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November-December 2014

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Media Reviews

The World Came to Tucson by Katherine Rambo. Stanegate Press, Tucson, AZ; 107 pages; 2014; $20 (softbound).

This interesting book by Katherine Rambo is everybody's guide to Tucson and the annual gem and mineral show that has made this city a place where devotees of gemstones, jewelry, minerals, and fossils make their annual pilgrimage. The book contains an introduction by Geoffrey Notkin and a liberal sprinkling of good full-color photographs by Suzanne Morrison, Geoffrey Notkin, and Rambo. It was edited by Suzanne Morrison and Norma Morrison.

The book begins with a dedication, acknowledgments, a table of contents, a brief introduction, and a preface; it is then broken up into six “parts” or chapters. The first, called “Joviality, Merriment, and El Dia de Descanso,” is a brief history of Tucson beginning in about 1870. Rather than simply reciting dry facts and statistics, this section is built around anecdotal scenes of gardens and personalities. The story of Tucson continues into Part II, called “Snapshots from an Old Album.” Here Tucson enters the modern era, replete with its first mineral show. Again emphasis is on the personalities and the profit, $63.25, attributed mostly to a bake sale held concurrently. The narrative ends in 1972 at which time the show had become a major international event and was clearly reshaping Tucson.

Part III, “The Quest for Zerzura,” is a general description—and a thoughtful and well-written presentation it is. Subdivided into nine sections, it has such interesting subtitles as “Off the Record, Back Channels, and Hugger-Mugger”; “Stand and Deliver”; and “Catastrophe.” There is an excellent section on show guides, published histories, and statistics. For instance, Rambo points out that by using the geographic indexes in show guides, one finds that between 1996 and 2010 there was an annual average of about thirteen hundred total dealers from forty-nine states and thirty-two countries in attendance. Elsewhere she points out that world gem prices are likely set at wholesale venues such as the American Gem Trade Association (AGTA) Show and others held generally during the show weeks. To her they are “meticulously designed and organized, insulated by layers of security and restricted access, hermetically sealed and climate controlled” (p. 16) and always feel a little chilly. She continues with another good observation—that the show is a success because it has a practical, egalitarian, yet clearly defined system connecting promoters and vendors with workers, buyers, and visitors. The section contains an excellent portion on shady and illegal activities and happenings, again written in an engaging and colorful style. Then follows a nice chronology of motel venues and how major shows migrated about the city from the early years at the Desert Inn to the Zinn shows of the old Executive Inn and the current Ramada Inn–University. The chapter closes with a discussion of road construction and parking issues, weather problems, and why the show remains in Tucson rather than moving to another site such as Las Vegas.

Part IV, appropriately called “The Journal,” is a description of Rambo's experiences and impressions of the major shows over a sixteen-day period and includes the Pueblo–River Park Inn, Ramada Inn Mineral and Fossil Show, the African Art Village, the Kino Sports Complex, the Main Show, and others. Part V is a series of practical and important “Survival Tips.” Discussed are things as obvious as planning ahead (particularly with respect to motel rooms and rental cars), use of the buyer guides to locate products and dealers, understanding the various show schedules, and the use of shuttles and sunscreen. There is a separate section on mineral and fossil “alterations” that is a good condensation of warnings mentioned in many publications during the past several decades. Part VI begins with a single page of things overheard at the show. My favorite is “There are no secrets at the show. Everybody knows everything” (p. 99). This is followed by a listing of family restaurants, a bibliography, recommended websites, and a brief biography of Rambo.

I must admit that I did not embark on this book with much enthusiasm. Although almost never wrong about anything, I somehow erred in this regard. The World Came to Tucson is a good, easy-to-read book with so much information that anyone with even marginal interest in the Tucson shows would find it worthwhile. It is well edited and printed on slick paper of high quality. The photographs are well chosen and pertinent. I recommend the book for a wide audience that includes veteran vendors, collectors, and buyers to those who are contemplating their first trip to “The Show.”

Minerals of the Lake Superior Iron Ranges by George W. Robinson and Gene L. LaBerge. A. E.Seaman Mineral Museum, Houghton, MI; order from 58 pages; 2013; $25 (plus shipping and handling) (softbound).

This rather lavishly illustrated book presents a concise yet comprehensive description of the minerals occurring in the iron ranges of the Lake Superior region. The “ranges” consist of at least eight distinct sequences of iron-rich rocks occurring in parts of Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ontario. They have been the source of enormous quantities of iron ore for more than 160 years; as such, the ranges' mines have produced a wide array of interesting and unusual minerals. Fortunately, many excellent examples of these species have been preserved in the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum collections of the Michigan Technological University and are in large part the basis for this book.

The book is arranged in six major sections, beginning with a brief introductory chapter that moves almost seamlessly into Chapter 2, the region's “History.” This section is well illustrated with historical photographs and several unusual stereopairs, one of which must be one of the nation's earliest rock shops, thought to have been in Marquette, Michigan. The geologic evolution of the iron ranges follows. The chapter includes a clear discussion of the origin of the original iron formation, deformational and hydrothermal events, the origin of soft ores, and a summary of the mineralogy of the iron-ore districts. Some interpretive conclusions are those of the authors and seem to best explain several of the more puzzling aspects of the districts' geology. The section contains good photographs of fossil algae and algaelike organisms that are some of the oldest known life forms found in North America.

The bulk of the book begins on page 18, the chapter devoted to “Mineralogy.” It is segregated into three sections based on mineral occurrence and paragenesis. These are minerals that occur in iron formations and associated rocks (seventy-nine species), those related to hydrothermal mineralization (seventy species), and those of supergene origin (thirty-four species). The minerals are arranged alphabetically within each of the three sections. From the outset it is clear that the iron ranges are not restricted mineralogically to massive iron and manganese oxides, but they contain spotty occurrences of exceptional specimens. Even some of the botryoidal examples of the ore minerals are quite aesthetic. The region is also the type locality for four minerals: groutite, greenalite, minnesotaite, and seamanite. For the collector, the minerals associated with hydrothermal activity are the most interesting. These include excellent specimens of barite, the carbonates (including calcite, rhodochrosite, and dolomite), celestine, goethite, groutite, hausmanite, hematite, magnetite, manganite, pyrolusite, quartz, shigaite, and seamanite. Although an array of postmining or supergene minerals have been identified here, only a handful of sulfates are of note, and then typically as microscopic crystals. These include alunogen, coquimbite, gypsum, pickeringite, sideronatrite, tamarugite, and wilcoxite.

Chapter 5 presents a discussion of paragenesis and origin of the various mineral suites. A clear picture of relative ages is given and also a discussion of the problems with radiometric age dating of available material. Paragenetic diagrams are presented for the quartz-carbonate and barite-manganese mineral associations for several of the iron ranges. The final section consists of a series of concluding remarks that point out the general similarity of the Lake Superior iron ranges with other major iron and manganese districts worldwide, and the fact that minerals characteristic of one might be expected in others, even though they are yet to be discovered there. The book closes with a listing of references and brief biographies of authors George W. Robinson and Gene L. LaBerge.

Minerals of the Lake Superior Iron Ranges is a well-done summary of the most interesting aspects of this famous and productive region's minerals. It is well illustrated with 135 figures that include historical photographs, geologic sections, and many mineral photographs, primarily by Robinson. The book is well edited, printed on high-quality paper, and tightly bound. It is a must for any collector maintaining a geographic mineralogy library.

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