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Rockwood Gem and Mineral Society
St. Louis, Missouri


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February Meeting

We have a real treat in store for us. Peggy Nuske has managed to get Dr. Eric Trinkaus, from the Dept. of Anthropology at Washington University, to speak at our February Meeting. He discovered, in Portugal, a 25,000 year old skeleton of a young boy who exhibits the features of both Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon men. This discovery has been written up in all the newspapers as well as Discover magazine. He will talk about his find, fossils, their preservation and the geology of the area in Portugal.

We were saddened to learn of the death of Ray Johnson this past week. He was one of the founding members of our club. Ray was buried in New Florence on February 10,2000.

Comments, Etc.

Mary Parrott and Bob Morse are still hard at work giving talks to school kids. Mary just talked to four classes (110 students) at Uthoff Valley Elementary School. Mary has been mounting rock samples on 2" squares and giving one to each student. She could use some more samples if anyone has some extras.


Good News
Would you like to see what some of the younger generation is up to involving our hobby? Several years ago, your editor started corresponding on-line with a six year old English boy who was interested in fossils. We have been fortunate enough to meet with him and his family on a couple of occasions. Sean and his brother, Craig, have put together an amazing web site. Craig(13 years old) does the computer programming while Sean (now II) does the fossil part. Check out their web site:

FHC Online
It is so refreshing to see this very positive use of the internet.

Trip to MEXICO
We recently received an e-mail at our web site from Walt Bowser, leader of Mineral Search Safaris. He takes groups on two trips a year to Mexico to collect. He mentions that he goes to visiting areas where the casual tourist rarely goes and visits miners, mines, ghost towns while enjoying comfortable surroundings. Check out his web site:

Rockhounding the Internet

by David Miller – St. Louis Mineral &

Gem Society

"THE GOLD OF THE NORTH" dates back to approximately 7000 B.C. where man began to work this precious resource. It was discovered in West New Zealand, Denmark. Highly prized as a commodity, from about 4000 B.C. (Neolithic Age) to around 1000 B.C. (Bronze Age), it's value increased as this material was used for trade and the exchange of needed goods among people of the time. During the Bronze Age (3000 B.C. - 1000 B.C.) trade routes were established and these precarious highways allowed trade throughout Europe and into the Far East. One of the major sea traders of the time were the Phoenicians and this precious material was their primary commodity along with Tin. This precious resource rapidly began to invade the British Isles, Greece, Egypt, Northern Ireland and Mesopotamia. By the Iron Age (1000 B.C. - 500 B.C.) there was a high quality of this substance being worked into figurines, statuary, along with broaches and jewelry.
The precious material I am describing is AMBER. The reason that I describe it as a material is because it is NOT a mineral as some are led to believe, but a fossilized resin from ancient trees which formed through a natural polymerization process of organic compounds. As we know it now, these ancient pine trees are long gone, but current research has located 2 similar living genera's that produce the same "Succinic acid" as found in some amber. They are the Keteleeria and the Pseudolarix trees discovered in the eastern mountain ranges of China. Of the two genus, the Pseudolarix is beginning to look more likely as the tree source of amber from the Baltic Amber Deposits. As it is now, two of the worlds major deposits of amber are in the Domimcan Republic and the Baltic Sea Region. It is also interesting to note that the majority of fossilized amber discovered and studied originated in the Cenozoic Era, with the majority of amber deposits laid down between the Carboniferous and Miocene geological periods of 360 - 20 million years ago.
Amber is an interesting substance to research due to the fact that there is still a lot to learn about it. Amber is originally a resin that is converted to a secondary substance called Copal. which in turn is converted finally to amber. Although this process is yet not fully understood, it is realized that the conversion takes place under heat, pressure, and time. Compositionally, amber which is readily identified as fossilized amber contains succinic acid usually in amounts of 38%. The lower the percent of succinic acid in amber the clearer and paler it is, the higher the percent the more yellow and opaque it becomes. Other components in amber are Carbon (67-87%), Oxygen (15%), Hydrogen (8.5-11%), Sulfur (0.260.34%) and inorganic matter (0.5%). Over the years amber has been given to so many varieties and colors that is safe to say they number over 80, far too many to mention here. The few of the more common names are Ambergris, Dammar, Myrrh, Frankincense, Rosin, Mastic, and Succinite.
Geographic occurrences of amber have a large worldwide distribution. Amber is found in the Baltic Region which spans the area of Poland east through Russia. Another large resource is one of the largest islands in the Archipelago of Greater Antilles, the Dominican Republic, where it's deposits are found in the central mountain ranges. Some other continental locations include Japan, New Zealand, Tanzania, Greenland, Australia, Russia, Philippines. In North America it's found from Canada to Mexico and in 12 different states.  The first North American discovery of an insect imbedded in amber was the caddis fly in Tennessee in 1917. Arkansas is known as having the largest deposit of amber on the continent and is located in Maivern County, with over 900 insects, arachnids, and plants having been isolated.
Some of the uses of amber actually surprised me while other uses are still being used the same today. In the 1920's half of the production of amber was for the manufactured articles of smokers such as cigar/cigarette holders and mouth pieces for pipes. The more common uses being jewelry: necklaces, bracelets, earrings, pendants, ext. Objects of art include: carvings, chess sets, pictures, cups and dishes, etc. And as Devotional items: rosaries, sacred figures, and amulets. Amber has also been used as varnish, lacquer, and burned as incense.
The studies of amber seem to have a interdisciplinary trail. Paleontologists and Geologists study it for fossils and pre-historic life. Archeologists study it's trade routes to tell us about the people at that time. Organic Chemists study it for its properties. Botanists and Entomologists study it for ifs botanical resources and insect life. And Geologists and Jewelers want it for it's beauty, rarity and economy.
Believe it or not I've only gazed the surface of this interesting topic. I could easily use this month's entire newsletter and still have plenty more information to cover. It was difficult to write this because there is so much unique information I've left out. If this article has stimulated any curiosity to find out more information and history on amber, I refer you to the 2 best web sites I have found. Not only are they article rich with information, but the listings of references, Museums and other web sites are exhausting!
AMBER HOME and Welcome to the World of Amber

New Herkimer Locality Opens

The Treasure Mountain Diamond Mine in Little Falls, NY has been opened as a tee site (as of Memorial Day Weekend). The smoky scepter quartz crystals that are found at this site are truly unique and beautiful (see recent Mineralogical Record for picture). In addition, jewelry quality crystals (with and without anthrazolite inclusions) and large "Klunkers" can be found here, depending on the part of the mine in which you dig. The calcite crystals (can be larger than a fist) found here often have perfect "diamonds" inside. This locality has the typically hard "Herkimer Rock" but the mount of overburden is much less than that of the other more popular Middleville, NY mines. Thus, some hard work is required to get the desired scepters. However, because the diggings are closer to the surface some crack are in the rocks and wall mining is slightly eased. There are (as of yet) no signs of the huge vugs full of crystals as found at Middleville, but this is one of the few localities where these unique smoky scepters can be found.
To reach this promising locality, form the NYS Thruway, take exit 29A (Little Falls). Go through the toll booth and travel about 1/4 mile. Turn left on to route 169. Go another 1/4 mile and turn right on Sate Route 5S. Go 1.9 miles (up the hill) and the entrance will be on the right (Barn next to 3 silos). The barn is the office and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through November. Cost to collect is $10.00 per person. For more information and a firsthand account of the collection, call Dean Lagerwall (691-9147)

From 9/99 Geoletter Geological Society. Dean Lagerwall, BGS Field Trip Chairman.

GIANT SLOTH TRACKS have been found near Saltville, VA. The tracks were 3 feet long and are estimated at 13,500 years 0Id. The sloth weighed about 3000 pounds
Mineral Newsletter via Strata Gem
RHODOCHROSITE WAS FIRST DISCOVERED BY THE INCAS around the 12th Century in Argentina. Generations later, Frank Mansfield rediscovered the mine.  Most unusual formations with a circular pattern of light and dark occur in this treasure chest. Highly artistic pieces are carved out of this "Indian Rose''. The name comes from Greek "rhodo"
(rose) and "chros" (color)
The Mountain· Gem via The Burro Express
ONLY ABOUT 50 DIAMOND MINES have·ever existed. Only 15 now Operate.
EMERGENCY EMERGENCY FLARES can be made from empty plastic milk cartons. Place a rock inside to hold them and light. They will last about 10 minutes.
Silver and Rubber don't get along very well.  Never put a rubber band around sterling
silver or you will end up with a permanent stain.
SAND MUST BE IMPORTED INTO EGYPT for sandblasting. Local sand is far too fine.  POLISH TARNISHED SILVER CHAINS for a half hour in a tumbler with Steel shot .and burnishing compound. One chain at a time avoids tangles The Rockpile
LINE YOUR HAT WITH ALUMINUM FOIL on hot sunny days to keep Cooler. Rocky Trails
BROKEN EGG SHELLS make a good pot scrubber when camping. Rocky Trails