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Pala Mineralis / Minformation 24/7 masthead

August 2017

Table of Contents

Denver Fine Mineral Show: Sept. 13–16, 2017

Pala International will exhibit at the fourth annual Denver Fine Mineral Show in nearby Golden. This year the Fine Mineral Show overlaps with the 50th Annual Denver Gem & Mineral Show at the Denver Mart Expo Hall, September 13–16.

Cover star for the Denver Fine Mineral Show is a 6-inch-tall citrine quartz on smoky quartz, photographed by Tom Spann. It was collected by George Fisher quite some time back from the Fisher Claims in Park County, Colorado.

  • When: Sept. 13–16, 2017
  • Where: Denver Marriott West, 1717 Denver West Bl., Golden
  • Room 219
  • Hours:
    Wed.–Fri.: 10 a.m.–6 p.m.
    Sat.: 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
  • Admission: Free and open to the public

We look forward to seeing our many friends there.

Visit the Pala International Show Schedule for future events.

While in the Denver Area…

In Golden be sure to visit the Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum. For more on the museum, see "Glittering in Golden" from our April 2016 newsletter.


Mineralientage München 54th Munich Mineral Show: October 27–29, 2017

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

When: October 27–29, 2017
Where: Munich Trade Fair Centre
Hours: 9:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. each day
   Friday, October 27 (Trade only)
   Saturday, October 28 and Sunday, October 29 (Trade and public)

This year's theme is "From Mine to Mine." The Forum Minerale series of lectures will be posted later (see the 2016 program here).

Marcus Budil shares with us some real Show Stoppers as Host Alan Hart visits the Budil booth at the 2016 Munich Show.

The African Queen

Connoisseurs of fine fluorite have a fantastic chance to view the largest known "alien eye" specimen now on permanent display at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. Currently in the possession of collector and philanthropist Lyda Hill the specimen is a focal point for the Gems and Mineral Hall that bears her name.

Eyes of Africa, from Erongo, Namibia. (Photo: Perot Museum of Nature and Science news release)

Eyes of Africa, from Erongo, Namibia. (Photo: Perot Museum of Nature and Science news release)

The specimen, dubbed Eyes of Africa, stands two feet tall. It is made up of clusters of semi-translucent white quartz and green-and-black alien eye fluorites, which surround the tall, slender, beautifully terminated central quartz crystal. The museum's news release describes the specimen perfectly. 

Alien Eyes are a unique and unusual subset of fluorite, differentiated by a vivid green color and black outer zones that create a diamond shape at each crystal's center. They also have a naturally formed, complex crystal habit in the form of cuboctahedra (eight triangular faces and six square faces). With light, Alien Eye fluorites glow with an incredible otherworldly quality that inspired their name.

The specimen hails from the Alien Eye pocket in Erongo, Namibia. Miner Herold Gariseb and crew worked that pocket from which fewer than thirty fine specimens were recovered. Highly collectable, the specimen could have been snatched up quickly when it was unearthed ten years ago, but Gariseb felt it was too special, stowing it in the trunk of his white Mercedes-Benz, which earned the nickname White Whale. Collectors Mark Kielbaso and Jürgen Tron finally tracked down the car and made an offer to which Gariseb agreed. The specimen was shipped abroad swathed in four hundred diapers. Hill later acquired Eyes of Africa and is "delighted that millions of visitors to the Perot Museum will now get a chance to witness its radiance and glory for themselves."

Pala International News

Will Heierman Corundum

This fantastic specimen is from the Will Heierman corundum collection. Will was the most avid corundum collector for many years and focused on specimens from all worldwide locations. In his time collecting this was one of the finest Afghanistan rubies he was able to acquire. What makes this specimen stand out in comparison to many others is the size of the crystals and their luster and quality. If you are interested in adding a fine corundum this could be the one for you!

Ruby from Jagdalek, Surobi District, Kaboi Province, Afghanistan, 7 x 5.5 x 4 cm. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Ruby from Jagdalek, Surobi District, Kaboi Province, Afghanistan, 7 x 5.5 x 4 cm. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

Interested? Contact us.


49 Bye-Byes

McLean, Stordahl-Hall, and Hughes Retire from Pala International

John McLean and Jill Stordahl-Hall both retired from Pala International on Friday, June 30. Margaritas, memories and more were had at Fallbrook's Casa Estrella. By our count there were 18½ attendees including the honorees. David Hughes will join them in retirement after the August 15 edition of Palagems Reflective Index, sibling to this newsletter.

A fond farewell. The Pala crew congratulates Jill Stordahl-Hall (second from left) and John McLean (far right) on the occasion of their retirement. Also pictured are Jeanne and Bill Larson. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

A fond farewell. The Pala crew congratulates Jill Stordahl-Hall (second from left) and John McLean (far right) on the occasion of their retirement. Also pictured are Jeanne and Bill Larson. (Photo: Mia Dixon)

About the retirees…

John McLean

John McLean leaves a hole at Pala International, although of late he was likely to have been seen in one because of his mining activity for the firm. He came to Pala in 1971 after two years in the Peace Corps and has been in charge of our mining and mineral division ever since. John was Pala's original mineral photographer and at one time or another he has worked virtually every important gem deposit in San Diego County, including the Stewart, the Tourmaline Queen, and the Himalaya. John also prepared many specimens from those mines, bringing out the hidden beauty of pieces now gracing the greatest mineral collections in the world, including the Smithsonian, American Museum of Natural History, the Carnegie and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

Jill Stordahl-Hall will be greatly missed here at Pala International and The Collector Fine Jewelry. She was, as she puts it, "shoved" into the accounting profession when she was 19 years old because she aced the math test when applying for a job in downtown Los Angeles at Transamerica Corporation. Following that, she worked in Beverly Hills, Cal., and Durand, Mich., as an accountant and later gypsied off to Las Vegas, Nev. where she also worked as an accountant for a Wild West attraction called Old Nevada (to which she's been happy to return during the annual AGTA GemFair). Upon Jill's move to Fallbrook in 1980 she got the bookkeeper job at Pala through Acme Employment Agency at the age of 28, and it was while working here that she met her future husband, Josh Hall, V.P. of the firm. They have been happily married for 22 years. Jill is now planning on sleeping in, playing with her cats and working out in her home gym.

Jill and John will be ably succeeded by Karen Russell and Casey Jones, respectively. Everyone at Pala International wishes them all the best in their retirement!

Back row and along wall: Casey Jones, Jane Jones, Mia Dixon, Josh Hall, Jill Stordahl-Hall, Roselie Mudd, Bill Larson, John McLean, Benjamin Castillo-Mesa, Graham and Jason Stephenson. Middle row: Carl Larson, Alison Larson, Ilka Bahn, Jeanne Larson, Karen Russell. At round table: Rika Larson, Valerie San Giacomo, Will Larson. Click to enlarge. (Photo: Carlos Estrella, Casa Estrella)

Back row and along wall: Casey Jones, Jane Jones, Mia Dixon, Josh Hall, Jill Stordahl-Hall, Roselie Mudd, Bill Larson, John McLean, Benjamin Castillo-Mesa, Graham and Jason Stephenson. Middle row: Carl Larson, Alison Larson, Ilka Bahn, Jeanne Larson, Karen Russell. At round table: Rika Larson, Valerie San Giacomo, Will Larson. Click to enlarge. (Photo: Carlos Estrella, Casa Estrella)

David Hughes

David Hughes joined Pala International as an independent contractor in 2005, hired to document procedures and maintain the firm's websites. As time went on, writing for the company's newsletters became David's primary function. Following is an excerpt from a longer article "Polishing Off a Career" in which he reminisces about the last dozen years and gives thanks to the many contributors to Pala's newsletters and websites.

What we've done at Pala International has been a team effort during my tenure as news editor and webmaster (I prefer websteward because few can master the ways of the Web). All of the Larsons—Bill and Jeanne, Will and Rika, Carl and Alison—provided me with suggestions, news tips and/or carefully considered write-ups from their travels and talks. How they had the time to focus on composition, given their hectic schedules, is a mystery, but there it was in my inbox. The Halls—Josh and Jill—with whom I had less interaction always kept me on the right track, and with an ample wallet. Gabrièl "Gabe" Mattice gave good advice when I was treading trade boundaries, reining me in, and when she had time she exercised herself under her own byline. I think it was John McLean who first gave me the news in 2006 that I'd be in charge of a bimonthly mineral newsletter in addition to the original for gems. He provided some of the first of our featured specimen photos. Wimon Manorotkul did the same as well as shooting each month's featured gemstone, beautifully. Jason Stephenson picked up the slack early on helping me keep deadlines and always coming through with an enticing description of our monthly showcase. He also contributed stand-alone articles and many a fine featured image and photomicrograph. Mia Dixon picked up where Wimon left off, honing her craft, and nowadays gracing us with sumptuous pairings of Pala's spectacular gemstones with intriguingly diverse flora from the Pala grounds.

The newsletters from here on out will be a collaborative effort by members of the Pala International staff, bringing a fresh perspective—on a new, quarterly basis. I look forward to receiving them.

Thank you to everyone, and especially Bill Larson, for making my job an easier one.


Gail @ Yale

Gail Copus Spann is in the news again, this time in her hometown newspaper The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass. "Quincy native's mineral specimens on display at Yale museum" is a charmingly personal profile of the prolific collector who with her husband Jim Spann have loaned 115 mineral specimens to the David Friend Hall at the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Gail likens the hall to "a cave of mystery."

A kunzite crystal from the collection of Jim and Gail Spann. (Photo courtesy Yale University)

A kunzite crystal from the collection of Jim and Gail Spann. (Photo courtesy Yale University)

Six months ago we teased readers regarding a yet-to-be published profile of the Yale gallery itself in INK Publications: "David Friend Hall: Dazzle, Adventure, and Vision." It's now online with gorgeous images of select specimens.

One aspect of the David Friend Hall that we may not have covered is the conceptual rigor that went into its design—down to such details as the desire for "reduced signage and wall text," according to the Peabody Museum. In pursuit of that goal Yale students developed the David Friend Hall app, which provides supplemental information on six signature specimens on display.

One aspect of the David Friend Hall that we may not have covered is the conceptual rigor that went into its design—down to such details as the desire for "reduced signage and wall text," according to the Peabody Museum. In pursuit of that goal Yale students developed the David Friend Hall app, which provides supplemental information on six signature specimens on display.

Industry News

Moonrock Bag Bagged

NASA missed out on recovering a collection bag laced with moon dust when it was sold at Sotheby's New York on July 20. The bag had been used by astronaut Neil Armstrong in 1969 during the first manned mission to the moon. In 2015 the bag was mistakenly offered to the public in an online government auction. Nancy Lee Carlson of suburban Chicago snapped it up for a cool $995. It sold at Sotheby's for $1.8 million—quite a return on investment.

The bag Neil Armstrong used to collect moon dust during the first lunar landing, along with other items linked to space travel, is being sold at Sotheby's New York to mark the 48th anniversary of the first lunar landing.

But the gravel-to-gavel story of what really is a priceless item (it did not reach its pre-sale estimate of $2 to $4 million) took a few turns. In 2006 one Max Ary, former director of Cosmosphere space museum in Hutchinson, Kansas, was convicted of stealing and selling museum objects, as reported by the Chicago Tribune on March 1 this year. During investigation of the theft the bag was auctioned for $24,150 but subsequently was seized from its buyer. The bag then pulled a switcheroo with a second bag containing no lunar debris. U.S. Marshals accidentally put the valuable bag on auction at its forfeiture sale website in order to obtain restitution in Ary's criminal case. With a reserve of $20,000 the supposedly clean bag was not going anywhere. Carlson, who collects, mm, objets d'espace, saw a second offering in February 2015 and bagged the bag. But it was anything but clean. Wanting to verify its residue she first contacted Chicago's Field Museum, which referred her to Houston's Johnson Space Center, which detected the mixup.

NASA refused to return the bag and a legal battle ensued and was settled last December when a federal judge ordered the bag returned to Carlson. The Tribune stated the decision "marks the only known case in which a private citizen has won ownership of a lunar object that the government had previously sold, apparently by mistake," according to involved attorneys. Moonrocks have routinely been given to foreign states and their dignitaries, eventually finding their way onto the black market, and some have been recovered.

Carlson considered public display of the bag but in the end decided on the sale, which was to benefit charities that include the Immune Deficiency Foundation, the Bay Cliff Health Camp, and to create a scholarship in speech pathology at her alma mater Northern Michigan University.


Northern California Gold Ru Flood

In a good year winter showers bring more than spring flowers at the edge of the Sacramento River's Great Valley. After the water moves on, gold can surface in relatively large quantities. Such is the case as told on July 21 by the San Francisco Chronicle. It's been one of those years. Bryant Shock, a prospecting-experience proprietor in Jamestown, said he's seen about a 25% jump in professional miners head to Northern California, which speaks volumes in a field where the savvy stay silent about their finds.

The Chronicle story is accompanied by a fun slide show that includes Gold Rush SF Prices Adjusted for Inflation. The $36 shovel shown here would have commanded $1,083 in 2016 dollars.

The Chronicle story is accompanied by a fun slide show that includes Gold Rush SF Prices Adjusted for Inflation. The $36 shovel shown here would have commanded $1,083 in 2016 dollars.

One spot where prospectors might be itching to dig is Oroville Dam, which experienced flooding and damage to its primary spillway this past winter due to the deluge. But a Bureau of Land Management rep threw cold water on the dam gravel, stating that extensive mining during the last two centuries would not allow new gold to have been distributed. And besides, the spillway isn't accessible to the public. Whether that quells the gold fever remains to be seen.


Trade Alert: Naughty-Naughty Nodules

The following report might appeal more to colored gemstone enthusiasts, but it did begin with water-worn rough—supposedly color-change garnet—purported to hail from Mahenge, Tanzania. Two nodules were supplied by gemstone lapidary Jeff Davis in Bangkok to dealer Jeffrey Bergman. Davis already had done a specific gravity test on the duo with a result of 3.48, which caused concern, even though the value is in the proper range for sinhalite—a species of garnet long believed to be peridot.

Bergman advised Davis to polish a window on one of the nodules in order to obtain an accurate refractive index. It was 1.66, also in the range of color-change sinhalite.

Fine tuning of the analysis was in order and, once performed, the material was revealed to be a color-change glass ceramic—artfully crafted with traces of dirt in the nodules' pockmarks. Read the full report here.


Michelangelo's Marble

As Sam Anderson writes in last summer's overview of Michelangelo's masterpiece, the block from which it was carved took two years to reach its destination in the 15th century—about two-hour drive today.

As Sam Anderson writes in last summer's overview of Michelangelo's masterpiece, the block from which it was carved took two years to reach its destination in the 15th century—about two-hour drive today.

Sunday's New York Times Magazine takes readers to "The Majestic Marble Quarries of Northern Italy" but the print version can't hold a miner's torch to the vertiginous depths and heights of the online version's title video clip. Staff writer Sam Anderson's brief but pithy profile of what the print edition called the "White Gold" of Carrara is liberally illustrated with Luca Locatelli's impressive photography.

The willow-white stuff has been harvested since Roman times, and because its employment was most spectacularly executed in seats of power, the challenge was in its transport. The Times story points out that what once were long hauls from the Apuan Alps—200 miles to Rome or 700 to London—now take place in the thousands. And not for puny statues—the 8.5 tons of Michelangelo's David notwithstanding—but for great buildings. Thus, as was pointed out in our April edition—see "A is for Anthropocene"—removal from quarries to distant lands could confuse the 101st-century scientist. And ultimately it means more marble will be outside the quarry than in it.

Recycle Bin

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

Beauty in Blemish

Atlanta photographer Nick Prince is a mineral collector. His two passions melded one day when he tested a camera lens using a random "rather mundane" specimen as a guinea pig. "The scene I captured was quite crude but was clearly a string of beautiful crystals inside the specimen. I was hooked," he wrote on an earlier version of his website for Prince Fine Photography.

Prince is struck by the fact that the arresting imagery in his mineral photographs comes from imperfections—inclusions often contained in "humble" specimens. "However, when viewed literally and figuratively from different perspectives, these 'flaws' often epitomize beauty itself," he writes. "Perfect examples of crystals […] represent a miraculous escape after spending millions of years in a constantly churning earth. […] The vast majority are not so lucky." For Prince, "the analog of minerals to people is striking." Indeed, for every Bruce Weber or Herb Ritts who have captured the well sculpted mortal form there may be a Matt Maturin or Katy Grannan who challenge viewers to behold the body beyond the blemish.

The images of Nick Prince—including the above (titled Under Construction)—were featured in Director's Cut at the Atlanta Photography Group in the Tula Art Center, a colony of artists' studios near the city's Memorial Park in Buckhead's Bennett Street arts district. The show is the APG director's annual chance to curate and display group members' work.

The images of Nick Prince—including the above (titled Under Construction)—were featured in Director's Cut at the Atlanta Photography Group in the Tula Art Center, a colony of artists' studios near the city's Memorial Park in Buckhead's Bennett Street arts district. The show is the APG director's annual chance to curate and display group members' work.


Burma Bird

Scientists in Burma found a piece of amber containing a baby bird that is dated to be 100 million years old. You can clearly see the wings and feet, and it is so well preserved that even the skin tissues are observable.


Thievery Operation

More than $30,000 worth of gems and minerals were stolen in the early morning of June 19 from the Franklin Mineral Museum located in Franklin, New Jersey, according to a story the next day in the New Jersey Herald. The burglars (identified in the plural) jumped a barbed wire fence and used a ladder to access a second-story window, rapelling down to the first floor where one (identified in the singular) received a nasty cut, the blood from which was found throughout the museum.

An alarm was tripped at about 4:40 a.m. but a responding police officer found nothing amiss. In the end several display cases were shattered. Police said that the stolen items included emeralds, diamonds, topaz, opals and more, most of which came from the Franklin area.

Two days later a local resident posted a $1000 reward, matched the next day by Sussex County Crime Stoppers. In a twist, the Crime Stoppers ask that respondents contact the Franklin Police directly, which assures confidentiality (Det. Daniel Flora at 862-273-5170 or Det. Sgt. Nevin Mattessich at 862-268-1401).

Six years ago the nearby Sterling Hill Mining Museum was hit with a theft of gold valued then at $400,000. The $25,000 reward still stands. Images of the stolen gold can be viewed on the Mineralogical Record website.

In addition to mineral and geological exhibits the Franklin Museum displays Native American artifacts, fossils and a mine replica. The museum's famous fluorescent mineral collection was recently featured at the NY/NJ Mineral, Fossil, Gem and Jewelry Show.

Local and visiting mineral lovers have the perfect chance to support the museum right now through September 12 by attending its annual Summer Mineral Sale. On offer at a 10% discount are specimens from Franklin and Sterling Hill as well as from across the globe. The sale is held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. More events, including September's 61st Annual Franklin-Sterling Gem & Mineral Show, are listed on the museum's calendar.


Diamond News

Diamond Demurred

In the April edition of our e-newsletter we mentioned a 706-carat rough diamond unearthed by Sierra Leone pastor Emmanuel A. Momoh during alluvial mining not unlike that which takes place at Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas. Momoh turned over the diamond to the country's president for a future sale whereby the pastor would be remunerated.

The diamond—the second largest ever to be found in Sierra Leone—was offered at auction with sealed bids originally to be received through April 6, according to Rapaport. Only serious bidders needed apply: bidding documents were to be issued upon payment of a non-refundable $5,000 fee together with a $50,000 deposit. It was not reported whether any bidders were game. There was, in fact, a delay…

On April 9 Rapaport reported that the bidding actually would take place on May 11 with sealed bids being opened that same day. AFP contradicted this somewhat by stating on April 6 that bids would be accepted up until May 10, also reporting that the Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources had tried to clean the rough diamond "but it was not enough to be able to set an accurate estimate of its value."

Nevertheless a value of some sort was set because the five bids received—from $2 million to $7.8 million—came in short of an undisclosed reserve, as reported by Newsweek. Saying that he now wants the diamond to be sold abroad in order "to enable many people to benefit," Momoh—still the official owner of the stone—also said he expects not less than $50 million for it.

The Lingering Lesedi La Rona

A year ago the 1,109-carat Lesedi La Rona rough diamond failed to meet its reserve price on June 29, so the stone was retained by Lucara Diamond Corp. (See our "When the Rough Gets Going the Going Gets Rough") Today Canada's Financial Post carried a follow-up story one year on. The firm had hoped that in a year or two a collector with an eye might pony up. That was before its stock plummeted 30% from late last year.

The technology allowing recovery of larger and larger diamonds is only going to get better and the challenge of unloading a huge rough will linger. The Financial Post examines Lucara's few options.


— End August Newsletter • Published 8/2/17 —

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