It was cloudy today with a high of 68 degrees. A heavy storm which caused a considerable amount of damage in southern California is moving inland, and local weather services have issued severe storm warnings with strong winds and possible flash flooding in Tucson this evening. Better get those big tents securely staked down boys...
Today I began a tour of the Executive Inn, which is one of three hotels hosting the Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show. The other two hotels are the Ramada Inn, just across the corner of Fossil and Mineral Boulevard from the Executive, and the Inn Suites hotel downtown. This show alone hosts over 300 dealers between the three hotels and also has it's own guide and dealer listing. Note the cool cover art by Wendell E. Wilson, editor of the Mineralogical Record.
Superb Minerals of India showed some fine zeolites and associated minerals from the Deccan Traps in room 161. Above are close-ups of three specimens which were on the round glass shelves shown at left. Above left is a nice 5" geode from Bombay harboring a spray of natrolite. This one wanted a thousand dollars. I did overhear one dealer negotiate a significant markdown on another spray of natrolite while I was in the room. This one was detached from its matrix. He justified the discount through the risk he said he would take getting it home in one piece. Superb Minerals countered with an apparently previously offered discount. The dealer inquired with what sounded like a tone of finality as to whether or not the offer he'd just made was acceptable. It was.
At times, mineral dealing is rather similar playing poker. One thing's for sure, it doesn't hurt to ask for a better price, although there are often times when a dealer's price is firm. The specimen prices generally tend to become more negotiable towards the latter part of the Show, especially if the dealer didn't do well generally, or blew all his profits buying specimens and needs a little road money to get home.
Shown above center is a rather elegant Jalgaon apophyllite crystal on matrix. It was about an inch across and was marked at $600. Shown above right is another attractive geode with apophyllite and stilbite crystals. This one was about 4 inches high and wanted $200.
After checking out the Deccan Traps specimens I was in the mood for some beryls and decided to drop by and visit Jose Vesga of Bogota, Columbia. Jose is a mine direct dealer of emerald specimens, rough and cut stones directly from the Coscuez, Muzo and Chivor mines. I figure Jose is a good guy to make friends with, and the last several years I have stopped by to take pictures of some of his specimens in the ballroom at the EI. This year I had a new interest and also wanted to check out some emerald rough for faceting.
Jose brought some pretty nice emeralds to Tucson this year too. Jose told me all three of the above specimens were from the Coscuez mine, where the emerald crystals are commonly associated with a dark calcite. The specimen above left is a rather sublime piece with the prismatic emerald crystal embraced by dark calcite crystals. Note the bottom of the crystal peeking out from under the calcite. Your basic one inch emerald. Just the thing to go with that Wah Wah red beryl you hang on the tree each year at Christmas. $6500.
The crystal in the specimen shown above center is about half inch long and a quarter of an inch in diameter. It was smaller than the one on the left, but gemmier and less included. It also had a really classy termination. This crystal had already been spoken for at a price in the mid five figures, but Jose hadn't seen the money yet.
The specimen shown above right is an aesthetic cluster of emerald crystals which were somewhat recessed in the matrix, making them hard to photograph under golfing conditions like I do. My image doesn't really do this gemmy specimen justice, but the hexagonal structure of these beryl crystals is still evident. This one reminds me of the honeycomb cells in a wasp nest or beehive. Sweeter than honey, though...
Jose also showed and sold cut stones. Those shown above left and center were between 1 and 3 carats and priced at $550 a carat. Emerald cuts, of course. The one in my hand is a 2.9 carat stone. There are numerous veils and inclusions in it, but it is still a very attractive stone. Above right is a parcel of emerald rough, from which you could take your pick for $5 per carat. It had already been raided by several faceters, but Jose helped me find a piece he said he was surprised they missed. It has a very gemmy layer of dark green material, which Jose assured me would produce a rich colored stone when properly oriented in the pavilion.
Of course, I made Jose draw me a picture. There will be substantial loss of weight to cut the best possible stone from that one, but what do you expect for $5 per carat? The choicest emerald rough can run upwards of $1000 per carat. I also selected a somewhat larger and paler stone, which I will orient to cut for maximum size. Jose said he'd stick a special piece of emerald rough aside for me for next year's Show. My faceting instructor would no doubt ban me from class for buying somewhat less than completely eye clean rough, but then, he wasn't paying for it either. By next year I'll be an emerald cutting expert, and maybe I'll be in the market for some $1000 per carat emerald rough at the '99 Show... ;)
Jose had emerald specimens for collectors on a budget too. Above left is a very pale emerald crystal from Muzo growing on pyrite. It was about 3/16" of an inch in overall length and very gemmy. This one wanted just emerald pocket change at several hundreds of dollars. Above center is a nice $100 specimen for the emerald collector on a tighter budget. This one had a total of 8 rather opaque emerald crystals, the longest of which was about 5/8". Several of the smaller and darker of them were well defined, hexagonal crystals with fair terminations.
I stopped by room 275 to visit with Rob Lavinsky of the Arkenstone, John Attard of Attard's Minerals, and John Veevaert of Trinity Mineral Company. Rob and John V. are both advertising sponsors of the Shop, and this year they got together to work on a virtual show room at the Executive Inn via John's Trinity Mineral site. Rob and John V. were also showing and selling minerals to customers in their non-virtual room, along with John Attard.
Shown at left is John Veevaert, hard at work on the virtual EI show room. Pay no attention to that man behind the curtains... ;) John's set-up for the virtual room was rather cramped, being crammed into the kitchenette area in 275. Note one corner of the pile of specimens, boxes, labels, et al just to John's left on top of the stove. You can tell these guys are eating out. John and Rob have already sold numerous Executive Inn specimens on the Internet via their virtual show room, and John related to me that they have already learned a lot about the logistics involved in creating and hosting a virtual show room. Next year he plans to have a more spacious, out of the way studio to work in.
Shown above left is one of a limited amount of just released boleite specimens, collected in Santa Rosalia, Baja in 1973. The prominent crystal measures approximately 3/8" on an edge. This is a tetragonal halide and the "cube" is actually composed of twin crystals with three interpenetrant individuals. This material is highly prized by collectors and has apparently created quite a stir in the 'Virtual EI' room. It is selling fast to other dealers and collectors here physically as well as online. Looks like all the available material will soon be snapped up and pretty much distributed by the end of the Show. A piece like this could easily set you back a couple of grand at the going rate.
Shown above center and right is an elegant, 2" high wire silver on calcite Julcani mine, Angaraes Province, Huancavelica, Peru. While this type of silver specimen is popular with many collectors, they don't generally turn me on that much. However, those little calcite crystals crowning the tip of the wire really gives this one some special appeal. $750.
Above left is a rather aesthetic pair of benitoite crystals on natrolite (white) and crossite matrix from the Benitoite Gem Mine in California that John V. had already laid claim to. The large crystal measures about 3/4" on an edge. John's got a thing for benitoite crystals and I wouldn't be surprised if these showed up somewhere in the logo for Trinity Mineral Company.
Shown above center and right are two tanzanite crystals. The taller crystal shown above center was particularly gemmy, and it had a very nice termination. It was about 1 3/4 inches high and wanted $3200. At right is a close up of the smaller twin, about 7/8" high. Rob was asking $1200 for it. He related that it was the only tanzanite twin he'd ever seen.
Rob showed me this Brazilian tourmaline in quartz from Governador Valadares, Minas Gerias, above left. I found this specimen pretty appealing. Rob wanted $275 for this one.
Shown above center and right is a gemmy selenite rose from the Red River Floodway near Winnipeg, Canada. This specimen was about 3 inches across. It was also fluorescent and is shown at right under mixed shortwave UV and daylight. It was priced at $200 and it sold virtually as I filmed it, through John V.'s Trinity Minerals web site.
If I had tried illuminating this specimen under the ambient lighting conditions with my humble 4W Raytech Versalume, the fluorescence would not have even been discernable. However, this shot was made using one of UV System's awesome 'ultrabright' shortwave lamps, which were in use by a number of dealers throughout the Executive to show off fluorescent specimens in ambient light without the customary trip to the bathroom. (The background is black only because I placed a black sheet of construction paper behind the specimen before taking the shot.) At about $400 these are pricey lights, but they really pack a wallop. I plan to show these lamps later in the report when I visit the UV Systems booth at the main event.
Shown above left is a fluorite with octahedral crystals from Gilgit, Pakistan This specimen is about an inch wide overall, and the largest fluorite octos are about 3/8" on an edge. This specimen hadn't been priced yet but will probably be offered around $75.
Shown above center and right is a 1 3/4" high Alma, Colorado rhodochrosite crystal from the Butterfly Pocket, Main Stope, Sweet Home mine. It is covered with quartz and fluorite crystals Many collectors tend to consider fluorites pedestrian and rhodochrosites sublime, but here is a piece where the associated fluorite holds the rhodo in the background. Check out the little fluorites covering this piece exhibiting cubic, octagonal even dodecahedral crystal forms. A large dodecahedron shown in the above right close-up measures about 7mm on an edge. Acceptable technical mineralogical terminology for a piece like this is "cool". This was a very aesthetic specimen to my tastes. Sublime, actually. A truly 'grand' specimen which would cost you that much too.