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January-February 2017

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Introduction to Tucson 2017: Mineral Treasures of the Midwest

DO YOU FEEL IT? The Midwest is moving west, at least for a few weeks this February. The fabulous mineral treasures of the sixteen Midwestern states are the theme of the 2017 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show® (informally known as the Main Show), continuing a long and impressive string of geographic, species, and related theme topics. The list of important specimen- and gem-producing districts in Midwestern states is impressive and includes the historic Joplin or Tristate district, famous for its galena, sphalerite, calcite, and dolomite specimens; the Arkansas quartz district, the source of some of the world's finest quartz specimens; the southern Illinois fluorite district; Michigan's Upper Peninsula Copper Country; rare pegmatitic phosphates of South Dakota's Black Hills; and zinc deposits related to the Nashville Dome, home of the famous Gordonsville and Elmwood calcite, fluorite, sphalerite, and galena specimens, to name only a few.

Even more impressive is the Midwest region's total number of species and the wide geographic distribution of their occurrences as indicated by the compilation of state mineral indexes by the Friends of Mineralogy. Twelve such Midwestern state indexes have been published by Rocks & Minerals (see table) in which detailed lists of a state's significant mineral localities are given county by county. The lists are extensive and certainly serve to illustrate the diversity of each state's mineralogy.

In addition to the more familiar specimen minerals, there are attractive and highly collectible Midwestern agates from the Lake Superior region, Kentucky, and the Dakotas. Other odd and unusual mineral collectibles include the attractive Michigan Petoskey stones, Michigan datolite nodules, and exceptional Iowa quartz-crystal geodes. Rounding out the gem-related species are Arkansas diamonds, still being found at several public parks and private facilities.

So, if you think that the best things to come out of the Midwest are the interstate highways that get you through it rapidly, then slow down and be prepared for a big Tucson surprise. You are about to see Midwestern minerals like never before. Hundreds of mineral dealers, both at the Main Show at the Convention Center as well as the many satellite venues, will dazzle you with their best Midwestern specimens. Dealers of rough cutting material and jewelry, especially those specializing in agates, will be there to quench your thirst for that special cabochon or polished slab. For those interested in high-end finished stones and jewelry, there will be special early shows, some of which do require dealer credentials to attend. Add to this the peripheral dealers in beads, rugs, African carvings, books, mining relics, and even art, and the variety of items crying out at you to take them home seems endless. There are also the usual opportunities for intellectual stimulation that include symposia and related talks held in conjunction with the Main Show and an array of special exhibits taking center stage on the show floor. So, don't just put the Midwest in your collecting rearview mirror, it's actually lurking just up ahead in southern Arizona. We urge you to make this another Tucson year, or if you have never attended, now is your chance. We look forward to seeing you there!

Dr. Robert B. Cook, an executive editor of Rocks & Minerals, is a professor emeritus in the Department of Geosciences at Auburn University.

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