Newsletter - June, 1997
CLUB - EACH YEAR - ONE ROCKHOUND - Margaret Pearson >
YOUR NOMINATION IN?- EACH CLUB - EACH YEAR - ONE ROCKHOUND - Margaret Pearson >
MUSINGS - Margaret Heinek >
HIGHLIGHT - ENDOWMENT FUND RAFFLE - Glen Lee >
- SILVER ANNIVERSARY TREASURES -June Culp Zeitner >
-IN THE SPOTLIGHT - 25TH ANNIVERSARY TIARA- Betty James
- OLDER AND SLOWER? - Mel Albright >
- SNAKES! - Mel Albright >
PRESERVATION - Sally Shelton, San Diego Natural History Museum >
PROBLEMS - Daryl Fuller >
by Margaret Pearson,
AFMS E.C.E.Y.O.R. Chair
The following rockhounds are being recognized for their outstanding service by the
AFMS through its program: EACH CLUB-EACH YEAR- ONE ROCKHOUND. The names of rockhounds
honored by their fellow members for their contributions to their club and the hobby are in
no particular order. The AFMS congratulates these hardworking club members!
¨ Gordon Dobecki, Michiana Gem & Mineral Society, South Bend, IN. Gordon is a charter
member of his club and has contributes much through expert lapidary skills and
instructions. He has a particular interest in promoting youth activities.
¨ Don & Dorothy Auler, Earth Science Club of Northern Illinois, Glen Ellyn, IL. Don
and Dorothy have donated so much time and effort to support and further the earth
sciences. They contributed to club study groups, shows and junior events. Don illustrated
the club fossil books and gave demonstrations and lectures to other clubs.
¨ Neil Reeder, Bruder Gem and Mineral Society, Troy, OH. He has been recognized by his
club for the long span and great breadth of his contributions. He has served in many
offices and ways. His most notable contribution has been in developing, producing, and
delivering earth science programs and resource materials to all the school systems in
¨ Bernard & Irene Sobczak, Des Plaines Valley Geological Society, Des Plaines, IL. A
lifetime rockhound couple, Bernie is an outstanding silversmith and Irene has served on
the club executive board for years. He has generously demonstrated and explained his skill
at club shows. She has contributed her popular shell animals for children.
¨ Bill Hemken, Belleville Gem & Mineral Society, Belleville, IL. Bill, an ambitious
rockhound, shares his vast warehouse of knowledge with club members, students, Girl
Scouts, and anyone else wanting to know about rocks.
¨ Ralph Helle, Corn Palace Rock Club of South Dakota. Nearly 80 years young, a charter
member, a leader since the club was organized in '65 when no one in town was interested in
rocks, minerals, or fossils, he helped get people together. Show committee member, chair
shows and tell for school children, hunts shark teeth, and now club President.
¨ June & Lee Floyd, Toledo Gem and Rockhound Club, Toledo, OH. June has served her
club in many leadership positions. Lee has become the club metalsmithing aficionado,
having personally taught metalsmithing technique classes since 1980. His home shop is a
thing of organization to be admired and emulated. He turns out over 200 projects a year.
The Floyds have been members of their club since 1970.
¨ Craig Brandt, Austin Gem and Mineral Society, Austin, TX. He is heralded as the most
productive member of the club. He has remodeled the meeting room, video-taped every
program, and served as an officer, committee chair, worker and leader. Craig gets the job
done whatever it is.
¨ Joyce & Delbert Speed, Arlington Gem & Mineral Club, Arlington, TX. They are
excellent in bringing cohesion, motivation, enjoyment and accomplishment not just to
AG&MS, but to the many clubs in our area which they serve.
¨ Lieth & Charlotte Harmon, East Texas Gem & Mineral Society, Tyler, TX. Their
dedication and hard work have revitalized a static club. They have implemented new ideas
that have doubled our club membership in three years.
¨ Sid & Grace Bellamy, Oak Cliff Gem and Mineral Society, Dallas, TX. Sid and Grace
founded this club in 1961. Sid, who passed away in 1996, is remembered for teaching
silver-smithing. Grace has been our primary lapidary instructor and showcase designer.
Both gave freely of their time anytime they were asked.
¨ Kermit & Evangeline Watson, Western South Carolina Gem and Minerals Society. Kermit
and Evangeline are the solid foundation of this club. They have held most all its offices
and have served as Registrars and Directors at Southeast Federation Workshops at Wildacres
and the William Holland School. Their latest contribution to the club was converting part
of their home into a shop for workshop classes.
¨ Larry Field, Billings Gem & Mineral Club, Billings, MT. Larry has held many offices
in the club, been active in the Montana Council of Gems and Minerals, had many articles
published in both club and federation newsletters, and has helped in protecting
¨ Carl & Ethel Dach, Blackhawk Rock Club, Loves Park, IL. Carl and Ethel spend long
hours in service to their club. When other officers of the club were unable to perform
their official duties or help with day-to-day operations, Carl stepped in and got things
done. Carl spends much time teaching wire wrapping to those who have finished a cab and
don't know what to do with it. Ethel covers other things to allow Carl the time to invest
in our future rockhounds.
¨ Marion & Marcia Preston, Yucaipa Gem & Mineral Club, Redlands, CA. They have
been President, Secretary, board members, jewelry teachers, hostess, willing and able show
workers, community leaders, and they devote time to all club activities. We are a very
¨ Dennis Warren, Fairfield Lapidary Society, Fairfield, Ca. Dennis is a long time
rockhound. He is current President and has held many offices, including President of North
Bay Trippers. He attends shows and displays his lapidary talents. He gives talks at
schools and gives the students rocks.
¨ Miriam & Gene Tetreault, Oxnard Gem & Mineral Society, Santa Paula, CA. They
are each year - SHOW people. She arranges for dealers and he is involved in layout,
hookups, equipment handling, and storage of show items. They have both held many offices.
Currently she is hospitality chair and an assistant silversmith instructor. He is
treasurer and many times over a field trip leader.
¨ Bryce & Bernice Crosby, Clackamette Mineral and Gem Society, Oregon City, OR. Bryce
is the club's equipment man. He will sell, buy or tell you what is wrong with your
machine. They have been members since 1973 and have held most positions on the board. If
you need something done, the Crosbys will do it and do it right.
¨ Walder Robbins, Neville Public Museum Geology Club, Green Bay, WI. Walder has been a
member since 1987. He has been an excellent participant in club activities, won honors for
poetry in the club bulletin, and is still a member though in a nursing home.
¨ Mel Buhr, Everett Rock & Gem Club, Everett, WA. In his 42 year membership, Mel has
held every office and chairmanship in the club. He is very thorough, organized, creative,
and considerate - an asset for any organization.
¨ Helen Dobson, Yellowstone Gem & Mineral Society, Bozeman, MT. Helen belongs to a
number of clubs, displays in many shows, acts as our program chair, attends field trips
and believes in our hobby.
¨ Skelton "Dug" Dugger, Ft. Lewis Rock Club, Ft. Lewis, WA. Dug was
instrumental in forming the club and pushing it to join the NFMS. He gives unselfishly of
his time to the club and all activities including volunteering in the lapidary shop.
¨ Jack Fishburn, Middle Tennessee Gem & Mineral Society, Murfreesboro, TN. Since the
beginning of our club he has been an active leader. He has been a friend to many. He has a
great sense of humor. For several years, he has made and donated the show grand prize. He
teaches lapidary art at a senior citizen center in Nashville, TN and helps a lot of people
learn the lapidary arts.
¨ Mike Moreno, Sierra Pelona Rock Club, Newhall, CA. Mike is being honored for his long
and outstanding services since 1968. He has been a field trip leader for over 15 years. He
is Rock Table Chair and has devoted many hours teaching rockhounds how-to. He has been an
active participant in the San Fernando Valley Gem Fair since it started in 1969.
¨ Gladys Walker and Simon King (nominated as a couple), North Island Gem and Mineral
Society, El Cajon, CA. These two tireless workers were instrumental in founding
"Holtville Rockhound Roundup" annual show. Gladys has been bulletin editor since
1986 and performs endless hours supporting the club and out hobby. Simon is an
enthusiastic volunteer, has held numerous board positions and is currently President of
the Council of San Diego Gem and Mineral Societies. They have each singularly won the
club's member of the year award and shared it in 1995.
¨ Bill & Mary Jean Leslie, Kern County Mineral Society, Bakersfield, CA. He is
currently President and she is doing club publicity and public relations. They are busy in
many venues of rockhounding as well as sharing, teaching, and exhibiting at neighboring
The AFMS recognition program, EACH CLUB-EACH YEAR-ONE ROCKHOUND, is a continuous
program in which each club is allowed to recognize one member each year for their
outstanding work as rockhounds. Nominations can be submitted at any time during the year.
There is no deadline date. Also, no waiting to see your nominee recognized. Nominations
will be submitted for publication throughout the year.
The AFMS Committee makes no distinction as to who is recognized and who is not. ALL names
submitted for recognition will be published in the AFMS Newsletter. The only restriction
is that each club may submit only one nomination per year. For this program, married
couples are considered as "one". If a club submits a second nomination within a
year, that nomination will be held and published the next year.
Reasons for the nomination should be kept short and simple. Please tell us the name of the
club, city and state where located and the individual sending the information.
Nominations should be sent to your Federation representative. We look foreword to hearing
from all our AFMS affiliated clubs.
AFMS Chair - Margaret Pearson, 9034-24 W. Lisbon Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53222 (414) 464-0781
CFMS - Grant & Toni Ewers, 12 Hillcrest Lane, Boulder City, NV 89005-1607 (702)
EFMLS - Duane Evans, 28 Ash St., Portsmouth RI 02871 (401) 683-9536
MFMS - Nellie Claxton, 1001 Wilshire Dr., Mt. Vernon, IL 61102 (618) 242-2193
NFMS - Jean Brooks, 1405 Clearbrook Dr., SE, Apt. F104, Lacy, WA 98503 (360) 493-8380
RMFMS - Mary Clough, 3065 Everett, Wichita, KS 67217 (316) 943-2267
SCFMS - Virginia Brotherton, 2512 Bamberry Dr., Ft. Worth, TX 76133 (817) 346-1583
SFMS - Fred Sias, 120 Holly Ave., Clemson, SC 29631 (803) 654-6833
Did you hear about the midget clairvoyant burglar that escaped from jail? The
headlines in the newspaper read "Small Medium at Large"
by Margaret Heinek
So much has happened, weather wise this winter and spring, especially in the Dakotas
and lately in Canada. I sincerely hope all of our members are O.K. My heart goes out to
all that have lost their homes to the floods. Here in Indiana and Michigan we have had
"interesting" weather, snow in late April and early May! I am looking forward to
a good "summer".
The show committee in Jackson, Miss. promises us real good weather. Have you made your
plans for the AFMS 50th Anniversary Celebration? The information on the Convention, to be
held October 13-19, 1997, has been sent, and the committees have been busy with the plans.
If you have not received your copy of the forms, let someone know, or write to Mary Jane
Boutwell at 367 Virlillia Rd, Canton, Miss, 39046-9001 and ask for the information, or
contact her E-Mail at email@example.com.
Have you thought about items you would be willing to donate to Charles Leach for the
Endowment Fund Auction? Glenn Lee, Ways and Means Chairman, has asked for three good items
from each Federation (they will take more!). As of April 20th, Charles had received 3
items, all good ones. Charlie always has many items that are worth bidding on at his
auction at the AFMS Federation's conventions, so plan on being there with your extra
For those that send me your bulletins, Thank you. There are so many good ideas in them. My
husband (Bob) and I read them, then they are passed down to our club editor, and then
taken to the club meetings for the members, finally they are taken to our shows for any of
our attendees to take home. Talk about re-cycling!
ENDOWMENT FUND RAFFLE
by Glenn Lee, Chair
Ways and Means Com.
WIN BIG!! Stop at Charley's Endowment Fund booth at the Jackson show. YOU may win a
beautiful prize to take home and enjoy.
This year, each Federation has been asked to furnish three good items for Charles Leach's
Endowment Fund Raffle. This will be during the national show in Jackson.
The Northwest Foundation has already supplied the following items:
1. A necklace with a 14.1 ct. blue Russian quartz faceted by AFMS Trophy winner Ed Romack
and mounted in sterling by Dick Glismann.
2. A walrus sculpture in brown soapstone by Virgil Keltz, The AFMS Trophy winner at
3. An obsidian knife with a coyote jaw handle by flintknapper Terry Hayes.
Many more good items will be there, so stop by Charley's booth. You'll be glad you did.
A decision results when no committee is formed.
In all, 1,309 cabochons of American gem materials were collected to present to the
Smithsonian where the AFMS Silver Anniversary party was held. These were all cut by
The amazing array of well-cut cabs of wonderful gem materials ranged in size from a 5
carat moonstone to a half-pound agate. The Midwest Federation sent the most cabs, followed
by the Northwest Federation. At the time of the party, no cabs had been received from
Delaware or Hawaii. The Idaho County club sent more than any other club. Slides of the
cabochon decorated cake and some of the stones will be shown at the Golden Anniversary
show at Jackson, Mississippi, October 17-19.
Here is a list of the cabs used to decorate the cake. One was chosen to represent each
state sending cabs. They were selected for size, color, beauty, workmanship, variety and
quality as well as being a true example of the state's gemstones. They were not
necessarily the rarest or the most valuable. They made a stunning display!
Alabama - Paint Rock agate - R. Preston Watts; Alaska - jade - William Munz; Arizona -
jasper - Doug McVicar; Arkansas - chert - Cleo Webb; California - Tremolite - Castro
Valley Gem and Mineral Society (Taylor); Colorado - fossil wood - D. N. Bass; Connecticut
- Lepidolite - Herbert Fredrich; Florida - Suwanee coral - Canaveral Gem & Mineral
Society; Georgia - Quartzite - Georgia Mineral Society (Arouri); Idaho - Plume agate -
Dudley Stewart; Illinois - Fluorite - Chicago Lapidary Society; Indiana - sandstone - Ted
Houchin/Ed Hirsch; Iowa - Keswick agate - Iowa Clubs (Anderson); Kansas - Opal - Lloyd
Hatfield; Kentucky - limestone - J. & D. Crockett; Louisiana - fossil palm - M/M
Wilson Beard; Maine - Lepidolite - Ralph Spencer; Maryland - Williamsite - Frances
Larimore; Massachusetts - Rhodonite - Ralph Lugston; Michigan - Domeykite - Hazel Feilen;
Minnesota - Lake Superior agate - Minnesota Mineral Club (Johnson); Mississippi - fossil
wood - Woody Stoufer; Missouri - Mozarkite - B & H Myers; Montana - moss agate -
Yellowstone Agate Club; Nebraska - fossil wood - Wes Geiken; Nevada - Wonderstone - Carson
City Mineral Club;; New Hampshire - Lazulite - James Young; New Jersey - Prehnite - Grace
Hehr; New Mexico - quartz - Don Hogg; New York - Hauyne - Rochester Academy of Science;
North Carolina - chalcedony - Don Charlton; North Dakota - Toredo wood - Hazel/Ed Wefel;
Ohio - flint - East Ohio Lapidary Club; Oklahoma - fossil wood - Sylvia Fort; Oregon -
Carey plume agate - Stanley Dahrens; Pennsylvania - Williamsite - Ken Boulier; Rhode
Island - chert - S.E. Massachusetts Mineral Club; South Carolina - fossil wood - C. &
T. Anthes; South Dakota - Fairburn agate - Douglas Rostad; Tennessee - agate - Chattanooga
Gem and Mineral Club; Texas - fossil palm - Central Texas Gem and Mineral; Utah - fossil
wood - Harold Myers; Vermont - serpentine - Burlington Gem and Mineral Club; Virginia -
Unakite - Wilkinson's;
Washington - Sagenite agate - M/M W. Potten; West Virginia - fossil coral - F. E. Stanley;
Wisconsin - moonstone - Isadore Umlauft; Wyoming - jade - Glen Barr.
The American Federation of Mineralogical Societies celebrates its 25th
Anniversary at the Smithsonian Institution in 1972. A tiara was fashioned for the occasion
by Henry O'Sullivan. It had a prominent "76" topped with a quartz stone cut to
resemble the flame of the Statue of Liberty. The gold vermeil tiara featured state stones
of many shapes, colors, and sizes, including a diamond from Arkansas, donated by dealers
Mr. O'Sullivan presented this tiara to June Culp Zeitner in a ceremony at the White House
Rose Garden. Among those present were First Lady Betty Ford, the Mayor of Washington, and
an honor guard. Ms. Zeitner received the cup in appreciation for her work in getting 45
states to adopt official stones. Some pictures of the occasion include a reproduction of
Mt. Rushmore in the background. Ms. Zeitner continues to work with the states that have
not yet adopted official stones. She hopes there will be at least 47 such official state
stones by October, when the 50th Anniversary of the American Federation is celebrated in
June designed a matching gem collar of gold vermeil set with the full variety of colored
state stones. The collar was crafted by Wayne Olson (deceased) who was then a member of
Ms. Zeitner's home club. Although June has worn the tiara several times, even on field
trips, she has never worn the collar.
Many rockhound clubs around the country asked for pictures and information about the tiara
and collar. In response to this tremendous interest, June put together slides and
developed a program to be shared with clubs. The tiara and collar will have their own
special exhibit at the joint AFMS-EFMLS Show Oct. 17-19 in Jackson, Mississippi. At the
show, June will give a full and complete history of the items and show the slide program.
June Culp Zeitner was a member of the editorial staff of Lapidary Journal for 38 years and
published 9 books during that time. From her experiences, she can relate anecdote after
anecdote of shows, field trips, and club activities. Her work as a writer and speaker has
been a major factor in the advancement of our hobby. Don't miss your opportunity to hear
this outstanding rockhound and see the historic tiara and collar!
Place a smooth rock on a flat surface exposed to the elements.
Follow guidelines below for an instant weather report.
t If Rock is Wet it's Raining t If Rock is Swaying it's Windy t If Rock is Hot it's Sunny
t If Rock is Cool it's Overcast t If Rock is White it's Snowing t If Rock is Blue it's
Cold t If rock is Shaking -EARTHQUAKE!t If Rock is Gone -TORNADO!
OXALIC ACID LIGHTENS TIGER EYE as well as cleaning iron oxide off quartz and the
like. Use 1 tablespoon per cup of water. OXALIC ACID IS A POISON, so do NOT use cooking
utensils if you decide to boil to speed up the reaction. A bit of aluminum foil or nail
will speed things up. Green water means it's working. It's best to work with a finished,
but unpolished cab. Petrograph via Breccia et. al.
It is reported by several publications that Apache Tear Caves in Superior, AZ is now
closed to collectors and is being commercially mined for perlite.
Are you all getting older and slower? No, not you individuals. Your
club! Are you getting "sot" in your ways? Do you ever venture new things? Are
you running out of members? Are all your members retired or nearly so? Do you sit around
and wonder where the new members are and why they drop out? If you answered yes to many of
the above, it's time to stir the pot.
Through e-mail comments and swap bulletins, I realize that many of our clubs are
"fading into the sunset". They are static and rarely get new members and seldom
keep those they get. What kind of way is that to run an organization?
The big question is "Why" Why are we not getting new, young members? Why can't
we keep those we get? Why are we happy with a fading club?
First - let's consider today's young family. First, we must recognize that they are busy,
busy, busy and are scheduled day and night for family, child, church, and civic
activities. So, if we want their attention, we must offer something unique. Many clubs do
this - they have lots of field trips, they have lessons, they have special youth programs,
they talk at schools and to the scouts and who-ever else they can. They recognize that
kids love rocks and fossils and are the key to their parents attention. Second - and this
is VERY important - we must plan our activities WAY ahead of time, so that we can get on
the young family's schedule. If there's an exciting field trip announced for 3 weeks from
now, that's too late. They are already scheduled for that Saturday. Try 6 or 8 weeks or
more. Then, we must stick to our schedule. They'll soon drop out if they plan a club
activity and then we change it at the last minute. Your old members may be worn out on a
collecting site, but the new ones surely are not!
Now, what do most new folks find interesting? HOLD ON! It is NOT shows, swaps, contests,
show cases, rock shops and the like. It is field trips. It is show and tell - touch and
feel. It is teach me how. It is hands-on workshops. It is "gee whiz" like
dinosaurs, and sea fossils and beautiful minerals and interesting crystals and glowing
fluorescents and plate tectonics and "why" things are as they are. And - how
rockhounds fight pollution!! Your club better be an active environmental protector. (Read
the AFMS field trip rules) Just watch the places where non-members stop and spend time at
a show and the places they leave soon. AND it is variety. If every meeting is just like
the last meeting, they'll soon disappear.
Maybe you don't agree with everything I've said. Fair enough. BUT, please take a close,
critical look at what your club is doing and how they are doing it. If need be, I hope you
find ways to liven things up and keep the hobby glowing and growing in your part of the
world. This is a great hobby and a wonderful, unending, fascinating education! AND IT IS
My face in the mirror isn't wrinkled or drawn,
My house is not dusty, the cobwebs are gone.
My garden looks lovely and so does my lawn.
I think I shall never put my glasses back on.
I. SNAKE BITE!!!!
RULE NUMBER 1: DO NOT PANIC! Medical records indicate that the odds are that you
have NOT received a fatal bite. Also, snake venom is a relatively slow acting material.
You have two to six hours to get to help. Also, strenuous physical action will make the
venom act faster!
RULE NO. 2. DON'T! Our first impulse is to do something - quick - give first aid. You
should not. No tourniquets. No compresses. No cuts into the bite. No medicine or
stimulants like alcohol. No sucking the venom out - it may actually cause more harm. No
elevation of the affected area.
RULE NO. 3. DO! Transport the patient immediately to a medical center for care. Walking is
OK if no severe symptoms have appeared and is faster than carrying. Expect swelling and
remove anything that constricts the area around the bite - shoes, rings, clothing,
whatever. Rinse and disinfect the wound while transporting if over an hour is involved.
Apply a cool, moist dressing to slow swelling. If there are signs of shock, elevate the
patient's feet about a foot. Try to identify the snake, but don't risk another bite trying
to do so.
The best way to treat snake bite is to prevent it. Almost every bite occurs because the
snake feels threatened by the person. Usually snakes are shy and will leave if given a
chance. So, leave them alone!
Let the snake know you are coming. Walk "heavy" so they'll feel the vibrations.
If you encounter one, (and jumped up instead of away) stay calm, back off, and do NOT
threaten it. A stick or a tool or rocks are a BAD idea. Don't go barefoot in your camp
area. Don't turn over rocks or brush with your hands - use a tool and look first even
then. Remember, snakes often have company (I ran into a nest while plowing that had 17
rattlesnakes come out and more were in the den hole!). Do not put your hands or feet
anywhere without looking first - particularly around rocks! Wear boots and long pants
while in snake country.
There are 4 poisonous US snake families. Copperheads and cottonmouths are the most
dangerous because they are more likely to bite. A copperhead is 2-5 feet long, copper,
orange or pink tinged, has bold reddish brown crossbands on the back midline. The
cottonmouth (water moccasin) is 18 inches to 6 feet long, has a broad head, is olive,
brown or black, patternless with crossbands, and has a white mouth interior.
Coral snakes are not very dangerous and are mild natured. They look similar to a lot of
other snakes with bright red, yellow and black bands. Remember "red touch yellow -
kill a fellow; red touch black, venom lack."
Rattlesnakes come in several varieties. They are, of course, identified by their rattles.
But, they do NOT always rattle before striking. The 3 most dangerous are: 1. Eastern
diamondback with dark brown or black diamonds outlined by a row of cream or yellow scales
and 2 to 8 feet long. 2. Western diamondback with brown diamonds on the back and sides,
peppered with dark spots, and 2 1/2 to 8 feet long. 3. The Mojave rattlesnake has
well-defined gray to brown diamonds, ovals or hexagons with light edges down its back and
a tail with contrasting light and dark rings. Other rattlesnakes include the speckled, and
For comparison of the relative risks from bites - remember first that the bigger the
snake, the more dangerous the bite. As to venom, here's a list showing relative danger -
(snake name, milligrams of venom injected by a typical bite and lethal human dose from the
venom) Eastern coral snake, 1-15 mg., 2-4 mg.; copperhead, 40-70 mg., 100 mg.;
cottonmouth, 100-150 mg., 125 mg.; Eastern diamondback, 400-700 mg., 100 mg.; Western
diamondback, 200-200 mg., 100 mg.; timber rattler, 100-150 mg., 75 mg.; Mojave rattler,
50-90 mg., 15 mg.
If you are traveling out of the country or just want more information, check the
NON-POISONOUS SNAKES BITE, TOO. If they do, there is danger of infection and tissue
damage. Their bites should receive disinfection and professional care if they don't heal
References: Back Country Home Page http://io.
datasys.swri.edu/Overview.htm and Boston Globe newspaper http://familyinternet.com/peds/
by Sally Shelton*
Collections Care and Conservation,
San Diego Natural History Museum
Some of the most popular specimens for amateur collectors are pyrite. Often, these
specimens deteriorate with time and become unattractive. The natural reaction is to ask
"What do I do to clean this up and make it pretty again?" Unfortunately, curing
the pyrite "disease" is not a matter of a simple polish job.
Pyrite "disease" is a misnomer, though, like Byne's "disease" in
marine mollusk shells, there have been misguided attempts to link it with bacteria. It is
a humidity-driven oxidation of pyrite that affects the microcrystalline or framboidal
forms far more that it does the large crystals. The damage is preventable but irreversible
once it has happened. DO NOT USE ANTIFREEZE<!> Your informant got it all wrong. It
is possible to clean the reaction products off a the surface of a specimen using a
"very" specific procedure developed by Lorraine Cornish and Adrian Doyle at The
Natural History Museum, but this uses ethanolamine thioglycollate in a closed chamber. It
is not something you do casually with no training, as removing the specimen at the precise
time is necessary to prevent its destruction. The only way to slow the oxidation is to
lower the relative humidity. If the reaction has not started, keep it at 45% or lower; if
it has, get it to 30% or lower. Desiccants will work -IF- you know how to use them. It's
not a matter of throwing silica gel into a case and walking away. Anoxic enclosures also
help a lot, but, again, this is not something to do casually.
DO NOT SEAL THE SURFACES WITH ANYTHING. If you have an active reaction, coatings will not
only not stop it, they may well
make it worse by forcing larger areas to spall. DO NOT REFER TO OUTDATED LITERATURE. There
is some amazing garbage out there about pyrite disease. The best work on this is done by
Frank Howie, Rob Waller at the Canadian Museum of Nature (who has done the best work on
the specific mineralogy of the reaction) and Cornish and Doyle.
So my advice is: 1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If you don't have problems, don't do
anything except keep an eye on things. 2. If you can't keep the RH below 45% and you think
you may have problems, start with a preventive approach. There are published descriptions
of macro- and micro-climate control for collections in storage. Museums have the
directions for making anoxic enclosures and some advice on using and reconditioning
desiccants For a large collection, you may wish to consider installing climate-control
equipment for an entire case or cases; again, there are references for this. 3. If you
know you have a problem, the first step is to remove the specimen from its storage
environment to a work area. Brush away and discard the dry powdery reaction product.
(That's a DRY, soft brush). You may not wish to do anything more other than rehousing at
this point. The Cornish/Doyle method is not for the untrained, and often not for the
trained. There is no magic chemical or technique that will make the damage go away. There
is no disease to be cured. Low RH is the answer. 4. If you have a collection of known
reactive specimens, go ahead and make anoxic film enclosures anyway even if you've slowed
the reaction (it never stops). Reason: The reaction liberates sulfuric acid that can
damage other specimens and storage materials. And, encapsulate (NOT laminate) the specimen
labels so that they are not in contact directly with the specimen. (Yes, there are
encapsulation directions, too.)
Less really is more.
I strongly recommend that you get a copy of "The Care and Conservation of Geological
Material: Minerals, Rocks, Meteorites and Lunar Finds", edited by Frank Howie of The
Natural History Museum (London) and published by Butterworths. To find out more: Chris
Collins of the Geological Conservation Unit, Sedgwick Museum, Cambridge University has
started a newsletter for this subject. For more information, you can contact him at the
GCU, Madingley Rise, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0EZ, UK, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*via rocks-and-fossils e-mail group (with permission of the author)
By the way: porcupines LOVE the taste of brake fluid. They eat through anything
rubber and even metal brake hoses, and often don't leave an obvious sign that they have
visited. There is nothing more hair-raising than getting half-way back down a switch-back
dirt or gravel road high in the mountains only to have NO brakes. I always take a roll of
chicken-wire fencing with me if I am leaving my vehicle out in the back-country. I leave
my vehicle surrounded (corralled??) by the wire. I have also used creosote soaked around
my vehicle, as porcupines don't like the smell. This latter method is much less
environmentally friendly so I haven't used it for 20 years or so.
Virtue is it's own reward - but most of us want a better deal.
A.F.M.S. Newsletter is published monthly except July and August by the American
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