On the Road and In Your Backyard

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Have a wonderful day, and enjoy the pictures!


Today, pictures from valued commenter J R in WV.

This is a second set of pictures from the LA County Museum of Natural History [I typed Natural Resources the first time, because I worked with the WV DNR quite a bit when I worked for the DEP for many years, odd how our fingers remember things!]

This museum is quite well known for a wonderful collection of minerals and gemstones. Within the large mineral display is a big walk-in vault door, with a guard. Southern California has very many mines where fabulous gemstones have been found, some not found anywhere else in the world.

Most of these pictures are taken through a pane of glass or plastic, so there are odd highlights and such, and I discarded far more pictures than I edited.

Elbaite Tourmaline on matrix

Taken on 2018-03-13

The gemstone crystal is something like 14 inches long, so WOW! This isn’t gemmy transparent, or it may have been cut into gemstones and sent to the Empress of China, who was famously fond of pink tourmaline gems from California, and could afford the hobby. We can only wonder what happened to that collection as China was racked by war and revolution.

f/3.2 for 1/50 sec at 46mm

Calcite on Galena

Taken on 2018-03-13

Galena (Lead Sulphate) is a primary ore that when pure often forms cubic crystals. Calcite is a common accessory mineral occurring on or around galena. This is about a foot on edge, the calcites are 3 or 4 inches long. This is from the Sweetwater Mine in the Viburnium lead mining district in Missouri, which might explain something of the politics out there. ;-)

f/3.7 for 1/40 sec at 73mm

Giant Fluorite Cubes

Taken on 2018-03-13

This is a huge specimen of Illinois fluorite from the Cave-in-Rock district. There’s a light underneath to help us see the bright yellow fluorite inside, while still being able to see the dark purple cubes all over this wonderful specimen, which is something over a yard across. I have quite a few fluorite specimens, but nothing like this puppy. I have seen pictures taken underground, there were huge rooms lined with crystals like this. They were mostly crushed for use as a flux in steel blast-furnaces.

f/3.5 for 1/13 sec at 61mm

And pretty sharp for hand-held at that slow exposure if I do say so myself!

Morganite Beryl – 461 carats !!

Taken on 2018-03-13

A huge perfect cut stone mined in Brazil, morganite is the pink variety of beryl, of which the blue aquamarine or green emerald varieties are more familiar. There are some really beautiful stones out there – I’m not sure how anyone would wear something like this. You can see other colors of beryl around this one.

f/3.9 for 1/100 sec at 160mm

Sapphires on Platinum brooch

Taken on 2018-03-13

There are diamonds, too. Sapphires occur in all the colors there are, bright red ones are called rubies but they all have the same chemical composition, tiny impurities give us these wonderful colors. You can see a few of the colors around the piece of jewelry.

f/3.6 for 1/80 sec. 94 mm

Turquoise and Silver Squash-Blossum Necklace

Taken on 2018-03-12

This is American turquoise and silver, a traditional Navajo piece from the Navajo Nation. These stones are the bright blue of the open western sky, which cannot be had today for any price. A wonderful piece of Americana. We have some Navajo jewelry, but nothing like this masterwork. Amazing work! Superb craftsmanship and beautiful stones.

f/3.8 for 1/60 sec at 94mm

Fluorite Gemstone

Taken on 2018-03-13

This is the same mineral as in #3 above, but pure and gemmy transparent.

Over a thousand carats in weight and a couple of inches across, from the now abandoned mines of the Illinois-Kentucky Fluorite District. I have some wonderful specimens from the Denton Mine, where this stone came from.

These stones are too prone to cleavage, splitting on a plane of the crystal, to be used or worn as jewelry, but they do make a pretty gemstone.

f/3.8 for 1/80 sec at 94mm


Thank you so much J R in WV, do send us more when you can.


Travel safely everybody, and do share some stories in the comments, even if you’re joining the conversation late. Many folks confide that they go back and read old threads, one reason these are available on the Quick Links menu.


One again, to submit pictures: Use the Form or Send an Email

22 replies
  1. 1
    Schlemazel says:

    Thanks for the great photos!

    A favorite site I go to has daily pictures of different minerals. They are fascinating but most are tiny where these are huge.

  2. 2
    Mary G says:

    Very interesting, thanks JR. Makes me want to go back to the museum.

  3. 3
    raven says:

    Wow, Denton Mine is near Cave-in-Rock!

    In Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett and the River Pirates, Davy Crockett and Mike Fink anachronistically fight Sam Mason and his pirates. Also, at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, there is a scene called “Cut-Throat Corner” and “Wilson’s Cave Inn” that can be seen on the bank of the Rivers of America while riding the Liberty Belle Riverboat around Tom Sawyer’s Island. This scene is based upon the real life Cave-In-Rock and the activity of river pirates during that time period.

  4. 4
    debbie says:

    That necklace is a real beauty!

  5. 5
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Ahhh yes, the vibrant metropolis of Viburnum, MO, pop 693, deep in the Lead Belt. Don’t blink, you just might miss it. A thoroughly depressing place.

    The legacy of lead is all over this part of Missouri. I have a cube of galena in my rock cabinet that I found on the ground during one of my walkabouts, smaller, more weathered, with veins of calcite running thru it, but weighty and unmistakably lead. Soon after we bought this place I was visited by the EPA. They were testing properties for lead in a lead abatement program. Ours came back relatively clean. Some friends of mine was not so lucky. Their well ran thru a seam and was thus tainted. They lived near the Big River and had brought some bottom land top soil up to their place for the garden. Bad idea. Some years back a damn on a tailings pond failed and polluted a long stretch of the Big River, including the stretch where they had got the soil. To this day it is recommended that one should limit one’s consumption of certain species of fish. My friends ended up selling their place at a good price for the older woman who bought it.

    Herculaneum, where St Joe Lead operated their smelter for decades is polluted with lead to such an extent that they should probably just do a Times Beach on it (abandon it) but the population is much larger and the politics far more difficult.

    Missouri Mines State Historic Site is well worth a visit, exploring the history of this area.. Fascinating. The have mine tours and one of the best mineral collections in the country (?). I forget exactly which well known very rich titan of industry gifted it to us, but it is astounding.

  6. 6
    rikyrah says:

    Good pics 😄

  7. 7
    Lapassionara says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Thanks for this, and especially the link.

  8. 8
  9. 9
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @raven: Caving is a very small community and I may well know him, especially if he’s in the MVOR (Mississippi Valley Ozark Region) and even if he isn’t. Myself, I am not so involved these days (like hardly at all).

  10. 10
  11. 11
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Lapassionara: Out of curiosity, which link did you like?

  12. 12
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Correction:

    What remains of the last operational lead smelter in the United States can be found just north of the Old Lead Belt along the Mississippi River in the town of Herculaneum, Mo., named after the Roman town of the same name that was destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius. The Herculaneum lead smelter was built in 1892 and operated continuously for 121 years before finally being shut down in 2013 after decades of environmental and safety violations.

    The contamination from the smelter was so severe that the lead mining company, Doe Run, was forced to buy out and level 160 homes near the smelter, essentially demolishing the historic downtown Herculaneum district in the process. Subsequently, all lead mined in the United States must be smelted overseas, simply shifting this process, and the pollution that accompanies it, to less developed countries with fewer regulations and protections.

  13. 13
    Quinerly says:


  14. 14
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @raven: Aha, Yeah I know Mark, mostly by reputation tho it would not surprise me at all if we had met in passing somewhere along the line. I rather doubt he knows me.

  15. 15
    raven says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Cool! I mean there were three of us in this dorm and I had been home from the Army for 10 days and I was out of control and he was a serious student so we just went our own ways but I always remembered him.

  16. 16
    Albatrossity says:

    Wow! Those are simply gorgeous. Thanks!

  17. 17
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @raven: Followed your link to the Cheve project personel. Cheve is some bad ass caving. Far more hard core than anything I’ve ever done. All those guys are BNCs (Big Name Cavers- sometimes taken as a derogatory term because some individuals succumb to BNCitis, a syndrome where egos outgrow any relation to reality. Never heard that about Mark but it does occur.

    Had to chuckle when I read this:

    Matt Covington, USA
    Matt grew up caving in Arkansas, and first became interested in expedition caving as a teenager while reading the account of the 1994 USDCT caving expedition to Huautla in National Geographic. Since then he has participated in caving expeditions to Alaska, Sumatra, Peru, México, France, Slovenia, Croatia, and Lechuguilla. Matt has participated in every USDCT expedition in the Cheve area since 2004. In 2009, he was one of the few lucky team members to camp and explore beyond the sump in J2, and co-led the 2010 expedition that connected Last Bash and J2.

    After finishing his PhD in theoretical astrophysics at the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2008, Matt switched fields and began working on mathematical models of cave development and hydrology. After a 2-year postdoc at the Karst Research Institute in Slovenia, Matt joined the Geosciences faculty at the University of Arkansas, where his research still focuses on understanding the processes that form caves.

    I’ve known Matt since his HS days. We all called him “Snakeboy” because he is 6-6 and skinny as a rail and can slither thru damn near any hole. But strong? Strong like Bull! One of the strongest cavers I’ve ever been underground with and one hell of a rock climber. He’s pushed some leads that were absolutely impossible, until he came along. And by his bio you can see that he is extremely intelligent.

    My favorite MC story was On a trip my sons and I did where we met up with him in Big Hole Cave in Arkansas. We were coming out and my youngest was just 9 or 10 and short of leg as well as just plain short. We came to a 20′ deep canyon passage we had to traverse the length of. My youngest came to it and stopped dead in his tracks, unsure of how to proceed (we had entered via this rte but things always look different going back) so Mat showed him. He walked the length of it with his 6-6 frame stepping from ledge to knob and gripping handholds along the way. CJ looked terrified and said, “I can’t do that!”

    Matt looked thoughtful for about 5 seconds. Then he came back, got down on his knees and stemmed across it that way.

    And CJ followed.

  18. 18
    Major Major Major Major says:

    Very cool. When I was a kid, I used to spend lots of time in the hall of minerals (or whatever it’s called) at what is now the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Takes me back.

  19. 19
    raven says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: That is so cool!

  20. 20
    Miss Bianca says:

    Oh, this takes me back to my rock-collecting days as kid – I was never that much into jewelry, but absolutely fascinated by precious and semi-precious stones! Thanks, J R!

  21. 21
    Mart says:

    Don’t think anyone mentioned it, but the “Colorado School of Mines Geology Museum is a geology museum based in the Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, United States” is a cool place to look at rocks.

  22. 22
    J R in WV says:

    Glad you all enjoyed the pretty rocks – the gems and jewelry exhibit was very nice. The minerals exhibit had nice rocks, but the installations could use some work… one nice big hot pink rhodocrosite specimen literally had a piece that had spalled off lying beside the big gemmy rock, sad to see. But to clean it up you had to open up the case, however that is done.

    These were the best photos of a ton I took, most had motion blur, or reflections, or just didn’t pick up the stone/mineral color from the lighting, or were just plain not so great. Thanks to the scientists and engineers who developed the sensors and computers that make good digital cameras work, we can shoot and discard lots of photos today without wasting a lot of money on film and processing.

    ETA: I typed this comment hours ago and just now noticed I evidently never clicked the submit button.

    And both Colorado and New Mexico AND Arizona have great mineral collections. AZ doesn’t have a museum right now, thanks to the republicans, but they’re working on it.

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