carving depicted above right is about 3.5 inches overall. The material, workmanship and attention to detail on this piece are quite fine and of course reflected in its $1600 price. The dealer related there are significant markets for this genre which are sustaining to the carvers. The learning and skills entailed in creating traditional pieces like this no doubt carry over to more unique projects and less conventional subjects like the horny toads.

Inside Passage Arts, Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show at the Clarion Hotel (102 North Alvernon) Saguaro Room - Email: insidepassagearts@yahoo.com Box 420, Skagway, AK 99840 - Phone: (907) 983-2585





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