One of the more exciting events of my rock-related year is the Bancroft Gemboree where i can schmoose with other rock-focused people. You absolutely know that this weekend the accommodation in Bancroft and for miles around will be booked solid so either I will be staying with my sister or possibly in Peterborough.
At the Bancroft Gemboree there is every natural crystal from the beautiful to bizarre – a booth of Columbian emeralds, Pakistani Peridot dealers and Russian fellow who sells black power pyramids of some unnamed substance. You stand there long enough he’ll have you convinced to put one in your living room – an investment that will turn your life around. Well if you believe that crystals will heal your warts, you’re well advised to see him as you’re likely thinking along similar lines. I’ll get a picture if he’s there this year and see what he has to say.
If you are into crafting, beading, crystals or geology, or just looking for gems, rough or cut, the Bancroft Gemboree is an event that goes beyond the material presentation of those goods, it’s a cultural event that bonds a motley crowd of locals to a throng of rockhound and crafting visitors. There are two huge venues, though I have always found that the better gem-stuff is in the venue lower down the hill. The best deals at the gemboree are typically outside at the top of the hill though last year I was disappointed.
Maybe next year I’ll get a booth and flog my upcoming Ontario cave book there.
If I was asked to pick one gem as my favorite, it would definitely be tourmaline. Look at these colors. These cabs are in a tray that was displayed by a merchant at the Bancroft Gemboree.
Red tourmalines are known as “rubellite”, one of the better known deposits being some 30 kilometers south east of Mogok in Burma where the gem is found in an alluvial bed of decomposing gneiss. Chinese miners generally worked this deposit as red tourmaline was needed for the buttons of mandarin’s gowns.
This is what ruby and sapphire looks like in their rougher forms. They are hexagonal crystals, generally displaying a six sided shape and in the case of the cabbed ruby in the fore-ground, also showing some pretty obvious hexagonal zoning. Zoning indicates the placement of the rough crystal faces as the crystal grows. There is a continuum between corundum and sapphire, both are of the chemical formula aluminum oxide, its just the quality of the crystal that dictates whether it will be a gem or a mineral specimen.
I found the blackish crystal encased in calcite at the Faraday Hill road cut near Bancroft; only the tip was protruding from the rock and I roughly chipped it out and dissolved the calcite from it using Coca Cola.
The two rough reddish crystals are Mysore Rubies from India – not woth much at all and the cab is also from India, I bought it from Sahib for a couple of dollars – its way to opaque to be of much value but I liked the way it showed the zoning so clearly.
If you want it you can find it at the Bancroft Gemboree.
Yeah – they look like fletched arrow spines, barbs on fish hooks or just poorly made hooks but as the vendor explained, they are naturally occuring pieces of silver wire.
I am especially interested in what can be found up in cobalt. There was a massive silver strike up there in the early 1900s. According to the fellow that I was speaking to he said he had no luck in Cobalt – shook his head like it had been a really distasteful experience. “Got these from California”. I suspect he was keeping me clear of a rich hunting ground.
These pieces of silver wire are sometimes found in tangled balls and at other times in thick strands like the branches of a dead tree.
This lady was selling pink buddhas at the Bancroft Gemboree. I have just got back from spending the weekend there and I have taken a number of interesting photos of the people and the minerals that were being sold. This was the first person that I saw as I walked in.
Ontario rockhounds look forward to the Bancroft Gemboree, it is the biggest rock and gem show in Canada. I have taken a week off work to attend the gemboree and visit various rock collecting sites up in that area.
In my book (as of yet unpublished but still under review by a publisher) I write about the experience of the Bancroft Gemboree. There is a distinct division between the merchants inside and those without. As for deals – you are most likely to get a good deal where the dealers are not professionals. As I wrote …
“These outside dealers of rough stone and mineral oddities are shaggier and rougher than the smoothly coiffed gem merchants within. They are often amateur; this pursuit of beauty is their life’s calling, but not their full time job. It’s not about cash; it’s the love of rockhounding that drives them.
An aged lapidary was selling his polishing equipment. On a table beside him he had an archaic buffing wheel. He was willing to part with it for a mere $250. All around him he had 3-litre strawberry baskets filled with cut agate. I bought one on a whim and upon closer examination back at the cottage I regretted not buying more. It was an incredible mix of sliced nephrite, chalcedony, banded agates and jasper. There were all sorts of striped and spotted rocks, cabochons and nodules of every type, an absolute treasure-trove for $10.
“Why dump this beautiful stuff at such a low price?” I asked. Leaning on the table he smiled sadly at me, watery red eyes suggesting long hours at the grinder. “I’m getting on in years you know.””
Following the release some time ago of my book "Rockwatching; Adventures above and below Ontario", I am pleased to announce the release of my new book "Tamarindo; Crooked Times in Costa Rica". It is a story of opportunity. Edgehill Press is the publisher. (www.edgehillpress.com)