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!
Want to collect Apache Tears? Apache What?! Apache Tears are pieces of rounded black volcanic glass called obsidian, and you can find lots of it in the stream beds near Mule Creek, NM. It is a great place to take the kids, because it's easy to get to and there are plenty of tears to collect. In fact, if you decide to go, take a decent-sized container, like a coffee can. You'll fill it up in short order.
Why are they called Apache Tears? According to legend, a group of Apache Indians conducted raids to steal cattle for food in the 1870's. The U.S. Cavalry sent troops, who cornered the Apache on top of a mountain. Outnumbered and depleted of ammunition, the Apache warriors leapt to their deaths, rather than surrender to the enemy. When the Apache women found their loved ones at the foot of the cliffs, they were so stricken with grief that they cried for a whole moon. As a result of their grief, the Apache gods took pity and turned their tears into black translucent stones as they hit the earth.
The legend continues that you will receive good luck when given an Apache Tear from a friend, because you will never need to cry and suffer as the Apache women did. Some believe that this legend may be based upon a real event that occurred near Superior, Arizona, where numerous Apache Tears are also found.
How do these geologic marvels form? I used to believe that they were simply weathered fragments that had been polished in the stream beds, but I learned that is not the complete story. Initially, the obsidian was deposited in layers during volcanic eruption events in our geologic past. Over time, the obsidian absorbed water, which affected it's structure. Fragments and shards of the glass began to peel off in a manner similar to the layers of an onion, down to the core, which is the Apache Tear we see today. The stones were polished further by water in the stream beds.
So, what do you use the Tears for? Most people I know like to tumble the stones in their rock polishers. Others will use the tumbled stones for mementos, key chains, and jewelry. A number of folk representing our area for various organizations often take the stones to regional or national meetings to swap with others from different parts of the country.
Larger pieces can be carved into items from eggs to animals. Artisans in Mexico have carved layered varieties of obsidian, called rainbow and mahogany obsidian, such that the layers form internal images of hearts, butterflies and dragonflies. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that obsidian was also used to make tools and arrowheads. It is still a favorite stone for knappers, people who make arrowheads.
If you are looking for something to do with the kids or grandkids any weekend, tell them the legend of the Apache Tears. Then, load them in the car and head up to Mule Creek for a fun afternoon of collecting. You won't be disappointed!
Let's go gold panning for fun and prof…well, fun! I left out the "P" word - profit - because if you go out panning, you most likely won't find too much out there. As on friend put it; "I'd be happy if I got enough gold to pay for the libations I brought along to keep me company while panning!" So look at it for what it is -- a good way to leisurely spend a day in a gorgeous setting….a fishing trip of sorts.
So, how do you go about this panning business? Well, first you need, uh, a pan. Gold pans basically look something like a Chinese wok. They are made of steel, plastic or copper. The plastic pans work pretty well, for several reasons:
OK, now that you have your pan, it's time to go panning. Where do you go?
First, you need to find a place where there is some running water, unless you want to fill some pails with dirt and cart it back to your house and pan there. If you find a spot along a creek, make sure there aren't any active claim markers. Serious gold prospectors may not appreciate finding you on their claim. Make sure you are comfortable -- find a nice boulder to sit on, or even bring a folding chair.
OK, you've got water and a comfortable spot, now what?
Look for a likely spot where heavier gold may have dropped out of the stream current. These include the down-stream side of boulders; the inside curve of the stream; near tree roots along the stream bank; in small holes in the streamed; and downstream of natural dams (like logjams).
Take a trough and scoop some material into your pan. Inspect and discard larger rocks, unless they have gold in them - they probably don't. Fill your pan with water and gently slosh the pan around in a circular fashion, tilting it slightly away from yourself (unless you enjoy getting wet). This sloshing action will help separate lighter sediments from the heavier ones, commonly called black or red sands.
Now, inspect the black sands for any gold color. You can accelerate this inspection by separating magnetic iron-bearing sediments from the rest of the sand. You accomplish this by putting a magnet in a plastic bag and running the magnet over the sands, then peeling off the fine sediments and discarding them. It may take several runs with the magnet to get most of the sediment winnowed out. Resume your inspection. Sometimes it's helpful to use a magnifying glass or jewelers loupe.
What's that! There is some color! GOLD -- EUREKA -- I'M RICH!
Easy, Fido. If you see some color, make sure it's really gold. There are other materials that can trick you, most notably pyrite or fool's gold (ever wonder how it got it's name?). Inspect the particle carefully. Does it have a blocky look to it? Does it look really flashy? If so, it's probably pyrite. You can also try to see if it breaks under a sharp point, but you'll most likely fling it off into the sunset. Or, you can put it into your gold vial and check it later to see if it reacts with muriatic acid (found in your local hardware store). If it breaks under pressure or reacts with acid, it's probably pyrite.
Other materials can fool you too. For example, we've had a number of people show up at the shop with vials full of mica. The Pinos Altos area has a LOT of copper rich mica. One fellow didn't believe me when I told him he had mica, because he said he used the "match test". I never understood what he meant, and he wasn't in the mood to explain it further.
OK, you've found some color and you're pretty sure it's gold. How do you collect it?
Most prospectors carry a small vial to store their gold. It generally has a little bit of water in it. If you take a small artist's paintbrush and wet it, dab your piece, then stir it into the vial, the gold should drop into your vial. Some prospectors carry around Chap Stick and use it to dab the gold, then they cut the small sliver containing the gold fleck into the vial. Later, they separate the gold from the waxy Chap Stick by melting the wax and drawing off the liquid. I like the water method, myself.
Well, at the end of the day, if you're lucky, you'll have a vial with some small pieces of gold in it and will be thinking something like those "Car Talk" guys on National Public Radio: "Now I've wasted another perfectly good day…". But it was fun.
I can't let you go without telling you my favorite gold story. No, I wasn't prospecting. I was in my shop several years ago, when a fellow walked in. "The folks at the Chamber of Commerce told me that you might know where I could find some gold." I gave him a rundown on some areas, such as Pinos Altos, Gold Gulch and Gold Hill, and talked a little bit about panning for gold. I closed my explanation with, "If you're lucky, you'll end up with some gold flour or dust." His response was, "Dust? Flour!?" I said, "Yes, what were you expecting?" He responded, "I thought you were going to tell me about a vein or pocket of gold that I could chip out!"
I didn't have the heart to tell him that if I knew about a vein like that, I wouldn't be working in the store!
Enjoy your weekend.