It was partly cloudy part of today with a high of 71 degrees.
Maybe it's due to the outdoor setting, but this location has a kind of "swap meet for rockhounds" atmosphere, and I enjoy going through the mix here. Even though it's all crammed into one normally mostly vacant lot, you can easily spend a day here. It was a gorgeous day for it and I did just that.
Those are the Tucson Mountains in the distance on our western horizon. Part of the Saguaro National Monument is up there. Forests of huge saguaro cactus cover the lower regions of the mountains and extend as far as the eye can see across the valley floor on the other side. That's a must see for Tucson visitors.
I stopped back by the Aurora West tent, where they had these Brazilian amethysts setting outside. These specimens are between three and four feet high. Note there are two pairs. You wouldn't want to separate them, would you? The larger pair had already sold for $10,500.
These humongous amethysts are ubiquitous at Tucson and the first year or two I attended the Show I was pretty awed by them. Awed by the prices they fetch, too. However, there seems to be a continuos market for them for use in high rent decorator projects. I've seen enough of them over the years that it takes a pretty special one to grab my attention. I dunno, maybe I'm just jaded... Those with a nice accent of an associated mineral like calcite, or another form of quartz such as water clear prismatic needles intermixed with the amethyst points can still be head turning. This dealer does some serious trafficking in these at the Show, and they were uncrating new ones to replace those already sold while I was here
The druze of amethyst points covering the inside varied in size from the tip of a little finger to larger than thumb size. Deep purple seems to be the right stuff here, although with the very deep colored specimens it's hard to appreciate the transparency of the crystals due to the surrounding crust. There's generally no orientation that accommodates backlighting the amethyst. Besides having associated calcite crystals, the Aurora West amethyst shown on the Scouting Party page had a geometry conducive to looking through it, allowing the amethyst to be best appreciated. Too bad I didn't snap that one up before it sold...
A lot of the browsers who where geegawing over the amethysts were completely overlooking this unique pair, shown above on the right. Quartz pockets on top, calcite on the bottom. Just the right accent for an earth-tone scheme, don't you think? These also wanted $10,500 or so.
Here's another showy quartz piece. This was about 4 feet in diameter. The bowl and many finger-like formations were covered with a druze of clear quartz points. Sorry about the shadows on this one, but they intentionally orient and place most these pieces so that they are protected from direct exposure to the sun throughout most if not all of the day. Photographing these in situ can be challenging.
Aurora West had many smaller amethysts and other minerals for sale inside their tent. They also had this rack of bookends set up in front, which somehow seemed a bit incongruous with the rest of their mix. However, I did notice that quite a few people were stopping to inspect them. I didn't care too much for the pink rose quartz ones. At least they weren't dyed. All up, Aurora West brought in somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty tons of rocks for the Show.
Chacon's Custom Cabbing had a stall at Boatners. As you can see, they are into cabs in a pretty big way, and do retail as well as custom wholesale work. Spread out across one counter was this extensive assortment of freeform cabs, mostly Mexican agates. On another section on the counter were stacks of colorful cabs including malachite, turquoise, jaspers, agates and many other materials. They also offered many matched pairs and sets. The prices started at $2.00 and ran up to $100.00 apiece. I asked Fred Chacon if he went to Mexico to collect his material and he said no, he collects most of his rough from El Paso basements, where "the good stuff has been collected and stored for many years." He said the really choice Mexican agate localities were all picked clean a long time ago.
Here's Fred posing with a tray of some of his favorites. He's been cabbing for 23 years and coming to Tucson since 1983. Fred stresses that all his cabs are done the old fashioned way, freehand on a grinder without the use of cabbing machines or preformers. Fred also does gold electroplating. Sorry about the shadow on Fred's face too, but those who have lived under our southwestern sun can sometimes be reluctant to part with their caps.
Chacon's Custom Cabbing, Fred and Josie Chacon, 304 Ramona, El Paso, TX 79915 915-772-1007
Sprinkled in here and there at Boatner's were vendors who were selling merchandise having little, if anything, to do with rocks. Here is one of them. These old-styled dresses were priced at $25.00 and $35.00 and almost every woman who came by this stall was stopping to have at least a cursory look. On a per square foot of fabric basis, these have to be some of the cheapest dresses in Tucson! Now I'm not what you'd call a regular reader of Vogue, but I think these looked better than most of the high dollar designer get-ups you see in magazines like that. Guess I'm just an old fashioned kind of a guy.
It was strictly rocks at Charlie's Rock Shop, which specializes in several of the more common Mexican minerals. I usually buy at least one rock from Charlie's each year. He's not into exotic species, but I think some of the rocks here have a nice amount of visual appeal for the buck. Prominently displayed were some large fishtail selenites, priced at $3.00 a pound. He had a box of smaller pieces behind the counter, and there were some attractive "tails" in it.
You really need some of these bright red and green calcites to lay around the place at Christmas time. These were also going for $3.00 a pound.
Charlie had flats of these fluorite crystals priced at $45.00 by the flat. I didn't count out a flat but that works out to about a buck apiece. Nice color, but not great "definition". You'll see chunks of fluorite like this all over the place at the Show priced considerably higher.
There's always a nice assortment of these classic selenite roses to chose from at Charlie's. I've been wanting one of these for years and maybe this will be the year. They're aesthetic to my tastes and I think one would be pretty photogenic. They're pretty light as rocks go, and at $2.50 a pound you can buy a nice one without going to the poor house. I live in an apartment and I'm a little short on space, so if I decide to get one it won't be as big as this one.
Charlie's also had some fist sized and larger chunks of this flashy Mexican bornite. Most were priced under $10. Seeing how copper is the Show theme mineral this year, some of this massive bornite, aka peacock ore, would be appropriate. Bornite is one of the most important copper ores. It occurs in high temperature hydrothermal veins and the oxidation zone of copper deposits in association with other copper minerals.
Here's some rainbow obsidian that's been polished. It's a visually interesting Mexican material that's black from most angles but lights up with a rainbow of color when it's oriented just right with respect to the light. The effect can be dramatic out in the strong Tucson sunlight. This dealer also had spheres, hearts and other shapes cut and polished from the same material. I thought the spheres might be an optimal shape for showing off the effect, but the flatter hearts and freeforms were noticeably brighter.
Once when I was scuba diving in the Sea of Cortez we anchored overnight in a cove on the Baja that had a very conspicuous obsidian outcrop in a nearby seaside cliff. I was able to work in a little rockhounding on one dive when I navigated over to the cliff and took a surface break and collected a hazardously sharp shard of jet black obsidian. It doesn't do rainbows.
When I inquired as to the price of the freeforms I was quoted $65.00 per pound. Seemed a bit on the pricy side to me, but that could just be what it goes for. I'll probably keep an eye out for some of this material in the rough.
I stopped at Desert Fossilien to check out some of their Moroccan fossil specimens. They share the north end of a large tent with Aurora West. Here's the top of a desk created from worked slabs of ancient sea bed, now in the Atlas Mountain range, containing Orthocerius fossils. Note the relieved, 3-D specimens. It had a nice area for a keyboard, but at $2000 I thought they should have provided a better place to set the monitor. Slabs of relieved and polished Orthocerius fossils are also ubiquitous at Tucson and popular with decorators.
Desert Fossilien had tables covered with Cambrian trilobite fossils. These hummers were swimming around 500-600 million years ago. Seems just like yesterday. The largest were about eight inches, most were smaller. These wanted $35.00 to $150.00.
Fossil sharks teeth were abundant and size sorted by the flat. These ran $3.00 to $5.00 each. Perhaps a bit on the pricey side for sharks teeth, although I'm sure the price would come down in quantity. While these were quite small (about 2") compared to some of the fossilized shark teeth I've seen at the Show, I still wouldn't want to have been bitten by their owner. They were also quite cheap compared to the really big ones.
These ammonites in the rough are nice pieces with a lot of visual appeal. This one was about 10 inches in diameter. These are among the more affordable larger shell fossils I've seen and ran about $25.00 for this size. I don't know enough about fossils in general to really appreciate them, but I can see having one of these beauties in my rock collection based on its aesthetic appeal alone.
Paleo Impressions had a table of showy minerals set up in the center of their tent. Owner Dennis DeLaet also had fossils for sale, but the majority of space in his tent was filled with minerals. He had many flats with $20.00 and up specimens of prismatic quartz crystal clusters with pyrite cubes. When I inquired about the apparent discongruity between his business name and the majority of his inventory, he explained he had been expanding into minerals because they constituted a larger and more profitable market. There weren't very many rocks on this particular table under $100.00 and most were asking quite a bit more.
One of them was this Chinese fluorite from Xianghuapu, Hunan Province, China. The crystals had a glassy appearance. This piece wanted $600.00.
Another Chinese specimen was this quartz cluster, colored a striking red by hematite inclusions. This specimen was priced at $300.00.
Yet another Chinese quartz, this one from the Jiangsi Province. This one was also red, but more from an exterior staining hematite on the crystals than inclusions. None the less attractive. There were black hematite clusters at the base of the quartz crystals that provided a nice contrast on this specimen. I think I liked this rock at Paleo Impressions the best. $300.00
Here's one of those bright orange Australian selenites. This $90.00 chunk nestled nicely in the palm of my hand. The blades had a high luster.
One of my last stops of the day was at Good Earth Mineral Solutions, who had numerous tables piled high and underslung with hundreds and hundreds of flats of various minerals. My attention got caught when I saw a nice sized piece of that dark purple Brazilian amethyst with large, clean points go on an offer of $10.00. I know a nice $10.00 chunk of that stuff when I see it, and that was definitely one. Rick Kenyon was welcoming his customers to dig through all of them and was selling by the piece, or giving by the box deals on you fill 'em flats. I did a little exploratory work and found a several specimens very nice to my tastes in ten or fifteen minutes.
I had been looking for a viable source of rocks to be used as prizes for a upcoming contest I'm planning for the Shop, and I hit a glory hole here. I was soon busy methodically sifting through their rocks flat by flat and started putting together a flat of high grade. It soon became evident to me that if I was willing to additionally pay by spending the effort and time to required to look, there were some great pieces to be had here relative to their price.
It was late in the day and dusk came pretty quickly. Although it's been getting into the seventies pretty regularly during the day since the Show started, the temperature begins dropping quickly as soon as the sun approaches the horizon, and I was getting chilly. I asked Rick to stick the flat I'd started away and save it for me to start in on again tomorrow morning.