We are back from the Tucson Gem Show 2017. A week of awesome geology and gems! What fun! Stop by the store to see some of the goodies we pick out this year.
The annual Labor Day Weekend Gem & Mineral Show is THIS weekend! If you are in Silver City, NM over Labor Day weekend, please stop by and say Hello. The show will be at Western New Mexico University's Intramural Gym on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Hours are Saturday 9 to 5 pm, Sunday 10 to 5 pm, and Monday (Labor Day) 10 to 4 pm. See you there!
We are running our annual bead sale through Christmas Eve, 50% off! For your shopping ease, we are also open on Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm through Saturday December 19th. Our Holiday 2015 hours are M-F 10 am to 5 pm, Saturdays 10 am to 1 pm, Christmas Eve 10 am to 1 pm. Merry Christmas everyone!
We just got a new shipment of copper splash in the store! These pure copper art pieces are a joy to behold. The organic shapes and rainbow colors are astounding. No two pieces are alike. Most are wall art, but we have some vases and copper ladle bowls as well. New with this shipment are copper trees, both stand alone and wall mounted. Stop by to see our new selection.
We have just returned from the 2015 Tucson Gem Show. What fun! We managed to spend several days in the beautiful Tucson sun shopping and admiring the wonderful variety of items on display throughout Tucson in early February. Some of our favorite venues are Tucson Electric Park with it's selection of gemstones, jewelry, equipment and gift dealers from all over the world; G&LW's Gem Mall with beads, gemstone jewelry, precious metal findings, and gift items; and the incredible Hotel Tucson with it's fossil dealers and displays.
We will be busy putting out our new items for a while. As always, we tried to find something new and exciting to bring back with us. One of our favorites is always the amethyst clusters from Uruguay with the incredible depth of color and beautiful presentation. Last year they flew off the shelf so we brought more this year in the hopes we can admire some for a bit longer this year. We brought back lots of new jewelry items just in time for Valentine's Day so stop on by to see what's new.
If you are in town the second Thursday in March, join us at the Grant County Rolling Stones Gem & Mineral Society monthly meeting. We will give a presentation on our trip with lots of awesome photos of the show. Hope to see you there!
Happy New Year! We start the year looking at the idea of Birthstones and January's stone, garnet. Many believe that the concept of birthstones evolved from ancient astrology. The Chaldeans of southern Babylonia were excellent astronomers and astrologers. They worshipped the planets, which they believed controlled the fates of people and nations. They also believed that there was a relationship between certain gemstones and planets.
Ideas regarding birthstones were further developed in Biblical times. The Book of Exodus chronicles God's instructions for making the High Priest's vestments, which included a plaque called the Breastplate of Judgement set with twelve gems. Each gem was engraved with the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. For example, garnet was attributed to the tribe of Levi. In the first century AD, the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus traced the connection between stones of the Breastplate, months of the year and the twelve signs of the zodiac.
There have been many lists for birthstones through time, but their roots and sources have become obscure. The tradition of attaching personal meaning to specific stones, however, is still very strong. As such, the modern list of birthstones was adopted in the early 1950's by US jewelry organizations. In addition to birthstones for months, there are also traditional lists for the hours, four seasons and days of the week, as well as astral and zodiacal signs.
Garnet is January's birthstone. In ancient times garnets were thought to stop bleeding, cure inflammatory diseases, promote sincerity and cure anger. Some Asiatic and North American tribes used red garnets as bullets, believing that it would seek blood and inflict deadlier wounds. In Christian tradition, garnet symbolizes Christ's sacrifice. Other traditions believed that a garnet-bearing traveler was guarded from danger, but a loss of the gemstone's luster signaled impending doom!
Garnet is actually a family of minerals, distinguished by differences in chemical composition. Nearly all garnets contain aluminum, silicon and oxygen. They are discerned from each other, however, by the presence of various elements such as magnesium, iron, manganese, calcium and chromium. Most folk think that garnet only occurs as a red gemstone, but it has a multitude of colors including red, green, black, brown, yellow, pink, orange, violet, white and colorless. About the only color not represented is blue.
Due to the wide variability in colors, garnets have been mistaken for other gemstones such as rubies, emeralds, jade and topaz. One variety of green garnet, called tsavorite, has often been mistaken for fine emeralds. At a fraction of the cost, however, it is clearer, more brilliant and more durable than an emerald.
Many also believe that garnets are inexpensive. While some of the more common garnets cost less than $20 per carat, other varieties can cost over several thousand dollars per carat. Tsavorite, mentioned above, commonly commands prices near $500 per carat.
Geologically, garnets are associated with a type of rock called metamorphic rocks. These are rocks that have been altered without melting through exposure to elevated temperatures and/or pressures. In Grant County garnets can be found near Hanover and Fierro. Most of these are relatively small (about the size of a BB), and none are gem quality. However, they are neat to look at and admire.
In two weeks we are off to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. Look back for updates on our finds this year!
Many hobbies have a number of sub disciplines. Rock hounding is no different. Some people like to look for aesthetic minerals; others like to dabble with small and microscopic minerals called thumbnails and micro mounts; still others look for rare or older specimens collected from mines long since closed and inaccessible. Today, let's talk about an area of specialization that has been around for a long time and has recently seen resurgence by the rock hounding enthusiast. That is fluorescent minerals, better know to most as the "glow in the dark" minerals -- those that display vibrant colors.
What makes them glow? To understand the mechanics of fluorescence, let's revisit our high school science class. Now, don't panic, we'll keep this simple. Do you remember the atom? Remember that it's made up of three main constituents -- protons, neutrons, and electrons? And, do you remember that neutrons and protons form the center of the atom, called the nucleus, while the electrons orbit around the nucleus somewhat akin to the planets orbiting around the sun? Let's focus on those orbiting electrons.
The orbital paths occupied by electrons are called electron shells. Electrons will occupy specific shells, or orbital paths, based on the amount of energy they have. Electrons in shells near the nucleus have lower levels of energy than those in shells farther away. Sometimes, when energy is applied from an outside source (like a black light), it will add energy to electrons and they will fly away from their electron shells, similar to a hyperactive kid on too much sugar! Anyway, when this happens, an electron from a higher shell jumps down to the lower shell to fill the void left by the hyperactive electron. Since this replacement electron has more energy than it needs, it releases some of it's energy as visible light during the transition, producing the pretty colors you see emitted from the mineral. Ta-da -- fluorescence!
Rock hounders use ultraviolet lamps to provide the outside energy source that will excite the hyperactive electrons. Ultraviolet light is divided into long-wave, medium-wave, and short-wave. Each type of ultraviolet light may produce different colors in the same mineral! Sometimes only on type of ultraviolet light will work on a mineral, and, in general, short-wave light will work on more minerals than long-wave. The long-wave source lamps are readily available, and are akin to the black lights you might have hanging next to your favorite velvet poster of Elvis. Short-wave lamps are generally more expensive. They are also more dangerous and can damage your skin and eyes if you are not careful.
Minerals that fluoresce may have certain impurities in them, called "activators," that assist in boosting fluorescence. Activators must be present in the proper concentration ( or quantity) in order for the mineral to fluoresce. If there is too little or too much of the impurity, the mineral simply won't fluoresce. Conversely, some impurities, such as iron, tend to inhibit fluorescence. These impurities are called "quenchers".
One clarification, regarding the terms fluorescence and phosphorescence. If a mineral stops "glowing" immediately upon removal of the ultraviolet lamp, the mineral is fluorescent. If, however, it continues to glow for a period of time, then it is phosphorescent.
Minerals and the discovery of fluorescence are historically linked. The property of fluorescence was discovered by Sir George Stokes in the mid-1800's when he noticed that the mineral fluorite changed colors from green in the shade to blue in the sunlight. He must have been pretty impressed by that piece of fluorite, because he named this particular property (fluorescence) after it. Later, when mines started using electric motors and lights, the miners noticed that the initial spark from electric switches caused some of the surrounding minerals to temporarily glow.
In the early 1900's, the New Jersey Zinc mines used ultraviolet lights to help determine ore grades. Rocks containing high zinc ore glowed a very bright green and rocks with calcite and no zinc ore tended to glow a bright red-orange. By the way, Franklin, N.J. is one of the most famous fluorescent mineral locations in the world. (I wonder if the producers of "The Sopranos" knew that?) During World War II, when tungsten from China was inaccessible, many deposits of scheelite (a tungsten mineral) were found in the west using short-wave ultraviolet light.
So, why the renewed interest in fluorescent minerals? There are a number of factors. Ultraviolet lamps are readily available, costing anywhere in the range of $10 to $1,000 or more. LED ultraviolet lamps are now easily found as well. Most of the ones used by hobbyists are between $150 and $600. Fluorescent minerals may cost less than other types of mineral specimens. Be forewarned, however, that they are getting more expensive, and there are the rather pricey upper-end fluorescents out there.
Many of the traditional mineral collecting locations that have "played out" of the classic mineral specimens are being rediscovered for the variety or type of fluorescent minerals present. In fact, don't be surprised if you approach an old mine dump, only to find a rather peculiar person lying under a tarp prospecting with an ultraviolet lamp!
OK, so your appetite is whetted and you're ready to go hunting for "them pretty-colored glow in the' dark rocks". Where can you find them? First, let me say that there hasn't been a lot of prospecting for fluorescent minerals. So, if you are aware of some old mine dumps that are safely and legally accessible, they might be worth checking out. There are some fairly common minerals, like calcite, that tend to fluoresce and phosphoresce. Calcite is a common gangue, or non-ore, mineral in many of the local deposits. An area noted for unique fluorescent calcite and another mineral, spurrite, is the Tres Hermanas mountains south of Deming. The fluorite from Cooke's Peak also tends to fluoresce. The fluorite from the Gila River area and Burro Mountains doesn't work so well, possibly because coatings of druzy quartz tend to inhibit the penetration of ultraviolet light. The local chalcedony, a form of quartz, can also fluoresce. Areas with lots of chalcedony include Round Mountain near Lordsburg and the Mule Creek, NM area. As always, have fun and be safe out there.
With Christmas around the corner, I thought I'd spend a little time talking about faceted gemstones, with an emphasis on things to look for while shopping for a loved one's gift. I'm using much of the information for this article from a book, "Jewelry & Gemstones - A Buying Guide," by Antoinette L. Matlins and A.C. Bonanno. Most of the publications by Matlins are very informative, as she writes with the consumer's interest in mind.
Let's begin with a few definitions relative to the anatomy of a faceted stone. A cut stone can be divided into three areas - the top portion, called the crown; the bottom portion, called the pavilion; and the portion of the stone that separates the top and bottom, called the girdle. The girdle is generally the widest part of the stone. The largest facet on the crown, is the table, which is located at the very top of the stone. The cutlet is the pointed portion on the very bottom of the pavilion. There are numerous names for the remaining, smaller facets, but we won't dwell upon them for this discussion.
Matlins and Bonanno suggest using six key steps while examining a stone for possible purchase:
If you are using a loupe to identify potential flaws, then you should be using a 10 power loupe - one that will magnify the stone 10 times its normal size. Keep in mind that higher-power loupes are available, but a gemstone is only considered to have flaws if they are visible under a 10-power loupe.
So, what can a loupe tell you? For one thing, it can tell you what kind of workmanship went into cutting the stone. When you look at the stone, imagine slicing it into half from different orientations. Do the two halves mirror each other? Does the stone look balanced? If you are familiar with the different types of cuts, does the stone have the proper number of facets for the cut? A loupe can also help you spot chips and scratches. Take time to examine both the table (the large, flat top facet) and the edges of the facet cuts. Often, people will focus only on the flatter portions of the stone and not enough on the edges where the facets meet. Also, check the facet edges to see if they have sharp, definitive boundaries. If the stone is set as a piece of jewelry, check around the prongs or bezels for scratches from setting tools. Check to see if the stone has been glued on the prongs or bezel. A properly set stone should not be glued.
A loupe can help you check for bubbles, inclusions, cracks and other flaws. Most of these types of blemishes will be in the interior of the stone. Bubbles and inclusions may show up as cloudy areas in the stone. Cracks tend to show up as linear features. Finally, a loupe can help you identify certain enhancements made to the stone, such as whether two or more stones have been joined together - something called a doublet and triplet. Doublets and triplets can usually be identified by looking at the side of the stone for a linear feature, where the two or three stones have been joined together.
While examining the stone, ask questions of the jeweler. Most jewelers are reputable, and will try to answer your questions to the best of their abilities. You can ask about carat weight of the stone, the types of cut and how many facets a particular cut should have. You might also ask if the stone is natural or simulated (i.e., man-made), whether it is a genuine stone or imitation, and whether it has been enhanced (a natural stone that has been treated).
Be wary of marketing labels, as they can be misleading. For example, there are misnomers like smoky topaz that is not topaz at all - it is smokey quartz. So, if you are unsure, ask the jeweler if it's the real deal. If they want to protect their reputation - and most do - they'll be honest with you.
I hope I've armed you with information to assist you with making a more informed decision during the holiday season. For now, we wish you all a happy holiday season.
We carry a large selection of stone beads in many shapes and sizes. Our strands are sold in 8 inch lengths that are perfect for combining to create a necklace, bracelet and earring set. From now until December 24th we are discounting our stone beads by 25%! Come early for the best selection. Now is the time to stock up on your next project, find the perfect match to compete your holiday gift project or purchase beads for that jewelry artist on your gift list.
There is something about the area near Hanover and Fierro, NM that "attracts" rockhounds! Fierro, which is German for iron, is loaded with lodestone -- better known as magnetite, an iron oxide mineral. It is a very heavy, massive, black mineral that doesn't look like much, but it is magnetic, which most kids who visit our shop think is pretty cool.
This fairly abundant mineral is pretty easy to find along Hanover Creek. You don't need expensive tools, as the mineral can be found in cobble-sized chunks in the creek and along the road. Just take a good magnet to confirm your find. It is usually found with pyrite (fool's gold) and serpentine, a green to yellow, waxy looking mineral that can be scratched pretty easily and used for carving fetishes and other figures.
Magnetite and many of the other minerals in the area formed as a result of intrusions of molten rock. More specifically, they occur in a skarn deposit, an area where the molten rock came into contact with existing rocks and altered or metamorphosed them. As previously stated, most of the magnetite is pretty massive, but fine crystal forms were found in the Republic Mine in the district. These crystals usually occur as octahedrons and look like two black pyramids attached at their bases.
According to my rockhounding books, magnetite derives it's name from Magnesia, an ancient district bordering on Macedonia. One of the earliest accounts regarding magnetite in the area was made by James O. Pattie, a trapper in the early to mid-1800's. Discussing the working mine at Santa Rita, Pattie stated, "Within the circumference of three miles there is a mine of copper, gold, and silver beside a cliff of lodestone."
Later, magnetite was mined as an iron ore. In the past 10 years, magnetite tailings at the Cobre Mine were, at first, considered a nuisance, then a relatively valuable commodity when China started buying iron ore to meet it's infrastructure needs.
Just about every month, somebody brings us a piece of magnetite, thinking the've found a meteorite. It's understandable; they have similar characteristics. Most folks are good sports when we break the news that they haven't found anything from outer space. Some, however, have given us skeptical looks, and remain unconvinced. In one case, I asked a fellow whether he had collected the piece in the Hanover/Fierro area. His response was affirmative, followed by something like, "I know the area is loaded with magnetite, but how do you know that a meteorite didn't also impact the same area and I have a piece of it right here?" Trying to explain that there isn't any geologic evidence supporting a meteorite impact fell on deaf ears!
On another occasion, a gentleman came into the store cradling a huge piece of magnetite, which I almost dropped through the glass in our display cabinet as he handed it to me to examine. When I told him he had magnetite, he said, incredulously, "Guess again!" I asked if he collected it in the Hanover/Fierro area? "That's confidential!", he replied. Backing off, I asked him what he thought it was. "Platinum", he replied. Trying another tactic, I asked him if he had it assayed? "Are you kidding, that's a museum piece!", he exclaimed.
So, if you are looking for something to do with the kids, grandkids, nieces or nephews that might amaze them this weekend, grab your magnet and go prospecting. Tell them that your magnetic personality attracts all sorts of things, including rocks!