The Wisdom Pocket Blog Intro | iRocks Blog

Welcome to the Wisdom Pocket.

We’ve long been looking for the right avenue to add fun content for our customers and the mineral-curious. After rebuilding our database, relaunching iRocks.com, and months of tracking down articles, videos, interviews, photos, and more, we’re finally set to launch our new blog.

For new readers just learning about minerals, you might be curious about the name of our new blog. When searching for fine minerals in mines and mountains, crystals can be found in pockets within the rock. Hot liquids, gases, and molten rock that are produced by various Earth processes, migrate upward from the upper mantle and various parts of the crust and accumulate in pockets located in the Earth’s upper crust. As temperature and pressure is reduced, these liquids, gases, and molten rock, rich in various elements, combine to create the large variety of minerals and crystal shapes that we know and love. Do you know there are almost 5,000 minerals that have been discovered and more are found every year?!

A robust, colorful bluecap mineral specimen from the famous BlueCap Pocket

A Blue Cap Tourmaline from the famous Tourmaline Queen Mine, Joe Budd Photo.

Many of these pockets contain crystals of minerals with distinct characteristics and mineral associations that help make the specimens identifiable from a specific pocket from a particular mine or mineral occurrence. Some pockets and their contained minerals have become world famous for the exceptional color, shape, or crystal size.

These special pockets are often named after the miners or individuals who found them (Charlie Key Pocket of lustrous blue azurite crystals from Tsumeb, Namibia), special characteristics of the specimens found (Blue Cap Pocket – distinct, gemmy rubellite tourmaline crystals with a blue indicolite cap from the Tourmaline Queen Mine, in California), or whimsical memorable jokes (Electric Meatball find of Zunyites).

So now, we present to you the Wisdom Pocket, our own special space to share our knowledge, passion, and insight into the mineral world.

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The Legends of Beautiful Crystals and Gems

The Legends of Beautiful Crystals and Gemstones

Throughout history, crystals and gemstones have been the subject of great myths and legends. Their natural beauty inspires curiosity in where they came from and mysticism in the power behind their colors.

Custom engraved bases by The Arkenstone, www.iRocks.com, are one of the most important ways to boost the display beauty of your fine minerals.

While modern science has given us insight on the creation of crystals and gemstones, legends offer an understanding of their value throughout history. Here are some of our favorites:

Amethyst

Amethyst is one of the most recognizable gemstones in the world!

Amethyst from Vera Cruz, Mexico. Joe Budd Photo, Jeff Starr Collection

Amethyst is a purple variety of Quartz with deep lavender to light rose colors. Most Amethyst starts as a clear Quartz, and receives its purple coloring after being exposed to manganese and varying degrees of iron. As more iron is introduced into the clear Quarts, the deeper its purple color.

The ancient Greeks believed Amethyst originated from the tears of the god of wine Dionysus that trickled down the statue of Amethyst.[1] When Dionysus was insulted by mortals, he created tigers to attack the next mortal that crossed his path.

A beautiful young maiden named Amethyst went to pay tribute to the goddess Diana, the tigers charged for Amethyst. The goddess Diana then turned Amethyst into a giant pure crystalline Quartz statue. When Dionysus saw the beautiful statue and realized the consequences of his actions, he wept remorseful tears of wine. It was believed that these tears stained the Quartz statue into the lavender color we see today.

Amber

Amber is unique from other rare rocks and minerals, because it’s made from fossilized tree resin. The fossilized resin is an organic compound of progressively oxygenated hydrocarbons over millions of years. In fact, the majority of Amber specimens are found within Cretaceous and Tertiary sedimentary rocks that are aged between 30 – 90 million years old.[2]

Many cultures revered Amber for its sun-like colors and its preservation of plants, insects, and other organic matter. Some Amber specimens take the shape of a teardrop, as tree resin drips from the bark and reta

ins its pouring form. These physical qualities have led to many legends connecting Amber to the sun.

The history of amber (especially those with insects frozen inside!) have fascinated people for centuries.

Amber found in north Poland with insect inside, auctioned on MineralAuctions.com

One legend in Lithuania believed Amber came from the tears of Jurate, a Sea Goddess, who mourned the loss of her beloved.[3]

The ancient Greeks believed Amber was formed after the tragedy of Phaethon, son to the God of Sun.[4] When Zeus the Thunderer threw a bolt of lightning at Phaethon and his flaming chariot, Phaethon was swallowed by flamed and died on the Eridanus River. When his body was found by his mother Clymene and sisters Heliades, their tears fell into the river and hardened into Amber.

Jasper

Jasper is a type of Chalcedony Quartz that is completely opaque. A pure microcrystalline quartz gemstone is semitransparent, but the Jasper contains enough impurities to change its ability to transmit light. Jasper can come in a variety of colors, ranging from red-orange to a light peach.

Bumblebee Jasper from Indonesia auctioned on MineralAuctions.com

Historically, Jasper gemstones with a blood red color were widely sought after and used in royal amulets. It was believed that the blood red coloring helped women with fertility and stimulated good health. The ancient Egyptians linked red Jasper to the fertilizing blood of Mother Isis. [5]

The Vikings also believed red Jasper held magical properties that strengthened the skills of warriors. One legend believed that a red Jasper was laid in the hilt of the magical sword of Siegfried. The red Jasper gave Siegfried the courage needed in battle to later become a fierce slayer of dragons.[6]

Many legends offer a story of origin for crystals and gemstones. Their striking colors, shapes, and organic qualities are oftentimes connected to forces of nature like the sun. Rare crystals and gemstones are natural works of art that have inspired cultures throughout history.

Want to see these rare crystals and gemstones in person? We’ve recently update our galleries with many impressive specimens from around the world. You can find our latest collections here.

Also, don’t miss our listings for our rare rock and mineral shows. We’d love to meet with you and talk about the specimens in our collections!

[1] “Amethyst”. New World Encyclopedia. http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Amethyst

[2] Susan A. “What is Amber?”. Emporia State University. http://academic.emporia.edu/abersusa/whatis.htm

[3] “Legend of Jurate and Kastytis”. Amber Museum Kaliningrad. http://www.ambermuseum.ru/en/home/about_amber/legends/jurate_and_kastytis

[4] “Myth of Phaethon”. Amber Museum Kaliningrad. http://www.ambermuseum.ru/en/home/about_amber/legends/phaethon_myth

[5] Caroline S. “Isis, Sister of Nephthys, Mistress of Magic”. The Keep. http://www.thekeep.org/~kunoichi/kunoichi/themestream/isis.html#.V6jlQZgrLIV

[6] “Saga of The Nibelung”. The Viking’s World. http://www.thevikingsworld.com/Skald/nibelungenlied/nibelungenlied029.html

Diamonds in the Rough – Finding a True Gem

Natural diamond found in Mir Pipe, Russia. Joe Budd Photo

Diamonds have long been a symbol of rarity and natural beauty. The phrase “a diamond in the rough” really sums it up perfectly – as these crystals, even in their natural form – are quite stunning. But what makes them so rare, and desirable? Is it merely the value we’ve attached to them? Or, something more?

To begin with, diamonds are the only gemstone comprised of a single element. Their crystals are composed entirely of pure carbon which has been compressed in extreme temperatures and pressure beneath the earth’s surface – resulting in an arrangement of carbon atoms into a unique crystalline structure which lends the diamond unique properties. With a Mohs rating of 10, and a melting point of 3800°C, diamonds are the hardest known natural substance. In fact, even the name “diamond” arises from the Greek word “adamas”, which means indestructible.

The most valuable diamond specimens are those which are clear, colorless, and flawless – though even rough cut diamonds which meet these standards are difficult to find. Variances in color may span the full spectrum of the rainbow, depending on the presence of trace minerals (such as boron, or nitrogen) during the formation process. This can result in hues which range from the very pale, to deep and richly colored specimens. Clarity can also be affected by the inclusion of these trace minerals, as well as the presence of internal fractures which may have occurred during formation. Rough cut diamonds selected for jewelry-making should also be reviewed by a trained eye, as their shape and internal flaws may drastically affect their suitability for trimming.

Still, even the most flawed of natural diamonds hold a distinctive, inherent beauty. The simple miracle of their formation deep beneath the earth’s crust, and subsequent journey to the surface, lends rarity and interest to each unique specimen.

Every diamond has a story which spans millions of years – a timeline which truly boggles the mind. After formation within the Earth’s mantle, diamonds are transported to the surface in pipes of magma, which burst forth in violent eruptions. These stone pipes are usually composed of kimberlite – a weathered, yellow-brown or gray volcanic rock composed of fragments of peridotite and eclogite, embedded in potassic-ultramafic magma. Kimberlite was named after the city of Kimberley, in South Africa, where these diamond-bearing channels were first discovered. The presence of kimberlite (or its cousin, lamproite) is one of the first things geologists search for, when seeking sites where diamonds may be present.

Diamonds naturally display a crystalline habit – still, due to their extreme age, and volatile life’s journey, rough cut diamonds have often lost their naturally sharp faceting, exhibiting a more rounded shape. Eighty percent of rough cut diamonds are unsuitable for use as gemstones, and are separated from higher-quality specimens after mining, to be used for industrial purposes.

Arkansas natural diamond crystals

Arkansas is the most well-known location for American diamonds. Joe Budd Photo

Higher-quality stones are then sorted and graded by hand – separated by size, and other characteristics which lend each specimen a greater or lesser perceived value. Rough cut diamonds are then priced according to their clarity, color, carat, and shape – as these are factors which will determine their price, and suitability for use in jewelry or industrial purposes.

When choosing a rough diamond, you may want to consider factors outside of the typical “Four C’s”. (Learn about why the Four C’s of diamonds don’t apply to natural crystal collecting!) Those purchasing for industrial use will want to consider hardness and shape, whereas those seeking a stone for use in fine jewelry will want to consider the same standards used for assessing a cut stone – but with detailed attention to shape, and inclusions which may affect the resulting shape of the finished stone (keeping in mind that, on average, as much as 50% of the carat weight will be lost in the trimming).

Mineral collectors interested in reviewing these stones for their own personal enjoyment and display will find that rough cut diamonds make a breathtaking addition to any collection. Their rich history adds interest and intrigue to your fine gem and mineral display, and will be an expression of rarity and beauty you value, for years to come.

For those interested in assistance with their final selections, please contact the experts at iRocks, directly. Or, take a look at the Arkenstone’s current collection of rare, rough cut diamonds. We’re sure you’ll find a specimen which sparks your fancy!

Amethyst Geode Themed Wedding Cakes!

Amethyst Geode Themed Wedding Cakes!

The love for rare rocks and minerals has taken over the culinary world with the detailed work of amethyst themed wedding cakes. Recently, The Arkenstone supported the creation of a stunning geode cake for our Dallas Mineral Collecting Symposium as part of a 90th birthday celebration for speaker Bob Jones, but the cake style first hit popularity in Denver.

 

Using edible sugar, rock candy, dyes and moldable chocolate, Rachael Teufel of Intricate Icings has started an exciting new trend that foodies and rockhounds love. Unveiled at an industry event, the tall white cake sparkles with realistic amethyst crystals hollowed into its side like a geode.

From the Intricate Icings website, Rachael explains her geode inspiration and how the cake was made:

The cake was the centerpiece for one of the three “emotion” inspired vignettes that evening. The stunning ‘Joy’ inspired vignette showcased a variety of geodes. It included rich textures, deep colors and lots of light letting the natural beauty and shape of geodes lead the design. Joy speaks of experiencing something that pleases the eye, warms your heart and soothes the soul.[1]

Rachael’s amethyst geode cake took 16-hours and an eye for details to make. As rockhounds, we can appreciate the dedicated work it takes to replicate one of nature’s most astonishing rare minerals.

Geodes in Nature

Amethyst Geode - fantastic natural art

Amethyst Geodes like this one are a hot trend in home decor and provide inspiration for the popular geode cake trend.

The amethyst inside a geode is a byproduct of mineral deposits lining the interior cavity. It can take thousands to millions of years for massive geodes to form under extreme steady heat and pressure. The exterior of the geode may look like an unimpressive rough stone, but the interior cavity of the geode is lined with a mass of crystalline minerals whose natural beauty inspired the amethyst geode cake.

Most geodes are found within igneous rock with cavities created by the cooling of lava. The exact process for how these cavities are formed is still somewhat a mystery, but some popular theories suggest the bubbling activity of the lava leaves pockets for gas to escape.[2] As the molten rock of the geode cools and the gas escapes, a cavity is left behind for mineral enriched water to create crystals.

Geodes can also form within sedimentary rock like calcite and limestone. A popular theory for geodes in sedimentary rock suggests ground water drying from the ground and hardening into cavities.[3] This would occur in a cycle with water leaving mineral deposits for the crystals to grow.

The Colors of Quartz Crystals

The chemical composition of the minerals inside a geode are highly representatives of their environment as temperature, acidity, and elements in the water form crystals. The most common mineral found within geodes is quartz since silicon dioxide, or silica, is plentiful in all forms of rock.

South America produces amazing fine minerals, and amethysts are a specialty. This 21cm tall amethyst from Guererro, Mexico is an exceptional example of natural art and fine minerals.

Amethyst crystal from Guererro, Mexico. Joe Budd Photo

Amethyst is a purple variety of quartz crystal. The formation of amethyst in a geode comes from iron impurities in the mineral enriched water. This is where amethyst crystal structures get their color ranges from a light -lilac to deep, royal purple. Depending on the angular zones of the amethyst crystals, angling light in certain directions can help bring out deeper purples of a specimen. 

Twinned citrine crystal, Namibia. The Arkenstone, www.iRocks.com

Not only is this citrine natural, but it also exhibits twinning.

Another variety of quartz found in geodes is citrine. They’re light yellow to orange in color and are rarely formed in nature. Citrine is a type of amethyst that has been exposed to intense heat, changing its color from purple to yellow. In geodes that have produced citrine, it is common for the citrine and amethyst to blend and create ametrine.

Amethyst geodes are formed through a complex process that can take thousands to millions of years. Whether you’re assembling a collection for a museum or making a wedding cake, the beauty of these rare rocks and minerals is something we can all appreciate.

Love quartz? Explore more about quartz in our blog article, Favorite Types of Quartz!

Searching for geodes to add to your rare rock and mineral collection? We’ve recently added to our collection of rare rocks and minerals for sale after our shows in Denver. You can also find our other rare rock and mineral collections here.

Also, don’t miss our listings for our rare rock and mineral shows. We’d love to meet with you and talk about the specimens in our collections!

[1] Rachael T. “Amethyst Geode Wedding Cake”. Intricate Icings. http://www.intricateicings.com/single-post/2016/1/22/Amethyst-Geode-Wedding-cake

[2] Roger W. “Geodes”. Cochise College. http://skywalker.cochise.edu/wellerr/students/geode/Geodes.htm

[3] Ibid.

Cursed Gemstones: The Black Prince’s Ruby

Cursed Gemstones: The Black Prince’s Ruby

Black Prince's Ruby is actually a spinel that is currently a part of the British Imperial State Crown.

The gemstone at the front of George V’s Imperial State Crown. G. Younghusband; C. Davenport (1919). The Crown Jewels of England. London: Cassell & Co. p. 6.

The ruby is a unique precious stone that has adorned a massive following throughout human history. Its deep red colors have made it the favorite of royalty across world cultures from India to England. Many cultures have also created dramatic legends around favorite, famous rubies. The Black Prince’s Ruby was a famous ruby with a tragic past, but a surprising discovery changed its image forever.

The Black Prince’s Ruby Is Not a Ruby

The Black Prince’s Ruby has had a long history as a royal gemstone whose incredible size and blood-red color made it the crowning jewel to the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom. Weighing in at 170 carats and at about 2 inches long, the Black Prince’s Ruby was long thought to be one of the largest rubies in the world. However, a ruby gemstone of this size would prove too good to be true.

The majority of rough ruby crystals grow in the shape of an elongated carrot and have their pleochroism flowing towards its pointed ends.[1] Pleochroism describes a gradient effect where different colors follow an opposite direction from the crystal. This makes cut ruby gemstones larger than a carat incredibly rare, because the naturally elongated shape of the ruby makes it vulnerable to a low weight retention rate.[2]

While the Black Prince’s Ruby is an impressive specimen in its own right, it is not a ruby. In the 16th century, jewelers found the Black Prince’s Ruby to be a spinel, a mineral that is well known today as “the great imposter” for its deceitful likeness to a ruby.[3] Although they share the same color with the ruby, the spinel has a completely different chemical composition and crystal structure.

The Curse of the Sultan

The legends behind the Black Prince’s Ruby starts with an act of deceit. Prior to being the crowning jewel in the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, the Black Prince’s Ruby made its first known appearance in the 14th century as the gemstone of Abu Said, the last Sultan of Granada.[4] In 1362, Granada was losing territory to King Pedro the Cruel of the Christian Kingdom of Castile through a series of battles. To find peace, the Sultan arranged a peace meeting with King Pedro in Castile.[5]

On arrival to the Castilian lands, King Pedro killed Sultan Abu and all of his accompanying servants. King Pedro had no intention of settling for peace, and some accounts describe the king as the one who killed the Sultan himself. The ruby was then confiscated from the body of the Sultan. This is the first step in a long history of misfortune surrounding the ruby throughout the majority of the Middle Ages.

Cursed Through the Middle Ages

Soon after killing Sultan Abu, King Pedro found himself warring with his brother, Henry of Trastamara for the throne of Castile. To aid in battle, King Pedro enlisted the help of Edward the Black Prince of England. After a series of battles, Henry of Trastamara was kept at bay, successfully preserving the throne of King Pedro. For his service, the ruby was given to Edward the Black Prince.

Upon receiving the ruby, Edward the Black Prince returned to England. However, King Pedro’s victory wouldn’t last long as he’d engage in more battles with his brother, resulting in his bankruptcy and death just 3 years later.[6] Edward the Black Prince would also die from a slow disease before he could inherit the English throne, leaving the ruby to his son, Richard II.[7]

Richard II would eventually become King, but he was murdered at the age of 21 by Henry IV Bolinbroke, starting the line of Lancastrian Kings.[8] Shortly after taking the throne, King Henry IV Bolinbroke would die from a slow illness, leaving his son Henry V to inherit the throne and the Black Prince’s Ruby.

This series of kings dying from mysterious illnesses or misfortune in battle would continue through several lineages until the ruby made its way into the hands of the Tudors.

Passed from the Tudors to the Stuarts

The Black Prince’s Ruby was inherited by the Tudors in the 16th century, entering a relatively calm period for the gemstone. Queen Elizabeth I gifted the ruby to Queen Mary of Scots who would pass it down to King James I when the Stuarts took the English throne in 1603. However, the years that followed the exchange saw another wave of misfortune as King James’s son, Charles I, was executed during the Civil War and the Crown Jewels were sold off.

When the Black Prince’s Ruby was being appraised, a jeweler discovered that the stone was not a ruby but a spinel. When the monarchy was restored by Charles II in 1660, the jewel sold to the crown for 15 pounds and was refashioned as the crowning jewel of the Imperial State Crown.[9] The throne was then inherited by Charles’s brother, James II, who was exiled just 3 years after his coronation.

Today, the Black Prince’s Ruby is now on display in the Tower of London with the rest of the crowning jewels. There have been a few notable incidents since, such as when King James II lost the throne. All in all, the long history of misfortune following the stone has made the Black Prince’s Ruby one of the most infamous jewels in English history.

Looking for rare rubies? Then explore our expansive collection of rare rocks and minerals! We’ve recently update our galleries with many impressive specimens from around the world. You can find our latest collections here.

Also, don’t miss our listings for our rare rock and mineral shows. We’d love to meet with you and talk about the specimens in our collections!

[1] Richard H. “Pleochroism in Faceted Gems”. Gemological Institute of America Inc. http://www.gia.edu/gems-gemology/fall-2014-introduction-pleochroism-faceted-gems

[2] Ibid.

[3] “Spinel”. International Colored Gemstone Association. http://www.gemstone.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=124:sapphire&catid=1:gem-by-gem&Itemid=14

[4] Desmond S, The Hundred Years War (London: Penguin, 1999).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Christopher H, A Pilgrim in Spain (London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011).

[7] Jenny S, Richard II and the English Royal Treasure (Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2012).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Richard H. “The Black Prince’s Ruby”. Ruby & Sapphire. http://www.ruby-sapphire.com/black-princes-ruby.htm

 

Collections That Shine: Rare Coins and Minerals

Collections That Shine: Rare Coins and Minerals

To the untrained eye, a coin has two-sides and shimmers in the right light. To an avid collector, a coin is worth more than its printed monetary value and face. Each coin has a unique craftsmanship that details the tools and symbols of their time. The weight and materials used capture a moment in history and the journeys it took to create it.

The excitement that comes from studying the beauty and history of a rare coin is the same felt by rockhounds when they add a rare mineral to their collection. Rare coins and minerals have more in common than one would think, from how a sample is appraised to their collection trends. Both inspire dedicated communities to their craft.

More Than a Shine

Like a rare mineral, the rare and more sought after the coin the greater its potential value. Where a coin and mineral differ is in their creation. Minerals are created naturally within the earth over a span of thousands to millions of years. Coins are minted by people using minerals, which places greater emphasis on the coin’s locality and year of circulation.

When judging a coin, the value is derived from its historical significance and strike. Some important factors include:

  • The issued year or era
  • The overall condition of the coin and its strike
  • The materials used in the coin
1879 Morgan Dollar Coin

1879 Morgan Dollar Coin

For example, a highly popular coin amongst coin collectors is the 1891 Morgan Dollar. The coin was minted between 1878 through 1904 as the first standardized silver dollar, ending the free coining of silver. Coins minted in 1891 were some of the last to be minted under the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, as silver was soon redistributed to mint dimes, quarters, and half dollars.[1]

1891 Morgan Dollars of the same mintmark, year, and overall condition may appear to have similar values. However, coins with clearer mintmarks, specifically the Carson City “CC” mint, are worth more than those with shallower strikes.[2] This is because the 1891 Morgan Dollars were produced by four minters with different rarities.

Locality Is Essential

Variations of the factors used to judge coins are also used in judging the quality of rare minerals. Some of the physiological features of a mineral that are taken into consideration are:

  • Condition of the specimen
  • Material makeup of the specimen
  • Hues and tones
  • Saturation and variation
  • Aventurization and Chatoyancy
Fine Sapphire Crystal, Sri Lanka.

Natural sapphires like this one are judged on criteria like crystal shape, color, and the rarity of the location. Joe Budd Photo.

In addition to physiological features, there are also major differences between species of minerals in terms of their chemical makeup. Rare minerals like sapphires and opals are chemically unique from one another. Sapphires are a variety of corundum and, depending on its concentration of impurities, can take on multiple colors. Opals are amorphous as they don’t take on a purely crystal structure and can shine multiple colors at once in what is called the “play-of-color”.

Like a coin, the locality or where the mineral was formed plays a major role in its value. Minerals are created through natural processes within the earth over a span of thousands to millions of years. With earth hosting a variety of climates, specimens from certain parts of the world will slight variations in their qualities.

For instance, 90% of the world’s opals are mined in Australia.[3] Another producer of opals is Ethiopia. Although both countries produce the same silica-based opal, Ethiopian opals are found to contain half the amount of water of Australian opals. [4]

To the avid coin collector and mineral enthusiast, there are few things better than learning more about the samples in their collection. In many ways, collecting coins and rare minerals share the same enthusiasm for history, beauty, and the hunt for their next piece.

Explore our expansive collection of rare rocks and minerals! We’ve recently update our galleries with many impressive specimens from around the world. You can find our latest collections here.

Also, don’t miss our listings for our rare rock and mineral shows. We’d love to meet with you and talk about the specimens in our collections!

 

[1] William R. Supplement to the revised statues of the United States (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1891), 806—807.

[2] Daniel H. “1891 Morgan Silver Dollar Value”. CoinStudy. http://www.coinstudy.com/1891-morgan-silver-dollar-value.html

[3] “The History of Opal”. Opals Dow Under. http://www.opalsdownunder.com.au/learn-about-opals/intermediate/history-opal

[4] ­Eloise G. “Loving Ethiopian Opals”. National History Museum of Los Angeles County. http://nhminsci.blogspot.com/2012/07/loving-ethiopian-opals.html

Famously Misidentified Gemstones – iRocks

Famously Misidentified Gemstones

Gemstones catch the eye of Rockhounds for their unique shapes and colors. Yet, some gemstones are nearly indistinguishable, even to the trained eye. Until the introduction of chemical properties, classifying rare stones was a challenging process that relied heavily on observing physical properties.

Qualities like color, hardness, streak, and diaphaneity were some of the properties that were readily observable to merchants, miners, and jewelers. With modern gemology, the chemical composition and crystal structures of a stone are taken into account. While these properties help us understand the differences between specimens, it has also uncovered identification errors made of famous gemstones.

Black Prince’s Ruby

Black Prince's Ruby is actually a spinel that is currently a part of the British Imperial State Crown.

The gemstone at the front of George V’s Imperial State Crown. G. Younghusband; C. Davenport (1919). The Crown Jewels of England. London: Cassell & Co. p. 6.

The Black Prince’s Ruby is an egg sized gemstone that was originally owned by the Moorish Prince of Granada, Spain in the 14th century. The gemstone was received by the Prince of Wales in 1367 as payment for a victory in battle and later given to King Henry V of England in 1415.[1]

The massive gemstone soon became legendary when it saved King Henry’s life from an axe blow to the head during a battle with French Prince Duc d’Alencon.[2] The Black Prince’s Ruby has since adorned the Imperial State Crown of the United Kingdom, having been passed down to numerous British kings and queens.

In the 16th century, it was found that the Black Prince’s Ruby was not a Ruby after all, but a Spinel instead.[3] The Spinel earned a reputation as “The Great Imposter” by English jewelers as its physical properties are nearly indistinguishable to that of the Ruby.

 

The Delhi Purple Sapphire

This purple amethyst was originally believed to be sapphire

The Dehli Purple sapphire – revealed later to be an amethyst. Source: Natural History Museum (London)

The Delhi Purple Sapphire is a large gemstone set in a silver ring with alchemic and astrological signs decorating its band. The Sapphire was thought to be a “cursed gemstone” for its curious history of unfortunate events befalling its owners.

Records show that The Sapphire started its journey in India where it was stolen from the Temple of Indra in 1855.[4] The Sapphire eventually found its way into the hands of Edward Heron-Allen, an expert in paleontology and author of many archaeology books, who would immediately find himself in the way of bad luck.[5]

Incidents from bad investments to friends suffering bodily harm convinced Heron-Allen to distance himself from the stone. When Heron-Allen tried to get rid of the gemstone by throwing it into the Regent’s Canal, it was mysteriously returned to him a few months later by a local jeweler.

In January 1944, the Heron-Allen family gave the Delhi Purple Sapphire to London’s Natural History Museum where the stone was found to be an Amethyst.[6] Curators at the Natural History Museum believe these claims were started by Edward Heron-Allen to give credibility to the Amethyst.

Alexandrite

Alexandrite gemstone in different lighting - pink and blue coloring

Alexandrite exhibits amazing color-change properties. This is the same stone under different lighting.

Russia became a major source of Emerald gemstone in the 1830s when deposits were found along the Tokovaya River.[7] The discovery then attracted miners to the river and the nearby Ural Mountains where reports of sizable Emerald gemstones were also found.

The Ural Mountains supplied the area with many large gemstones, including a notable discovery by French scientist Nils Gustaf Nordensköld. In 1834, Nordensköld was inspecting Emeralds found in the Ural Mountains when he found some of the stones had a chromium bearing, pleochronic variety of chrysoberyl.[8]

This discovery gave birth to a new gem quality stone, the Alexandrite, whose color would change from a deep emerald green in daylight and red in nightfall. Alexandrite, having been discovered in Russia and found to be one of the rarest colored gemstones, then became the official gemstone of Imperial Russia’s Tsardom.[9]

Despite the misidentification of these gemstones, their rich history and lore is what truly makes them some of the world’s most valued gemstones. After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Have you seen our expansive collection of rare rocks and minerals?  We’ve recently updated our galleries with many impressive specimens from around the world. You can find our latest collections here.

Also, don’t miss our listings for our rare rock and mineral shows. We’d love to meet with you and talk about the specimens in our collections!

[1] Byashley F. “Spinel”. Sothesbys. http://www.sothebys.com/en/news-video/blogs/all-blogs/masterpieces-in-the-making/2015/11/spinel-gemstone-the-great-imposter.html

[2] Richard H. “The Black Prince’s Ruby”. Ruby Sapphire. http://www.ruby-sapphire.com/black-princes-ruby.htm

[3] “Spinel”. International Colored Gemstone Association. http://www.gemstone.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=124:sapphire&catid=1:gem-by-gem&Itemid=14

[4] Amy F. “Specimen of the Month #1: The Cursed Amethyst”. Natural History Museum. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/blogs/behind-the-scenes/2013/11/21/specimen-of-the-month-1-the-cursed-amethyst?fromGateway=true

[5] John S, Haunting Museums (London: Macmillian, 2009), 206.

[6] Amy F. “Specimen of the Month #1: The Cursed Amethyst”. Natural History Museum. http://www.nhm.ac.uk/natureplus/blogs/behind-the-scenes/2013/11/21/specimen-of-the-month-1-the-cursed-amethyst?fromGateway=true

[7] Richard H, John K, and Waren B. “Emerald & Alexandrite from Russia”. Lotus Gemology. http://www.lotusgemology.com/index.php/library/articles/298-emeralds-from-russia-a-closer-look

[8] George F, The Curious Lore of Precious Stones (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1913) 55-56.

[9] Ibid.

November 2016: Minerals in the News

November 2016: Minerals in the News

The field of mineralogy and earth sciences is flourishing with discoveries and collection announcements. There is always something new to pique your interest. Here are some of our favorite news stories for November 2016:

Feldspar Sheds Light on the Mohorovičić discontinuity

A study published in Science Daily by Mainak Mookherjee, Assistant Professor of Geology at Florida State University, sheds light on the presence of the Mohorovičić discontinuity by observing how feldspar reacts to changes in pressure.[1] Discovered in 1909 by Andrija Mohorovičić, the Mohorovičić discontinuity is a layer between the Earth’s crust and mantle at around 8 kilometers beneath the ocean basin.[2]

Feldspar is a type of igneous rock made of aluminum, silica, oxygen, and potassium, and it is found in more than half of the Earth’s crust. When minerals are under pressure, they typically become stiffer as they’re forced to compact. Yet, Mookherjee’s studies show that feldspar becomes soft and decomposes into denser materials like quartz under extreme pressures.

According to Mookherjee, this discovery “provides very new insight and a novel way of accounting for the sharp Mohorovičić discontinuity.”[3] By observing how Earth materials are react under extreme conditions, it is possible to gain further insight into deep Earth dynamics.

The Gia Museum Acquires Joel Hauser Mineral Collection

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) received an exceptional donation of 63 ornamental minerals from the collection of Joel Hauser.[4] Many of the minerals in the collection are from highly restricted localities or are no longer in production. The GIA plans to use the minerals as learning tools on mineral formation and lapidary artistry.

The collection has been Joel Hauser’s pride and joy with over 60-years’ worth of ornamental minerals, petrified woods, agates, and geodes.[5] Hauser was also highly regarded as a skilled lapidary who mastered the art of contour polishing.

“His freeform, undulating polishing style adds interest and texture while removing blemishes, without having to grind away more material than necessary. Joel’s expertise, guided by an artistic eye and perspective, revealed the lovely patterns, markings and colors in the minerals,” says Terri Ottaway, GIA’s museum curator.[6]

The donation was made by his wife Barbara Hauser and their four sons to help the GIA fulfill its mission to educate and inspire the public about gemology. Nearly 50 of these minerals will be available for viewing at the GIA’s Carlsbad museum, starting early November.[7]

Fourteen-Year Old Jessica Simonoff Discovers Merelaniite

In 2011, Jessica Simonoff was studying a piece of tanzanite for her internship with mineralogist Mike Wise at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. when she noticed black wire-like structures covering the mineral. When the then fourteen-year old Simonofff showed her observations to Wise, he was surprised to find that he couldn’t identify the wire-like structures either.

After a field of tests in a lab at Michigan Technological University in Houghton, they found that the black wire-like mineral had a crystal structure that contained a never-before-seen combination of molybdenum, sulfur, lead, and other element traces.[8] This led Wise and Simonoff to the conclusion that they’ve discovered an entirely new mineral.[9]

To be accepted as a new mineral, the sample will go through an approval process by the International Mineralogical Association’s (IMA) Commission on New Minerals, Nomenclature, and Classification (CNMNC). Scientists from around the world will study the sample for its crystal structure and properties like density, opacity, reflectiveness, hardness, tenacity, and others.

Four-years and several months of intensive testing and deliberation, the CNMNC has acknowledged the sample as a new mineral and has approved the name “Merelaniite”.[10] Simonoff, now eighteen-years old was delighted to hear that her discovery has contributed to science and opened a new door for research.

John Jaszczak, a scientist who helped the CNMNC study the Merelaniite believes other scientists can use this discovery to study naturally occurring crystal structures to synthesize new materials. “It’s new knowledge that adds to the understanding of how our planet works,” he said.[11]

 

Feel inspired to start your own rare rock and mineral collection? Then look no further! We’ve recently added to our collection of rare rocks and minerals for sale after our shows in Denver. You can also find our other rare rock and mineral collections here.

Also, don’t miss our listings for our rare rock and mineral shows. We’d love to meet with you and talk about the specimens in our collections!

[1] Kathleen H. “FSU geologist explores minerals below Earth’s surface”. Florida State University News. http://news.fsu.edu/news/science-technology/2016/10/13/fsu-geologist-explores-minerals-earths-surface/

[2] Hobart K. “Mohorovičić Discontinuity”. Geology. http://geology.com/articles/mohorovicic-discontinuity.shtml

[3] Ibid.

[4] “GIA Museum Acquires Highlights of the Joel and Barbara Hauser Mineral Collection”. GIA. http://www.gia.edu/gia-news-press/hauser-mineral-collection

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] JoAnna W. “Whiskers on Familiar Crystal Revealed as New Mineral”. American Geophysical Union. https://eos.org/articles/whiskers-on-familiar-crystal-revealed-as-new-mineral

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

Showmanship – Preparing Displays for the Tucson Show Competitions

Showmanship

By Lauren Megaw (read more about her journey in minerals here)

Lauren Megaw as a child posing in front of her award-winning Tucson Show mineral display

Lauren Megaw as a child posing in front of her award-winning Tucson Show mineral display

Competition is about more than just having the best specimens – though definitely a critical component – it is also about displaying those specimens in the best way possible so that they truly shine. This is Showmanship. It is a critical component to any display, but a skill honed in competition.

Case Size

Competitive cases are broken up into different classes, and each of these classes have different parameters for size and number of specimens allowed in a case. These classes also commonly determine the best size case. A display of large cabinets will require a different set up from a case of thumbnails (read: you don’t want thumbnails in a four foot case). It is important when deciding your setup to determine what will best display your pieces. When I started with 22 small miniatures and thumbnails, I used a two foot case because that what I could fill. By the time I competing for Desautels, I had constructed a 3 foot platform for inside my four foot case to optimize the space that I had. The important items to take into consideration when determining a case size (unless you’re competing for Desautels when you have to use a 4 foot case), is “what size case do I need so that every specimen can be easily seen without great swaths of open territory existing?” Taking the specimens out and arranging them in a loose sense will give the novice competitor a general idea of what size case you’re looking for.

Liners Matter in Showmanship!

While the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show will provide liners for displays, I think that a competitive display should put their own liners together. The main reason being that each collection is unique, and to best highlight your own pieces the competitor should but their display together. There are a couple of factors to take into account with liners: number of risers, color and type of fabric.

The number of risers gives you elevation adding dynamic flow to the visual of your display. The thickness of the riser should be determined by the size of the specimens, cabinets pieces will require thicker risers so specimens in front don’t block those behind them. Conversely though, you want to ensure the risers aren’t too thick or they will dwarf the specimens which is distracting. The number of risers should be determined by the specimens and the displaying style you’re aiming for. It is common to see many risers allowing for a single straight line of specimens, and while that might work for thumbnails it is difficult to accentuate multiple specimens as well as running into labeling issues (see below). I try to aim to be able to at least make “rainbows” and “triangle” sets among specimens on a given riser platform allowing the eye of the viewer to flow along. On average two risers is a good place to start.

MVC-012F-lauren-megaw-mineralsThe color of the liners should be become essentially invisible allowing the specimens to do all the talking. Here is the tricky part: finding a fabric in a color that allows red, blue, and green to pop without losing either your dark or clear specimens. I find that either a light beige or a grey works great. As you compete more, fiddling with the color is a fun way to optimize your display. Be careful with getting too light or too dark with your liner colors. I suggest going to the fabric store with a clear quartz crystal and a dark mineral (nothing fancy), to make sure either doesn’t completely disappear. Also remember that the competitive displays use incandescent bulbs, and fabric stores usually have fluorescent lighting making the fabric appear more blue then it will be on the show floor.

Fabric type is also important, a suede or matte fabric is best. You want something with a slight bit of stretch to go around the cardboard or foam core used to make the liners, but not too much or lines will appear. You don’t want anything fuzzy, or that snags easily because if you do either the fuzz will end up on a specimen, or a specimen will snag the fabric and you will lose showmanship points. When you put your liners together you want to ensure the fabric is flat and tight, however, you will also want to bring straight pins and clear tape to ensure it stays so. Furthermore, one of those compressed air cans and a lint roller will help you ensure that there aren’t any little pieces of distracting detritus on your liners.

Labeling for Showmanship

Labeling is another component to keep in mind for your display. Each label should have the name of the specimen and its locality.

“Each specimen shall have a label showing the following information:

The name of the mineral species and the name of the variety of the species, if applicable.

QUARTZ variety AMETHYST or QUARTZ var. AMETHYST

Names shall not be modified by extra or descriptive words such as:

gray GALENA crystals.

Descriptive terms used to point out unusual features should be in parentheses.

AZURITE (pseudo-cubic crystals) or QUARTZ (Japan-law twin)

The font should be something that is easily readable and non-distracting. Labels should be there to give information if people want it, however they should also disappear enough that the display can be taken in without noticing them. The lucite bases with the bases are nice, however, be aware that once the base is set you can’t change the angle or move specimens around as easily as such more pre-show planning is required. Personally, printing onto thick clear acetate (too thin and it curls under the light) is the best option especially for newer collectors whose collections are morphing more. I prefer to cut my labels to be rectangles form fitted to the text, but others will make the same size boxes.  This is a personal preference, but realize that Azurite from Tussitt, Morrocco will look small on a big square versus a cramped Olmiite, N’Chwanning Mine, Kalahari Manganese Fields, South Africa. It is also important to take in consideration the size of the labels with the specimens, and balancing “dancing partner’s” labels as well.

Display Theories in Mineral Showmanship

There are many ways to display your specimens, but here are some tips and tricks that can help you make the most of case you’re putting together.

RAINBOWS

Setting up your case so that each riser has a series of “rainbows**”. Rainbows (represented in Fig. 1 by the yellow arcs) both give a flow to the display, and also allow for the creation of pods. For example:

Pods (represented in Fig. 1 by green arcs) allow for the competitor to highlight pieces through contrast. Each specimen in a pod should complement each other, while a rainbow should allow your eyes to flow across them.

Pods (represented in Fig. 1 by green arcs) allow for the competitor to highlight pieces through contrast. Each specimen in a pod should complement each other, while a rainbow should allow your eyes to flow across them.

DANCING PARTNERS

Growing up the specimens that I used in competition were called “the team”, and within the team specimens had “dancing partners”. Dancing partners are specimens that are similarly size, and directly compliment each other. They reside on the opposite side of the case from each other, but within the same arc (dancing partners are represented by blue stars in Fig. 1). Together that make each other look their best, just as good dancing partners do in real life. Dancing partners can be important as you shift pieces around to make sure that specimens are in the optimal spots, because commonly the specimen’s dancing partner will need to move to the converse spot as well. Dancing partners also provide better balance within the display case which is important for creating visual flow.

*When I learned this concept I was 6, so Mary called them rainbows.

While different collectors will have varying theories on showmanship and mineral display, this is a great way to start! More information about showmanship is available in the TGMS Competitor Handbook

Rare Rocks and Minerals (Part 1) | iRocks Blog

Secret Superstars : Rare Rocks and Minerals (Part 1)

Throughout the world, the discovery of rare rocks and minerals is something to be celebrated. This holiday season, we’d like to feature some of the superstars of our own collection – highlighting the rare rocks and minerals we admire most, in hopes of sparking the attention of other collectors and enthusiasts. Check out our overview, below, to learn more about a few of our favorites!

Originally described by Mariano Barcena in 1874, this is a fantastic example of livingstonite!

Originally described by Mariano Barcena in 1874, this is a fantastic example of livingstonite!

Livingstonite

Livingstonite [HgSb4S8] is a rare mineral, found in low-temperature hydrothermal veins, in localities scattered throughout Mexico, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, and Spain. Named after Scottish explorer David Livingstone, it was originally described in 1874 by Mariano Barcena. Its rich, lead-gray metallic coloring is quite beautiful and distinct, and occurs most often as elongated, bladed crystals or globular masses of interlaced needles.

Livingstonite is opaque and translucent in thin fragments, and in transmitted light, appears red, with deep red internal reflections. Associated minerals include cinnabar, sulfur, stibnite, and gypsum.

Brazilianite

Old Brazilianites from the 1930s-1940s are still rare mineral superstars!

Old Brazilianites from the 1930s-1940s are still rare mineral superstars!

Brazilianite [NaAl3(PO4)2(OH)4] is a hydrous sodium aluminum phosphate, most commonly found in phosphate-rich pegmatites. The most note-worthy deposit is located in Minas Gerais, Brazil (hence, the name) – though some collectors’ specimens have been discovered in locales in Grafton County, New Hampshire.

Often discovered in precious-stone quality, brazilianite crystals are transparent and gemmy, ranging in color from bright yellow-green to dark olive. This mineral exhibits exquisite crystal formation, and druse groupings are common – though crystals are often found intergrown with associated muscovite  (as seen in the above photo), or rising from leaves of parent rock.

Danburite

This rare combo of rough danburite crystal and cut stone from Mexico shows the beauty of natural crystals and gem.

This rare combo of rough danburite crystal and cut stone from Mexico shows the beauty of natural crystals and gem.

Danburite [CaB2(SiO4)2] is a calcium boron silicate mineral with orthorhombic crystal form, typically occurring in contact with metamorphic rock. Its colorless crystals often resemble quartz in appearance, though Danburite exhibits a Mohs hardness of 7 to 7.5, and specific gravity of 3.0, and coloring commonly ranges from pale yellow to ochre. The specimen pictured above is a rare pair; a natural pale pink crystal with a cut stone..

Danburite’s crystal symmetry and form are similar to topaz, and its clarity, resilience, and strong dispersion add to its value, as cut stones are ideal for use in jewelry.

Langite

These rich, blue, rare langite crystals were collected in 2013 in Slovakia.

These rich, blue, rare langite crystals were collected in 2013 in Slovakia.

Langite [Cu4(SO4)(OH)6+2H2O] is a rare hydrated-copper sulfate mineral, formed from the oxidation of copper sulfides. Named after the physicist and crystallographer Viktor von Lang, Langite was first discovered in Cornwall, England, in 1864.

Though an uncommon find, Langite is a widespread secondary mineral, possibly of post-mine formation. It is associated with posnjakite, serpierite, devilline, chalcophyllite, connellite, brochantite, malachite and gypsum, and dimorphous with wroewolfeite. It is discovered almost exclusively in druses of small, blue-green crystals.

Vayrynenite

Vayrynenite is a very rare beryllium phosphate, and not often do you find it with such good rich salmon color and of decent size.

Vayrynenite is a very rare beryllium phosphate, and not often do you find it with such good rich salmon color and of decent size.

Vayrynenite [Mn2+Be(PO4)OH] is a very rare species, found as an alteration product of beryl and triphylite in complex-zoned granite pegmatites. These rare prismatic crystals occur in elongated, striated formations with transparent to translucent opacity, and vitreous luster. Their coloring varies from pale pink to a deep rose-red (as seen in the specimen, above).

Named for Heikki Allen Väyrynen, a Professor of Mineralogy at Helsinki Technical Institute in Finland, Vayrynenite is found in a few European localities (including Finland, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal), as well as in Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Associated with eosphorite, apatite, hurlbutite, beryllonite, moraesite, amblygonite, tourmaline, topaz, muscovite, microcline, and quartz.

If you’re interested in viewing more rare rocks and minerals, take moment to peruse our current collection of rare species – or contact the experts at iRocks, for more information on our upcoming auctions and shows!

Compete for Tucson Show Awards! | iRocks Blog

Compete for Tucson Show Awards!

Each year, collectors enjoy the variety of mineral competitions at the Tucson Mineral and Gem Show™, where multiple awards are given out for best minerals, themes, displays, and more. Some of the most popular are listed here, as explained at the TGMS website with special additions by Lauren Megaw and Les Presmyk.

There are several special trophies awarded to competitive exhibits at the annual Tucson Gem & Mineral Show.  The first is the Desautels, honoring the long-time curator of minerals at the Smithsonian.  This award is for the best case of minerals entered in that competition.  The second is the Lidstrom trophy, acknowledging a long-time dealer in the Tucson Show.  It goes to the best single specimen, as designated by the exhibitor, contained within a competitive exhibit.  The third is the Bideaux Trophy, awarded to the Best Arizona specimen in that competition.  Dick Bideaux was a native Tucsonan and one of Arizona’s top mineralogists.  These are in addition to the trophies awarded to the best case in each of the exhibitor classes and for the Best of Theme categories.  Information for the Tucson Show competition and all of these trophies can be found at www.tgms.org/show.

There is one more special trophy, the Romero Trophy, that is awarded to the best Mexican specimen in the show.  This award honors the memory of Dr. Miguel Romero, often credited with saving and preserving Mexico’s minerals and mineral heritage.  The trophy winning specimen is selected by a judging team of three of his friends and the trophy is presented along with all of the competitive trophies mentioned above at the Saturday night banquet and awards ceremony.

WALT LIDSTROM MEMORIAL TROPHY

To honor the memory of Walt Lidstrom, noted mineral dealer and collector, TGMS, along with his family, present a trophy for the outstanding single mineral specimen which is part of a competitive exhibit.

Walt Lidstrom (1920-1976) was a game-changing mineral dealer. Originally a rancher from Oregon, Lidstrom began collecting Oregon plumes agates in 1939, by 1960 he had amassed an impressive amount of top-notch slab material and made his way to his first mineral show. As his business, Lidstrom’s, began to grow he transitioned to fine crystallized mineral specimens. He used both his self-taught knowledge and a keen eye for spectacular specimens to make himself a leading expert in the field. Lidstrom is commonly credited with changing the mineral dealing business, from ma-and-pop shops, to a reputable professional business. He thrived on mineral competition and enjoyed watching the business grow. Lidstrom would buy from rock-hounds, college kids and other professionals. During his tenure as a dealer, he garnered a reputation for honesty, spectacular sense of aesthetics, depth of knowledge and good humor. Lidstom died just days after the 1976 Tucson Gem and Mineral show wrapped up, having attended to see his friends one last time.

It is fitting that the Lidstrom award, established by his family in 1978 and continued by the Tucson Show Committee, would require competitive cases in its award. The award is given to the single best specimen in competition, as selected by the competitor. This last bit is an important caveat, because the award both honors a fabulous specimen, but also the competitor’s “eye” for selecting the best specimen they own. Many a Lidstrom has been lost due to a competitor selecting the wrong specimen. The selection is entirely subjective. It is awarded to the best piece in the eyes of the three quality judges, and to win Lidstrom a piece must be exceptional for its species as well as having great aesthetics.

Notable winners of the Lidstrom mineral competitions include: Will Larson, Paula Presmyk, Gene Meiran, Peter Megaw, Ralph Clark, Gail and Jim Spann, Barry Kitt and Lauren Megaw.

Exhibit case in the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows mineral competition.

Exhibit case in the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows mineral competition.

PAUL DESAUTELS MEMORIAL TROPHY

To honor the memory of Paul Desautels, curator, collector and connoisseur of fine minerals, TGMS presents a trophy for the individual display of the finest crystallized mineral specimens entered in this competition.

Paul Ernest Desautels (1920-1991), an eminent curator, began his mineralogical endeavor at 14 in Philadelphia where he grew up. It was there collecting primarily as a micro-mounter that he would exchange specimens, knowledge and tales with other collectors such as Neal Yedlin, a micro-mounter for whom another award is given. Desautels would go on to receive both a B.S. and a M.S. in Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania, and fight in World War II between his two degrees. After school he went on to become a chemistry teacher, though Desautels would occasionally teach courses in mineralogy, gemology and crystallography.

In 1957, Desautels began his renowned career as Curator of Gems and Minerals in the Department of Mineral Sciences of the U.S. National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution) in Washington, D.C., a position he would hold for 25 years. During his time at the Smithsonian, Desautels pursued acquisition with zeal, solidifying the Smithsonian as one of the greatest mineral collections in the world. The Carl Bosch collection, 25,000 fine mineral specimens acquired by the Smithsonian in 1970, was probably the greatest acquisition by the institution in the 20th century. He was also an incredibly influential figure in the minerals community, writing voluminous correspondence, a column on museums in the Mineralogical Record, a series of popular books on mineral and gem collecting, delivering hundreds of public lectures, and his relationships with a tremendous number of curators, collectors and dealers in the world.

It was through this influence that Desautels brought connoisseurship of minerals to the forefront of collecting, and helped usher in a new age in collecting. He also worked as an acquisition consultant for Texas oil millionaire Perkins Sams, whose collection was eventually acquired by the Houston Museum of Natural Science. Over his lifetime Desautels amassed many honors including:reception of the American Federation of Mineralogical Society’s Scholarship Award in 1967, induction in the Micromounter’s Hall of Fame in 1981, reception of the Carnegie Mineralogical Award in 1991, and reception of the Smithsonian Director’s Medal for outstanding service to the National Museum of Natural History. He was a Fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America, and founded the Baltimore Mineral Society. And so, when the McDole Trophy was retired, Desautels’ name was placed on the trophy representing the single best case in each year’s mineral competition. Desautels died on July 5, 1991.

Notable winners of the Desautel Award include: Gene and Roz Meiran, Paula Presmyk, Alex and Laura Schauss, Peter Megaw, Jim and Gail Spann, Barry Kitt and Lauren Megaw.

BEST OF SPECIES OR THEME COMPETITION

Each year the TGMS Show Committee selects a mineral species or a mineral theme for special mineral competition. Awards are given for the best specimen in each of five size categories, one award for lapidary/jewelry, one award for a self-collected specimen, and if appropriate, one award is given for the best Arizona specimen of the named species (please see special rules and listing of species).

RICHARD BIDEAUX MEMORIAL TROPHY

To honor the memory of Richard Bideaux, collector, Arizona mineralogist and connoisseur of fine minerals, TGMS presents a trophy for the finest crystallized Arizona mineral specimen entered in this mineral competition.

Richard Bideaux was born on March 28, 1935 in Tucson, Arizona. As fate would have it, Bideaux became interested in minerals and began collecting in the local area with his father George. Later on he and his collecting partner Richard “Dick” Jones collected many notable Arizona specimens including wulfenite from both the Defiance and Glove mines. He stayed in Tucson for college attending the University of Arizona, and graduating in 1959 with a Bachelors degree in Geological Engineering. He was then drafted into the Army, and found his way to a base in New Jersey. While on the east coast, when he wasn’t training in computer programming, Bideaux visited mineral museums and befriended mineral collectors and dealers.

Upon departure from the service, Bideaux worked for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. And once again the affable Bideaux became acquainted with many West Coast mineral collectors and dealers when he wasn’t working on the Lunar Survey. Bideaux then went back east to Harvard, where in 1968 he graduated with a master’s degree in mineralogical science. He then returned to his hometown and founded Computing Associates, Inc, a company working on computer applications in geology and mine engineering. In 1978 the University of Arizona conferred upon him the professional degree of Geological Engineer for his achievements in computer science.

Meanwhile he also brought together Arthur Montgomery and John White, who founded the Mineralogical Record in 1970. Bideaux’s column “The Collector” appeared in early Mineralogical Records as well as his incredible article on Tiger, Arizona. Along with Sid Williams and mineralogy professor John Anthony, Richard wrote Mineralogy of Arizona  in 1977. Two years later, following the death of his father, Richard took over Bideaux Minerals, and it was through this outlet that fantastic minerals specimens found their way into private collections and museums around the world. In 1980, Bideaux along with John Anthony, Ken Bladh, and Monte Nichols took on the six-volume Handbook of Mineralogy, one of the most important books of mineralogical reference. He was a founder and first president of Friends of Mineralogy, a life fellow of the Mineralogical Society of America and a member of the Arizona Geological Society. Bideaux was a key member in building the collections of the University of Arizona Mineralogical Museum as well. And on top of all of that he was a major component of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show for 50 years helping to turn it into the international phenom it is today.

Richard had a mineral, Bideauxite, named after him by Sid Williams in 1970 as well. But above all, Bideaux was a collector. He collected throughout his life, a large part of which was self-collecting, and although he sold the majority of his collection in 1985 his love for collecting a minerals remained till the end of his days in 2004. Bideaux didn’t just collect minerals, however, he also garnered a label collection of over 3,500 examples which were donated to the Mineralogical Record Library and forms the backbone of the Mineralogical Record Label Archive. Richard Bideaux inspired many mineral collectors, not only to collect and appreciate the minerals, but also to take a genuine scientific interest in better understanding the specimens that we all love to collect.

Notable Winners: Steve Maslansky, Irv Brown, Dick Morris, and Les Presmyk

NEAL YEDLIN MEMORIAL MICROMOUNT TROPHY

To honor the memory of Neal Yedlin, noted micromounter and mineral collector, TGMS presents a trophy for the individual display of micromounts achieving the highest score in the Masters Micromount Division.

MIGUEL ROMERO MEXICAN MINERAL AWARD

The Romero award goes to the single best Mexican mineral on the show floor. This means that any mineral specimen from Mexico in a case at the show – competitive, exhibition, or institutional – has the opportunity to win the Romero Award. The specimen is selected by a jury of Mexican mineral specialists who look through all the exhibits at the show and confer on which specimen should receive the award.

Notable Winners: Jim and Gail Spann, Kerith Graeber, Peter Megaw, and Roz Pellman

Want to learn more about competing in the Tucson Show? Get in touch to ask us about curating your collection.

To learn about one of our favorite young collectors and her experience competing in a variety of the TGMS mineral competition categories, visit “Growing Up Rocks – Lauren Megaw’s Mineral Story.”

Lauren also wrote a note about showmanship and how to prepare a display for the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show mineral competition. Don’t miss reading her story!