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Pala Mineralis / Minformation 24/7 masthead

October 2016

I see the visuals of this video as a metaphor of the mineral and gemstone experience: wonder, aestheticism, desire, scientific inquiry, the role of photography, and finally the many manners in which women themselves are viewed in the industry. I'm especially reminded of Gail Copus Spann's comment in 2014 about browsing at the Tucson show "as a woman alone—and, boy, was that different from roaming around with Jim." —David Hughes

Table of Contents

Mineralientage München 53rd Munich Mineral Show: October 28–30, 2016

Pala International's Bill Larson and Will Larson will attend this year’s Munich Show.

When: October 28–30, 2016
Where: Munich Trade Fair Centre
Hours: 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM each day
   Friday, October 28 (Trade only)
   Saturday, October 29 and Sunday, October 30 (Trade and public)

This year's theme is "The Museums' Hidden Treasures."

Raquel Alonso-Perez, Curator of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard University (see below), will attend the show, where the museum will display the Hamlin Necklace alongside a suite of cut Hamlin gemstones and rough tourmaline material from Maine. She will give a presentation on the history and scientific significance of the necklace and Maine Tourmalines on Saturday at 5 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

Pala International News

Pala International's featured mineral this month is a fine gold specimen from a relatively new find in Brazil. The majority of this material came to the market in early 2016, with some specimens only trickling out recently. This month we can offer one of our fine crystalized golds for a collector interested in a beautiful small miniature for their collection.  

Gold, Pontes e Lacerda, Brazil, 3.5 x 2 cm, 16.58 grams. Price available upon request. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Gold, Pontes e Lacerda, Brazil, 3.5 x 2 cm, 16.58 grams. Price available upon request. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Interested? Contact us.

Mineral and Mineralogy News

Museum News

Harvard Mineral Collections on Google Cultural Institute

Readers of our pages are well aware of the treasures of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum of Harvard University. Now, more than 150 of the museum's most compelling mineral specimens and jewels are available for virtual browsing via Google Cultural Institute. Categories currently viewable include a dozen countries and localities as well as a necklace group devoted to the Hamlin Necklace with its lovely tourmalines.

Three exhibits also are featured: Opals, Albert Burrage and His Rare Golds, and The Hamlin Collection. These allow the viewer to really dig in regarding a favorite subject, with archival material interspersed with large-scale imagery.

The Madagascar collection, above, features chrysoberyl, tourmaline, jasper and labradorite.

The Madagascar collection, above, features chrysoberyl, tourmaline, jasper and labradorite.

Google Cultural Institute, via Google Arts & Culture, brings visitors to more than a thousand of the world's finest museums.


A Unique Sort of Virtual Museum

For attorney Christopher Barr, the streets of his District of Columbia area home are a virtual museum—or, rather, the buildings that line them are. An August 18 profile of Barr in The Washington Post "Express" notes that he walks about twelve miles each day, and happened to notice that many of the buildings he passes are built with stone containing fossils. Because no one else has done so, he has documented his findings at his Guide to Washington's Accidental Museum of Paleontology. (To be fair, he does acknowledge the few existing resources that preceded him.) In all of this, he's made the boulevards of D.C. a unique sort of virtual museum.

Barr has been on the lookout since 2002, and when he finds a fossil, he determines the nature of its host rock and then discusses the find with scientists before posting photos and background information on his website. We couldn't resist asking if we could post the following image, since it comes from the Reptile House at the National Zoo.

These ammonite shell fossils appear in a pillar flanking the Reptile House's ornately decorated arched portal, the enchanting details of which Barr documents in Gallery 8 – Jurassic (a baker's dozen of his galleries are placed in geologic periods). (Photo courtesy Christopher Barr)

These ammonite shell fossils appear in a pillar flanking the Reptile House's ornately decorated arched portal, the enchanting details of which Barr documents in Gallery 8 – Jurassic (a baker's dozen of his galleries are placed in geologic periods). (Photo courtesy Christopher Barr)

Seeing the ammonite, we were reminded of the photograph by Sara Oros of an ammonite from Madagascar, in Elise Skalwold's profile of the photographer, "Within Nature's Design"—from our FotogFocus series.


Mines' Museum Gets Sweet Surprise

In August, the Colorado School of Mines received an unexpected gift: two vanloads of 150 boxes of gems, mineral specimens and meteorites worth $1.75 million. The gift is from the estate of Hilja Herfurth, who died in June, and whose previously deceased husband Gerry collected the items. The 800 new pieces add to the 600 Hilja donated to the school's Geology Museum following Gerry's death in 1999. The couple had no apparent connection to the school previously. The museum's curator Bruce Geller said that the caliber of the donation is so fine that he foresees many of the specimens replacing what's in the present collection. For more, see stories in the Denver Post and BusinessDen.

Items from the Herfurth collection are currently on display. The couple is pictured at upper left. Photo from a September 23 news release.

Items from the Herfurth collection are currently on display. The couple is pictured at upper left. Photo from a September 23 news release.


Crystal Raising on García Lorca Street

Dagger blade from Structure 10.049 (PP4-Montelirio sector). It is more than 20 cm long. (Photo: © Antonio Morgado)

Dagger blade from Structure 10.049 (PP4-Montelirio sector). It is more than 20 cm long. (Photo: © Antonio Morgado)

Noche abajo los dos. Cristal de pena,
llorabas tú por hondas lejanías
Night behind us. Crystal of pain,
you were crying for deep distances
     — Federico García Lorca

In recent years, Late Prehistoric archeological sites in the metropolitan area of Seville, Spain have yielded rock crystal fragments, blades and arrowheads. Fragments were found in neighborhoods with names like Calle Trabajadores (Workers Street, perhaps a nod to the Republicans of the Civil War) and Calle García Lorca, named after the famous granadino poet. In August 2015, lead investigator Prof. Antonio Morgado of the University of Granada and colleagues issued a study of the artifacts, "The allure of rock crystal in Copper Age southern Iberia: Technical skill and distinguished objects from Valencina de la Concepción (Seville, Spain)."

The objects under study "form the most technically sophisticated and esthetically impressive collection of rock crystal material culture ever found in Prehistoric Iberia," according to the study's abstract. And esthetic they are. The arrowheads are like dancing teardrops; the dagger blade, like an icy cypress. Three objects were analyzed for provenance, and while no conclusions were reached, two potential sources are suggested, both several hundred km away from Seville. Quartz and rock crystal objects were not uncommon as funerary items in the 4th and 3rd millennia B.C.E., but after that time the practice of including them drops off almost completely.

The arrowheads' "appendices" (or dancing feet in our analogy above) would have required quite a bit of skill to fashion. "This culminated in the craft specialisation of rock crystal work," the study states, "with these objects bringing together the techno-economic characteristics of the concept: a rare raw material, a technical process involving an initiation and prolonged learning process and an end use beyond the practical use or the domestic context."

The study then turns to the nature of the society that would have crafted these objects (citing writers like Mircea Eliade), as well as the significance of the employment of the beautiful material. Also discussed is a crystal core specimen about 10 cm in length.

¡Salud!

Pala Presents

Gem and Mineral Ephemera, San Diego County

With Pala Presents, we offer selections from the library of Pala International’s Bill Larson, who shares some of the wealth of information in the realm of minerals and mineralogy.

In an attempt at self-promotion, the San Diego County Supervisors in about 1907 issued a thirty-two-page booklet with the intriguing subtitle Sparkling with Gems and Rioting in Opportunity. It's full of facts and figures regarding gems and minerals, and also includes city growth statistics for 1901 and 1906 as well as several photographs.

And, because we've had fun over the years in Pala Presents with run-on sentences, here's how the San Diego booklet closes.

The foregoing pages have dealt but briefly with the mineral resources of this truly wonderful county, and these, in connection with the other natural advantages of climate, soils and commercial possibilities, cause the San Diegan to believe that this land has been especially blessed, and with this feeling of assurance the inhabitants of San Diego County invite all who read this little book, to come and see for themselves and become, for the time being, San Diego's honored guest; to drink deeply of its life-giving airs, laden with the fragrance of lemon groves; to revel in the luxury of a climate which official meteorological records prove to be the most equable in the world; to share in the development of San Diego's unparalleled list of natural resources; to have a part in the great commercial destiny that awaits upon San Diego's perfect harbor at the completion of the Panama Canal. We invite you to come, and once here you will not wish to renew life under the hard conditions and meagre gifts of other regions, but you will rather unite your brain and capital with San Diego's resources and certainly achieve the two essential elements of happiness—a well-filled purse and a restful state of mind.

In our next edition we'll look at a brochure created by John W. Ware, a local jeweler and gemologist—who also turns out to be a poet.

What different mineral types can be found in this matrix specimen from San Diego County? (Hint: there are at least seven.)

What different mineral types can be found in this matrix specimen from San Diego County? (Hint: there are at least seven.)

Recycle Bin

As we often do, here we offer two August and September items from our sibling e-publication, Palagems Reflective Index.

Pork Belly "To Go" to Houston on Oct. 23

Houstonians and visitors have three months to catch the "Priceless Pork Belly" on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The "meat-shaped stone" is part of "Emperors' Treasures: Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Taipei."

The exhibition's San Francisco curator takes the prospective Houston viewer through five highlights from the show.

The savory sculpture was carved in the Qing dynasty (1644–1912) from a chunk of banded jasper that already displayed most of the necessary mimicry. The artist then stained the "skin" at top, and added painted veining. The piece is on its first trip outside of Asia, to quite some acclaim: Anthony "Parts Unknown" Bourdain called the sculpture "the pork of my dreams." While exhibited in San Francisco this summer, the artwork inspired a tie-in—"Priceless Pork Belly, Plated"—twelve eateries' tribute dishes on menus for only four weeks in June and July.


The Material Side of Painting

We have pointed our readers from time to time to the affairs of the Mineralogical and Geological Museum at Harvard University (see, e.g.,"Appraising Harvard Redux"). But now the Harvard Art Museums feature an installation highlighting the "material side of painting"—as in the employment of lapis lazuli in the studio art of Renaissance Europe. The Painter on Display is a temporary installation displaying the artist's tools, as shown below, along with the results.

Pictured are a chunk of lapis lazuli, a vial of the powdered pigment, and a late 18th- or early 19th-century animal-skin bladder that was used like the modern-day paint tube, sealed with ivory tacks. (Photo courtesy Harvard Art Museums)

Pictured are a chunk of lapis lazuli, a vial of the powdered pigment, and a late 18th- or early 19th-century animal-skin bladder that was used like the modern-day paint tube, sealed with ivory tacks. (Photo courtesy Harvard Art Museums)

Hyperallergic Newsletter contributor Allison Meier visited the exhibition, which is in the rococo and neoclassicism gallery, and used it as a springboard for a larger exploration of the use of lapis in painting: "Lapis Lazuli: A Blue More Precious than Gold." She also visited the Forbes Pigment Collection—yes, even pigments have their place in such institutions.


Portfolio of Gems

In August and September, we featured sixteen illustrations from a German textbook that were reproduced as part of a gemology correspondence course. Each illustration is captioned in German, with an English translation.

For Fun…

New York-based makeup artist Johannah Adams was inspired by a geode necklace to incorporate its form into a makeup design.


— End October Newsletter • Published 10/3/16 —

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