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September-October 2015

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Media Reviews

Collector's Guide to the Zeolite Group by Robert J. Lauf. Schiffer Publishing, Atglen, PA; 112 pages; 2014; $19.99 (plus shipping and handling; softbound).

Collector's Guide to the Zeolite Group is Robert J. Lauf's most recent contribution to Schiffer Publishing's series of educationally oriented, reasonably priced guides focused on mineral groups and families. The present work is an ambitious undertaking, considering the complex nature of these minerals, and a useful, well-illustrated introductory treatment has been successfully produced. It is clearly superior to earlier volumes in the series and boasts a fine array of mineral photographs and an extensive series of references.

The book begins with a rather standard preface, a series of acknowledgments, and an introduction that includes a general description of zeolites and a discussion of their importance in industry and agriculture. The meat of the book begins with the next chapter, “Taxonomy of the Zeolite Group,” which starts with a clear, though necessarily complex, definition of zeolite. This is followed by a table that alphabetically lists most zeolites and their related series and includes the mineral name, the accepted formula, and an abbreviation of its framework type. As with any family of complex minerals for which the results of research seem to appear almost daily, there are minor variations with the recent literature, such as the latest version of Fleisher's Glossary of Mineral Species 2014 (Back 2014). For example, Lauf treats gismondine as a series (gismondine-Ca and gismondine-Ba), but Back treats it as a single species (gismondine). In this instance gismonine-Ba, although appearing in the literature, is not a species approved by the International Mineralogical Association. The chapter continues with a most interesting treatment of various structures and their resulting crystal morphology. The analcime, chabazite, gismondine, stilbite, and natrolite structures are described utilizing both framework diagrams and mineral photographs. The following chapter discusses the formation of zeolite minerals and relevant geochemistry. The chapter is divided into three sections that relate the zeolites to igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary rocks.

Individual descriptions of the zeolite minerals and related mineral series begin on page 28 and continue to page 107, moving alphabetically from amicite through yugawaralite. In all, fifteen series are covered in addition to forty-six nonseries species. Each description supplies brief historical and occurrence information as well as critical or unique crystallographic or other mineralogic data. Most information is referenced, and almost all species are photographically illustrated, or in those rare instances where meaningful photographs were not available, the structural diagram is given. The book closes with five pages of references.

Collector's Guide to the Zeolites is a useful book that presents a complicated topic clearly at a level that the average, patient reader will comprehend and appreciate. There are 250 figures, the majority of which are mineral photographs that as a group present a zeolite essay in themselves. The structural diagrams are particularly useful and collectively show the relationship between these species and series. The specimen photographs are almost entirely of pieces in Dr. Lauf's personal collection and are of uniformly good to excellent quality. The book is laid out well with careful photo sizing, cropping, and positioning. The text is well edited and the binding relatively sound. It is a book that I certainly recommend for collectors wishing to learn something about this large family of minerals that lend themselves to attractive specimens.


Back, M. E. 2014. Fleischer's glossary of mineral species 2014. Tucson, AZ: The Mineralogical Record.       


Crystal Mountains—Minerals of the Cairngorms by Roy L. Starkey. British Mineralogy Publications; 178 pages; 2014; £41.50 (price outside Europe; softbound).

The Cairngorms are the most extensive area of high-mountain terrain in Britain. The name is synonymous with Scotland's most famous gem, fine smoky quartz, and the mountains have been a source of mineral and gem specimens for hundreds of years. In Victorian times crystal hunting there was a popular hobby and resulted in the preservation of many specimens in private and public collections. Today the mountains are within a national park. Author Roy L. Starkey provides a comprehensive treatment of the search for these minerals, the geology of their occurrences, their use as gem materials and artifacts, and the interesting social history surrounding them. Although the chapters are unnumbered in the book, I have given them numbers for convenience in the description below.

The book begins with a foreword by Dr. Alec Livingstone, former Keeper of Minerals at the National Museum of Scotland, a preface, and acknowledgements, the list of which is massive (exceeding two hundred), and supplies an early insight into the meticulous and thorough treatment the Cairngorms are given in the body of the text. Chapter 1 is an introduction to the area, complete with location and relief maps, and a discussion of the various attempts to commercialize or otherwise develop parts of the mountainous terrain. The second chapter is a 20-page chronologic discourse on the area's history. The discussion contains sections of the pre-1800 era, the early 1800s, the Victorian period (1851–1900), and the twentieth century. Excellent use is made of early published notices, historical descriptions, poems, fine art, and even a few mineral photographs. The geology of the area is discussed in Chapter 3. Here the Cairngorm Granite and its pegmatites are described. The impact of jointing, hydrothermal alteration, and glaciations is treated in some detail and helps explain the surface features shown throughout the book in its many site photographs.

Perhaps the most important chapter in the book (Chapter 4) is devoted to minerals. The 66-page chapter, after a brief introduction, rightly begins with a major section on quartz that focuses on the famous smoky quartz crystals. The section is well illustrated with specimen photographs, some of which very much resemble in morphology Pikes Peak–area crystals, so much so that one is left suspecting that we will find amazonite covered later on. This, of course, is not to be. The quartz section is followed by shorter sections on beryl, topaz, and other minerals. The beryls are characterized by deep striations on prism faces, and some topaz crystals are marked by rounded and abraded edges due to significant water transport. Under “Other Minerals,” the feldspars are found to be only typical pink or pinkish-tan. Interesting specimens of other minerals include phenakite and genthelvite. Many other species are mentioned, particularly those that tend to show up in heavy-mineral concentrates.

Chapter 5 is devoted to “The Diggers” and briefly discusses some of the more important collecting sites and those that toiled there. Excellent use has been made of historical descriptions and photographs. The next chapter, “The Royal Connection,” discusses the interest that the royal family, essentially beginning with Queen Victoria, showed in the area and its minerals. An early James Tennant label showing him as “Mineralogist to Her Majesty” suggests the importance of this royal interest. Chapter 7 is devoted to “Collectors and Collections” and is divided into sections on Historical Collections, Modern Collectors, Museum Collections, University Collections, and Miscellaneous Collections. As in previous chapters, excellent use has been made of a variety of both early and modern illustrations and includes photographs of gems, minerals, and displays. A short chapter dealing with historical mineral dealers follows with sections on John Janes, Alexander Rose, Bryce Wright Jr., James Russell, John Mawe, and several others. Chapters 9 and 10 are devoted to the use of Cairngorm quartz by lapidaries, jewelers, and engravers with many examples of interesting jewelry, artifacts, and the like. The book closes with a chapter devoted to the impact of quartz on the development of oscillator plates and related devices during World War II. There are an epilogue, glossary, list of references, and a useful and complete index.

Crystal Mountains—Minerals of the Cairngorms is well conceived, written, and illustrated. It has been thoroughly researched and has benefited greatly by Roy L. Starkey's tenacious use of historical materials and personal visits to the area as well as its important collections and collectors. It has been carefully edited and should stand as an example of how a good geographic mineralogy should be written. It is highly recommended for every collector's bookshelf.       


Gold for Collectors by Scott Werschky and Carles Curto with photographs by Joaquim Callen. Mineral Up Editions, Barcelona, Spain; 265 pages; 2014; $100 (hardbound).

Gold for Collectors is the latest coffee-table book to appear that is devoted to one or more segments of the mineral or gem collecting world. It is clearly intended to be a photographic essay on fine gold specimens augmented by introductory text and short figure captions. Photographer Joaquim Callen's work is featured throughout and certainly reflects the consistent high quality for which his illustrations have become known.

The book begins with a collection of forewords by the authors, the photographer, and several other notables including Bill Larson, Dona Leicht, and Mark Mauthner. The first brief chapter covers gold geology and gold morphology with sections on plates, nuggets, and crystals. Although “Morphology” is a text heading, the information therein has nothing to do with morphology. Pages 14–31, the second chapter, contain a series of photographs collectively titled “Some Exceptional Pieces,” and they are. The next 18 chapters photographically document fine gold specimens from individual localities or groups of geographically related places. These begin with Canada and move to four chapters covering the United States of America. The first is a general chapter highlighting a number of eastern localities followed by separate chapters that cover California, Colorado, and Nevada. Next, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia, Chile, and Peru are highlighted briefly in a single chapter that is followed by separate chapters on Colombia, Brazil, and Venezuela. African and European golds are illustrated in the next two chapters. These are followed by a chapter devoted to Russia and Siberia. Next appear two short chapters that focus on Japan and China. Then comes a lengthy treatment of Australia and a much shorter one of New Zealand. Afghanistan, India, Sumatra, and the Philippines appear in a two-page chapter. The book closes with golds from Papua New Guinea. The final twenty pages are ads for dealers who carry fine gold specimens. Each contains one or more photographs of exemplary gold specimens they have had or currently have in stock.

As a gold collector, I am partial to this book, for if nothing else it beautifully documents many of the finest known gold specimens, some of which are rarely viewed by other collectors much less the general public. Featured collections include those of Wayne and Dona Leicht, Keith and Mauna Proctor, Dave Bunk, Frank Dzubeck, and others. The title is a little misleading because in relative terms gold nuggets are hardly given a passing glance, photographically, and collectors of such might be left wondering why. As previously mentioned, the overall quality of the photographs is very high, so much so that it is critical that one read the captioned specimen sizes so that large photographs of small specimens are not equated with equally good, similar photographs of much larger pieces.

The book does contain areas for possible improvement. The introductory text for each chapter is difficult to read because the font is too small, and there is a critical lack of contrast between it and the stark blackness of the page as a whole. A slightly larger font and a lighter print, similar to that of some figure captions, would make the text far more readable. The binding is loose and imperfect in my copy. There are no references; a few added to each chapter's introductory remarks would have allowed the interested reader to seek out additional information as well as served to identify the source of the information being presented. Figures are not numbered. A list of figures with numbers would be a helpful addition and would allow the text comments to clearly reference specific specimen photographs. This is particularly important because the book has no index. There are instances of misinformation, such as stating that the California and Alaskan gold rushes were both in 1848; that the Klondike is in the United States rather than Canada; that gold was discovered at Sutter's Creek, California, rather than at Sutter Creek near Caloma (two quite different places); and so on. There are also a few inconsistencies such as the Roadrunner specimen is shown on page 15 as originating in California, whereas the text on the same page refers to it as coming from Colorado. The details of gold's geologic occurrences and related mineralogy are not covered in sufficient detail, but rumor has it that these more technical aspects are to be covered in a second companion book. This is a good idea and would make the book pair a far more important contribution than the first book alone.

Gold for Collectors is an excellent reference for non-nugget gold specimens attributed to specific worldwide localities. It is quite likely that the various collections featured will not again be assembled photographically under one roof, and the book is important in this regard. Although carefully edited by John S. White, some of his corrections were not made, and issues of accuracy, spelling, and grammar remain. The book would certainly have benefited from a final editorial proofing, a step that was apparently omitted in the rush to publish. Still, I recommend this book for anyone interested in gold specimens, for the photographs are a great substitute for having the specimens themselves.       


Collector's Guide to Herkimer Diamonds by Michael R. Walter. Schiffer Publishing, Ltd., 4880 Lower Valley Rd., Atglen, PA 19310; 96 pages; 2014; $19.99 plus shipping and handling (softbound).          

Collector's Guide to Herkimer Diamonds is volume 18 of Schiffer's Earth Science Monograph series. Unlike many of the others in this series that are devoted to specific minerals or mineral families/groups, this book is a thorough and relatively detailed treatment of a peculiar and very popular variety of quartz, Herkimer diamonds. Included are their history, where they occur, how to collect them, the minerals they occur with, and how to prepare and properly maintain a good collection of them. Michael R. Walter, a teacher by profession, is well suited to the task as a collector of these intriguing crystals for thirty-five years and a mineral dealer focusing in part on those occurring in New York State.

The book begins with a table of contents, a foreword from the series editor, an informative preface, and acknowledgments. Chapter 1, the introduction, presents the fundamentals of quartz, emphasizing the difference between Herkimer diamonds and the more typically seen, prismatic, less-lustrous, and limpid crystals. For those just entering the hobby, this is a very basic, understandable presentation. Chapter 2 lays out the history of Herkimer diamonds, beginning with their apparent importance to the Mohawk Indians. Here the term Herkimer diamond is defined and discussed and its path through the technical literature outlined. Also detailed in this chapter are the geology of the deposits, petrology, and how the crystals formed. Chapter 3 asks a simple question: Why collect Herkimer diamonds? The short answer in this short chapter is because it is challenging, fun, and frequently rewarding. Chapter 4, the longest in the book at 20 pages, is titled “The Mines.” It covers the four currently active commercial mines, closed locations, and locations outside the traditional Herkimer diamond area. The chapter is particularly well illustrated with examples of crystals characteristic of each locality. Chapter 5 discusses appropriate collecting gear and the ins and outs of how to use specific pieces. The details of pocket excavation are covered here, and the chapter is far more than just a list of field equipment. Chapter 6 answers the ultimate question: Once at a collecting site, where do I dig? The chapter is full of good advice, and, interestingly, the longest section is titled “I'm Not a Field Collector!” Chapter 7 is a good discussion of specimen preparation and includes a section on specimen repair, reassembly, and restoration, topics particularly cogent relative to Herkimers. Chapters 8 and 9 deal with mineral collections, particularly areas of specialization and “variations on a theme.” These include single crystals, clusters, druses, matrix specimens, parallel growth, twins, scepters, tabular crystals, skeletal and prismatic crystals, and inclusions, to name but a few of the topics. Chapter 10 discusses associated minerals, with good descriptions of calcite, dolomite, iron sulfides, and hydrocarbons. Chapter 11 is a half-page of final thoughts. The book closes with seven short though useful appendices that include a set of simple maps, historical crystal drawings, and analytical data; a glossary; and a listing of references.

Collector's Guide to Herkimer Diamonds is a well-written, technical-when-need-be treatment of virtually every aspect of one of the most collectible varieties of quartz. It is well illustrated with a whopping 223 figures. Most are photographs taken by Walter. The editing, layout, and binding are good. It is an interesting book, one that most mineral collectors will find worthwhile regardless of their degree of interest in Herkimer diamonds. For a definitive work, it is a great buy and worth a place in any collector's library.


Roadside Geology of Alaska, 2nd ed., by Cathy Conner. Mountain Press, PO Box 2399, Missoula, MT 59806; 317 pages; 2014; $26 plus shipping and handling (softbound).

This, one of the most recent Mountain Press releases, presents an ambitious and successful attempt to present the geology of Alaska and important areas of adjacent Canada in the context of roadside geology. This is a difficult task indeed when one considers the vast areas involved and the paucity of roads along which to observe an array of complex geologic features. In fact, there are so few roads in most of Alaska that it is essentially roadless over about three-quarters of its area. This has required the presentation of the state's geology for areas that for the most part cannot be observed from a roadway, yet must be understood in order to interpret what one is able to see from roads that in some instances are hundreds of miles away for the salient features that control what the traveler might see.

The book begins with an initial presentation of the geology of Alaska arranged chronologically through geologic time. Good presentations are made of Alaska's complex tectonic history and related climate variations. Sections include clear treatments of the supercontinent Pangea and the Permian extinction, the Cretaceous inland sea, arctic dinosaurs, Cenozoic faults, Pleistocene ice ages, and sections on relatively recent glacial movement, warming climate, natural resources, and human culture.

Once the general geologic stage is set, four major chapters follow, each dealing with a specific geographic segment of the state. Each chapter is further divided into sections that discuss the most important geologic features of the area, followed by a collection of guides that deal with geology along specific highway segments. The first area is “Southeast Alaska and Coastal British Columbia.” The chapter covers the Alexander and Taku terranes, coastal plutonic complexes and shear zones, the Queen Charlotte–Fairweather fault, and glaciations and sea level. The guides generally move from south to north and include North Vancouver Island, the Ketchikan area, Prince of Wales Island, the Wrangell area, Juneau and Hanes, and Glacier Bay National Park. The second area (Chapter 3) covers south-central Alaska and the Aleutians. The Aleutian subduction zone and its volcanoes, the great Alaskan earthquake of 1964, glacial Lake Ahtna, and the Wrangellia, Peninsular, and Chugach and Prince William terranes are discussed initially. Eleven guides follow and include Kodiak Island, Parks Highway; Denali National Park and Preserve; Kenai Fjords National Park; and Seward, Sterling, Glen, and Richardson highways; Katmai National Park and Preserve; and Lake Clark National Park and Preserve. Chapter 4 deals with interior Alaska and parts of the Yukon and includes initial discussions of the Northern Cordilleran Volcanic Province and the Cassiar; Yukon-Tanana; Stikine, Quesnel, and Cach Creek; and Seventymile Terranes. Area guides include the Fairbanks area; segments of the Taylor, Klondike, and Alaskan highways; and the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve. The fourth and final area is Arctic Alaska and begins with discussions of the Brooks Range, North Slope oil, northern Alaska coal, and the Avak Crater. There are almost no roads here, but a guide is presented for the Dalton Highway from Livengood to Prudhoe Bay and includes the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The book closes with a useful glossary and listing of references.

Roadside Geology of Alaska is a beautifully illustrated book, containing many very useful and easy-to-read geologic maps complemented by photographs of sites described in the guides as well as historically significant images. The text, which makes understandable relatively complex geology, is well written and edited and is of the quality we have learned to expect from Mountain Press. The book is a significant improvement over the first edition and should be a popular handbook for those traveling through Alaska by car, truck, or camper, as well as persons taking the ever-popular coastal cruises.       

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