Volume 2 of the ‘Rockhound’ series is now available. This particular volume focuses on the perception of value in mineral resources and the shifting lens through which Ontario’s mineral wealth is seen.
In Rockhound: Opening the Treasure Chest we visit such old collecting classics as the Saranac Zircon Mine, Bear Lake, Grace Lake, Bessemer Mine and Kuehl Lake. The mineral focus is on apatite, rare earths, tremolite, diopside and the more exotic treasures that are displayed at the Bancroft Gemboree. For any rockhound, mineral collector or crystal enthusiast this is without a doubt an invaluable accompaniment to a summer of collecting. Within ‘Rockhound’ you’ll learn how and where to collect. Over 80 mineral locations are detailed along with directions and specifics on the minerals found there.
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.
At first glance the Essonville Road Cut looked much like many others in the area – gnawed upon by rockhounds and strewn with shards of calcite and sand. Most immediately obvious were the huge black crystals that protruded from the calcite – a dyke that is theorized to run off into a southerly direction onto private property. A sign on the fence behind the cutting advertises “Rockhound Eco-tours”. A rockhound eco-tour? It almost seemed contradictory.
“You’re a rockhound?” I asked the fellow crossing the road from the pickup he had parked on the opposite shoulder – “You might say that”, I was told with a grin. “I am more a prospector and I operate the eco-tours – like to show the minerals on my property but we prefer not to set pick or hammer to them. We like to think of ourselves more as stewards”. “Stewards?” “Yeah, caring for the land. I know it sounds hokey, but I think we were meant to have our property – to look after it. Collecting can be destructive”.
I kind of edge my rock hammer around behind me. “Is there a problem with us collecting here I ask? Nah, its public land. Place is already trashed with all the blasting”.
In reverent terms Mark explained, what had formed in the cutting was Fluor-richterite. You will notice that some of the crystals have a metallic sheen – kind of stained by an iridescence, Its only a skin of goethite, beneath it is still fluor-richterite, one of the few minerals that can really be called “totally Canadian”. It was only distinguished from hornblende and recognized as a separate species in 1976”.
“So, in truth, you would have a hard time distinguishing between the two?” “Not really” my eco-teacher told me. “They are both amphiboles and they form a solid solution series, but fluor-richterite has a scaly white surface and it forms in prisms that are longer and thinner than those of hornblende”.
“Do you sell any specimens?” I ask hopefully. “How can you put a dollar value on them?” I am chastised.
As fortune would have it, I found myself in the company of Lee Clark later that afternoon. Having seen the township’s blasting Lee had asked for the debris to be dumped beside his barn; he had scooped the lion’s share – enormous boulders with fluor-richterite spines and as Lee pointed out hexagonally appearing prisms that cleave away in flakes. “phlogopite mica; they used it for windows in the old wood stoves.
Having weathered out of the calcite there were doubly terminated prisms lying amongst shards and unusually shaped prisms that appeared fully formed on the one edge and flattened on the other. I was in the process of trying to decide what unusual growth condition had so stunted the crystals when Lee apparently read my thoughts “The prisms frequently cleave down their center,” he slipped me a smaller perfectly formed specimen that he had been carrying in his pocket. “It’s my worry stone” he explained, “You take it; folks down south have greater use for that than I”.
Well, Rockwatching has been up and running for a number of years now (5 to be exact) and I believe it has contributed significantly to the interest of people like myself who like caving, rocks, the outdoors, gems and minerals in Ontario.
We are just a few short days from 2011 and I believe it’s high time we made some resolutions -all of us (you my loyal fellow bloggers as well).
So in the interests of all involved a few ground rules to follow on Rockwatching from now on
1) Lets not carry a personal vendetta onto this site which is meant to be a forum where like minded enthusiasts can interact in a positive way.
2) Lets respect each other and try not to get personal when we are frustrated.
3) Lets respect the basics of conservation and eco-minded thought.
4) Lets not assume stuff we don’t know for sure (hence the survey at the bottom of the post).
5) Lets keep in mind that this is all about enjoyment.
6) Lets keep in mind that just because the topic is on the table, every single aspect that pertains to it is not an open book.
7) Lets respect people who are not on the site, private property, reputations etc. Just because there is discussion of a site or feature does not mean permission has been granted to go there.
8) Lets not get petty, self righteous or important. Stop correcting my grammar, spelling or use of terms. I am a writer at heart and so I believe I can use the language as I please (providing it’s in good taste, or if I choose, not in good taste).
9) Lets not waste my time by having to re-direct you to one of the above rules.
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.
We met this guy – Muhammad – one evening somewhere near the town of Asni in the high Atlas range. Muhammad (in green shirt) sold crystals beside the road and he told us where he had got them. We went there and it was a most remarkable sight – the whole valley was filled with these reddish purple crystals of what resembled amethyst and spikes of other similar material – the finer points of which I cant exactly remember. I filled up my backpack with as much as I could carry but the heat and terrain eventually found me abandoning the lot. Someone, somewhere near Agadir will find a pile of gems and wonder what pirate must have hidden them.
Here we are with Muhammad’s family – mother and father were in a courtyard outside – smoking hash. It was a real treat to visit Muhammad, he broke out a single worn old tape casette and we drank mint tea and communicated as best we could. Waving are his little brother and younger brother. When we left we gave him 3 pairs of flip flops to thank him for his hospitality. I wish now that we had given more.
In the picture are several members of A company from the old Queen’s Regiment – from left to right – Shawn Eves, Bev (My corporal at the time) Myself in the green sweater, Slev. On the right with legs across the picture – Birdsall and Kev Minnis’s legs(I think).
From the time of the Indian Raj’s, the Egyptian Queens or the Siamese Princes there had always been an irresistable draw to gem stones. What is it about these rarities that we so value? In my opinion, it is the beauty that is the attraction. It is the natural qualities of pure colour, fire, and brilliance that appeal to the “magpie” in humanity. In years past most of the rock enthusiasts at the show came in the guise of amateur geologists and crystollographers. Today the interest is strong but it is a whole culture of new age enthusiasts that come to worship the stone’s spiritual qualities. The many wayward directions from which a rockhound approaches their interest seems almost irrelevant to the core of the matter. It is the beauty of the stone around which everything revolves.
There is a lady tending a booth of crystal balls and spikes of quartz crystals. A dealer tells me she is very knowledgeable but is officially here just purchasing materials for a class that she is teaching. I ask her how the amethyst balls differ from the rock crystal balls. “The amethyst is more intuitive” she explains. “It deals with feelings and perception, the rock crystal is clarity and intellect. Its vision extends upward in a cone above your head.” Her eyes glitter as she looks into the ball. Flipping her sandy-blond ponytail she gazes at the ethereal images that flitter across the light-flecked innards of the sphere.
Apache medicine men were said to use crystals to help in the location of wayward ponies, and as Fredrick Kunz relates, the gift of a far superior crystal to one such diviner made the giver, Captain John G. Burk, a close friend and ally of the medicine man. He said that with his new crystal, he could now see everything he wanted to see.
Kunz talks of the polished crystal in “The Curious Lore of Precious Stones” saying that any polished surface might act as a scryer, but suggests that a ball shape might multiply the reflections of light. The images seen by a viewer in one position will likely be invisible to a viewer in another position. He does, however, say that the value of brain pictures cast upon the ball will only have as much weight as the importance that we place upon the process of subconscious intelligence.
On the table there are many phantom quartz spikes. This peculiar type of crystal has the property of appearing to possess a second smaller crystal within the confines of the larger crystal. Dust or debris had at some time marred the surface of the inner crystal. Some stopped growing there but others continued and trapped the dusted image forever in the appearance of this phantom crystal. Sometimes the phantom appears as a faint shadow. At other times it is as obvious a plane as the smooth surface of a bedroom sheet.
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)