Canadian amethyst crystals and specimens

Filed under: regular postings — Gary January 24, 2007 @ 11:07 pm

I did a post last week on red amethysts, here is Aaron’s site, and more pictures from him.

canadian_amethyst_1 canadian_amethyst_2canadian_amethyst_4



Vernon BC RockHounds bring their mineral specimens found over summer.

Filed under: Great Finds-specimens — Gary September 15, 2006 @ 2:09 am

We had our monthly meeting yesterday and I thought how can I ask you readers about your rock club when I havn’t wrote about mine!

I was busy printing up a letter to read to the club about my new blog and making sure I brought my camera (WITH MY MEMORY CARD-brought the cam last meeting and no card lol) and forgot my rocks I was going to bring, then we decided each month we would bring our best find to show. It was a good meeting, someone brought up about the “GMFC Scholarship Fund” and asked everyone to pay their $1 dues to become a part of it. Every year 3-4 people get a scholarship for post secondary through this program, and what a great program that is!

I have so much info from yesterday I think I will do a couple posts, then I am off Friday to check out a couple new locations I heard about at the meeting, so more secret BC maps coming with pictures. And I was nervous about not having stuff to post…. Oh and a lot of Flickr people are offering their great Lapidary pics for me to show off on this blog, many thanks to them!!!

Ward brought in a lot of rocks, this one was a really cool looking specimen! I am going on Friday to the same place that this was found.
wades geode

Here is a box of his other rocks he found
wades box

This box of specimens was found in the same place I posted earlier “douglas lake road” but these were found in the stream. Some very nice and interesting ones.

pail of minerals

blue agate and opalthe blue agate was found at Buse Lake and the opal was found on Adelphi Forest Service Road in the town of Westwold BC. I will post a map soon on this location.

silent auctionOur silent auction going on for club expenses.

All in all it was a fun night, and heres to finding some great stuff on Friday!


RockHound Job

Filed under: Geology Job,regular postings — Gary November 29, 2011 @ 7:39 am

This seems like a dream job 🙂

Recruiting a QUALIFIED Crystal Digger to work full-time with us at our mines in the Patagonia Mountains of ARIZONA.

Thank You, Gary, As in the traditions of Ed Over, Art Montgomery, John Oliver, etc. We are seeking dedicated artisan miners with experience in digging and patiently extracting (among other minerals): quartz, gem specie, and micro rarities, etc. Self-starters, independent ambitious hard-working, with realistic awareness of the mineral trade, willingness to spend time afield as well as doing specimen processing and sales, attending trade shows, etc. along with Full-Time mining with Timeless Mining Company working favorably decomposed deposits primarily by hand-tools. Equipment experience a plus, but not required; miners with tools, vehicle, camping gear, ability to be self-supporting, wanted. Whiners and those with ‘gold psychosis’ need not apply. Miners may benefit directly and receive the Finder’s Fee or nominate a recipient or club to recieve the reward specimens. Disabled Veterans are welcome. After attending gem shows like Tucson [one hour from our mines] many adventurous prospectors & mineral collectors wish for such opportunity with one of the well known domestic gem & specimen mines displaying at the show, or in this case, a NEW MINE going into production. Our big discovery simply means another new mining crew & many collectors will be part of mineralogical history in our small part of The New American Gem & Gold Rush.

We are asking the ‘grapevine’ to pass the word: for recruiting a QUALIFIED Crystal Digger to work full-time with us at our mines in the Patagonia Mountains of ARIZONA. Our MINING CAMP is open for reservations, large club groups are welcome; We need at least FOUR MINERS, two ATV’s and several mineral dealers to market our production. We offer Joint Venture Agreements. IF YOU SEND ME A MINER who works out, you get the Finder’s Fee, and the miners get a LIFETIME OF FULL-TIME WORK and shares. Call Frank @ 520-255-3830, or David, @ 520-604-1229 Timeless Mining Company 542 Harshaw Road, Patagonia, AZ 85624

They have asked when you call to tell them Gary at RockHoundBlog told you about this dream job/ opportunity.

Thanks, Gary-


Montana/Idaho RockHounding Trip

Filed under: field trip reports,Great Finds-specimens,Rockhound stories,Rockhound Travel — Gary September 1, 2011 @ 10:54 am
Hi Gary,
The article for my Montana/Idaho trip is attached.  I look forward to seeing it on your blog. Thanks!
Thanks Jim for submitting!  Here it is!
Montana/ Idaho Adventure
June 1st – 12th, 2011

Hi Everyone!

Our big adventure of the summer was a trip to Montana and Idaho. I had planned this trip for 2010 but scheduling problems forced us to postpone it. This time everything fell in place, and our trip was on! My wife Litha took detailed notes along the way.

June 1st

We left at 7:30am on a warm Wednesday morning, and drove all the way to our first campground near a lake which turned out to be a mosquito nightmare. We spent about two hours killing the little vampires inside the van before we could get some sleep.

June 2nd

The next morning we drove into Wisconsin where a deer almost darted in front of our van, but wisely turned at the last minute. There was lots of road construction in Duluth, and I decided to take US2 to 200 west which seemed like a much more peaceful drive than through the Minneapolis area. We drove through the north woods of Minnesota, and on through Fargo all the way to Bismarck, North Dakota, where the campground I had planned to stay in was right next to the now flooding Missouri River. We found a hotel for the night instead.

June 3rd

I told Litha that this would be a ‘day of wows’. Neither of us had ever been to the Rocky Mountains, and today we would see them for the first time. West of Bismarck we started seeing the buttes that the west is so well known for. Driving in western North Dakota the buttes continued until at one point the road curved and the amazing badlands formation of the Painted Canyon opened up before us. We couldn’t help but stop at the National Park overlook area and get some pictures. This area was in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
NOW we knew we were out west!

On into Montana where the road passed the Yellowstone River, known for its Montana Agates. You could tell the river was much higher than normal. Trees don’t normally grow in the river like that. Here the hills started looking more like mountains until just a little way west of Billings we had our next ‘wow’ moment. The snowcapped Beartooth mountain range came into view.

snowcapped Beartooth mountain range

snowcapped Beartooth mountain range

Our campground for the night was about 50 miles east of Butte, called the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park. Another beautiful area surrounded by low mountains with a river, train track, and lots of cattle.
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park
June 4th

The morning sun warmed the eastern side of the mountains.

Eastern side of the mountains
Eastern side of the mountains

We drove on past Butte and over the continental divide at an elevation of 6393ft for the first time. On into north west Montana toward the Idaho panhandle. Lots of snow capped mountains. Near the Idaho border we stopped at a rest area, had lunch and fed some very tame prairie dogs (at least I think that’s what they were).

Near the Idaho border

Near the Idaho border

Practiced the art of downshifting on the long steep “Lookout Pass”. Saw signs for a street fair in Wallace, Idaho and stopped to walk the town. Beautiful historic little mining town.

Beautiful historic little mining town.

Beautiful historic little mining town.

After shopping around for an hour or so we moved on and found State Highway 3, “White Pine Scenic Byway” which is an adventure in itself; lots of blind curves, hills, steep grades, lakes, and even an area called ‘Hell’s Gulch’. This two lane highway led through Fernwood to the logging road to the Emerald Creek Garnet area.

Much of this logging road was washboard bumpy, and I got a bit concerned about the van being rattled to bits this far from home.

We got our site at the Garnet Creek campground and then drove down to the parking area for the collecting spot. We were surprised to see spanish moss hanging from the fir trees and realized that this must be a temperate rainforest.

Garnet Creek campground

Garnet Creek campground

I knew it was a little late in the day to start sluicing for Garnets, but I wanted to go up and get acquainted with the place, so we walked up the road which is gated making it a foot path only, stopping once to catch our breath, and met the young forest service people who were running the sluicing area that day. I saw the big stock pile of yellow sandy clay that the Garnets are found in; and checked out the sluicing area. It looked pretty simple, and I was eager to get started the next morning. We returned to our mosquito infested campsite, where I found a stack of firewood a previous camper had left, but recent rains had made everything wet. I had a heck of a time getting a fire started to cook dinner. Eventually, with dinner finished we escaped back into the van to get away from the little bloodsucking monsters.

June 5th

We were awoken early by some little critter chewing on the van. I stepped out to scare it away but never saw what it was. We had breakfast and drove down the bumpy road to the parking area.

Emerald Creek Garnet Area

Emerald Creek Garnet Area

We hiked downhill from the parking area for about an hour. Trilliums and trout lilies were blooming, and spanish moss hung in the cedar and fir trees. We returned just in time for the sluicing area to open up and took the half mile uphill road to the check-in area. The forest service staff were friendly and helpful, and in no time we were sluicing like pros. Here’s a picture Litha took of me in the sifting area.

Here's a picture Litha took of me in the sifting area.

Here's a picture Litha took of me in the sifting area.

You can see the clay stock pile on the right, and the sluices on the hillside at the left. We sluiced through the morning and returned to the van for lunch, then
hiked back up and continued. Fill up your buckets, sift, sluice, dump your tailings in the proper spot and repeat. We were told that this was a slow day, but at times people were elbow to elbow at the sluices. I met a nice guy named Harlan, told him our next stop was Gem Mountain in Montana, and he showed us a typical Sapphire you might find there. He had just been there the week before. He told us about hunting for Sunstones in Oregon, and even gave me a little Sunstone he had with him. I continued sluicing until about 4:00 when my back decided it was time to quit. Between us, we found 13 ounces of Garnets that day and found at least one ‘woo hoo’ as Harlan would say.

Emerald Creek Garnets

Emerald Creek Garnets

Our plan was to return for a second day of sluicing, but my back would be the judge of that. At camp I found some drier firewood and made a decent cooking fire. The mosquitoes soon drove us inside for the night.

June 6th

We woke again to the sound of a critter chewing on the van, and I got a bit concerned. If whatever it was chewed on the wrong wire we could be in trouble. That and my sore back made me decide to head back toward Montana, but first we would make another stop in Wallace. On the way from the campground to hwy 3 I stopped to get a picture of this blue flower I later would learn is called a Camas Lily.



Back in Wallace, we got some groceries and found a laundromat to do some washing up, and while the loads were running we shopped around town. Wallace is right in the middle of silver mining territory, and there was an investment office that sold silver stock and other investments called Pennaluna & Co.

Investment office that sold silver stock and other investments called Pennaluna & Co.

They had silver ore samples in the window for sale, and being a silver lover, I couldn’t help but go in and get a few specimens.

Silver Ore

Silver Ore

Silver Ore Lucky Friday Mine

Silver Ore Lucky Friday Mine

He even sold me a vintage mine stock paper he had in the window.

While in town I found a t-shirt for the local school sports team, the “Wallace Miners”, and at an antique shop I found a nice antique miners lamp for my collection. When the laundry was done we headed back to Montana. Lookout Pass with its long uphill slope gave all six cylinders in my van a work out. Lots more road construction. One thing we noticed was that just about any gas or fueling station in Montana has a casino of sorts. Still some wild in the west…

From expressway 90 we turned south on hwy 1 toward Philipsburg, and on the way we saw a unique sight. This area, like most of Montana, is cattle land, and in one village there was a dead tree COVERED in cow skulls. I wish we had taken a picture.

In Philipsburg we stopped at the Gem Mountain shop and got directions to the mine, and we were told there was free camping right at the mine. We bought some dry firewood in town and drove the 17 or so miles into the mountains to the mine. On the way we had one of our best wildlife sightings of the trip. Right on the steep cliff beside the road we saw this Bighorn sheep.

It looked like it had found a spot in the cliff that had some tasty minerals. We moved on and found the drive to Gem Mountain mine.

Gem Mountain mine

Gem Mountain mine

We picked out a campsite and I started to prepare a fire for dinner, when a very talkative older couple from Washington came over and introduced themselves. Long story short, we now have new Christmas card trading friends. Eventually we were able to get some dinner and retire for the night.

June 7th

We were up early and running low on good water, so we drove back into Philipsburg and found a grocery store, and did some shopping in town. We stopped at Opal Mountain Gems and talked to the guy in there. I bought a couple bags of potential Sapphire gravel from him. I mentioned that we would be going to Spencer, Idaho for opal, and he knew the town well and suggested the best places to shop. After that we drove back to the mine and got our introduction in sluicing for Sapphires.

Sluicing for Sapphires

Sluicing for Sapphires

I caught on quickly and soon we were finding several nice small corundum and sapphire gem stones in each screen. I also found one lime green stone I was told is called Limetite, and decided to keep it.

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine

Gem Mountain Sapphire Mine

At one point on this cold rainy day, a bus load of lucky school kids pulled in and they all got their chance to sift for Sapphires. After sifting two buckets we had found four small vials of Sapphires and other corundum. When finished, we drove back into town to the Gem Mountain shop and found a sweatshirt my size, and then took hwy 1 southwest through a winding mountain pass with steep cliffs, and then on to the city of Anaconda, where we found a Subway and got our dinner. This town is a story in itself with a huge mine including a giant smoke stack and great architecture down town.

From there we connected back up with expressway 90, and then south to 15 which would take us down to the eastern part of Idaho, and the Opal town of Spencer. On expressway 15 we stopped at a rest area to eat our subs where we saw a sign about the history of that part of the country.

The sign reads:
“Along in the 1840s the Americans were like they are now, seething to go somewhere. It got around that Oregon was quite a place. The Iowa people hadn’t located California yet. A wagon train pulled out across the plains and made it to Oregon. Then everyone broke out in a rash to be going west.
They packed their Prairie Schooners with their household goods, Gods, and garden tools. Outside of Indians, prairie fires, cholera, famine, cyclones, cloud bursts, quicksand, snow slides, and blizzards, they had a tolerably blithe and gay trip.
When gold was found in Montana some of them forked off from the main highway and surged along this trail aiming to reach the rainbow’s end. It was mostly one way traffic, but if they did meet a back tracking outfit there was plenty of room to turn out.”

After eating dinner we continued south past Dillon, and north west of Monida we must have been climbing in elevation because there was still quite a bit of snow on the ground. Garfield Mountain and the Lima peaks were beautiful, classic snow capped visions of what you expect from mountains in the west.

After re-entering Idaho we found the Targhee National Forest and Stoddard Creek Campground with its fantastic valley scenery. It rained throughout the night.

June 8th

After breakfast we drove into the small town of Spencer, and following the advice we got in Philipsburg, stopped at the first rock shop on the right called “Hot Rocks” where I found a type of Opal called ‘Ice Cream Opal’, white with swirls of pink, which should make some very nice cabs. I also found a couple of Opals with some thin layers of fire, some blue agate from Montana, and an unnamed type of picture Jasper. We moved on to the Spencer Opal Mine and Cafe and tried our luck digging in their stockpile without much luck. I found one small piece with a little fire. Next we moved up the street to the Opal Mountain Mine owned by Bob and Susan Thompson, who are trying to sell their shop and mine. There I bought a jar of pre-lapped rough Opal, each stone showing really nice fire. I’ve also learned how difficult it is to photograph the fire of a good Opal. Here are my best attempts.

Opal Mountain Mine

Opal Mountain Mine

I also got some quartz caps for the future triplets I intend to make.

From there we went to the south side of town to High Country Opal ‘The Opal Store’ and bought a nice specimen with many layers of fire.

Unfortunately none of the Opal mines in town currently allow digging at the actual mine, so after that we drove back to Dillon, Montana for some lunch, where we decided to drive up into the mountains and give Crystal Park a try. Crystal Park lies along the Pioneer Mountains National Scenic Byway, south of Wise River, Montana. It is operated by the National Forest Service, and during the summer months there is a minimal fee to use the parking area. I had been warned ahead of time that even in early summer you might encounter snow at the park. At an elevation of 7,800ft the snow can last quite a while. Up and up we drove, seeing more snow as we went. Wonderful mountain landscapes! Eventually we located the park, but there was about two feet of snow blocking the entrance to the parking area! Still, there was enough room to pull off the road, so I decided to give it a try.

Crystal Park

Crystal Park

Crystal Park lies along the Pioneer Mountains National Scenic Byway, south of Wise River, Montana

We walked into the park, over slippery ice covered snow drifts. Breathing is noticeably more difficult at that elevation, and for us lowlanders it can be hard to catch your breath even standing still. I found a likely spot where someone had started a hole and dug into the wall.

I must have spent a couple of hours digging in that spot and found a few nice crystals including one very nice little scepter.

Quartz crystals

Quartz Crystals

The day was getting on, so we left to find a campsite, intending to do some more serious digging the next day. That night it rained most of the night, but early in the morning the rain stopped tapping on the top of our van, so I had my hopes up about the coming dig…. until I stuck my head out of the sleeping bag. It was COLD. I got up to start up the van for some heat and got a shock looking outside. The rain had just turned to snow, heavy snow!

This changed everything. I didn’t intend to get stranded up in the mountains during a snow storm, so we quickly ate breakfast and, as much as I hated to leave, got the heck out of there. Here’s what the road looked like going north to Wise River.

By the time we got down to the elevation of Wise River the snow had changed to rain, and it was time to make new plans. While researching the 2010 trip that didn’t happen, I looked for other Sapphire mines in Montana, and one place I found was the Spokane Sapphire Mine near the state capitol of Helena. Going on two year old memories, this was my next planned stop. After a bit of searching I located the sign that led to the mine.

Going on two year old memories, this was my next planned stop. After a bit of searching I located the sign that led to the mine.

Going on two year old memories, this was my next planned stop. After a bit of searching I located the sign that led to the mine.

Spokane Sapphire Mine near the state capitol of Helena.

Spokane Sapphire Mine near the state capitol of Helena.

Here they sell different grades of Sapphire gravel starting at $75.00, so we bought the cheap one and began sifting our gravel.

 began sifting our gravel

began sifting our gravel

It was a cold, raw, windy day and I only had the tolerance to sift one bag of gravel, but we found a few nice Sapphires. When finished, the attendant inside separated out the best faceting grade stones, pictured here.



… and the rest of the Corundum and Sapphires we found.

... and the rest of the Corundum and Sapphires we found.

... and the rest of the Corundum and Sapphires we found.

At this mine there is always a slim chance of finding gold nuggets in your gravel, but we didn’t find any in our bag.

When we were done, we drove back into Helena and found an International House of Pancakes for lunch, one of the best meals we had on the whole trip, and then headed back in the direction of home. East of Helena we saw an antelope in a field next to the road. Outside of Billings the mountains turn to buttes and mesas. We stayed at a Sleep Inn in Billings for the night.

June 10th

We awoke to a sunny 51F degree day, and were out of Billings by 8:00am. All the rivers we crossed were over their banks. Near Forsyth we saw a hand made sign along the expressway selling agates, so I pulled off and we found the house of a very nice man named Perry. He had literally tons of Montana agates filling old bath tubs and around some small buildings. I found a small box of pre-cut agate slabs and bought them from him.

Here are some of the nicer ones I’ve found in the box so far.

Montana agates

Montana agates

He also had a few antiques for sale, and I found a few interesting pieces, including an old 1950s bug sprayer made in Saranac, Michigan that wanted to come back to home with me. We thanked Perry and headed back east.

When we first came west through Montana, we saw a sign for the Glendive Dinosaur Museum and decided that if we had time we would stop, so on our way back east we stopped to check it out. It turns out to not be a real scientific museum at all, but I will save that discussion for another time and place…

At 1:47pm we passed back into North Dakota, and stopped again at Painted Canyon for t shirts and photos, and right in the grassy area in the parking lot there were two beautiful Bison resting in the grass, and I got this great picture out the window of the van.

These wild beauties can get up to 2,000 pounds and sprint 3 times faster than a human. NEVER approach one on foot!

Driving through Bismarck Litha snapped a quick photo as we drove over the now flooding Missouri River.

My outdated road atlas showed a campground at Lake George, near Medina, so we turned off to find it, but its not there anymore. Driving back to the expressway a Fox crossed the road in front of us, being chased by a Deer! LOL!

We drove on to Jamestown and checked into a Holiday Inn Express and ate dinner at the neighboring Pizza Ranch; good food and a great hotel to rest for the night.

June 11th

East of Jamestown there were no more buttes, just flat agricultural land with lots of standing water. We were back in Moorehead, Minnesota by 9:56am, and stopped at a nice park in Nevis to eat lunch. It was a lakefront park with a changing house and playground from the 1950s. There were even some hardy folks swimming in this cool weather (it was only 62F degrees out). At 3:17 pm we passed through Duluth and over the bridge into Wisconsin. In Wisconsin we stopped at two antique shops to hunt for goodies. Next we stopped at a Subway for dinner, and an A&W drive-in for rootbeer floats. We made it back into Michigan to our campground by the lake I’ll refer to as Mosquito Hell. This time I was ready for them and not so many followed me into the van when paying the camping fee.

June 12th

We awoke to cold temps in the 40s, with the Mosquitoes still active outside the van and left at 7:15am.  Along US2 we saw a Coyote, and with no traffic behind us, I slowed down. The little guy co-operated for a photo shoot.

We were over the Mackinaw Bridge and back to our ‘palm of the mitten’ home by 7:30pm. I drove 4,664 miles and we experienced some less than perfect weather, but had no serious problems with the van, and did everything we had intended and then some. It was a trip Litha and I will always remember.

Thanks for checking out my report!

Jim Adams


Delaware RockHound Gem and Mineral Show

Filed under: Coming Events,field trip reports,Rockhound Travel — Gary February 19, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

Delaware Rockhound Club

Saturday March 5, 2011 and Sunday March 6, 2011

The Delaware Mineralogical Society, Inc. will hold its 48th Annual Earth Science Gem and Mineral Show @  Delaware Technical and Community College @ I-95 Exit 4B, Churchmans Road (Rt 58) Newark (Stanton), DE 19713. Hours Saturday are 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. The show features educational exhibits of mineral, lapidary and fossil specimens, displays from regional and university museums, a roster of fine dealers of minerals, fossils, gems, jewelry and lapidary supplies, door prizes, demonstrations of gem cutting and polishing and a children’s table, where youngsters may purchase inexpensive mineral and fossil specimens. Admission is $6.00, $5.00 for seniors, $4.00 for youngsters between 12 and 16, and free for children under 12 accompanied by an adult. The Delaware Mineralogical Society is a non-profit organization, affiliated with the Eastern Federation of Mineral Societies, and dedicated to learning and teaching about the earth sciences, rocks, minerals, fossils and the lapidary arts. Membership is open to all who are interested in these areas. Info and Coupons at or contact  Or call Wayne Urion (302) 998-0686.


Delaware Rockhounding

Check out all their past field trips!

Arundel Quarry, Havre de Grace, MD
Big Brook/Ramanessin Brook, Holmdel, NJ
Binkley-Ober Quarry, East Petersburg, PA
Burkholder Quarry, Eprata, PA
C & D Canal, Delaware City, DE
C. K. Williams Quarry, Easton, PA
Cornwall Mine, Cornwall, PA
Deer Lake, Schuykill Co., PA
Inversand Mine, Sewell, NJ
J T Dyer Quarry, Gibraltar, PA
Martin Limestone’s Kurtz Quarry, Denver, PA
Lee Creek, Aurora, NC
Libertyville Mines, Sykesville, MD
Meckley’s Quarry, Mandata, PA
Mud – Grubb Lake, Lancaster Co., PA
National Limestone Quarry, Mount Pleasant Mills, PA
Penn-MD Materials Quarry, Fulton, PA
Prospect Aggregates Quarry, Landisville, PA
Purse State Park (Liverpool Point, MD
Ramsey Run, Woodlawn Quarry, Wilmington, DE
Red Hill Fossil Area, Hyner, PA
Silver Hill Quarry, Narvon, PA
Teeter Quarry, Gettysburg, PA
University of Delaware Mineralogical Museum, Newark, DE
Bus Trip to Smithsonian, Washington, D. C.

Lapidary Artisan Specializing in Spectrolite

Filed under: rockhound jewelry — Gary November 27, 2010 @ 11:48 am

Gail  considers himself a lapidary “hobbyist”, although his spectrolite gems are as good as any we’ve ever seen… he gets exceptional rough and has a magic touch with the material. Some of Gail’s cabs were published along with our spectrolite jewelry in Renee Newman’s Exotic Gemstones Vol 1. He also cuts beautiful opal:)

…I’ve never met someone with so much knowledge on spectrolite ~ from the perspective of cutting, the history of the material, the differences between spectrolite versus labradorite, etc.

J. Dow

Gail O. Clark –

Gail is a great asset to the rockhound community.  Here is his story and works below.  Check out his link in the article to see if he is selling any right now-

Like the experience of so many other rockhounds I began with my wife and I carrying home attractive and sometimes unusual  rocks as we hiked the scenic mountains of Idaho. Though I had the usual introductory geology courses in university classes the information, while interesting and often fascinating, really wasn’t applicable to hands-on rockhounding.  But it helped to develop a greater interest in rocks and what might be done with them.

My initial introduction to this fascinating activity was a collecting trip to the Spencer, Idaho Opal Mines, about a three hour drive from my home. After using a spray bottle and small rock hammer to actually locate, identify and pick up some exquisitely colored opal from the bull dozed hillside, I decided then and there the family budget could likely stand the strain of buying a six-inch trim saw and an accompanying six-inch flat lap from the congenial owners of the Spencer Opal Mines. . Besides, I told my wife that if I ever produced anything of value, she would get first choice. Presently she has lots of pretty stones!

Over time, and during retirement, we joined the local rock club and took part in the club’s field trips.  We visited much of central and southern Utah as well as several locations in Idaho and Wyoming and found that the club members were about as nice and helpful to beginners than we could have ever imagined.  There truly is something special about rock people. Soon we had accumulations of dinosaur coprolite, petrified wood, fossil fish,  geodes, jasper and way too many other specimens to list here.

Little by little, I purchased additional equipment…lots of additional equipment ranging from a larger slab saw and tumblers up to  my prized Diamond Pacific Genie.  Learning  about the two large rock and gem shows in Denver, Colorado and Tucson Arizona, we decided that at least these two splendid shows had to be seen first hand.  We have attended both several times.  It’s great to leave the Rocky Mountain winter behind and spend some February time in sunny southern Arizona!

Opal continued to be my primary lapidary interest and I spent significant time and money cutting various types of Australian opal, Brazilian opal, Nevada opal, Mexican cantera opal, and even some delightful and costly man-created Gilson opal.  About eight years ago I “discovered” spectrolite, the brilliantly colored feldspar that is a cousin to common labradorite.  In doing research for an article for Rock & Gem, I found that true spectrolite’s origin is solely the mines in southeastern Finland.  Since that time the majority of my lapidary time has been spent with spectrolite, a superb and fascinating stone that I continue to work with.  I import all my rough material from Finland and order only the highest quality material the mines provide.  It’s costly but very rewarding to cut and polish.









In the latter part of 2008 a new opal discovery was made in the Welo region of northern Ethiopia.  I had previously worked with the older, well known chocolate colored southern Ethiopian opal that proved to be a exercise in futility as this brownish material was unstable, cracked for no apparent reason and was extremely disappointing.  But I decided to try the new Ethiopian Desert Crystal opal from the Welo region and I was immediately hooked by the beauty and unparalleled fire in this new Welo opal.  Since then I have been splitting my lapidary time between spectrolite and Welo opal and continue to enjoy both these unique and gorgeous treasures from the earth.

Welo Opal

Welo Opal

Welo Opal

Welo Opal

Welo Opal

Welo Opal

Welo Opal

Welo Opal

Once I was firmly involved with lapidary a friend told me that I’d soon have to start selling finished stones to, as he put it, “support your habit”. He was correct.  Selling huge numbers of stones is definitely not my all consuming purpose.  Instead, I sell a limited number of finished stones of spectrolite and Welo crystal opal on eBay under the name  gails_gems . To set up a Web site would probably detract from the personal pleasure and sense of accomplishment of lapidary as well as cutting into my lapidary time so I have chosen not to do this.  I do sell a sufficient number of high quality stones to pay for my lapidary interest and can do so at what I have been told are reasonable prices. A Google search on spectrolite and/or Welo crystal opal will lead you to my finished stones.  I typically list a few Welo opals and a few spectrolite stones each Sunday morning. Though I certainly do not consider myself an expert I’ll gladly try and answer any email questions about spectrolite and Welo opal.

For many years prior to retirement I was an active amateur astronomer, spending many late nights in the mountains away from city light pollution, observing the wonders of the sky.  I used to write articles for Astronomy magazine, as well as Sky & Telescope and other publications.  As a book reviewer I was sent the latest astronomy publications and kept up to date on this exciting field.  However, the mirrors of my telescopes no longer gather light from the ancient reaches of the universe; instead, they gather dust while much of my spare time now involves the intriguing world of rocks. Hard to say which is most exciting: rocks or the sky.  I am glad I have had experiences of both.

(Mr.) Gail O. Clark




Filed under: Rare Gems — Gary November 8, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

Apatite is infrequently used as a gemstone. Transparent stones of clean color have been faceted, and chatoyant specimens have been cabochon cut. Chatoyant stones are known as cat’s-eye apatite, transparent green stones are known as asparagus stone, and blue stones have been called moroxite. Crystals of rutile may have grown in the crystal of apatite so when in the right light, the cut stone displays a cat’s eye effect. Major sources for gem apatite are Brazil, Burma, and Mexico. Other sources include Canada, Czechoslovakia, Germany, India, Madagascar, Mozambique, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, and the US.

Gemmy Green Apatite Crystals with Calcite on Matrix, Cerro de Mercado Mine, Durango Mexico

The name, ‘apatite’ comes from the Greek word ‘apate’, which means to cheat/deceive. It was called that because it can easily be confused with amblygonite, andalusite, brazilianite, peridot, precious beryl, sphene, topaz or tourmaline.


Cleaning Crystals

Filed under: Cleaning Rocks,DIY Videos,how to?,Video — Gary October 28, 2010 @ 6:44 am

Its an easy 3 step procedure-

1-First step is critical -the clay/mud must be washed off the crystals- a toothbrush is good if you have a small piece to clean.  Larger pieces can be placed in the sun for a day then cooled down in the shade and then given a wash with the garden hose.  Repeating the sun process will dry and crack the clay and make for an easy rinse with the hose.    You can use a pressure washer as well if clay is hard to get off.

2- Removing the iron:  If the crystal has a very light iron staining then a few days soaking in a weak oxalic acid solution will do the trick -covered bucket.

**If iron staining is heavy then you must “cook”  the quartz in an acid solution

3-The most commonly used chemical for cleaning quartz is oxalic acid which may be purchased in a powder form.  When mixed with water at a few ounces per gallon and then heated to just below a boil it is capable of removing all but the most stubborn iron stains.  WARNING – fumes are toxic and very dangerous.  Only do this outside away from children and wearing protective gear.

** A slow cooker or crock pot works well.

**If your specimens begins to grow a white powder as they dry, place them back in a clean crock pot, add water and a 1/3 a cup of baking soda, and cook overnight. This will neutralize the remaining acid as it comes out of the nooks and crannies of the specimens. If this does not work to get rid of the white powder problem, then you will need to cook them again in clean water with baking soda as a neutralizer.

I have had to clean small crystal clusters as many as 5 times before coming totally clean, have patience.

I have also used the product “Iron Out” as well.  It is sold at places like Walmart and is used to get rid of rust stains in sinks and toilets.


Utah Ice

Filed under: Mineral of the day,Video — Gary October 13, 2010 @ 8:38 pm

Someone asked me if I ever heard of the mineral “Utah Ice”.  Hmph I said…  After some digging (no pun intended) this is what I came up with.


This stuff looks almost like glass, specially when it gets into the water it looks alot like glass, but its not.
My warning is, that you shouldn’t buy it for the aquarium.
Well I bought a load of it for my 29gal, and guess what? Its all gone!
Yes, thats right.. it slowly dissolved away, over about 5 months some very large pieces are down to tiny little slivers.
Just a heads up, don’t buy it unless you want to have to KEEP buying it.

Selenite, a crystalline form of gypsum

Selenite, satin spar, desert rose, and gypsum flower are four varieties of gypsum; all four varieties show obvious crystalline structure. The four “crystalline” varieties of gypsum are sometimes grouped together and called selenite.

All varieties of gypsum, including selenite and alabaster, are composed of calcium sulfate dihydrate (meaning has two molecules of water), with the chemical formula CaSO4·2H2O.

Identification of gypsum

All varieties of gypsum are very soft minerals (hardness: 2 on Mohs Scale). This is the most important identifying characteristic of gypsum, as any variety of gypsum can be easily scratched with a fingernail. Also, because gypsum has natural insulating properties, all varieties feel warm to the touch.


Though sometimes grouped together as “selenite”, the four crystalline varieties have differences. General identifying descriptions of the related crystalline varieties are:




  • most often transparent and colorless: it is named after Greek σεληνη= “the moon”.
  • if selenite crystals show translucency, opacity, and/or color, it is caused by the presence of other minerals including druse (a coating of small crystal points)
  • druse is the crust of tiny, minute, or micro crystals that form or fuse either within or upon the surface of a rock vug, geode, or another crystal

Satin spar

  • most often silky, fibrous, and translucent (pearly, milky) – can exhibit some coloration
  • the satin spar name can also be applied to fibrous calcite (a related calcium mineral) – calcite is a harder mineral – and feels greasier, waxier, or oilier to the touch.

Desert rose

  • rosette shaped gypsum with outer druse of sand or with sand throughout – most often sand colored (in all the colors that sand can exhibit)
  • the desert rose name can also be applied to barite desert roses (another related sulfate mineral) – barite is a harder mineral with higher density

Gypsum flower

  • rosette shaped gypsum with spreading fibers – can include outer druse
  • the difference between desert roses and gypsum flowers is that desert roses look like roses, whereas gypsum flowers form a myriad of shapes

Use and history

Selenite mine

Selenite mine

Because of the long history of the commercial value and use of both gypsum and alabaster, the four crystalline varieties have been somewhat ignored, except as a curiosity or as rock collectibles.

Crystal habit and properties

Crystal habit refers to the shapes that crystals exhibit.

Selenite crystals commonly occur as tabular, reticular, and columnar crystals, often with no imperfections or inclusions, and thereby can appear water or glass-like. Many collectible selenite crystals have interesting inclusions such as, accompanying related minerals, interior druse, dendrites, and fossils. In some rare instances, water was encased as a fluid inclusion when the crystal formed.

Selenite mine


Selenite crystals sometimes form in thin tabular or mica-like sheets and have been used as glass panes.

Selenite crystals sometimes will also exhibit bladed rosette habit (usually transparent and like desert roses) often with accompanying transparent, columnar crystals. Selenite crystals can be found both attached to a matrix or base rock, but can commonly be found as entire free-floating crystals, often in clay beds (and as can desert roses).



Messel Fossil Pit

Filed under: Great Finds-specimens,NEW- fossils,Rockhound Travel,Video — Gary August 25, 2010 @ 11:04 am

The Messel Pit (German: Grube Messel) is a disused quarry near the village of Messel, (Landkreis Darmstadt-Dieburg, Hesse) about 35 km southeast of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Bituminous shale was mined there. Because of its plethora of fossils, it has significant geological and scientific importance. After almost becoming a landfill, strong local resistance eventually stopped these plans, and the Messel Pit was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site on 9 December 1995. Significant scientific discoveries are still being made, and the site has become an increasing tourism site as well.




Brown coal, and later oil shale was actively mined from 1859. The pit first became known for its wealth of fossils around 1900, but serious scientific excavation only started around the 1970s, when falling oil prices made the quarry uneconomical. Commercial oil shale mining ceased in 1971, and a cement factory built in the quarry failed the following year. The land was slotted for use as a landfill, but the plans came to nought, and the Hessian state bought the site in 1991 to secure scientific access. In the few years between the end of mining and 1974, when the state started preparing the site for garbage disposal, amateur collectors were allowed to collect fossils. The amateurs developed the “transfer technique” that enabled them to preserve the fine details of small fossils, the method still employed in preserving the fossils today.

Due to the extraordinary fossils, the pit was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, the only place to be placed on the list exclusively due to fossils.

Many of the known specimens from the site have come from amateur collectors, and in 1996, an amnesty on previously collected fossils was put in effect, in the hope of getting privately owned collections back into public ownership and available to science.

Depositional characteristics

The current surface of the Messel pit is roughly 60 m below the local land and is about 0.7 km² in area. The oil-shale bed originally extended to a depth of 190 m.[4] 47 million years ago in the Eocene when the Messel deposits formed, the area was 10° further south than it is now. The period was very close to the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, and the climate and ecology of the site were very different. A large series of lakes, surrounded by lush sub-tropical forests supported an incredible diversity of life. The Messel lake bed was probably a center point for drainage from nearby rivers and creeks.

A fossil of the primitive mammal Kopidodon, showing outline of fur

The pit deposits were formed during the Eocene Epoch of the Paleogene Period about 47 million years ago, based on dating of basalt fragments underlying fossilbearing strata. Oil shale, formed by the slow anoxic deposition of mud and dead vegetation on the lake bed, is the primary rock at the site. Its sediments extend 130 m downward and lie atop an older sandstone foundation. The fossils within the shale show a remarkable clarity and preservation due to the unique depositional characteristics of the lake. The upper stratifications of the lake most certainly supported a variety of organisms, but the bottom was subject to little disturbance by current, spawning a very anoxic environment. This prevented many epifaunal and infaunal species from inhabiting this niche, and thus bioturbation was kept at a minimum. Overturn of the lake layers (caused by seasonal variations) lowered oxygen content near the surface and led to a periodic “die-off” of aquatic species. Combined with a relatively low rate of deposition (0.1 mm/yr), this provided a prime environment for the preservation of fauna and flora.


The Messel Pit provides the best preserved evidence of Geiseltalian flora and fauna so far discovered. Most other sites are lucky to contain partial skeletons, but Messel boasts extensive preservation of structural integrity, even going so far as to preserve the fur, feathers, and “skin shadows” of some species. Unusual preservation has sparked some closely-reasoned interpretations. The symptomatic “dumb-bell”-shaped bite marks on either side of the leaf vein on a fossilised leaf have been identified as the death-grip of a carpenter ant terminally parasitized by a fungus that, apparently then as today, comandeered its behavior, in order to release its spores from a favourable location; it is the earliest concrete sample of fungal behavioural manipulation.

The diversity of species is no less astonishing (thanks in part, perhaps, to the hypothesized periodic gas releases). A brief summary of some of the fossils found at the site follows:

  • Early primate fossil with anthropoid (i.e. non-lemuroid) characteristics (discovery made public May 2009), (see Darwinius masillae)
  • Over 10,000 fossilized fish of numerous species
  • Thousands of aquatic and terrestrial insects, some with distinct coloration still preserved
  • A plethora of small mammals including pygmy horses, large mice, primates, ground dwellers (hedgehogs, marsupials, pangolins), aardvark relatives, and bats.
  • Large numbers of birds, particularly predatory species.
  • Crocodiles, frogs, turtles, salamanders, and other reptiles or amphibians
  • Remains of over 30 distinct plant species, including palm leaves, fruits, pollen, wood, walnuts, and grapevines


Exhibits from the pit may be seen in the Messel town museum, the Museum of Hessen in Darmstadt (5 km from Messel) and also the Senckenberg Museum in Frankfurt (some 30 km from Messel). Casual visitors can park close to the pit and walk around 300 m to a viewing platform overlooking the pit. Entrance to the pit is only possible as part of a specially organized tour.

Thanks Wikipedia