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May-June 2015

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Chips from the Quarry

AMAZING APATITE: Dr. John Rakovan, one of the three executive editors of Rocks & Minerals, planned three articles on apatite for this issue, one of which, the Connoisseur's Choice column, he wrote. The timing is such that he was also the guest co-editor of the current (May/June) issue of Elements, which has apatite as its theme.

NEW BOOK FOR KIDS: Another Rakovan, John's wife, Dr. Monica Rakovan, has also ventured into the writing field with the publication this year of A Quest for Shiny Purple Crystals: Johnny and Max's Rock Hunting Adventure. Sponsored and distributed by The Arkenstone (Rob Lavinsky), the children's book made its debut at the 2015 Tucson Show in Lavinsky's booth. To learn more about the charming collecting adventure of Johnny (who, of course, is the young John Rakovan), see Robert Cook's review in this issue's Media Reviews column.

WINNERS ALL: The annual February Tucson Show, the largest gathering of mineral collectors worldwide, is a most appropriate setting for presenting awards of excellence to deserving individuals for their contributions to some particular aspect of mineralogy. This year was no exception, with the following individuals being so honored with the Best Paper Award, the Carnegie Mineralogical Award, the Pinch Medal, and the American Mineral Heritage Award.

BEST PAPER AWARD: The Friends of Mineralogy (FM) named John I. Koivula and Elise A. Skalwold as winners of the Best Paper in Rocks & Minerals for 2014 for their article titled “The Microworld of Diamonds: Images from Earth's Mantle,” published in the January/February issue, pages 46–51. The announcement was made during the awards banquet and program at the 2015 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show,® this year held on Saturday, 14 February. In addition to the Award of Merit given to the authors, the magazine received a grant of $200 in their names. As in the past, the check was deposited in the Rocks & Minerals Color Fund account. We thank FM for this significant annual recognition and congratulate John Koivula and Elise Skalwold on being selected for this honor.

Bryon Brookmyer, recipient of the annual Carnegie Mineralogical Award

Bryon Brookmyer, recipient of the annual Carnegie Mineralogical Award.

THE CARNEGIE MINERALOGICAL AWARD: Bryon Brookmyer, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was honored as recipient of the Carnegie Mineralogical Award for 2014. The award was presented by Debra Wilson on behalf of Marc L. Wilson, curator of the Minerals Section of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, during the Saturday evening awards banquet and program of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show®. Brookmyer is the twenty-eighth winner of the annual award, which recognizes outstanding contributions in mineralogical preservation, conservation, and education that match the ideals advanced in the Carnegie Museum of Natural History's Hillman Hall of Minerals and Gems. Established in 1987, the award is underwritten by the Hillman Foundation. Nominations for the 2015 award should be directed to Marc Wilson (

Brookmyer dedicated his collecting career to filling a gap in the preserved specimens representing Pennsylvania's rich mineral heritage, a period extending roughly from about 1950 to the present. He succeeded brilliantly and then went to extraordinary lengths to share his important collection with the public and ensure its continued preservation by placing it in a museum setting where it will be respected and properly cared for.

Joe Marty, recipient of the biennial Pinch Medal.

Joe Marty, recipient of the biennial Pinch Medal.

PINCH MEDAL: Joe Marty, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was selected as the 2015 recipient of the biennial Pinch Medal of the Mineralogical Association of Canada for his considerable and sustained contributions to the science of mineralogy. The medal was established to recognize such contributions by members of the collector-dealer community; this marks the eighth time it has been awarded.

As an amateur mineralogist, Marty's avid and productive field collecting and sharp eye for the unusual have led to notable scientific achievements. He has discovered or participated in the discovery of an astonishing forty-four new mineral species at last count. He has authored or coauthored numerous mineralogical articles (including several in Rocks & Minerals) and has shared his knowledge of mineral occurrences through talks illustrated by his photomicrographs of self-collected specimens. A skilled photomicrographer, his photographs of microminerals have also appeared in numerous publications. In 2005 he was inducted into the Micromounters' Hall of Fame in recognition of his contributions to the study of microminerals, and in 2008 martyite, a zinc vanadate, was named in his honor. His recent work has advanced our knowledge of vanadium and tellurium mineralogy.

The medal was presented during the Saturday evening awards banquet and program of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show®.

Bill Larson, recipient of the annual American Mineral Heritage Award.

Bill Larson, recipient of the annual American Mineral Heritage Award.

AMERICAN MINERAL HERITAGE AWARD: The American Mineral Heritage Award was established by the Mineralogical Record in 2012 to recognize a field collector whose personal discoveries in the Americas have contributed most significantly to the cumulative heritage of aesthetic and/or scientific mineral specimens preserved in museums and private collections worldwide. A panel of fifteen prominent mineral collectors, museum curators, and mineral dealers, under the direction of panel chairman Gene Meieran, chose Bill Larson as this year's recipient of the award.

Larson has been among the leading American gem and mineral dealers for well over forty years and a collector for more than sixty years. A longtime resident of Fallbrook, California, he was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1945. He began collecting agates on the lakeshores of Minnesota, and after his family moved to California in 1953, he found minerals on the dumps of the famous Pala pegmatites at the age of eight. Two years later he joined the Fallbrook Mineral Society and became one of the “monsters” who went on digging field trips with the well-known San Diego mineral collector Josie Scripps. Josie became his mentor and, later, his business partner on several small mining projects.

Larson went on to attend the Colorado School of Mines, graduating in 1967 with a degree in geological engineering. He then worked for a short time on gold and copper exploration in Alaska before applying this training to the exploitation of Southern California gemstone deposits. In 1968 he and Ed Swoboda founded the Pala Properties International dealership (which became Pala International in 1979 when Larson purchased Swoboda's half-interest). Larson and Swoboda collected the fabulous “blue-cap” tourmaline pocket from the Tourmaline Queen mine in 1972—a discovery that is now legendary among mineral collectors. They purchased three San Diego County gem mines: the Stewart Lithia, Tourmaline Queen, and Pala Chief. In 1980 Larson also started work on the famous Himalaya mine, Mesa Grande, California. Through the years his pegmatite mining operations have yielded thousands of superb specimens now in public and private collections around the world. He has been involved in mining for wulfenite at the Red Cloud mine in Arizona and for iridescent andradite at Alamos, Mexico, as well as several mining projects overseas, including work at two demantoid deposits, the Karkodino and Kladovka mines in the Urals district of Russia. He and three partner-friends are currently working the famous Mountain Lily mine in Aguanga, California, for blue topaz, morganite, and blue-green tourmalines.

The award was presented by Wendell Wilson, Mineralogical Record publisher and editor-in-chief, on 8 February as part of the Sunday evening program at the Westward Look Show in Tucson. Nominations for the 2016 award can be sent to Gene Meieran (

Robert Gait with the specimen donated to the ROM as a tribute to him.

Robert Gait with the specimen donated to the ROM as a tribute to him.

SURPRISE TRIBUTE: Friends and colleagues gathered 'round Dr. Robert “Bob” Gait in the Mineral Gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), in Toronto, in mid-December to honor him with the donation of one of the world's finest specimens of arsenohauchecornite to the collections in his name. Funds to purchase the specimen had been secretly raised by Gait's U.S. and Canadian friends, so the presentation took him completely by surprise. Before his retirement from the ROM in 1996, he had been the longtime curator in the museum's Mineralogy and Geology Department.

Subscribers to Rocks & Minerals will recall that, also prior to his retirement, he was on the editorial board of the magazine from 1979 to 1996, first as a consulting editor and then as one of the three executive editors, as well as being the columnist for Who's Who in Mineral Names.

The large (for the species) specimen of arsenohauchecornite from the Vermillion mine in Ontario, the type locality, held particular significance for Gait because he and colleague Dr. Donald Harris had named and described the then-new mineral in an 1980 article in Mineralogical Magazine (volume 43, pages 877–888).

More on Gait's illustrious career can be found in Dr. Richard Mitchell's Who's Who in Mineral Names column on him and his namesake mineral, gaitite, that appeared in the July/August 1981 issue of Rocks & Minerals (pages 162–163).

DECEASED: Gary Richards, of Jefferson and Appleton, Wisconsin, passed away at the age of sixty-eight on 30 December 2014. A 2008 recipient of the Salotti Earth Science Education Award (see the March/April 2009 issue, page 101), Richards had been employed as an educator at the Weis Earth Science Museum at the University of Wisconsin–Fox Valley in Menasha until his retirement. He was a popular exhibitor and lecturer in the area, and in 2008 he organized the very successful international show “The Wonderful World of Agates,” held in Menasha.

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 Minerals) did the same for the Museum Notes column. Donors to the Color Fund contributed toward color in the remaining columns and articles. All are thanked for partnering with Rocks & Minerals to support color photography in the magazine.


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