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September-October 2013

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Through the ‘Scope: The Year in Micromounting—2012 Was a Year of Beginnings

The year 2012 was not kind to micromounters. We lost a number of friends, one of whom was a professional who provided enormous support. The first to leave us, on 29 January, was David Ballard, of Derwood, Maryland. David was one of those rare pillars of support that kept the hobby going. He was a resource provider, looking after supplies that people needed, and we miss him.

France saw the departure of a major figure in micromounting, Éric Naud, who died on 22 April at the age of fifty-one. A stalwart of l'Association Française de Microminéralogie (AFM), Eric wrote articles for their famous Cahier des Micromonteurs. He had a well-deserved reputation as an editorial nitpicker in language and style, and the Cahier was far better for it. In addition, his abilities as a collector were such that his family was able to donate more than 120 boxes and cartons of specimens to the AFM in his memory. It took two vehicles to transport the load!

New Zealand lost two major figures in 2012. Margaret Graham of Christchurch, long a standout among her peers, died of a massive stroke on 8 May. Famed for her generous nature, she had already donated much of her equipment to the micromineral collectors of New Zealand the year before. Margaret was a great field collector, a mentor to beginners, and a willing and cheerful host to all who visited. The second New Zealander, Karl von Blaramberg, was a computer specialist who actually spent his last twenty-one years in the United States, but his major contributions to micromounting were in New Zealand. There, he and his friend Neville Berkhan researched and catalogued some five-hundred active and abandoned quarries between Auckland and the tip of the North Island. Karl was known as a flamboyant character on both sides of the Pacific. He is the only one I have ever seen to flash into the rubble-strewn quarries of Mont Saint-Hilaire in a fancy, low-slung, shiny black convertible. Somehow, he got it in and out without a scratch. He left us on 5 November at the age of fifty-seven.

One death, on 8 August, was not entirely unexpected but left a ripple of shock nonetheless. That was the demise of Alfred C. Webber at the age of 104. Al was still collecting well past his one-hundredth birthday. He would make it up to Canada from his home in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, and rummage happily among the giveaway tables with the rest of us. A scientist and teacher (he was president of the American Society of Testing and Materials in 1962 and plastics chairman of the International Standards Association), he had a vast array of hobbies and interests and remained vibrant right to the end.

A truly earth-shaking loss came at the end of the year with the death of Prof. André E. Lalonde of the University of Ottawa on 21 December (see the March/April 2013 issue of Rocks & Minerals, pages 285–286). Not a micromounter, André was one of the rare breed of professionals in mineralogy who treated amateurs as colleagues and supported them in every way, from teaching to mineral identification. He gave freely of his time to speak to clubs and would happily accept specimens to identify, but never once did he hint that amateurs were wasting his time. His loss is tragic for everyone.


The Year in Review

January through March

As usual, the opening shot was fired in Redlands, California, with the Forty-seventh Pacific Micromount Conference of the Mineralogical Society of Southern California at the San Bernardino County Museum on the weekend of 27–29 January. This is essentially a Friday and Saturday event with a field trip on Sunday. In 2012 it attracted some fifty participants, fifteen of whom went to the Blue Bell mine on Sunday, under the guidance of Dr. Robert Housley. As with most other North American venues, the conference follows a set pattern, one that was established some twenty-five or more years ago: registration and a potluck dinner on Friday evening, followed by Micromounters' Hall of Fame member Sugar White's eagerly anticipated presentation of What's New in Minerals. After Sugar, other attendees with the courage to show their own slides are welcomed to do so.

Trading, raiding giveaway tables, and buying from the dealers begins on Saturday, which is also when other invited speakers take the podium. First to present in 2012 was perennial favorite Joe Marty, also a Hall of Fame member, who enlightened the audience with Recent Mineral Finds in Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado. Joe really gets around, as evidenced by his contributions to the giveaway tables. A noon lunch (provided) prepared attendees for the next events, the voice and silent auctions, after which speaker Bob Walstrom discussed Recent Mineral Finds in New Mexico. That led into the buffet dinner and the general chatter and slides to end the session. The fifteen diehards on the Sunday trip into the Blue Bell property had a successful day, finding an usual cornucopia of microminerals, including good specimens of plumbotsumite and plumbophyllite.

Horace Greeley may have advised young men to go West, but after California, knowledgeable folks go East, to Arizona and the maelstrom of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (TGMS), where they find the one-day Arthur Roe Memorial Micromount Conference. It takes place on the Friday of the Main Show weekend, which was 9–12 February in 2012. The open nature of this event makes it unique among the world's symposia in that anyone can wander in and participate. It is also different in its facilities—the sponsoring club, recognizing that many attendees fly in, traditionally provides extra microscopes and packing materials for those with weight restrictions.

In 2012 there were three speakers. The conference opened at 9 A.M. with Dr. Ray Grant taking the podium to speak on Collapse Breccia Pipes—A Unique Copper Mineral Occurrence in Arizona, USA. Ray's concentration was on collapse breccia features that formed from solution caverns in the Carboniferous Redwall Limestone of the Colorado Plateau. These have led to the accumulation of secondary copper and, sometimes, uranium minerals. Next up was Robert O. “Bob” Meyer. Following the Tucson Show's theme of Minerals of Arizona, Bob spoke on the Micro Minerals of Tiger, Arizona, reviewing and extending Richard Bideaux's geochemical theory of mineral formation there. Last to speak was Harvey Long, with a presentation titled Bill Hunt's Arizona Micromount Treasures, an exposition of the photomicrographs and mine views taken by Hall of Fame member Bill Hunt, now in his ninety-ninth year. Bill's work was with 35-mm slides in both ordinary poses and in the creation of stereoscopic pairs for three-dimensional studies. In his talk, Harvey used digitally remastered versions of these to show Bill's artistry in photography.

Although the winter of 2012 was relatively mild, micromounting still stuck to the South and the Eleventh Annual Micromount Gathering (the Winter Gathering) at Advent Christian Village, Dowling Park, Florida. This gathering, which took place 22–25 February, is probably the most unstructured in North America, but that suits folks just fine. The general idea is that attendees can drop in as time permits, anytime between Wednesday and Saturday, when the formal presentations are given. It is a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of schmoozing time.

Figure 1. Now there's a comfortable way to micromount! Participants in the Winter Gathering at Dowling Park, Florida, enjoy luxurious surroundings. Julian Gray photo.

Figure 1. Now there's a comfortable way to micromount! Participants in the Winter Gathering at Dowling Park, Florida, enjoy luxurious surroundings. Julian Gray photo.

The first five arrivals (on Wednesday) had dinner at the home of hosts Ed and Martha Cunningham and then settled in to work on microminerals for the evening. Thursday brought a further trickle, and by that evening there were eighteen attendees and thirteen microscopes in evidence. The giveaway table and general workshop were going strong. By Friday afternoon, there were sixteen microscopes and twenty-three members working on minerals or strolling the banks of the nearby Suwannee River. Although there is often a field trip on Friday, this year attendees found too many attractions right where they were.

Saturday began with Tellus Science Museum curator Julian Gray's announcement of a two-day format for his new micromount symposium at the museum (see below). He followed with a presentation on the Minerals of the Red Oak Quarry, Fulton County, Georgia. This quarry has produced some twenty mineral species so far, with promise of more to come. Lunch, provided by hostess Martha Cunningham and friends, was followed by Bob Rothenberg's photo program, Some of My Favorite Things. Bill Lechner, the Canadian member of the group, continued with the Minerals of the Aris Phonolite. The Ariskop and Railway quarries, located some 20 kilometers south of Windhoek, Namibia, may be mined for road gravel, but they produce rare minerals that are the envy of micromounters worldwide. After Bill came Henry Barwood, who has been building scientific instruments to aid in the identification of microminerals. His talk focused on Microfluorescence, in which he used a 405-nanometer laser to excite a response in mineral samples. He has some promising techniques and is getting good results. The final speaker of the session was Bob Stevens with a presentation on Jones Mill Quarry Calcites. Having run through an amazing number of slides by some very talented speakers, the group then broke for dinner. True to form, they returned afterward and carried on with micromount business until well into the evening, finally packing up the conference for another year at 9 P.M.

Having satisfied themselves that warmer weather was heading north, micromounters began to do the same, winding up initially in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania, on 10 March for the Thirty-sixth Annual Micromount Show of the Rock and Mineral Club of Lower Bucks County. For some years, this event has been a combined affair, with micromounting being only a part, but in 2012 there was a change in both format and location. The new venue was the Northminster Presbyterian Church in Fairless Hills, where show chairman Richard Tillett and his committee members Dick Braun and Bill Prince had worked hard with club members to have things ready for the 10 o'clock start on Saturday morning. With the new format restricting the focus to micromounting, the upstairs community room hosted fourteen microscopes and some twenty-five attendees, who spent their time swapping, shopping with dealers, browsing the giveaway tables, studying the silent auction, and discussing minerals. There is no speaker program with this event, but the Leidy Microscopical Society provided its Grand American Zentmayer microscope for display. A point commented on before is that this show pulls in micromounters and dealers who tend to stick relatively close to home, not attending the more established micromounting events. As a result, they often have material that has not been seen elsewhere, and that adds a touch of novelty to the gathering. The furthest traveled attendee in 2012 was Don Smoley from Pittsburgh, who was presented with an award marking the accomplishment. The show is small but intense, and many attendees find that discretion and fatigue call for an early pack-up and departure prior to the official 3 P.M. close.

With Fairless Hills safely put to bed, micromounters turned back to the South. In 2012 they had quite a trip, for the next micromount event was part of the Australian Federation of Lapidary & Allied Crafts Associations Gemboree in Bundaberg, Australia, on Easter weekend, 6–9 April. Bundaberg is in Queensland, 385 kilometers (239 miles) north of Brisbane. Here, for the second year, the micromounters managed their own event in two sections. In the first session, twenty-six participants heard Suzie Ericksson give An Intro into the World of Microminerals, a talk put together by the New South Wales micromineral group. In the second session on Sunday evening, David Aslin presented A Comprehensive History of the Biggenden Mine to a crowd of sixty-one. The Gemboree is a general event, but the micromounters are holding their own.

April through June

Because Easter came in early April, the Annual Rochester Mineralogical Symposium (RMS), which orbits Easter, was a little later than usual. In fact, the Micromounters' Playroom of the RMS did not open until the afternoon of Thursday, 19 April, by which time spring was well advanced. The name Playroom may sound frivolous, but it is, in fact, the only micromounting event in North America that has assigned seating and a posted set of rules. Both are necessary because space is limited and the room has to open and close at specific times to avoid conflict with the schedule of the main symposium. Similarly, participants may trade all they want, but selling is prohibited out of respect for the legitimate dealers on an upper floor of the venue. The Playroom is probably also the only micromounting event that has a security guard at the door. One needs registration identification to enter.

Because of the RMS, participants in the Playroom tend to be among the more experienced in the hobby. The group is small, but in 2012 it held four members of the Hall of Fame. This is also the only venue in which the material on the giveaway table is frequently provided by the dealers or even by RMS attendees who are not involved with the Playroom. Canadian specimens were brought by Tony Steede and me, good southwestern material by Janet and Paul Clifford, South Carolina specimens by Cindy Newman, mounted French material (donated by Belgian collector René Allegaert) by Woody Thompson, and mounted specimens from Mont Saint-Hilaire by Gilles Haineault; several anonymous cartons appeared as well. The session closed on Saturday evening just before the banquet.

Hard on the heels of Rochester, the Micromineralogists of the National Capital Area (MNCA) opened the Thirty-ninth Atlantic Micromounters' Conference the following weekend, 27–29 April, at the Maryland Hospitals Association (MHA) campus in Elkridge, Maryland. Unfortunately, this was the last micromount meeting to be held in those facilities. Citing federal privacy reasons, the MHA announced that they would not be able to host symposia of this nature in the future.

Making the most of this last opportunity, the MNCA dove right into their Friday evening warm-up of coffee, snacks, and member presentations, then surged into Saturday under a full head of steam. Speaker for the session was Dr. John Jaszczak, of the A. E. Seaman Museum at Michigan Technological University. John gave three talks: Wurtzite Crystals of Western Pennsylvania; A Diopside-Graphite Pocket in Merelani, Tanzania; and Microminerals of the Huron River Uranium Prospect, Baraga County, Michigan. With today's economic jitters, attendance was slightly reduced, but the fun was not. It is hard to keep micromounters down when there is a full giveaway table and a couple of auctions with great specimens handy. The action ran well into Sunday afternoon before the doors to the MHA conference room were closed to micromounters for the last time.

Scarcely had those doors closed, however, when the next set opened at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario, for the Forty-ninth Annual Symposium of the Canadian Micro Mineral Association (CMMA) on the weekend of 4–6 May. In a change of pattern, the symposium began early on Friday morning, with a program of member speakers. CMMA president Bill Lechner covered Stacking Techniques and the Use of Keynote (a Macintosh application similar to PowerPoint); I spoke on Photomicrography Using Bellows; and Julian Gray presented High Dynamic Range Photomicrography.

Figure 2. The late Dr. André Lalonde (left) shares a moment with Julian Gray of the Tellus Science Museum at the CMMA Symposium. Willow Wight photo.

Figure 2. The late Dr. André Lalonde (left) shares a moment with Julian Gray of the Tellus Science Museum at the CMMA Symposium. Willow Wight photo.

Things returned to normal on Friday evening with the traditional wine and cheese reception in the university residences. Bill Lechner and I spoke in the casual presentations. I covered the Planggenstock Quartzes (a recent find in Switzerland), and Bill ran through a most interesting series of old mineral slides (diapositives) that he had found in a recently purchased collection.

Saturday morning brought additional attendees, and the group spread out into the five rooms occupied by the symposium. Two major laboratories host the microscopes, giveaways, coffee, and swapping action; the sales tables are in a small classroom, and a second classroom becomes a workroom for Martin Howells and the staff of Opti-Tech Scientific. Martin offers microscope cleaning services on a “while-you-wait” basis. The fifth room is used for the lectures. As usual, the morning was a quiet session of swapping and giveaway sorting, with a silent auction ending close to noon.

After a catered lunch, the formal program began. There was a short business meeting followed by the initial presentation. The speaker was the late Dr. André Lalonde, whose talk on Light (Fundamentals of Optical Mineralogy) was a good fit for the audience and their microscope work. Afterward, most participants returned to their microscopes, though a few headed off for a short rest before the evening's banquet, which, as always, was special. When the plates were empty and the diners replete, auctioneer Tony Steede gave his usual high-class performance in which he auctioned off, among other things, a plastic bag of ferroceladonite powder and an interesting apparatus for cutting paper inserts for micromount boxes. He managed to bring in a tidy sum, and then the stage was set once more for Julian Gray and his talk on Graves Mountain, Lincoln County, Georgia. Following that, an evening snack of leftover wine and cheese was enjoyed by all.

Sunday began slowly, but large infusions of coffee fixed that. Later in the morning, Julian gave a beautifully illustrated presentation on Measurement with the Petrographic Microscope. He finished just in time for lunch, after which the meeting came slowly to an end as the afternoon progressed.

The rest of May was relatively quiet; however, on the weekend of 1–3 June, micromounters did take Horace's recommendation and went West, to Pollock Pines, California, where a scheduling conflict had relocated the usual El Dorado venue of the Annual Symposium of the Northern California Mineralogical Association (NCMA). Much of the appeal of this symposium, which had fifty-nine participants in 2012, is in its hugely endowed giveaway tables, stocked mainly with excellent specimens of southwestern minerals.

The symposium ramped up on Friday afternoon to find that more than the venue had changed. Sugar White, long a fixture on Friday with her What's New in Minerals feature, had been unable to attend, so Don Howard stepped into the breach with his What's Old in Minerals, giving a slide show and commentary on the interesting things he had discovered on the giveaway tables during the 2011 symposium. It speaks well of the value of the NCMA giveaway tables that their material can be the basis of a complete presentation! Bob Walstrom then spoke on Pottsite—An Odyssey, in which he described the occurrence of pottsite [PbBiH(VO4)2·2H2O] in four western localities. Eugene Cisneros followed Bob with his talk on the Minerals of San Benito County, California, and Gerry Petitmermet finished with a brief slide show.

Saturday morning, as usual, featured raids on giveaway tables that had enough material to occupy people for a long time. The day was filled out, however, by another talk by Bob Walstrom on The Accidental Pocket, Cochise County, Arizona, source of several rare minerals—and the occasional bear. At some points along the way, when people could be dragged from the tables, successful voice and silent auctions of minerals and related items raised cash to keep the event solvent.

Sunday brought folks back for more, and Don Howard entertained with a second presentation: Minerals of the Golden Horn Batholith, Washington State. This locality, particularly the Washington Pass area, has produced several new minerals, including zektzerite, okanoganite-(Y), and calciohilairite. The symposium closed quietly at noon, though several participants headed off for local collecting rather than going home.

Surprisingly, perhaps, the action swung back to Australia for a second time. This time, it was for the first-ever Australian Micromineral Seminar, held at the Gemmological Association of Australia rooms in Claremont, Perth. The primary meeting was the Annual Seminar of the Joint Mineralogical Societies of Australia, held on the weekend of 9–11 June at the State Library, but this one-day micromineral seminar, hosted by the Western Australian Mineralogical Society on Friday, 8 June, welcomed twenty-one participants from across Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Seminar chairman Ted Fowler introduced the morning session by stating that the focus would be on nickel mining or rare-earth minerals. After a welcoming address by Stuart Cole, president of the Western Australian Mineral Society, Ted described Nickel Mining in Western Australia—particularly at the 132 North nickel mine at Widgiemooltha, but including a number of others—and the smelter at Kalgoorlie. Judy Rowe, from the Mineralogical Society of Victoria, followed with a talk titled A Rare Mineral, in which she discussed ernienickelite. Sharp on Judy's heels, Ralph Bottrill from Tasmania spoke on Nickel Minerals of Tasmania, describing the deposits and illustrating them with photographs of the localities and their minerals.

After Ralph, Judy Rowe returned to speak on Rare-Earth Minerals of Victoria, explaining how she spent hours sifting through river sands from Mount Cole, Nulla Vale, and Thologolong, searching for monazite and xenotime. Last was Russell Kanowski, speaking on behalf of Theo Kloprogge, who was unable to attend. Russell gave Theo's talk, Zeolites in Alkaline Rocks of the Kaiserstuhl Volcanic Complex (Germany), and handed out samples to the attendees.

The action next shifted to the microscopes and the usual frenzied activity. Lots of good material was available for swapping, including emeralds from Mungarri Station. Liz Fodi, from Toronto, Canada, had brought specimens from Mont Saint-Hilaire as giveaways. By late afternoon, everyone agreed that it was a good beginning for a new event.

The weekend of 9 June was a busy one for micromounters. After Australia on Friday, the action jumped to Massachusetts on Saturday, for the Annual Symposium of the Micromounters of New England (MMNE) at Trinity Lutheran Church in Chelmsford. This one-day symposium has been a mainstay for many. Although retaining the one-day format, it has expanded to two speakers, cramming an already packed session. The 2012 event began with loading massive amounts on the giveaway tables, much of which (an estimated one-hundred egg cartons) came from the estate of the late Walter Lane, who died in 2004. He was a superb field collector at Palermo, Mont Saint-Hilaire, and other localities, and his egg cartons represented a real treasure.

Figure 3. Micromounters eat a lot of eggs. The giveaway tables at the Micromounters of New England Symposium are piled with egg cartons full of specimens from the collection of the late Walter Lane. Joe Mulvey photo.

Figure 3. Micromounters eat a lot of eggs. The giveaway tables at the Micromounters of New England Symposium are piled with egg cartons full of specimens from the collection of the late Walter Lane. Joe Mulvey photo.

The morning speaker was Dr. John Jaszczak, from Michigan Technological University, who spoke on Unexpected Treasures: Micromineral Treasures from New York, New Jersey, and New England. John, a specialist in the structure of graphite, delivered a much-appreciated talk on the beauty of graphite habits in different matrices. Lunch afterward was followed by a brief annual meeting, during which member Norm Biggart was presented with a lifetime achievement award for his years of service to local mineral clubs. Then it was back to the giveaway tables until Terry Szenics gave his talk on Maine Mining, in which he reviewed the history of Auburn, Maine, through a series of old photos and cards, before diverting into South American localities at the close.

Next on the agenda was the door prize drawing, which saw Polly Poulin going home with an Amscope dual gooseneck halogen fiber-optic illuminator. A silent auction closed the event, and by 6 P.M. the church had been restored to order for another year.

July through September

Micromount activity had slowed worldwide in July, but on the weekend of 17–18 August the action revived at the Tellus Science Museum in Cartersville, Georgia. That led to the third “beginning” of 2012—the switch in both dates and format for the Second Tellus Micromount Gathering and Mineral Symposium. In 2011 the museum had held a one-day meeting in late November. Although successful, for 2012 museum mineral curator Julian Gray moved the meeting forward to a time when, as he says, “It's too hot to collect in the South” and to expand it to a two-day session.

Friday morning saw nineteen participants in one of the museum's classrooms for a session of trading, showing bragging rocks, and raiding giveaway tables that had been generously endowed with Arkansas and Alabama material brought by Dr. Henry Barwood and others. Julian had thoughtfully provided the meeting not only with snacks and coffee, but also with an industrial-sized rock breaker that attracted lots of use. Dr. Dave Babulski brought some of his fine mineral artwork and demonstrated an ingenious gimbal stage he had developed for his microscope. At the close of day, which coincided with the museum hours, the group headed for a restaurant in Cartersville (the museum is just outside of town, off I-75) for dinner before dispersing for the evening.

On Saturday morning the group was back together for a second round of micromount activity before the talks began. First up to face a much-expanded audience (some museum staff members stopped by to see what those odd folk were doing) was Dr. Robert “Bob” Lauf, of the Metals and Ceramics Division of the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Bob spoke on Silicate Minerals, explaining how the ordering of the silicate tetrahedra changed the characteristics of each group. I followed him with The Pleasures of Micromounting, after which it was time for lunch.

The afternoon brought more spectators, just in time for my wife, Willow, and I to give our tag-team presentation on Gems and Minerals in Russia, describing the diamond mines in Mirnyy, Siberia, and the emerald and demantoid garnet mines outside of Ekaterinburg in the Urals. Because the meeting did not extend into Sunday, it was back to micromount “basics” for the remainder of the afternoon. This young event has a lot to offer, with the convenience of a hotel next door, café for lunch in the museum, availability of heavy tools, and close proximity to a major highway for ease of access.

Another “new beginning” for the micromount community was the switch of the Thirty-first British Micromount Symposium of the British Micromount Society (BrMS) from the University of Leicester to a new venue, the Stoneycroft Hotel. The name of the hotel should be familiar to our readers, for it has always starred in the informal Friday evening activities of the BrMS and in the Saturday evening banquet; however, for 2012 it hosted the entire symposium. This was excellent because the hotel provided tea and coffee and the opportunity to purchase drinks at the bar throughout the weekend (14–16 September).

The formal event began at 9:45 on Saturday morning with an opening address by chairman Martin Stolworthy, who welcomed returning members as well as six overseas guests—four from Germany and two from France. Sixty-eight delegates were in attendance (the term delegates is used because many attendees actually represent regional chapters of the BrMS, and report on their activities).

After the initial settling-in period, when the rush at the mineral offerings had eased, Trevor Bridges spoke on Red Gill and Roughton Gill, outlining the geology and mineralogy of the localities and noting that through the years many specimens of linarite labeled as Roughton Gill probably originated from Red Gill. Following a buffet lunch (part of the package), Roy Starkey, a member of the Micromounters' Hall of Fame, reminded participants of a talk he had given in 1985 titled Let Your Fingers Do the Walking (later published as BMS Occasional Paper No. 5). It was an introduction to the use of mineralogical literature, and he now updated it with the latest advances in web research.

A return to micromounting activity continued until 4:30 P.M. and a gathering for the auction, which raised £800 (about $1,240). In the new venue, it was then just a 6-meter amble to the bar. After a pleasant banquet session, David Binns entertained with his fifth (and he says his final) quiz—long a BrMS tradition through a series of quizmasters, but one that may now disappear. Sunday brought renewed vigor to the attacks on the thousands of micros and piles of rough rock set out, and then it was time for the annual general meeting. Having dispensed with that quickly, the group moved into awards and competition results. Mike Leppington received the coveted Founder's Cup for his service to the BrMS, and, in an interesting twist, Mike Dannatt took both first and second places in the competition for the Peter Braithwaite Micromount Trophy, with agardite specimens from the Tynagh mine, Killimor County, Galway. The Maurice Grigg Micromineral Trophy went to Rob Selley for a gorgeous erythrite from Cliff Fall, Lushington, Porthtowan, Cornwall, and Colleen Thomson took the Ken Luff Memorial Trophy for a superb photograph of blue fluorite.

A high point of the symposium is always Dr. David Roe's Round the Tables, a commentary on the specimens seen as he visited the participants during their activities. For 2012 he had suggested that people bring anatase, so, as he noted later, it was his own fault that he found himself inundated with piles of titanium dioxide, all in wonderful specimens. Of course, participants did bring other things—he mentioned scepter gmelinite from Magher-a-Morne in County Antrim and a host of species from the Eifel in Germany—but his raptures were kept for Neal Hubbard's rutile lattice on anatase from Tinatgel, Sheila Harper's blue anatase from Wheal Edward, Roy Starkey's blue and orange specimens, and on through a long list of other collectors and localities. As he said, “At 4:30 Saturday afternoon, I staggered from my microscope in the advanced stages of anatase poisoning.” He recovered enough, however, to present the Mike Rothwell Award to Martin Gale for his many years of service to the symposium.

As part of the “new beginnings,” the BrMS announced in a surprising change, that the symposium, which had always begun formally on Saturday morning despite the informal gathering on Friday evening, would now open officially at 2 P.M. on Friday.

The British and the Italians commonly share a weekend and did so again in 2012. The British get first mention because they begin on Friday, and the Italians cannot start until Saturday afternoon. Cremona Hall of Fame member Ugo Ostan and his Cremona Symposium committee were shocked this year, however, when told two days before the event that they could not use the primary hall, nor could they use the catering facilities of the school! That led to a mad scramble of reorganization that wound up with places for microscopes being rearranged in narrow corridors and odd hidey-holes throughout the available space of the building. It was panic mode, but it worked, and the ninety participants, once they got going, concentrated on their main aim—swapping—and had a great time.

The Saturday evening dinner, one of the primary attractions of the symposium because of its jocular rivalries for best regional dessert and best regional liqueur, had to be held in a nearby restaurant. That might have been considered a bad break, but as one of the French attendees said: “Où nous avons dégusté un mémorable risotto!” (Where we tasted a memorable risotto!). If the French praised the meal, it had to be a good one.

The theme for 2012 was zircon, and, for once, Hall of Fame member Georges Favreau did not gain a prize (he submitted a magnificent specimen, but it was in acicular tufts on microlite, and the judges wanted prismatic crystals). His reputation remained intact, however, for third prize went to Guy Bernadi for a zircon he had obtained in an exchange with Georges! The theme for 2013 will be stilbite.

October through December

Another double-change “beginning” rocked the Fifty-sixth Paul Desautels Memorial Micromount Symposium of the Baltimore Mineral Society (BMS). First, the denial of the MHA facility in Elkridge dictated that a new venue be found; secondly, the timetable of the new venue, the Friends School of Baltimore, dictated that the symposium be brought forward to the weekend of 29 September from the originally planned date of 6 October. That caused a problem initially because four participants were coming from Colorado and five from New Zealand and Australia, and airlines prefer bookings to be made far in advance. Fortunately, thanks to major efforts by Steve and Carolyn Weinberger and Mike Seeds, everything went smoothly, and the transition was made with a minimum of fallout. In keeping with tradition, the symposium began with dessert and coffee, and then swung into presentations by participants. This year, Bob Rothenberg described his finds at Stoutameyer Branch in Virginia, Bob Simonoff spoke of plans for a beauty-of-minerals website, Dr. Bruce Geller from the Colorado School of Mines reported on their outreach program, and I ran through the Planggenstock Quartzes.

Figure 4. One has to adjust to changed space in a new venue, but these BrMS participants are doing well in a hallway. The gentleman reflected in the mirror is sitting at the head of the table! Roy Starkey photo.

Figure 4. One has to adjust to changed space in a new venue, but these BrMS participants are doing well in a hallway. The gentleman reflected in the mirror is sitting at the head of the table! Roy Starkey photo.

Saturday morning found people adjusting to a new layout at a new site, but they sorted themselves out quickly, and the real business of micromounting started in earnest. A silent auction closed the morning, and after a fine lunch, ably provided by Carolyn Weinberger, the voice auction brought more cash for the coffers. That led into the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, rather a sad one this time, as one of the honorees, Arnold Hampson, had died shortly before his election was announced. Fortunately, Arnold was well represented by his widow, Carrie, his daughter, Shelley Biard, and a small coterie of other supporters, including Col. (Ret.) Eckhard Stuart and Bruce Geller.

Figure 5. Carrie Hampson, representing her late husband, Arnold Hampson, receives his Micromounters' Hall of Fame plaque from Quintin Wight. Willow Wight photo.

Figure 5. Carrie Hampson, representing her late husband, Arnold Hampson, receives his Micromounters' Hall of Fame plaque from Quintin Wight. Willow Wight photo.

The second inductee, New Zealander Rod Martin, was pleasantly surprised to find that besides his wife, Jill, he had three unexpected cheerleaders in the form of Jocelyn Thornton and Mathew Singleton from New Zealand and Sue Wearden from Australia. They had been scheming for months to drop in on the ceremony to surprise Rod—threatening mayhem to anyone who blew their cover. After the ceremony, in which Carrie Hampson accepted Arnold's plaque, I announced that there would be only one new member admitted to the Hall of Fame in 2013: Peter Braithwaite (deceased) of Hilton, Derbyshire, England, author of three excellent monographs on micromounting (available through the British Micromount Society) and longtime lecturer on the subject. After the announcement, Dr. Bruce Geller, speaking on Arnold Hampson's behalf, gave a presentation on The Colorado School of Mines Geological Museum. He described the form, function, and future plans of the museum and invited attendees to visit.

Figure 6. New Zealander Rod Martin (left) receives his Micromounters' Hall of Fame plaque from Quintin Wight. Willow Wight photo.

Figure 6. New Zealander Rod Martin (left) receives his Micromounters' Hall of Fame plaque from Quintin Wight. Willow Wight photo.

Figure 7. Peter Braithwaite (now deceased) of Hilton, Derbyshire, United Kingdom, will be inducted to the Micromounters' Hall of Fame in 2013. Penny Braithwaite photo.

Figure 7. Peter Braithwaite (now deceased) of Hilton, Derbyshire, United Kingdom, will be inducted to the Micromounters' Hall of Fame in 2013. Penny Braithwaite photo.

By then it was dinnertime, and the group spread out to find local restaurants. On their return, Rod Martin described The Minerals of the Lake Rotokawa Area, Tongariro, North Island, New Zealand. Circumstances having changed with the venue, the symposium closed for the day at 8:30P.M. to accommodate the security setup of the school. Sunday brought the standard round of trading, raiding giveaway tables, and buying from dealers before Rod took the floor once more, this time to speak of The Australian Mineral Society, an organization that is putting considerable effort into expanding the collecting hobby (including micromounting) in Australia. That brought the group to lunch, followed by a quiet dispersal at noon.

France made it a triple-header, for the Twenty-ninth Annual General Meeting (AGM) of l'Association Française de Micromineralogie (AFM) took place on the same weekend, in Moulins, Allier, Auvergne, a town smack in the middle of France. Here, the seventy-two AFM members (some with spouses and companions), plus a number of nonmembers who were nonetheless passionate about micromounting, found themselves in a magnificent hall with huge windows that kept begging them to go outside and enjoy the weather. Being micromounters, however, they resisted temptation.

Figure 8. Micromounters at the AFM Symposium in Moulins enjoyed a bright, spacious hall. Those piles of boxes and drawers all contain masses of micromounts for trade. Agnès Biaggi photo.

Figure 8. Micromounters at the AFM Symposium in Moulins enjoyed a bright, spacious hall. Those piles of boxes and drawers all contain masses of micromounts for trade. Agnès Biaggi photo.

Although the gathering was saddened by the loss of Éric Naud, the legacy of his family's gift (as mentioned) meant a lot to everyone. Each member received one of the boxes as a gift. The remaining boxes were offered for sale at €5 each, and the quality of the material was such that they were snapped up immediately. Éric will leave a lasting memory in collections throughout France.

The AFM, like other European symposia, concentrates on swapping, but they also enjoy competing. The theme for 2012, fluorite, produced some magnificent specimens. First prize for the best photograph of fluorite went to Guy Bernadi for his shot of a superb pale purple crystal. (That shot was used on the cover of Cahier, number 118, issue 4 of 2012). In terms of micromounts themselves, Luc Petit gained first prize for a gorgeous specimen of fluorite crystals arching across empty space like beads on a necklace. The specimen came from Passa Limani, Laurion, Greece.

The AFM also works, however, on matters of greater importance to the common good. Besides publishing the Cahier, they have booths at mineral shows, work to support museum collections, and actively search for minerals new to science. This year that search resulted in three new species: forêtite, ideally Cu2Al2(AsO4),(OH,O,H2O)6, from Cap Garonne; omsite, Ni2Fe3+(OH)6[Sb(OH)6], from Correc d'en Llinassos (Ravin d'en Llinassous), Oms, Céret, Pyrénées-Orientales, Languedoc-Roussillon, France; and tubulite, Ag2Pb22Sb20S53, from cotype localities Rivet quarry, Peyrebrune, Réalmont, Tarn, Midi-Pyrénées, France, and Borgofranco Mines, Biò, Borgofranco d'Ivrea, Torino Province, Piedmont, Italy. The minerals were named in 2012 but had been collected long before by AFM members. Earlier at Cremona, Piero Ambrino (ambrinoite) had donated specimens of another new mineral, lavoisierite, Mn82+[Al10(Mn3+Mg)][Si11P]O44(OH)12, from the type locality, Punta Gensane, Viù, Italy, to Georges Favreau for the AFM. Georges, in turn, presented the samples to the twelve oldest members at the annual general meeting.

Although the written reports of the meeting are solemn and portentous, photographs mostly show people having what look to be very nice dinners with lashings of wine. They do a lot of work, but they also have a lot of fun! In 2013 the AFM meeting will be in Chorey-les-Beaune, Côte d'Or, on the weekend of 12 October. Now, that is interesting—Chorey-les-Beaune is right in the middle of Burgundy, surrounded by vineyards!

After France, the action slipped back to the Antipodes. The Thirtieth New Zealand Micro-mineral Symposium took place 19–22 October at Staveley, Canterbury, South Island. Staveley is about 100 kilometers west of Christchurch, on the edge of the high country. In 2012 the venue was a church camp that nicely accommodated thirty-four participants, six of whom were Australians. The comfortable sleeping arrangements (this is a live-in symposium) were in octagonal bunkrooms that slept eight. Symposium organizer Ron Keen welcomed participants on Friday evening, then Jocelyn Thornton and Dick Dufton, who had helped organize the first New Zealand Micro-mineral Symposium, cut the thirtieth birthday cake. Attendees were also welcomed with a song written and sung by Malcolm and Yvonne Luxton, who continued with songs each evening.

Figure 9. At the symposium in New Zealand, Sara Keen (left) watches as Australian Sue Wearden makes her first-ever snowman. Sue lives north of Brisbane, where snow is practically unheard of. Ron Keen photo.

Figure 9. At the symposium in New Zealand, Sara Keen (left) watches as Australian Sue Wearden makes her first-ever snowman. Sue lives north of Brisbane, where snow is practically unheard of. Ron Keen photo.

This symposium, because it is self-contained, is also flexible in that schedules can be changed as weather and opportunity demand. A proposed field trip on the Sunday was switched to Saturday because the weather looked chancy. The group went to Stew Point Station, up the Rangitata River Valley, where they searched for quartz, heulandite, calcite, stilbite, chabazite, and, oddly for micromounters, agate. They did find some nice agate as well as good-sized quartz geodes. In the meantime, Ron Keen delivered a travelogue on Uzbekistan and Surrounding Areas, and Mathew Singleton gave a talk on Many Aspects of Quartz, in which he expounded on twinning, right- and left-handed crystals, and gwindels.

Sunday arrived with decent skies, but the group, having fossicked itself out, went into competition mode. The Tetrahedron Trophy for best New Zealand mineral went to Malcolm Luxton for inclusions in agate from Woolshed Creek; Judy Rowe earned the Stan Rowe Trophy for best overseas mineral, with rosasite and smithsonite from Broken Hill; and Dick Dufton scooped up the Ruth Jacobson Trophy for best find from the 2011 symposium, with native mercury from Spain. That afternoon some of the participants went to the Staveley Museum, where a retired oil geologist took them through the exhibits on local geology. Later, at camp after the presentation of the trophies, Jocelyn re-enacted the Hall of Fame induction for Rod Martin and delivered his plaque with a flourish.

Because it snowed on Monday, some attendees decided to break early to avoid bad conditions on the mountain roads. However, the snow was particularly appealing to Australian Sue Wearden—she lives in warm country, north of Brisbane, and got to build her first snowman. Meanwhile auctioneers Mat Singleton and Mick Mackenzie managed to dispose of eighty-four lots, including minerals, wine, books, and homemade jams and pickles for a respectable $1,600.

This is the only symposium that runs until Tuesday morning, and though some had departed, the rest toughed it out for the final tidying up and farewells.

As November crept in, the Twenty-sixth Symposium of the Micromineral Society of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History opened with its traditional Friday evening lecture at the museum on the 2–4 November weekend. This is the only symposium that has a guest speaker on the Friday, and in 2012 that role fell to Dr. Steven “Steve” Chamberlain of the New York State Museum. Steve's topic for the evening was I Love Syncroscopy—a dissertation on the latest techniques in combating depth-of-field problems. Saturday morning brought micromounting time and short talks: Chris Stefano spoke on The Fred Pough Micromineral Collection—A Window into Micromounting History; Steve Stuart covered Minerals and Localities of Cuasso al Monte, Italy; and Hall of Fame member Pete Richards discussed Cyclic Twinning in Aragonite. After lunch, Steve Chamberlain took over once more with his talk on Searching for Late-Stage Hydrothermal Microminerals at Precambrian Localities in New York. That led to more micromount activity and also a co-meeting of the Midwest Chapter of the Friends of Mineralogy—again a feature unique to this symposium.

Dinner that evening—another specialty of this symposium—was potlucked at the home of Paul and Janet Clifford. On Sunday, Janet continued her yeoman service by giving a short talk, Micromineral, Macro Specimen, describing ajoite and the giant specimen of ajoite in quartz that was on display at the Denver Show. Afterward, curator David Saja revealed his huge Zeiss SteREO Discovery, V12-inch motorized stereomicroscope integrated with its AxioCam digital camera and AxioVision software for multifocus image stacking. It was a wonderful way to end the day and the symposium.

On the same weekend, but beginning on Saturday, the Twenty-eighth International Mineral and Fossil Exchange Show, a creation of l'Association des Micromonteurs de Montigny-le-Tilleul (4M), sprang into life in Montigny-le-Tilleul, Belgium. As is common in Europe, the weekend draws attention from the media and local officials. Even a television crew was on hand to welcome the more than 110 participants and visitors. The participants were mostly Belgian, but there were also Germans, French, and Italians vying for space. Though not devoted exclusively to micromounts (they accommodate cabinet, fossil, and sand collectors as well), there were many microscopes in evidence. As in Cremona, the weekend deals primarily with swapping, with the trading routine formal and prescribed. Similarly, the ever-present bar does a great business.

Figure 10. L'Association des Micromonteurs de Montigny-le-Tilleul (4M) Symposium seen from on high. All of those stacked drawers and cabinets contain specimens for trade. The meeting is not dedicated solely to micromounts, but there are plenty of microscopes in evidence. André Foucart photo.

Figure 10. L'Association des Micromonteurs de Montigny-le-Tilleul (4M) Symposium seen from on high. All of those stacked drawers and cabinets contain specimens for trade. The meeting is not dedicated solely to micromounts, but there are plenty of microscopes in evidence. André Foucart photo.

The theme minerals of the competition for the most beautiful micromount were mimetite and pyromorphite. Tom Costes took first prize for young entrants, and Jean-Luc Designolle came in first in the adult competition with a superb mimetite. It is noteworthy that the judges remarked that too few entries were permanently mounted on a black background—there are still standards in some parts of the micromount world.

At 7 P.M. the group sat to dinner (Belgian meals are wonderful), and the event closed for the day at 10 o'clock. Sunday saw activity revive, tens of thousands of specimens in circulation for exchange. Philippe Thiran gave a PowerPoint presentation on Sand, and the meeting drew to a close in midafternoon.

Figure 11. Belgians love to eat, and the dinners at the 4M meetings in Montigny-le-Tilleul reflect that. This is a happy and contented group. André Foucart photo.

Figure 11. Belgians love to eat, and the dinners at the 4M meetings in Montigny-le-Tilleul reflect that. This is a happy and contented group. André Foucart photo.

Back in Canada, the Twenty-seventh Micro Mineral Fall Workshop of the Canadian Micro Mineral Association opened at the Burlington Arts & Cultural Centre, Burlington, Ontario, on 10 November. This one-day symposium concentrates primarily on giveaways, auctions, and sales. For 2012, Bob Ramik arrived with two large storage containers of Mont Saint-Hilaire material that had been collected many years ago, sparking a feeding frenzy. There was plenty of other material as well, and with good fellowship and earnest conversation the group had a most successful day.

To close the year, SAMS, the South African Micromount Society, held its Annual One-Day Workshop on Saturday, 17 November, in conjunction with the Fourth South African Mineral Symposium, organized jointly by SAMS and the Witwatersrand Gem and Mineral Club. The symposium is a biennial event and was not held in 2011. From the reports received, attendance was slightly down, but the action was lively, micromounting was well represented, and the talks were interesting. SAMS specializes in field trips (holding several per year) as well as discussion groups.

Final Comment

Finally, as a note on micromounting in general, we should pay attention to a paper by Carlos Curto Milà titled Building a Future: The Micromount Collection-Laboratory of the MCNB (Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona—the language is Catalan, not Spanish). Created in 1990, the micromount collection, originally envisioned as “a complementary branch of the major hand collection,” has grown to the point that it has its own room and, as the curators say, “its own personality.” It now has a statement of purpose, plans for growth, new equipment (microscopes, cameras, trimmers), and an annual budget (2013–2015) of €51,511 ($67,900 at current rates). Interested readers will soon find the whole story (in English) on the museum website.


I owe a debt of gratitude to the following people who aided me greatly in preparing this article. In general, I have rewritten the information that they provided, although on occasion I have let their own words stand. Nonetheless, if there are errors or omissions, they are mine. Contributing were Mark Ascher, John Clinkenbeard, Carlos Curto Milà, Gérard Declercq, Jean-Luc Designolle, Earl English, Suzie Ericksson, André Foucart, Stephen Gomersall, Julian Gray, Robert Housley, Theresa Kokinos, Bill Lechner, Joe Marty, Yvonne McLaughlan, Joe Mulvey, Renato Pagano, Robert Pecorini, Pete Richards, Tim Rose, Alison Rose, Mike Seeds, Steve Sorrell, Roy Starkey, Eckhard Stuart, Steve Stuart, Jocelyn Thornton, Sue Weardon, and Carolyn Weinberger.


Arthur M. Roe Memorial Micromount Symposium: Mark Ascher, 3446 N. Calle Largo, Tucson AZ 85750

L'Association Française de Microminéralogie: Robert Pecorini, 9 Allée des Chênes Verts, 13620 Carry-le-Rouet, France;

L'Association des Micromonteurs de Minéraux de Montigny-le-Tilleul: André Foucart, Avenue des Eglantines 2, B-6110 Montigny-le-Tilleul, Belgium

Associazione Micro-mineralogica Italiana: Marco Ciriotti, Via Gioconda 3, I-26100 Cremona, Italy;,

Baltimore Mineral Society: Mike Seeds, 516 Bald Eagle Ct., Lancaster, PA 17603;

British Micromount Society: David Binns, 3 The Dene, Hastings, East Sussex TN35 4PD, United Kingdom;

Canadian Micro Mineral Association: Bill Lechner, 21 Hathway Dr., Toronto, ON M1P 4L4, Canada

Gruppo Mineralogico Cremonese: Dr. Ugo Ostan, Via Arenili 10, 26100 Cremona, Italy;

International Federation of Micromount Societies: Tim Rose, 6371 Rubicon Way, Livermore, CA 94550.

Microcentro Scandicci: Gruppo A.V.I.S. Mineralogia Paleontologia Scandicci, Piazza Vittorio Veneto1, 50010 Badia a Settimo Scandicci, Firenze, Italy;

Micro-Mineral Collectors of New Zealand: Jocelyn Thornton, 29 Carlton St., Wellington 3, New Zealand

Micromineralogists of the National Capital Area: Steve Weinberger, PO Box 302, Glyndon, MD 21071

Micromineral Society of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History: Anne Cook, 2181 Ambleside Dr., Apt. 402, Cleveland, OH 44106

Micromounters of New England: Joe Mulvey,

Micromounters of New South Wales, Australia: Noel Kennon,

Mineralogical Society of Southern California (MSSC) (formerly Southern California Micro-Mineralogists): Dr. Robert Housley, 255 S. Wilson Ave., No. 2, Pasadena, CA 91106

Munich Micromounter Group: Dr. Manfred Seitz, Lohäckerstr. 1, D-85551, Kirchheim, Germany

New Jersey Mineralogical Society: Russel N. Brarens, 515 Lincoln Blvd., Middlesex, NJ 08846

Northern California Mineralogical Association: Theresa Kokinos,

Northwest Micro Mineral Study Group: Dr. Don Howard, 356 SE 44th Ave., Portland, OR 97215

Rochester Mineralogical Symposium (Micromounters' Playroom): Dr. Helen H. Chamberlain, PO Box 85, Manlius, NY 13104, or Quintin Wight,

Rock and Mineral Club of Lower Bucks County: Richard Tillett, 820 Sycamore Ave., Croydon, PA 19021

South African Micromount Society: Graham Reeks, PO Box 19, Welobie 1714 South Africa;

Southeast Micromounters Winter Gathering: Ed and Martha Cunningham, Advent Christian Village, Dowling Park, FL; 386/658-2589;

Quintin Wight is the author of The Complete Book of Micromounting (Mineralogical Record, 1993).

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