Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Winter Mineral Sales in Colorado--Tourmaline, Rubies, Emeralds and more!

I purchased a number of Gems from Dr Tourmaline (John) and these are a few I added to my collection

Getting quality gems at good prices takes a bit of effort.  I've been trying to broaden my collection as everything in my cabinet is blue/green amazonite and black quartz. Going to mineral and rock stores to purchase and/or trade specimens is a tough and expensive way to build a collection.  Merchants often purchase their material for rock-bottom prices (pun intended) and then bump everything up more than 200% (they claim overhead costs are killing them).  As an example, I traded $240 worth of mineral specimens for a very nice green tourmaline at a rock show valued at $240.  I was offered $80 by one dealer and $100 by another.  I passed by these offers and finally settled for a merchant offering $200 cash.  Cash is more desirable than rocks. I felt I got a reasonable deal, but haggling over prices and hustling around town to local dealers is not my idea of time well spent. I've gone to local mineral shows and they seem more eager to deal, but there are few large shows in Colorado during the winter. I’ve been looking on the internet for specimens but everything seems ridiculously overpriced, faked, or has other issues. I can’t believe the number of blurry pictures people put up on the internet and then ask $100+ for something you can hardly see. Another option could be putting up a site to trade or sell minerals, but there would be a large effort associated with setting up and maintaining an on-line store.  I prefer to remain a hobbyist. 
Collector's best rhodochrosite (my opinion)
A friend of mine, said he knew of a gentlemen who was selling some of his seconds from home and was willing to discount especially if you purchased minerals in bulk (by the flat).  I decided to give it a try and loaded up a couple flats of trade material and headed north with Austin to Denver.  I’ve always been a fan of tourmaline, topaz, and aquamarine but have never had the wherewithal to purchase mineral specimens other than those that I need a microscope to view.  John, the seller, was willing to take mineral trades and cash. Because I am overstocked in quartz, amazonite, goethite, and fluorite (local crystals from my claim), I thought I might bring some trade material along and see if I could get some nibbles.  John seemed amiable enough and quite cordial. The first order of business was taking in his collection. Tourmaline after tourmaline after tourmaline.  Incredible!  Then there were the rubies, emeralds, rhodochrosite, aquamarine, topaz, and much more! 
Overwhelming--one shelf of tourmaline in two chock-filled display cabinets!

I wondered what his seconds would look like as his favorites could grace any mineral museum I’ve ever been to.  John's seconds exceeded my expectations and they would most likely be firsts to many collectors including myself.  While John seemed partial to my mineral oddities, he was also willing to pop on smokies, but only if they were of exceptional quality.  I quickly picked out a flat of topaz while my friend went for some tourmaline.  John accepted some of my crystal specimens in trade and I made up the difference with cash. My friend, who drove me to John's house, is fairly new to collecting but made some smart purchases and deals with John.  We both got nice discounts for purchasing entire flats.  Shortly after we left we traded a few specimens with each other so that we both had some topaz and pink tourmaline.  I got 16 topaz, the largest sherry colored weighing in at 1600+ carats, as well as a few other minerals I couldn’t resist. My friend walked away with about 30 pink and 5 blue/green tourmaline.  I’ve had various opportunities before and let them get away as I was not willing to drop so much cash for gems, but this deal was too good to pass up. I guess time will tell whether I have buyer's remorse (probably not). I've already unloaded a couple of the more expensive topaz and now have plenty of topaz to add to my collection as well as a few other fantastic gems at a very moderate cost.

Deer near seller's house say goodbye but please come again (haha)
My favorite purchased aquamarine!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Highly Prized Plates of Crystals at Lake George, CO--The Wintergreen Pocket

Double trouble for hidden crystals
The weather warmed up and so we beat feet back to the pegmatite on our claim that we were working on in the previous post. (Dec 2017). We weren't sure we’d be able to do much until spring but a thaw made the roads passable and softened up the ground enough to make the site workable for a final season ending visit. The vug we worked on this day was a continuation of the pocket Bob found in the previous post.  As the initial pocket nearly pinched out we noted there was still plenty of quartz in the hill with a well-formed pegmatite showing the way up and into the hill.  After Bob mucked out the debris in the pocket he quickly went to work checking the sides and bottom of the old pocket.  A number of crystal faces were still poking out of the pegmatite on the right side of the old pocket and quartz shards were visible straight ahead into the hillside.  The quartz had taken a turn from smoky to orangey grey which we took as a sign that the pocket might continue forward.  We normally follow quartz shards until they end or disappear into regular granite so Bob followed these brittle quartz shards forward for well over a foot into the hillside. The other good indicator to press ahead was an occasional quartz crystal uphill amongst the shards of quartz.  The quartz debris field  began to expand outward and an orange/brown clay began to become more prevalent--the pocket was opening up again!  A fairly large smoky showed itself and so we knew more was yet to come!
Solid 6"+ Smoky was a sign of things to come!
Bob carefully worked the new pocket as I spent time helping remove debris. I had tried to dig through a layer of icy ground nearby but the ice was over a foot deep which made digging anything other than a preexisting site problematic. I decided my time would be best spent helping Bob muck and check out the debris for straggler crystals. Bob's pocket, nearly 4 feet down, continued to widen out as smoky quartz, amazonite crystals and clay filled the bottom of the pocket. We also found a few pseudomorphs at the bottom of this pocket but fortunately they were few and far between.  We've had too many pockets this summer filled with pseudomorphs of goethite or limonite after siderite or some other carbonate.  These pseudomorphs seemingly grow on everything and are somewhat unsightly (See 9/1/17 post "Pseudomorph Sunday"). Fortunately this pocket was in a different area and pseudomorphs were nearly nonexistent. As Bob continued to dig into the hill crystal plates became evident along the sides of the burgeoning pocket and the real fun began. After a few hours of digging Bob decided he needed a break and sent me in to take a turn. Working a crystal pocket can be tiring as care must be taken at every step of the process, careful probing to minimize damage during crystal extraction is extremely important. Soon I too was pulling out 4+” smokys and amazonite plates.  This time some of the amazonite plates also had smoky quartz crystals attached. It is the combination of smoky quartz crystals and blue/green amazonite on matrix that many collectors deem highly prized. The value of crystals and crystal plates is determined by completeness, size, surface luster, color and internal gemminess as well as location.  This pocket had it all with very gemmy smokys and exceptionally colored amazonite--highly prized!
These specimens came from the same pocket. The gemminess in the smoky is apparent and both crystals have good luster
We try to pack shards found near plates together with the plates as you can often use a piece of a broken off crystal or two to repair a plate and really bring the plate to life. I continued to dig for an hour or so but decided to stop when I ran into a very large combination plate.  I couldn’t tell if it was one large smoky and amazonite plate or not but decided that Bob should have the privilege of pulling this out.  This is the first times I’ve ever self-eliminated myself from a pocket but it just didn’t seem right to be working on the best plate in the pocket when it was Bob’s to dig. I also didn’t want to be the cause for any potential damage during the removal of the megaplate. This was a one in a million pocket or at least one in a thousand :-)  Below is a view into the pocket. While the megaplate was the colossal find there were many exceptional combinations of amazonite and smoky quartz crystals on matrix down in the clay to the left of the big plate.
I shied away from digging out the megaplate and decided this was a project for Bob as it bulged out of the pocket wall
After a half hour or so of carefully scraping, probing and lightly prying along the perimeter of the megaplate it shifted and out it came.  The plate was in two pieces but may fit together or may just be two separate plates which we’ll check more closely after some initial cleaning.  Bob continued to dig after the megaplate was removed and found many 2-4 inch smokies as well as several fine amazonite crystals behind the plate.  As the dig continued the plates ended but the quartz continued up the hill and appears to be heading slowly to the surface towards a tree near an old dig.  Bob's dig is now about 5 feet down into the ground but he needs to do some considerable shoring up to make the pocket safe for additional crystal removal or he'll be 6ft under ;-).  As Bob packed up another 75lbs of crystals and made two trips to his vehicle overloaded with crystals I went back in the pit to clean out the bottom.
Some of the 75 lbs of crystals Bob carefully wrapped and lugged back to his truck
I found a few small crystals but the large pieces of quartz in the sidewall in front of me still looked promising.  The dig is 7 ft long, 5 ft deep and a narrow 2ft wide. The amazonite plates have ended and only small quartz crystals were being harvested at day's end.  Day 3 on this pocket was spent mucking out the debris, and double-checking the sides and bottom of the excavation. It didn't take long this day for Bob to dig right into a wall of granite ending the pocket.  There is still a quartz streamer running up the hill and seemingly rising to the surface but it is void of crystals (Definitely a project for next year). Finally we remediated the area by burying any telltale shards and filling in this former world-class pocket. We found a few nice crystals this last day but the ice in the ground was too deep to do any further prospecting in the area. After filling the dig we are now ready for a long winter of cleaning and fitting crystals!  I asked Bob what he was going to call this super pocket and he decided since we found it during meteorological winter and it had very desireable blue/green crystals that it would be referred to as the Wintergreen pocket.  Aptly named in my opinion.
Before and After... 12cm high, smoky is 8.5cm (cleaned using soap & water, scrubbing, phosphoric acid and neutralizing)

So here is a short movie of one of the fine amazonite plates... enjoy!
More partially cleaned and fitted crystals... a whole winter's worth of fun!  These pictures were taken inside with not the greatest of lighting, but you get the idea... World-Class!
This specimen is nearly ready, maybe a small fit or two, a little trimming and a final cleaning

Minimal damage to this plate with a 6" smoky as the focal point on a bed of amazonite--still needs a bit of cleaning

3" Smoky with amazonite and additional smoky, the smoky on the right was a perfect fit
Still some cleaning and TLC required but I think this is best of pocket (no major damage) 2-4" Smokies are nearly ding-free!
Partially cleaned with a lot of crystal refitting to work on. Mother Nature beat this one up pretty bad. :-(


Sunday, December 3, 2017

Nobody ever gets it all at Lake George, CO--Nobody! Crystals!

Amazonite from a December Pocket--Wait til this cleans up!
We go rock hounding this time of year as the weather permits.  Normally Bob and I shut down our prospecting by mid-November but Mother Nature has given us a couple extra weeks this year. While the shady areas are pretty much locked up with frost the south and west facing slopes can still be prospected fairly late this year.  On the drive in Bob mentioned it sure would be nice to find a December pocket--sure would. One area we’ve skirted on our claim while prospecting is an area where just about the entire hillside seems to have been dug long ago. One old-timer told us a few years ago about digging where others have already dug  "do you think anyone would leave anything there for you?" We can respond that NOBODY EVER GETS IT ALL! (I think the old-timer was trying to dissuade us from digging in an area he wanted to dig). Bob decided to redig an area he thought merited some inspection because NOBODY EVER GETS IT ALL. On closer examination he found a slight seam of blue running near the surface.  This streak of blue color (amazonite) ran into the ground and towards a previously dug area. I’ve probably discounted digging too much in areas well dug as I assumed the old timers probably did get most of the crystals in those areas. Bob was determined to find some amazonite and so he thought he would follow this seam hoping it might pocket out before it ran into the older dig.  Now you might surmise this would not be much of a post to my blog if the seam dead ended into the old dig before a pocket appeared and you would be right!  As the seam began to produce a few small amazonite crystals Bob gave me a call on our radios and I decided to check out his blossoming find.  
Lots of nice amazonite piling up in the background!

I sat down next to the dig and examined his finds of amazonite and smoky quartz shards.  The amazonite was of very good color and well-formed but most of the smoky quartz crystals were just shards.  As I sat and watched Bob dig he carefully continued digging on the hill at about a 20 degree slope down.  Bob kept pulling out nice amazonite and occasional smoky quartz crystals. Then just as a little mud in the seam became a little more prevalent a pocket within the pegmatite opened up and bam out of the ground came some fairly big shards of smoky quartz and couple of solid 6 inchers.                                                                           
Good Termination Needs Cleaning


Both smoky crystals and amazonite were well terminated and appeared fairly complete. Smokys and amazonite crystals continued to pop out from the side walls of the dig.  The previous digger’s excavation was only about 10 feet up the hill right in front of us but the evidence shows NOBODY EVER GETS IT ALL!  We both kept our fingers crossed hoping for some smoky/amazonite combination plates.  As the pocket opened up we saw some fairly large pegmatite chunks with crystal definition on them showing through the compacted pocket mud.  Bob started carefully pulling out these amazonite plates one after the next.  While the plates were no bigger than palm-size, the crystals were well-formed, lustrous and nearly pristine.  So while there were no plates of smoky quartz/amazonite combinations the plates of amazonite Bob did pull out were very collectible.  I stayed out of Bob’s way for the most part and examined some of the specimens he pulled out.  My seemingly weekly headache had returned and bending over into Bob’s crystal pocket was not comfortable.  
My plate :-)  Nice pile of crystals in the background as well!
Finally Bob suggested I get in and check out his crystal pocket. I couldn’t resist and of course I pulled out one of the nicest plates of crystals pictured here.  The plate even had some smoky quartz on it. I handed these specimens over to Bob who assured me I would get something nice from the pocket. I only lasted a couple minutes in the pocket as my headache was just too much to tolerate and probably didn't deserve anything.  When Bob realized I was too sick to dig he finished digging, buried the remains of the pocket, bundled up his crystal booty and we drove home. It was a good day and despite what one old-timer told us, we know NOBODY EVER GETS IT ALL! We may not be able to return to Lake George until next spring as the weather forecast calls for low temperatures in the single digits which will freeze over the creek crossings and push frost down a couple feet into the ground.  Next bit of prospecting will probably be at garage and estate sales ;-)  Til 2018? and yes I saved the best picture for last!
One of the better plates we found this day (90% cleaned)... I dug this one out during the 2 minutes I was digging in the pocket material. As you can see I must have had quite a bad headache to relinquish this kind of digging fun back to Bob.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thanksgiving Day Pocket of Quartz Crystals at Lake George CO

Platte River north of Lake George Colorado
I keep finding small pockets but not enough material to warrant writing a post into my blog until now.  I thought my digging season for 2017 was over after the Lake George area got 4 inches of snow last week but the weather warmed up and off I went. I actually found some of the pocket I'm blogging about before Thanksgiving Day, having found the pegmatite and a nice small pocket with the pegmatite a week earlier.  I had named that small pocket “windy pocket” as the winds were blowing near 45mph.  That was the first time I’ve been driven off the side of a hill digging smokys due to high winds. I think it took me 2 days to get all the dirt out of my ears and sinuses. Some folks think you can drive out to Lake George, dig a hole and gather up a bushel basket of crystals in a few hours but it doesn’t normally work that way.  This particular pocket was in an area I had prospected and dug all summer.  The mineral signs suggesting I dig in this particular spot were quite weak.  We had dug a number of test holes in this area but hadn’t found much.  As the frost had killed off the seasonal vegetation I noticed a couple pieces of fairly large grained granite which I hoped suggested a nearby pegmatite and not just roll down from up the hill. I decided to dig in and that’s how I found the “windy pocket” a week earlier. A friend of mine (Austin) was back from college and wanted to dig crystals so I invited him out to the spot I had found the previous week and mentioned I wanted to pick up where I left off with the windy pocket pegmatite. He was fine with that and I mentioned if I found another pocket on the pegmatite he could have a few crystals.  He asked if it was okay to dig a few feet to my right and I mentioned it was as good a place as any.  There was little frost in the ground and it was nearly 50F when we got to my spot and the sun was warming up the area quickly.  The snow from the prior week had melted as I dug into my old pocket and began to expand the dig up the hill.  Austin plunked down and broke through some ground and immediately scored a plate of smokys.  I told him that might be the best thing we find that day not realizing how wrong I would be.  Austin found a few more float crystals while I was finding quartz with faces but no gemmy crystals. I continued to use my pick and shovel as I was moving up the hill.  The rock and scree looked good with sizeable quartz shards interspersed in the material but still only a couple small smoky quartz fragments were observed.  There was a small bush in front of me and I decided that needed to go so I took a pretty good whack at the base of the plant and bingo, quartz pieces everywhere.  I put my pick axe right through the center of a small crystal plate… L  Oh well I was pretty sure there was more where that came from and hoisted out the small bush and found numerous small crystals with a quartz vein heading down into the rock.  My mentor Ray told me you’re not digging hard enough if you don’t break a crystal or two from time to time.  My digging partner and I agree it’s okay to break the first crystal especially when prospecting for a crystal pocket but after that care is needed to keep the crystals intact.  I followed the quartz until it led me to a sizeable root.  The root had many more crystals around it along with a few crystal plates.  Austin started getting interested in my finds and figured the pegmatite continued in a southeast direction right across the line he was digging.  While Austin dug up the hill, I pulled out crystal after crystal after crystal.  There was a bit of damage to many of the crystals as they were so near the surface and many of them appeared to have odd terminations suggesting a pocket rupture with some re-healing of crystal terminations.  The crystal pocket was anywhere from inches to about 2 feet below the ground and nearly a foot wide with a length of approximately 3 feet. The problem with near surface crystal pockets is that all the protecting pocket mud has eroded away long ago so that annual frost heaves can cause damage to the crystals. While I found this near-surface lenticular pocket near Thanksgiving Day it was no turkey.  I asked Austin to take a short video of how work was progressing which he did.  This video is not staged in any way. (Sorry for the watermark and ad but this blog can only host videos of 100MB so I had to edit the video and shorten it to show it)

I picked this one out at the end of the video

I was a bit disappointed that there weren’t any secondary minerals on the plates like fluorite, microcline or goethite with the quartz but many of the quartz crystals are terminated at both ends so that is an attractive attribute. Some of the crystals also have some limonite with them but for the most part I don’t find that an enhancing feature. Some have suggested my digging technique is a bit rough in the video but if there were amazonite in that pocket I’d still be digging it ;-)  After digging up a number of crystals Austin thought he should be given a turn in the pocket so I acquiesced and let him have a go while I packed some material. Austin forgot to take any packing material but fortunately he mentioned this at my house so we had some extra newspaper to go around. I had no idea I would use nearly all of my newspaper wrapping crystals!  Austin picked up where I left off and pulled out a few plates and some singles.  I told him he could keep what he found unless it was extraordinary.  
Earlier in the video--this cluster displays rehealed terminations
Austin checking out some crystals
I had to make two trips back to the vehicle due to the weight of the specimens and decided I certainly had a successful day.  I pulled down the sides of the dig and was still seeing some good crystal fragments up the slope so I may return if the weather holds. Good weather, company, crystals--life is good!  Two videos below show some of the crystals. I’ve posted a couple videos and will accompany them will some stills of the cleaned crystals. The first video of about 150 crystals shows the crystals taken through step 2 of the cleaning process (see below) the rest of the crystals are being sorted and going through their initial cleaning as depicted in the second video. 

Box full of Thanksgiving Day Pocket Smokies Cleaned Up
Smoky Hors D'ouvres

The steps I take to clean crystals are as follows (procedures vary based on cleaning required):

1    Carefully unpack crystals and soak for at least 24 hours in warm water with calgon or liquid soap
2   Scrub crystals with a toothbrush to check for accessory minerals and possible fits
3    After any fitting is accomplished I soak in Iron Out for 48-72 hours and re-scrub.
4    After Iron Out treatment (depending on minerals) I heat in acid to remove additional/difficult iron staining.
5    Iron staining is usually removed after 48-72 hours in a warm 20% strength phosphoric acid bath
6    I usually then rinse and neutralize the specimens for 48 hours changing the base solution 3-4 times, usually once after 15 minutes, 2 hours then again after 12 hours at a minimum
7    Some white residue often accumulates on the specimens but this can often be cleaned by either using a needle gun(fabric cleaning gun) or pressure scrub with baking soda

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Quartz and Fluorite in the San Juan Mountains

I got invited to Ft Lewis College in Durango, CO to give a talk on the Pikes Peak Batholith and prospecting to their geology club.  I have given numerous talks to the Colorado Springs Mineralogical Society including the Crystal Club at a variety of venues.  I usually give my talks in Senior Centers, VA Halls or church basements so it was a real treat to return to academia and give a talk in a classroom hooked up with real audiovisual support.  The professor managed to bribe the students with pizza and extra credit for the classes he taught so we had a standing room only crowd of about 60 students. The talk went well and when several geology students came up to me afterwards I felt like a rock star The College was kind enough to put me up for the night at a local hotel so I was able to get some rock hounding in the following day near Silverton CO. One of the Geology students (Austin), instrumental in getting me to Ft Lewis as a guest lecturer, wanted to go rock hounding in the San Juan Mountains the following day. "Part of the Southern Rockies, the San Juan Mountains were created as two enormous continental plates slammed into one another, folding and faulting the earth’s crust. Volcanic activity associated with the tectonic mountain-building process produced rich mineral veins—the silver and gold deposits that drew miners to the region in the 1860s and 1870s." []  
Austin had been to a few mining sites along CO 550 in the San Juan Mountains though first we went to a rock shop in Ouray and then we stopped at several mines to see what we could find in the tailings. The Million Dollar Highway (CO 550) is a very stimulating drive especially when snowing over the passes.  Our best success was near the Mayflower Mill just east of Silverton. “The Mayflower Mill was the single longest running mill in the history of the San Juan Mountains. In its 61 year milling career from 1930 to 1991, it was shut down only a total of 12 years, resulting in 49 years of actual milling. The total amount of rock milled is estimated at 9,700,500 tons. The Mill produced 1,940,100 ounces of gold; 30,000,000 ounces of silver; and 1,000,000 tons of combined base metals -- a remarkable record for hard rock mining” Austin had garnered some intel from a local rock shop on where he could find some collectible quartz and fluorite and had some success there in the past so we checked out that site.  The temperature was 40F and a few snow flurries suggested winter was almost upon us as we parked and checked out the site. We dug in an area that had country rock surrounding a seam of quartz and fluorite.  
The seam is right in front of Austin, slope of the hill is close to 45 degrees
I was surprised at the amount of clay between rock surfaces.  It almost seemed like a Lake George pegmatite with all the sticky mud. The difference here was the quartz was not growing out of the rock as in pegmatites, but lodged in an old hydrothermal seam. We dug for about an hour or so on that seam and both got several small plates of quartz with green fluorite.  Both the fluorite and quartz crystals were fairly small but make for interesting combinations for display.  We walked a little further down the road and looked through some of the tailing from a mine above us.  There were some very interesting druzy quartz plates along with pale green fluorite. There was also some other worm-liked druzy quartz specimens which I gathered up. I really didn’t think I would find much in the way of collectible crystals from the tailings lying on a 45 degree slope flung out of a mine shaft but the damage to the specimens we found was minimal. The snow had now changed from flurries to heavy snow showers and visibilities were obscured to a half mile or less at times as the wind picked up and the temperature fell to 32F. 
Snow and cold shuts us down
We were more than satisfied with our finds so we decided to call it a day and head back to Durango. Unfortunately the Silverton bakery was closed so we had no funnel cakes that day. During our prospecting trip we also visited an amethyst site (mostly massive) and found a little pyrite and sphalerite at a couple other spots
Clay Covered Plate Fresh From The Seam
Still A Little Cleaning Needed For This Quartz Plate But Close To Finished
Plate Of Druzy Quartz Over Octahedral Fluorite 


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Rock Hounding the Denver Mineral Show 2017

I see rocks in my future
Rock hounding the Denver Show can be fairly daunting but if you have a plan, can stay on your feet for a few hours and are prepared you can have a great time.  I think the Denver Show grew by nearly 100% this year with venues all over the city.  Denver is the second biggest show in the USA, second only to the Tuscon AZ show.  There were 11 venues and probably about 1000 dealers.  I went to a fraction of the show and took in only 30 or so vendors.  After a few hours everything starts to look the same to me as my powers of observation begin to wane.  A young friend of mine Austin wanted to go so I figured his enthusiasm would keep me going.  Prior to heading out I made sure we had a plan on where to go as well as a backpacks with water and a couple snacks.  We hit the Denver Coliseum which boasted 600+ vendors and "5 miles of tables".  The Denver Coliseum hosted 4 different venues on both sides of Interstate 70.  We also visited the Colorado Mineral and Fossil Venue which had about 150+ dealers located about 10 miles east of the Coliseum. We started at the tent area behind the Coliseum and walked into a sales area filled with quartz crystals from Minas Gerais, Brazil.  While many of these crystals had some damage a careful search of the 40 odd tables did turn up some well terminated gemmy pieces.  Now I don’t normally buy quartz as I can find plenty here in Colorado, but the size and price on these were too good to pass up. They also had many clear crystals. Evidently this tent opens up to dealers about 3 days prior to the general public so while everything had been gone through by the dealers there was still plenty of product for the rest of us to look through. Also I understood prices were reduced after the dealers cherry picked the offerings. I can hardly imagine what gems some of the dealers walked off with. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to leave this tent.  After an hour or so I had a flat full of choice pieces and Austin had a monster smoky. 
Box of crystals from Minas Gerais, Brazil ready for reselling
My favorite purchased smoky Xls
We eventually migrated to another tent and I purchased a small grouping of amethyst crystals while Austin tried to get a bargain on some tourmaline.  The dealer kept changing his price on the tourmaline but Austin stuck with it and eventually bought one. Next we moved inside the Coliseum and Austin found one of his favorite gem dealers.  All gems were marked and discounted down to $5 a gem.  Austin purchases these, sets them in silver and flips them on line.  I wandered around til I found a lady selling 3” double terminated citrine crystals for about $5 a pop.  I watched as one customer purchased a couple hundred of these.  The area was somewhat dark and though the crystals looked okay they appeared oiled to me.  I bought a few to take home and check them out.  Yup they were oiled and were probably heated amethyst. The oil hides the white abrasions and scratches on the crystal surface and makes the specimens look a lot better than what they really are. I read on line that many pale amethyst are heated until they become yellow citrines.  While I can’t be sure of heat treatments it wouldn’t surprise me one bit… the oiling was obvious in the sunlight.  Oh well I dropped only $30 and as the saying goes “caveat emptor” especially in poorly lighted selling areas ;-)  We had now reached the 3 hour point and I decided it was time to do some tailgating at the rock show.  It seemed like we barely sat down for a break and we were off again under the interstate to see what was on the other side of the road. 
Austin picking through the $5 gems
I kept looking for the Miners Co-op area, but on the way we visited the fine mineral gem area.  Most of these crystals were out of our league but it’s always nice to dream.  A couple of vendors made a little chit chat with us but as soon as they sensed a real customer was nearby they left us.  World class crystals were the norm here and I enjoyed dreaming of what could be if I would ever win the Power ball lottery.  I guess I insulted one dealer by offering too low a price for a nice specimen of vanadanite and so I decided again it was time for us to look for the Prospector’s Co-op area.  Saw a few folks at the Co-op I knew, said hello and moved on to look for one of Austin’s favorite dealers.  Austin is usually able to trade some minerals with this dealer for specimens so I had brought along a flat of amazonite and smoky quartz crystals to see if I could make a trade.  Austin’s dealer friend had just traded for a large quantity of nice looking tourmaline with another dealer and when the dealer saw my amazonite smoky combos I saw his eyes light up and knew I would be taking home some tourmalines.
I traded for some tourmalines from the Cruzeiro Mine, Brazil
I got $740 in trade for my box of crystals. After making a couple more trades with the dealer we decided to move on down the road to the Colorado Mineral and Fossil Show.  I was looking for some supplies and was happy to find all sorts of stands in various forms and sizes at one store that will help me display my minerals to their best advantage. After a few supply purchases we moved on to visit Joe Dorris’ booth.  It was getting near to the end of the day and Joe spent some time looking at our purchases and surprised me by offering me some topaz from his claim.  I had found some topaz on his claim and gave them to him as agreed upon and he cleaned them up and returned two of them to me. It was nearly 5PM and we decided it was time to call it a day.  I was very pleased with both my quartz crystals, tourmaline and a surprise topaz,  I learned a fairly inexpensive lesson about citrine but easily made up for that with my other purchases and trades.  This wasn’t my first big show and lessons learned regarding planning ahead, bringing along a backpack, as well as trade items made this a very enjoyable outing. Having a friend along is a fine idea too.


Friday, September 1, 2017

Pseudomorph Sunday Or A Return To Iron Hill

We found a lot of goethite ((FeO(OH)), pseudomorphs of goethite after siderite and even iron globs on smoky quartz crystals on a hill near Lake George so we've nicknamed the hill Iron Hill. I prospected around today for a while on Iron Hill and kept finding float crystals. There was nearly no slope near the top of the hill where I was prospecting and no discernible pegmatite yet every once and a while a 5 inch smoky or well formed amazonite would pop out of the dirt. I would dig down around the spot where I found the keeper but there would be no pegmatite even a foot below these occasional floater crystals. I kept prospecting for an hour or so but was not able to find the source of the float amazonite and smokies so I decided to show Bob, my digging partner, a couple of my float crystals and see if he was having any luck.  Bob was also finding some float amazonite along with a bit of goethite.  I told him I was going to quit digging in my area and try something else.  As I walked back to my old site to load up my tools I noted a 2 inch smoky basking in the sunshine. I marked that spot as my next prospecting site and returned there with my equipment. At least this spot had plenty of rock which suggested pegmatites somewhere near the surface rather than just all dirt. Three feet up the hill from where I found the float crystal there was a small pile of rocks that I supposed someone assembled. I noticed only a shallow depression from where these may have been dug but didn't believe whoever dug this dug very deep. As I began my dig I hit a number of smoky quartz shards about 10 inches down and thought just maybe I might be on to something. As I moved up the hill towards the pile of rocks I kept getting quartz shards and an occasional pseudomorph of goethite after siderite see:  We’ve found plenty of pseudomorphs on Iron Hill before so these pseudomorphs came as no surprise, I picked a couple up and showed them to Bob who immediately recognized them for what they were. These pseudomorphs of goethite after siderite were bigger than what we had been finding so Bob decided to join in the fun and watch me dig. We were both concerned about the pile of rocks in front of me, but it looked to me like they were associated with a fairly shallow dig to my right and since I was finding quartz shards and pegmatite about a foot below the ground I continued my dig.  Soon the dirt began to turn orange-ish yellow and began to clump up.  Well it was obvious to me this clay signified the edge of a pocket so I put away my rock hammer and pulled out one of the wooden chop sticks John Wager had given us and began probing through the clay looking for crystals. Wager sticks work really well in clayish materials--everyone should have one. Or you can get some knock-offs from your local Chinese restaraunt. Wood is very soft and normally won't scratch crystals. While smoky quartz shards and a few crystals were fairly plentiful the highlight of this pocket was pseudomorphs of goethite after siderite.  Bob and I each got a nice fist sized plate of these pseudomorphs on matrix (pegmatite). Although these specimens are not highly prized by many I find them to be exceptional examples of pseudomorphs from the Pike Peak Batholith and very collectible. Yes, I would rather have some amazonite smoky combos but you take what you can get and this was better than getting shut out. By the way the previous digger who piled up a small rock cairn, put it right on top of the pocket I discovered.  Maybe I should just look for these rock cairns and pull out the crystals underneath ;-)  The sky was rumbling with thunder once again, my annoying headache had returned and I just unearthed a nest of large black ants that began crawling all over everything. I decided it was time to call it a day and return next week to finish up this pegmatite and check out a few rock piles on Iron Hill.  Hopefully the ubiquitous ants will have found a new home as well, until then happy rock hounding--Falls Coming!