Rockin the Rockies

Rockin the Rockies
Stowe Mtn

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rockhounding at an Estate Sale in Colorado Springs

Rock hounding at an Estate Sale is like shooting fish in a barrel.  Not sure where this idiom came from, who wants a bunch of shot up fish, I guess they are easier to catch that way and maybe some are already disemboweled/cleaned. The rocks at the Estate Sale were easy to catch and already cleaned for the most part.
An avid rock collector from my Club had to move for health reasons and couldn't take her rock collection with her. The manager of the estate sale said she didn't want any rocks left over and wanted the specimens priced to sell. Better to sell the minerals cheaply than have them dumped in a landfill, so sold they were. After the end of the first day of the sale a gentleman purchased the rest of the collection for half off the already deeply discounted retail prices. I'm not sure what he will do with all the specimens, many of them duplicates, but maybe he will have a rock store of his own some day. As a collector I was glad I didn't wait to purchase any of the minerals on the second day of the sale, as none would have been left.
Going into the sale I wasn't sure what to expect, I knew the collector was primarily interested in micromounts (small specimens) but I hoped the collection would also be stocked in larger Colorado minerals like Stoneham barite, fluorite and possibly some smoky quartz and amazonite pieces for my collection. I was surprised not only by the quantity, but also the diversity of the collection. It was also good to see many of the minerals had tags with good provenance. I set a maximum of $100 to spend, but was soon near that limit. I found several crystals that I had on my wish list, but had not expected to find them at the estate sale. Among my purchases were cavansite, crocoite, apophyllite, fluorite, a surprise Faden quartz specimen and a Stoneham barite. I also purchased a microscope in working order, but with missing parts (easily rectified). As I was going through the mineral specimens I decided I wouldn't want my collection dispersed this way. Not only were the minerals going for low prices, but the collection had placed a burden on others for disposition. At least the minerals went to collectors. I think when I reach 3 score and 10 years it will be time to part with all but the best. DV.

See Pictures Below
Apophyllite from India

Huamalies Province, Peru

Magaliesberg, South Africa

Cavansite from Loc-Wagholi Pune Maharashtra State, India

Creedite from Mexico

Dundas Tasmania, Australia

North Waziristan, Pakistan (Highly Prized by Me)

Peruvian Pyrite

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Quartz Float

When a crystal pocket is exposed, the process of weathering will gradually move the crystals down hill. Sometimes this process can be very slow or happen quickly depending on circumstances like steepness of the hill the pocket is on or amount of precipitation that moves crystals downhill. Float quartz is any quartz that has moved away from the pocket either due to the pockets initial breakage or through weathering. Quite often when prospecting you will find float quartz below the pocket (on a hill) and then prospect up the hill to find the source of the float quartz -- hopefully a quartz pocket. Last week I had found a pocket of crystals without prospecting below the hill up to the pocket. As my rock hounding buddy would say, I dumbed into the pocket. I decided I needed to prospect below the pocket. I found some nice quartz crystals which were actually larger than the crystals in the pocket. So I prospected the hill above the pocket and found no crystals. Just an anomaly I guess.
Today I went back to an old site that I had prospected and found nice float crystals, but never found a pocket. Today was just the same. I found some nice float crystals, mostly 2-6" below the surface, but no pocket. The crystals were somewhat damaged but still collectible in my mind (see below). The crystals are 3-4" in length all have minor damage to varying degree. I have dug up the area extensively and believe there was an old water wash in the area. The crystals seem to be collected around boulders running down the hill (like gold in a stream I guess). Nearly 50 feet up the rather shallow hill there was a pocket with what I surmise were nice crystals and I can only guess the quartz float I am finding comes from the old crystal pocket. I have prospected the entire 50ft up to the old pocket and granite contact zone with no success.  I have spent about 7 days last year digging this hill with no pocket results. I shall probably try the area again, but don't want to waste my entire summer digging through float :-)
A little HF might sparkle these up some, not sure its worth it considering existing damage

This one is 4 inches, somewhat dinged, but still collectible in my mind

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Smoky Quartz at Lake George

Normally I go rock hounding 2-3 times a week. The past two weeks I have only gone once a week due do to other commitments. Last week I found a small but productive pegmatite towards the end of the day with many small smoky quartz crystals. Seeing as it was the end of the day and I had a HS graduation party to go to I buried the pegmatite. I had not been able to get back until yesterday and probably won't go again this week due to my rock club (CSMS) having its rock and mineral fair this weekend. At the fair, I will display petrified wood and my digging friend will show off his Lake George finds. I think people will be surprised at the quality of the crystals Bob will display, but that is for another entry.
I dug out the pegmatite yesterday and once again found many small smoky quartz crystals. Most of the crystals were less than 1" in length. The crystals were very gemmy, but never attained any length or girth. I was somewhat puzzled by the availability of pegmatite quartz and lack of any larger crystals. The pegmatite was also very close to the surface. After digging out the pocket I decided to dig below the pocket (down the hill) and work up to the pocket. Hoping to catch some float crystals. This paid off. Despite the slope being very shallow (maybe 5 degrees) there were float crystals that were better than anything I found in the pocket. Hoping that there was another pegmatite that I might have missed between the float and my pocket up the hill, I continued to dig up the hill and work down every time I found a crystal. Unfortunately it appears the float did come from the original pocket. Still I was glad I had taken the time to go down the hill and work up to the pocket finding some nice gemmy 2" float crystals with very nice terminations. Often float crystals are more damaged than crystals you find in pegmatite pockets, but this was not the case with the float I found.
As the day winded down, I took some time to prospect the area more and almost immediately found smokys. These crystals were also small and hooded (see example below). I also found a nice piece of amazonite on my hike out. I'll have to prospect that area as well. Much to do at this site, may keep Bob and myself busy all summer... stay tuned.
Float Crystal 2" Chisel Point

Float Crystal Drill Bit Point

Odd Hooded Crystal

Monday, June 3, 2013

Field Trip for Tourmaline

Tourmaline in the Rockies can be found, but is often not the real gemmy crystals that people make jewelry out of or sell for big money. As a crystal collector I find the form and luster of tourmaline/schorl desirable NaFe2+3Al6(BO3)3Si6O18(OH)4
We had an old time crystal hunter rejoin our crystal club. He brought in a number of well formed and terminated schorl crystals. They ranged from pencil to thumbsize in thickness and a couple crystals exceeded 3 inches. Well, we got excited about that and so he helped lead a field trip to the site. When we got to the spot near Badger Mtn, he said he hadn't been there since the early 70s and had dug out most of the schorl. Oops, would have been nice to know this ahead of time. Anyway, we gave it a shot. Soon we found garnets. The garnets were fairly small and not gemmy, they were surrounded by mica and resided in the host quartzy pegmatite. Perhaps the garnets are almandine garnets Fe3Al2(SiO4)3, the color was brownish. I will have to look into that more. Upon careful inspection of the garnets, I noticed that there were small schorl crystals intermixed with the garnets (see picture below). Our leader mentioned that the best schorl could be found in quartz chunks. Evidently when these quartz chunks are put in a freezer the schorl will sometimes pop out. Schorl must contract more than quartz. Our leader said that schorl could also be found within feldspar, but is nearly impossible to extract without breaking the crystals. Seems to me a few pieces of nice tourmaline sticking out of the host rock is just as appealing as single tourmalines frozen out of the quartz... and so the hunt was on. My nephew Andrew won the prize and found a perfectly terminated pencil thick 2 inch long tourmaline (float). I found garnets and tourmaline shards. Perhaps tourmaline does not get along well with my crack hammer (kidding). My rockhounding friend Bob, found a broken but well terminated tourmaline. While the trip was not well attended everyone went away with something collectible. I think some more prospecting in the area might turn up a better spot that has not already been prospected quite so much. Until then its back to Lake George for smoky quartz and amazonite!

Looking for float or debris late in the day... somewhat relaxing pose

Andy and I watching my nephew pull out tourmaline pieces

Fragmented tourmaline resting over garnet on matrix

Dime-size garnet

One of Bob's tourmaline finds