Saturday, February 21, 2009

Into the Great White Evaporites!

This week, I stumbled over a file box full of untouched "Blow Pipe" minerals from our October trip to Searles Lake. Like the others, the box had preserved the natural moisture and salinity levels, and had ended up being buried in the garage before Christmas. Needless to say, I was quite pleased, since I was afraid that I'd hallucinated and vastly overestimated the amount we'd brought home from "the Pipes."

I LOVE the look of this ... ummm ... well, here's where things get interesting.
Being only a Humble (but Lovable!) "Cowboy Geologist" and neophyte mineral collector,
I'm not sure whether this is a hanksite with tincalconite, or borax with tincalconite.

I'm getting to be a little better photographer and made an effort to get a good representation
of this crystal, varying the lighting, and trying my hardest to bring across the visual feel of the tincalconite powder, and the glow of light transmitted through the crystal.

I've been told that some folks find white crystals to be pedestrian, but this big
crystal has a wonderful "Star Wars" feel to it, with a grungy texture.

I call this crystal "Big White," and it's definitely a cabinet specimen. I'm not yet sure whether this one will end up in my cabinet, or be auctioned on eBay.
I think I'll fabricate a display that will transmit light up through the base of the specimen.
It should really glow!

This pretty little hanksite shows the subtler "lemonade" to amber color of most "Pipe" hanksites, having formed in a aqueous, rather than mud laden, environment.

I've yet to wash this and most of the "Pipe" hanksites, as they have visually interesting features, such as sand or tincalconite powdering, or a number of lustrous faces. Be warned, you can wash hanksites in clear, COOL slow running water, but make it quick!

No matter how quick or careful you are, if the crystal hits clear water, you'll lose the surface luster. Sometimes it'll survive brine washing, but my rule of thumb is:
"If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
I'm experimenting with a number of sealing treatments, since I don't like the look of oiled hanksite. It dulls the faces, and hides what I consider one of the beautiful dichotomies of nature, the propensity of borax to deposit on the face of hanksite, leaving a dehydrate mineral (tincalconite) on an evaporate mineral.

I'll post some more pics of these lovely "white" minerals soon!

Be Well!

Monday, February 9, 2009

The first of the Hanksite ...

Well, I finally got around to unlocking our file boxes of Hanksite and associated minerals, collected at the annual Searles Lake Gem-O-Rama. Yes, I know that was all the way back in October, but it's been a bit of an exposition ( sigh! ), and the time finally became right.

The water tight file boxes were a stroke of genius on my partner Laura's part and proved my assertion that, if kept at a constant humidity, salinity and temperature after washing in brine at the Mud Piles, the still dirty hanksite should be a-ok! In fact, it was far better than just ok, it has turned out just right!

As you can see, this impressive 8 lb, 15 oz. hanksite cluster is composed almost entirely of lovely mud included crystals. I'm fighting myself over whether this one goes in the Cabinet, or onto eBay!

Why do I say, "Just right!"? Well, if you've never been to the Gem-O-Rama, you should go! It's one of the best, and certainly the largest scale collecting field trip I've ever experienced! The "Mud Pile" and "Blow Pipe" trips had at least 700 participants each! It creates an indelible memory, standing 3 sizes of humans deep over a 20 foot long tub of saline brine, freshly pumped from 70 feet below, scrubbing away at a 3 or 4 or 10 pound glob of "something"!

Why indelible? Well, the people were frenetic, the crystals HUGE, and the stench nearly indescribable! My best description is "Beelzebub's B.V.D's"! "Satan's Undershorts" says it pretty well, too! Hydrogen sulfide and turpines, keytones and other big-time olfactory agents were present in world class quantities. Now, I'm a country bred boy, and have traveled the lower 47 (missed North Dakota) and Canada, and I've worked in the cleaning and automotive fields, so I'm not generally staggered by smells.

These fascinating globs appear to be the mineral trona and ?
Is it thenardite, burkeite, or ?
If you can identify the minerals, please email me, and I'll give you credit.
They do appear to be somewhat psuedomorphous.

However, the smell presented from the moment we approached Trona became the most remarkable STENCH as we dove into the "Mud Piles." Apparently, the mud is full of microorganisms that produce this chemical warfare cocktail!

Thankfully, the several month wait for cleaning had hastened the demise of all but the hardiest of these stinky critters, and rendered the once nearly impossible to remove mud to a greyish sandy material, except in the deepest of cracks. so, rather than the chore it was onsite, cleaning the crystals is turning out to be a very pleasant experience.

So far, I've quite a few notably sized single crystals and clusters, and still have more than a filebox full of untouched material. The largest single crystals exceed 3" x 3", and are pyrimidal and pinacoid, with another "tabular" habit, though I have some doubt whether this is hanksite. If it is, it has the delightful quality of included crystals of the same material, except with a much deeper color, from mud inclusions.

Another view of the 8lb, 15 oz hanksite cluster.

Delightfully enough, this material has proven my assertion that I find a new passion with every new collecting experience. It's also provided the opportunity to begin business as a collectors mineral suppler through eBay, and something great to write about and research.

Below are several more photos of hanksite singles and clusters. You can see our eBay auctions every weekend at: Lapidary Specialties : About Us

As soon as the weather dries up again, I'll have more time to clean hanksite. In the meantime, I'll be posting more pics, and preparing these great specimens for auction. See something you like? Don't hesitate to check our eBay page and drop me a note.

Be Well!