I'm Kris Rowe, co-proprietor of Lapidary Specialties, headquartered in Fresno, California.
We stock a selection of Lapidary materials and gemstones, and perform and teach Lapidary. We produce free-form cut gemstones, sculptures, and lead collecting and surface mining trips for individuals and groups who share our interests.
I've been a lapidary enthusiast and jewelsmith since 1979, and am assisted in my pursuits by my life partner, Laura. A longtime jewelry and gem collector, her passion for design is leading her to learn wire wrapping, to easily utilize the stones I cut. She's also a beader, and you'll see our creations featured here from time to time.
I know that "howdy" makes me sound like "the old prospector," and sometimes (well, MOST of the time) I even look like one. Such times are the ones that you'll catch me with a silly grin on my face, covered with mud or clay, smiling up as I thrust my hand from a hole in the ground to show you a treasure I've just unearthed!
For instance, just this past weekend, we attended the annual Searles Valley Gem-O-Rama, held the second weekend of October, in Trona, California.
For 3 days each year, Trona loses it's sleepy, quiet desert demeanor, and becomes a bustling micropolis of (dusty) rockhounds, RVer's, college geology students, foreign tourists, city kids, harried parents, and most notably, grinning people of all ages, spattered with stinky mud or salty brine.
So, what's the attraction to this remote and unfashionable outpost of industrial America? In a word, SALT!
Salt? Well, if you need salt, why not just go to the dollar store and grab some?
Well, as you can see from my title picture, this definitely isn't your average table salt!
Trona, home to Searles Valley Minerals, is one of the great producers of alkaline and saline minerals, for more purposes than you (or I) can possibly imagine. Yes, table salt is just the beginning, and I'll let you follow the link and find it's uses for yourself.
The Searles Valley, and more specifically, Searles Lake, is one of the worlds great treasure troves of saline and alkaline minerals. It's one of 2 places that the rare mineral Hanksite is found, and the type locality for that and many minerals. (See Mindat.org for detailed mineral and type descriptions.)
More about Hanksite in my next post, this one's about SALT!
Salt (Sodium Chloride), in it's raw mineral form, is known by the name of Halite. A common mineral, it's found nearly everywhere, especially in water. Which, of course, explains why it would be found in Searles Lake.
As you've can see, this is no pedestrian table salt. In the world of Salt, this is Marilyn Monroe! Endless variations on the classical cubic crystal form appear within the same brine pond, most notably textbook cubic and hoppered forms, but with fascinating variations.
This is a prime example of the hoppered form of Halite, and exhibits the most notable characteristic of Searles Lake Halite, its distinctive coloration, due to bio-pigmentation.
This beauty is a Museum class cabinet specimen of Halite,
with predominantly cubic crystal form, and delicate pale pink color.
Most of the crystals on this one are transparent.
Closeups - Left side of the specimen pictured above, Right side below.
Notice the bright reflection from the crystal faces.
Halite must be stored & displayed in a low humidity environment,
and pink pigmented Halite should be stored in low or no light when not being viewed, to minimize color fading.
The rich wine red of this Halite specimen is caused by algae in the brine pools, becoming locked within the Halite crystals as they form.
Halite forms quickly, since salt is extremely soluble in water.
Due to its ready solubility and softness (Mohs 3 - 3.5), it isn't considered a gemstone, but I wish it was! What color!
Many stones and specimens can be sold and shipped as soon as they're mined, but it's been a week, and we're still waiting as our Halite dries out. Since it must be stored dry, and shipping will involve sealing it tightly against outside water and the faint, but ever present sulfur odor it exudes, we have to make sure it's completely dry.
We hope that this process will be complete by October 25th, and will be listing over 100 widely varying specimens of Halite on Ebay, with prices starting at just 99 cents, USD!
*UPDATE!!! * We have auctions posted to eBay every weekend, and all shipping is FREE! This makes it easier for our loyal customers to simply pay the amount of their winning bid, and have no further worries about additional charges.
Feel free to email for more pics, or to inquire about our merchandise or services. I'll post our entire rock photo gallery asap!