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March-April 2011

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Chips from the Quarry: March/April 2011

CALIFORNIA, Here We Come (Again): We packed as many California articles as we could in the January/February issue, but it is a large state to cover in 96 pages, and two have spilled over into March/April. This issue has Mark Mauthner telling the California kunzite story in one article, and Robert Housley and four coauthors describing several California minerals that are new species in another.

ANNUAL FAVORED FEW: This issue also features many of mineral photographer Jeff Scovil's favorite unpublished photos from 2010. Out of the thousands of specimens he photographed last year, these select few are just too lovely, dramatic, unusual, or rare to go unheralded. They can be found on pages 158–164, along with Scovil's insight on why they are so special.

IN SUPPORT OF SUPPORT GROUPS: Museum support groups are nothing new. For years we have been reading about the activities of such groups as the Seaman Mineral Museum Society of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum, in Houghton, Michigan, and the Gem and Mineral Council of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, in California, among others.

Membership in these nonprofit groups benefits both the museum and the individual: The museum gains income, and the individual enjoys such perks as educational lectures, collecting field trips, exclusive social events, and gift-shop discounts. Plus the membership fee, which is usually tiered, is tax-deductible. It's a win-win situation. Museum websites carry all the details about the various groups.

The newest museum support group on the block is the Friends of the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum. Although the museum is located in Golden, Colorado, the Friends group, as with the other groups, has members from across the United States as well as some international members. Anyone interested in joining the Friends should contact Dr. Bruce Geller, Mines museum director, at 303/273-3823 or

JOLYON RALPH HONORED: For the millions of us who rely on Mindat ( for the latest mineral news and who get our daily Mindat fix by logging onto the wildly popular website to see what everyone is buzzing about on the discussion forum, it comes as no great surprise to learn that Jolyon Ralph, its founder and “benevolent dictator” (his words), earned the Mineralogical Society of America's (MSA) Distinguished Public Service Award for 2010. Dr. Robert Downes, of the University of Arizona, made the presentation on 12 February at the Saturday night banquet held in conjunction with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show.

To quote Andrew Christy, of Canberra, Australia, in one of the nominating letters: “Jolyon is a very experienced field collector and IT expert, who has used his own skills and enthusiasm and also harnessed those of other experienced volunteers to create a website that is not just a freely accessible, up-to-date, and authoritative reference, but which also puts the most experienced professional mineralogists and the newest amateurs in ready communication with each other, wherever they may be in the world.”

To learn more about Mindat, and Ralph, readers are referred to the article “Mindat's Tenth Anniversary: 10/10/10 Marks the Official Date,” by Alfredo Petrov, in our September/October 2010 issue. The MSA website ( carries Downes's presentation remarks and also Ralph's acceptance speech.

Caption: Jolyon Ralph, winner of the MSA's Distinguished Public Service Award for 2010.

Caption: Jolyon Ralph, winner of the MSA's Distinguished Public Service Award for 2010.

COPPER ATTRACTION: Upper Mich-igan is well known for its copper specimens and, unfortunately, also for its pesky flies, including deer flies and black flies, which, like the tourists, show up during the summer. But it's not often that the two—the flies and the copper—join forces. That is until David Schuder tried to photograph a grouping of copper crystals this past summer, and a particularly persistent fly wanted to be in the picture. When efforts failed to keep it shooed away, Schuder finally took the shot with the fly posed atop the specimen, as shown here. (If nothing else, it can be used for scale!)

This fly knew a good specimen when it saw one, laying claim to this copper grouping and refusing to stay away during the photo shoot. Sam Norwood specimen, 1.5 × 0.75 inches; David Schuder photo.

Caption: This fly knew a good specimen when it saw one, laying claim to this copper grouping and refusing to stay away during the photo shoot. Sam Norwood specimen, 1.5 × 0.75 inches; David Schuder photo.

WHAT A SITE: Collectors will all agree that there's nothing like the thrill of finding a great specimen in the field. Thomas Nagin, owner of Crystal Springs Mining and Jewelry Company, in Hot Springs, Arkansas, is now capturing that thrill on video so others can share the excitement. Visitors to his website ( can go along with Nagin and his “Mineral Explorers” crew as they travel the world in search of beautiful crystals and rare minerals. Recent mining adventures in Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico are recorded in Nagin's posted blogs, videos, and photos. This past February, Tucson showgoers at Martin Zinn's Arizona Mineral and Fossil Show in the Tucson City Center were treated to film clips from Nagin's recent trips on HDTV in the hotel lobby. Nagin's next destination: Bolivia; film at 11—rather, make that film on Nagin's website.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: The Houston Gem and Mineral Society, in memory of Arthur E. Smith, and the Cincinnati Mineral Society underwrote color costs in the Connoisseur's Choice column. Maryanne and John Fender (Fender Natural Resources) did the same for the Museum Notes column, and donors to the Color Fund contributed to color in the remaining articles.

Rocks & Minerals is blessed with the kindness and generosity of others. As above, each issue lists those who contributed toward color photography in that particular issue, and then once a year we publish an annual list of donors and volunteers in the March/April issue. You'll find the names of individuals, organizations, and businesses that supported the magazine in 2010 on pages 108–110, along with our thanks.

CORRECTION: Acknowledgment of the datolite specimen ownership for figure 10 in the July/August 2010 issue's Connoisseur's Choice column on datolite should have been Robert (not David) Thacker. Apologies are extended to Mr. Thacker for the error.

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