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Posts Tagged ‘rockhounding in Ontario’

Whats under Cobalt

P1020263, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I just got back from Cobalt last night, it was a long drive – 6 hours.

While in Cobalt I took an abandoned mine tour. Its a service offered by the local museum – well worth doing if you like that kind of thing. This here is one of the tunnels in the old Colonial Mine. There are over 27 kilometers of passage – stretching as far as Lake Temiskaming I am told. Beneath the level we were at the tunnels are all flooded. Shafts lead up and down – but not anywhere near where we were – it was quite sanitized and safe for the average visitor.

Tunnels spidered along through dense black rock following the calcite veins that had led to silver. Outside every mine there were big piles of scree, it suggested something of the extent of the tunnels within.

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I thought I had made a new discovery

P1010863, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

I noticed this blocked up mine and an interesting scar above it when I was travelling along Old Mumford Road after an unsucessful attempt to find the Tripp Nu-age mine. I thought that I had found a new area for collecting rocks as there was plenty of purple fluorite in the crevice above but this turned out to be the Dwyer Fluorite Mine. It looked like there might be some radioactives in the seam with the fluorite but I could’nt be sure.

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Just scattered in the woods so densely you can hardly walk without standing on a crystal

P1020064, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Check out these orthoclase feldspar crystals – or at least my guide told me they were orthoclase crystals. I have not had the chance to verify this.

I met an interesting gent who runs ecotours for mineral collectors. His philosophy is that the minerals should remain in-situ so that future generations can enjoy them. I had been picking away at a road cutting when my host approached me to introduce himself. Are you a rockhound? I asked.

I have since learned that Mark is more focused on preservation than collecting – which is good. It would be a crime to whack away at this beautiful specimens and turn them into dusty old rocks in someone’s basement. I will be visiting Mark again and if he is agreeable I will display some of his other amazing mineral wonders – all “in-situ” “As god has made them”. On Mark’s tour I saw huge horneblende crystals, long thin spines of fluor – richterite and plenty of red zircon.

Both the fluor – richterite and hornblende are amphiboles though they can be quite easily distinguished apart by the more squat and blocky nature of the hornblende. Fluor – richterite has a diamond shaped cross-section and so it is simply distinguished from a pyroxene family member which tends to have crystal angles at close to 90 degrees.

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Raw silver found as wire – sold at the Bancroft Gemboree

P1010606, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

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.

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Bancroft Gemboree 2008

P1010580, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

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.

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An experience of the northern rockhound culture

gemboree1 008, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

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.””

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Buying beads in Bancroft

gemboree1 027, originally uploaded by Mic2006.

Rock enthusiasts of Ontario and surrounding regions – it is now less than a month to go before the Bancroft Gemboree. I try and make a point of attending each year as does my wife Maggie.

One of the trends that I see emerging at the gemboree is its increasing focus on semi precious beads. Beads have a long and fascinating history; they were amongst the first forms of adornment and also, because of their value, experts soon found a way to make simulations – the Romans were experts at various cleverly crafted fakes.

Myans and Olmecs were big on beads. In having visited the Jade Museum in San Jose we saw some amazing examples. Because of the labour involved in crafting beads of nephrite and other tough materials the bigger the bead found at a burial, the more important the person is assumed to have been.

What follows is a small quote from my book on Ontario’s rock and mineral deposits – just a tease in recognition of the trend …

” Himalayan shepherds sometimes find etched agate beads lying in their fields. The cultural origins are unknown, though the finds are considered a good omen as the bead is thought to be a talisman that will protect its wearer from disaster. Known as dZi beads, they are believed by locals to be petrified insects, or possibly beads that the gods had dropped due to their imperfection. Very few are found in perfect condition and in light of their supposed insectivorous nature, dust must first be thrown over the bead if you are to capture it in your hand. To simply grab it without the “dust tossing precaution” means that you risk the possibility of it wriggling away”.

If beads interest you , consider checking out Maggie’s online bead shop at http://www.maggiebeads.etsy.com – she sells various beading kits and ships within 1 working day.

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