Micromounter's Mecca
A Visit to the Micromounter's Swap Room at the Tucson Show

Friday, February 13th was a partly cloudy day today with a high of 65 degrees, another fine day for browsing the 1998 Tucson Show. However, I spent most of the day indoors at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society's show at the Tucson Convention Center. My interest in microminerals has been escalating, and I had been looking forward to participating in the micromounter's swap room and attending the 1998 Annual Arthur M. Roe Memorial Micromount Symposium, hosted as part of the "Main Event".

This micromounter's get together at the TGMS Convention Center show has been growing steadily since it started with about half a dozen attendees five years ago. It is hosted by the micromounter's group of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society. This gathering has roots which run back into the early '70s when a group including the likes of Paul Desautels and Neal Yedlin, who were both among the 6 original members elected to the Micromounter's Hall of Fame, met in the venerable 3-story Desert Inn, a now demolished Tucson Show location. At the 1998 Show there were about 40 participants signed in as swappers at the Symposium.

Shown above left is the micromount swap and show area, which was set off to one side of the Copper Ball Room at the Convention Center. This room also housed a spacious A/V lecture area for Symposium presentations. Several long tables were set up to display specimens brought for trade and giveaway, and to accommodate about half a dozen micromounters who had brought and set up their binocular scopes. Shown above center is a table fully laden with a great variety of micromountable material and specimens, which was all freely available to participants. Shown above right are several of the scopes and micromounters who occupied another long table behind the free trade table. Anyone with questions or wanting to use a scope to view a specimen was more than welcome by these folks, who also offered additional specimens subject to more restricted trades.

There were several other tables set up to support the swap activities, including one loaded with the ubiquitous egg cartons, boxes, paper and pens for making labels, and toilet paper and paper towels for wrapping delicate specimens. Many who brought material also supplied stacks of pre-printed specimen labels, some of which were quite nice. These micromounter rockhounds really have their acts together.

These are a somewhat different breed of rockhound, and arguably the truest connoisseurs and appreciators of rocks. Knowledge of mineralogy and crystallography runs high in this pack, and these folks tend to be field collectors and traders rather than silver pickers. They are not concerned with size, but are very appreciative of crystal forms, the fractal nature of mineral crystallization, and an illusive aesthetic attribute often referred to as "quality". Overall, a rather civilized clan, who are also somewhat of an enigma to mineral dealers.

A triplet loupe is of course standard attire in these circles. Shown above right is the presentation area for the Symposium speakers, with micromounters assembling prior to the first presentation, which was on perched minerals and inclusions. A detailed agenda of the 1999 micromounter's Symposium is presented at the bottom of the page.

Shown above are images of a couple of dozens of the Bunker Hill mine pyromorphite specimens I took as my offering and contribution to the free swap table. This pretty Idaho micro material was incidentally collected with macro specimens by Ron Zeilstra, rzeilstr@pinc.com, a Canadian rockhound who graciously provided it via the Shop for the swap table. I noticed all Ron's material disappeared from the table pretty fast, especially the spherical sprays, which are magnified about 25X. The crystals shown at right are magnified about 18X. Ron also sent several cerussite specimens from the same locality. Thank-you Ron!

All of the material shown below was acquired from other micromounter's contributions and offerings on the free swap table at the Symposium. These images are all Snappy(tm) frame grabs made with a Canon Es-3000 Hi-8 camcorder and the Raynox MicroVideo Explorer. All of the magnifications given are "system" magnifications, derived by dividing the size of the displayed image by the actual physical size of the subject, and assume you are viewing them on a 15" monitor using 800x600 video resolution.

Shown above left are some nice crystals of native copper from the Copper Queen mine in Bisbee, a historic Arizona locality for copper and copper minerals. These crystals are magnified about 25X.

Shown above center at about 8X are some gemmy vanadinite crystals on matrix from the Apache Mine in Arizona. Most of those browsing the free trade table must have had some of this material already, as a whole plate covered with it thinned out rather slowly. This is great material for viewing with a 10X loupe. I picked up several pieces even nicer than this one, which I'll probably give away with a couple of 10X triplets I bought during the Show for future contest prizes.

Shown above right, also at about 8X, are some bright blue clumps of azurite on matrix from the Morenci mine in Arizona. Not the most idealized crystals, but I liked the color and contrasting matrix between the clumps.

Shown above left at about 4X is a terminated, dark blue and lustrous azurite crystal, also from the Morenci mine. This one was a little large for a micro specimen, but could really be appreciated under a 10X loupe with some good light on it.

At center are some botryoidal balls of lime green conichalcite from Mapimi, Durango, Mexico, shown at about 12X. This mineral is really striking against the rusty red colored matrix on which it occurs. Shown right at about 5X are some more little balls, turquoise colored rosasite from the Omega mine in Pima County, Arizona. These appeared to be covered with a druze of clear calcite. Another nice specimen for viewing with a hand loupe.

Shown above left at about 25X are some perovskite and schorlomite crystals from San Benito County, California. At center is sincosite with minyulite from the Ross Hannibal Mine in South Dakota, magnified about 10x.

Shown above right at about 20X is another Arizona vanadinite, some butterscotch colored crystals from the Puzzler mine. I seem to have a thing for vanadinites. Looks like I may have already started up a collection of them.

Of course, that's not all the material I acquired in the micromounter's trade room... I also made some personal contacts at the Symposium, and plan to attend some future meetings of the TGMS micromounter's group. I appreciated a long time ago that one of the best ways to learn about various facets of the rockhounding hobby is to hang with enthusiasts and experts in whatever niches currently interest me and I'm endeavoring to learn more about.

The TGMS micromounter's group wishes to extend an open invitation to other collectors to attend the future Arthur M. Roe Memorial Micromount Symposiums at the Tucson Show. If you are even casually interested in microminerals or micromounting, you're welcome to participate, learn and enjoy meeting others who share your interests in this beautiful and intriguing rockhounding niche. All micromounters and micromounter wannabes are welcome to acquire some micromineral specimens from the free trade table, whether or not you yet have any trading material with which to reciprocate. See you there!

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Bob Keller