Friday, March 23, 2012

I Digress: How I Got Started Mining in Mexico

At the end of July 2012, in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Mineral Club in conjunction with the American Federation of Mineralogical Societies, and the Midwest Federation of Mineralogical and Geological Societies are sponsoring a show dedicated to agates. Because of the show, the next ten blogs will shift from stories about mining Morrisonite to mining agate in Mexico. Check out the link to find out more information on this spectacular show:

How I Got Started Mining in Mexico

The ranch in Apache.
                I have been an insulin dependent diabetic since I was 13 years old. In the early 90s I started having trouble with my eyes. I was developing Diabetic Retinopathy, an ailment common in long term diabetics.  Diabetic Retinopathy causes new blood vessels to grow in the retina of the eye, which then burst, causing bleeding into the interior of the eye and blindness. Doctors discovered a way to stop the body from producing these new blood vessels; simply kill part of your eye and whatever signals your body to grow new blood vessels stops. It is a little like cutting off the foot to save the leg.

A picture of the monument marking the claim.
                Stuart Porteous, from Seattle, had been interested in Morrisonite most of his life and started buying interests in some of the Morrisonite claims. First he bought Larry Butler’s portions of the five claims consisting of the Amy Ellen claim and half of the Christine Marie claim. Some years later he purchased the Big Hole claim from the late Tom Caldwell’s wife. Eventually, he and I were the only owners, and he approached me about buying my portions. Because of the problem with my eyes I agreed to sell the rest of the Morrisonite claim to Stuart over a period of time. I believed that my mining days were almost over. September 1996 was the last time I mined Morrisonite.

All the orange specks are agate sticking out of the ground.
                After extensive laser surgery on both eyes, and a vitrectomy on one eye, my eyes stabilized. There was no more interior bleeding. I still had 20/20 vision on my right eye and 20/30 vision in the left. Most of my peripheral vision was seriously altered, as this was the part of the retina they used the laser to kill. Anyway, I felt that as long as I was careful, I could probably continue to do some mining.

A beautiful specimen from the collection of Mike Ignatowski.
                Benny Fenn, a rather famous Mexican Mineral dealer, mined agates in the early 70s and lived in Casas Grandes, Mexico. He invited me to visit his place in Mexico to look at a pile of agates he had at his house. It was mostly low grade or small pieces of Apache Agate. Benny Fenn mined the Apache Agate with a D-4 Dozer many years earlier and offered to take me to the deposit to see it. At the end of a 27 mile long dirt road through rivers and the tiny town of Apache, in the middle of nowhere, is a small ranch. Beyond the ranch is a ridge with a major water drainage on one side and a small drainage on the other. The Apache Agate is found on the point of this ridge between the two drainages; an impossible place to find without a guide.

                 I was amazed to see small pieces of bright red-orange agate everywhere in the dirt and could hardly believe I was actually at the place where all the famous Apache Agate came from. Benny Fenn told me if I wanted to try and mine it he could make it possible. I had never considered such a thought possible. As a result, I began my pursuit to produce some of the best agates in the world, including Agua Nueva, Coyamito, Laguna, and, of course, Apache Agate.

Click here to read more on the Apache Agate Operation:

Click here to see more pictures of Apache Agate:

Monday, March 12, 2012

New & Upcoming at The Gem Shop

Sarape Jasper
The Gem Shop is beginning 2012 with a bang! There is lots of new and exciting things to come this year. Listed below are a few thing to expect from the Gem Shop this year! 
New Rock!
After another exciting year at the Tucson Gem & Rock Show, The Gem Shop is happy to provide a variety of new arrivals. We, at The Gem Shop, are especially excited for the Sarape Jasper. Sarape Jasper is named for the traditional Sarape blanket of Mexico. Found near Chihuahua, Mexico, this jasper is a fairly new find. Sarape Jasper offers a variety of colors, which lends itself to cabbing nicely.
Purple Lepidolite
The Gem Shop is also excited about the Purple Lepidolite we received this year. Purple Lepidolite is from Australia is an opaque stone that contains bits of mica and calcite. It is a beautiful deep purple that can only be found in Australia and is a byproduct of a nickel mine.
Sonora Dendritic
The Gem Shop also received a new shipment of Sonora Dendritic. The Sonora Dendritic is a unique blend of aspects on the infamous Owyhee Picture jasper and the dendritic Apache Sage. It features maroon dendrites that can create a scenic pattern against a background of blue, pink, orange and yellow swirl, or a combination of the colors. This newest batch is considered a higher quality with less waste, and also has a deeper color blue. 
Mooka Jasper Pendant
          New this year  The Gem Shop’s Escape line added Mooka Jasper. We also have new stock of Rocky Butte Picture Jasper, Imperial Jasper, Plume Agate, Birdseye Rhyolite, and Porcelain Jasper. Each pendant is carefully crafted and set with a sterling silver bail to bring out the natural beauty of each stone.
      Next Show!
          It is time again for the G&LW show in the Minneapolis area. The show dates are March 25-26 at the Ramada Thunderbird in Bloomington. Hours for the show are Sunday 11am to 6pm, and Monday 10am to 3pm. We will be in the Ballroom, Pace #17. This is a wholesale show. Please check out for more information. Hope to see you there!