Bryan Smalley and Hidden Treasure Trading Company in Goldfield, Nevada

I visited Goldfield, Nevada twice this past week, stopping in each time to check on Bryan Smalley’s Hidden Treasure Trading Company. Byran continues to do fine things in Goldfield.

Bryan runs one of the Southwest’s most interesting rock and gift shops. His rock shop complex encompasses three buildings; don’t leave until you look into all three. Bryan carries jewelry, much of it local, much made by himself, maps, books, cabs and slabs, and some rough.

Check out this wonderful jasper he is now cutting. He has hundreds of pounds more.

Hidden Treasures Trading Company
489 Bellevue Avenue
P.O. Box 512
Goldfield, NV 89013
775-485-3761
775-485-3485

Bryan is expert on local rockhounding and accomplished at lapidary. He does knapping and can talk authoritatively on making flintlock strikers from locally collected chalcedony. Need advice on polishing? He has it.

Ask locals where Bryan is if you can’t find him. Try the Dinky Diner. Goldfield citizens won’t mind you asking, in fact, they are very friendly. You should give a wave to people as you drive by. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t find his shops at first. Drive around. You’ll enjoy your time.

Bryan has a minimal web presence but he is busy with real life, finding rocks, cutting rocks, and making jewelry. When investigating the nearby Gemfield Gem claims, make plans to see him. Well worth the effort.

bsmalleyhiddentreasure@gmail.com

Yes, he made that door himself. And the shop.

Another Update on The Gemfield Gem Claims in Goldfield, Nevada

Sharon Artlip has been in touch. She and her sister Nadiah Beekum own the Gemfield Gem claims in Goldfield, Nevada.

I’ve written quite a bit about the claims at this site and also in the May, 2016 issue of Rock&Gem Magazine. Another name for the claims now seems to be “The Rainbow Chalcedony Claims.”

Sharon writes that, “It has been a wonderful couple of years.  We are still having fun at Gemfield and always trying to improve it.  If you would like I will send you the current brochure.”

Rocks go for a dollar a pound. Everything is on the honor system. Register at one of several Goldfield businesses before going to the claim. Easy dirt road but not recommended for large RVs.

Wild burro country. Antelope, too.

Here’s a link below to the current brochure in .pdf:

2019-03-Gemfield Gem-Claims-History-pamphlet

This is a link to Sharon’s website supporting the claims:

http://www.gemfieldnv.com

And here’s a postcard photo of the claims. Click here or on the image for a much bigger view:

 

Sharon holding chalcedony in Goldfield, Nevada. She’s at Bryan Smalley’s Hidden Treasure Trading Company at 489 Bellevue Avenue.  Notice her truck’s new personalized license plates.

Prospecting Thoughts While Traveling in Southern Nye County, Nevada

The fun stuff: Instagram — tgfarley

I went driving today to my club’s claims in the Johnnie Mining District in the hills outside Pahrump, Nevada. I never made it.

Instead, while driving HWY 160 west toward Pahrump, I thought about all the BLM land to the south of that road that may have not been recently prospected or rock hounded. The reason? A sturdy and nasty barbed wire highway fence with few breaks in it, only one faint road into the area in several miles, and few good pullouts to park. That’s enough to deter most prospectors even if the land is open and the ground unclaimed.

Compare that to Crystal Road, which strikes north from HWY 160 about four miles from I-95. No highway fence on either side. Fairly soon after leaving HWY 160, 15 to 20 large piles of dirt appear somewhat randomly over a mile or so to the east of Crystal Road as one travels to Crystal. Backhoe produced. Someone searching for gold.

I looked over some of these piles and their trenches. Must have been fairly old workings as BLM now requires a plan and  permit to operate heavy machinery on a claim. Unless some locals went rouge one day, possibly sampling on a large scale.

While I didn’t see any claim markers I felt uneasy about investigating further. Normally I would break out my metal detector or a bucket to take some rock and gravel. The more rural you get, however, the more testy locals become. I did have my laptop and there was cell coverage. I could have pulled up LandMatters to see if the area was under claim. But all map drawing websites are painfully slow with an average cell connection.

When I got home I researched the area a little. That ground was indeed unclaimed, with the only a large set of claims around the rough settlement of Crystal. If I go again to sample I will print out some maps first. In thinly populated areas, any truck parked on the side of the road gets attention. A person with a metal detector, a pick, and some five gallon buckets may be the highlight of the day for a nearby resident. Word will get out fast. If you prospect, you must handle the attention it attracts.

When I was last at my club’s claims, a fellow member pointed out the view east to I-95. “There’s gold all the way to the highway.” Hmm. Maybe washed from the hills. But in paying amounts? Some people think so, judging by those exploratory diggings and the fact there are so many claims around Crystal.

With temperatures now climbing, and my book deadline getting closer, I won’t be going back soon. But I will keep wondering about the area. And wondering what lies on the other side of HWY 160, the same looking ground but prospecting seemingly defeated by a wire fence. There is much to explore.

Okay, I will admit it. I got under that fence to sample a wash. Brought the gravel home. I don’t hope for gold when sampling blind, I look for black sand. Hardly any. But I didn’t get out my Whites GMT, which has a black sand tracking feature. It produces a  numerical readout to close in on areas with a greater likelihood of paystreaks. It’s far easier to search a gravel bar or a desert wash than with any other method.  But I ramble.

 

 

 

 

Mineral Mystery Musings by Rolf Luetcke

Hi Tom,

There are things out there that certainly are mysteries. I have quite a few in my past that were interesting.

One was a fellow on Mindat.org who found me by way of that site. He was from Tucson and messaged me about something he found deep in the mountains of SE Arizona. He was not a mineral guy but found a vein of quartz that had a silver material all over it and he was convinced it was a new metallic deposit he had discovered while bird watching. He sent me a piece and as soon as I saw it I knew it was not a natural material. I emailed him back and said I thought it was something man made. He just couldn’t believe it since it was “in the middle of nowhere” as he said. I told him to take it to the University of Arizona Mineral Museum. I told him I thought it was some kind of stuff painted on the rocks since it was only on the outside and didn’t go into the quartz where he broke it.

He took it to the University and they were also intrigued and said they would test it. He wrote me back a week later and said he got the results and it was aluminum paint. He was certain he had found a new mineral deposit but someone had actually painted some rocks in the middle of nowhere.

Another one was a fellow we met at the shop had been in the same area of old mines and he was a mineral collector, although not a very knowledgeable one. He posted on Mindat that he thought he found Millerite in the Patagonia area. He had not contacted me until after he had posted the material. I told him that was not possible because there was no chemistry in S Arizona to support that. Another friend had been with him and he gave me a piece of the same ore and as soon as I looked under the microscope I saw it was Stibnite, a mineral that was supported by the chemistry. They did find that Stibnite in an area Mindat did not list for that mineral’s locality, so that information has been added to Mindat. It was not the Millerite he hoped it was.

Dreams die hard. Mary told me many years ago when I found a new thing at a local mine and thought it might be some rare species, she said it is probably a much more common species but in a form I had not seen. She is usually right in pretty much all these cases and I learned a valuable lesson. I passed that onto the friend who gave me the Stibnite and he now thinks that his material was probably a more common mineral.

Got a bunch of those stories over nearly 48 years of mineral collecting.  Having worked with minerals now for so long I have gotten pretty good at identification but I do need to use a microscope to be sure.

Will be interesting to figure out what that “weird stuff” turns out to be you found in that field. Seems rock related and not necessarily mineral related and that is often harder to get figured out than a mineral.

Have a great day.

Rolf

NB: Rolf is a longtime mineral collector and rock shop owner in Southern Nevada. Read about his must stop shop here.

Minerals Unlimited in Ridgecrest, California

What do the best bars and rock shops have in common? They all have a gravel parking lot. Whenever you hear gravel underneath your wheels in the desert, you know you’re going to have a great time. Don’t fear for your vehicle though, as you only have to go fifty feet off pavement. And that distance will take you very, very far into a wonderful rock, mineral, and jewelry world.

 

Wendi “Ace” Elkins, singlehandedly owns and runs Minerals Unlimited in Ridgecrest, California. It sits next to a Salvation Army thrift shop and is one the finest rock and mineral stores in the Southwest. Its been operating for seventy years, always family owned. Minerals are neatly arranged in alphabetical order in dozens and dozens of wooden drawers, all of them inviting you to tour our rocky planet without leaving Ridgecrest.


A tremendous rock yard exists outside, with rough of all kinds and descriptions.

Working under the moniker of “Jewelry by “Ace,” Wendi fashions jewelry as a creative outlet for herself and to show off the many rocks and minerals her store offers. This description and picture is from her website:


“This lovely slab of native silver in calcite was mined from the Alhambra Mine, in Grant County, New Mexico. I used sterling silver wire to compliment the design. I had to let this one “talk” to me for several months, to make a complimentary wrap, but I think it was worth the wait.”

Wendi and I commiserated over static photographs being unable to convey the sparkle of jewelry and of rocks in general. You have to see in your hands the play of light from her designs  to see how special they are. Another reason to go in person.

You never know what you’re going to find at this store. I pulled out a drawer at random and it produced a stunning display of violet fluorite with cleaved octahedron shapes.

Stop in Ridgecrest whenever you’re in Southern California or traveling to nearby Death Valley. You may want one thing but you’ll carry out many more. She sells online, too, so check her website or give her a call. Make sure to phone before visiting in case she is out of town at a rock show.

And if you want to buy an entire rock shop, not just a rock, talk to Wendi. Running the store has become tiring and Wendi is considering serious offers on her business. She has worked at Minerals Unlimited since she was eight, on the payroll from 16, the owner since 2003. During this decision making time, however, the store remains fully open and operating and there is no thought of closing. There is a tremendous inventory here,  built up over decades with a great deal of material no longer available and unique to this shop. If you buy the store, you’ll have a head start on running it because everything is labeled!

Ridgecrest is centrally located to the historic mining districts around Randsburg to the south and Ballarat to the east. Nearby Sequoia National Forest to the west offers great rockhounding, especially along Highway 178, and the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range is revealed by heading north on U.S. Route 395. Starting at Ridgecrest itself, guided tours organized by the Maturango Museum go out in spring and fall to visit Little Petroglyph Canyon. There, rock art images by the thousands were etched into canyon walls and boulders by native people long ago. Plan well ahead for this bucket list tour.

Ridgecrest is a relatively small, quiet town, supported economically in large part by the Naval Air Station called China Lake. Its role is ongoing and vital, its decommissioning practically unthinkable, lending stability to this tranquil desert community. If you are near base at twilight, you may hear the lilting sound of “Retreat” over loudspeakers. This marks the lowering of the flag for the day. Cars on base stop and park for this short interlude. People get out of their cars and face the flag or the direction of the music.

A unique shop. A unique town.

Minerals Unlimited
127 N Downs Street
Ridgecrest, CA 93555
760-375-5279

wendi@mineralsunlimited.com

 

The Drill

The Drill. Checking my recent road trip finds with my Geiger counter, handheld metal detector, and my two UV lamps. Just to see if anything else is going on besides the reasons I originally picked them up.

One piece under shortwave fluoresces a nice green. May have found some common opal. This was on my last stop, when I pulled off the highway on a whim to walk the desert floor. At first I thought it was an agate because one side displays a translucent quality along with a wavy banding. When I got home, though, with my tools, I remembered I had seen something like it.

That piece matches the color, luster and the fluorescence of Arizona opal I recently got in trade from rock and mineral dealer Rolf Luetcke. Although simply white, the rock comes alive under shortwave UV. Not the intensity or brightness of Rolf’s piece, that material is top-notch, but the exact same color under the lamp.

Update: Not opal. A steel nail doesn’t scratch it, but a nail scratches the opal Rolf supplied. The piece must be chalcedony or agate, or whatever you want to call cryptocrystalline quartz. Hmm. What are the odds that I would find something that looks exactly like something else and fluoresces just like it as well. At least I know a place to search for fluorescent agates. The agates I have don’t fluoresce, certainly nothing green.

It’s All About The Gram

An upcoming road trip will take me to Boron, California to stop in at Desert Treasures, if they are open. On the outskirts of Boron, the Rio Tinto Borax Mine Visitor Center is next and then on to Barstow to visit the Desert Discovery Center to view The Old Woman Meteorite. Then over the Tehacapi Pass to Bakersfield.

Next day to Shark Tooth Hill and The Ernst Quarries, next to Randsburg, and then on to Ridgecrest to visit Minerals Unlimited.

North after that to Death Valley, then east to Beatty, and then a drop back down to Las Vegas. I will be posting photos along the way if I have cell coverage.

If you are not on Instagram, consider joining. It’s all about the gram.

My username is: @tgfarley

On the web: https://www.instagram.com/tgfarley/

Keep That Spray Bottle Handy!

Found this crazy looking piece on or near the east border of Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada, where limited, non-commercial collecting is allowed. In response to the photos I posted to Facebook, Joel Coombs on The Rockhound Connection responded, “I believe that rock is slightly metamorphosed limestone. I have found smaller pieces with the same colors. Put a drop of pool acid on it. If it effervesces it is limestone.” I did put some acid on the back of the rock and it did indeed fizzle. This all agrees with Jim Boone’s identification of plain looking limestone in the same location.

I found it on the side of the road, a dusty and dirty rock but one showing interesting markings. My spray bottle revealed what I thought might be great material for a cab or a slab. (If I wanted to do that since I rarely get around to lapidary.) A friend pointed out, though, that the red areas were rusty splotches, possibly iron or hematite related and that being soft would not easily cab up. Something like Superglue might be applied to those areas, then the whole piece sanded later on.

I decided to keep it as it was. A former rock shop owner suggested clear glossy spray lacquer which could always be sanded off later. The first picture is of the rock wet, the second is after three coats of spray, now dry. The third picture is of the untreated back. Given the ease of effort, I think the spray worked out well for this particular rock.

How did I find it? I was volunteering on Tuesday to help fill in potholes on Gold Butte Road, the somewhat paved road that provides the main access to the Monument. Right now, under the direction of The Friends of Gold Butte, many volunteers are helping out on this multi-day project. Clark County and BLM are also supplying workers and cold patch. I found the the rock on a break. But I had my spray bottle nearby. https://www.meetup.com/Friends-of-Gold-Butte/

BLM Doesn’t List Rockhounding As An Activity Anymore

This is so depressing. It’s like there is a war against rockhounding. Nearly fifty activities listed by BLM and none of them rockhounding. It’s not that all BLM land is closed to rockhounding, much is open, but there is something wrong when BLM hides our hobby. It’s even more strange because BLM has areas they’ve specially set aside for rockhounding, with no claims permitted in most of these designated areas. So why aren’t they listed at their search site?

I get the feeling they think we are destructive. And yet a BLM permitted quarry or mine can destroy countless fossils or specimens of copper and turquoise that any rockhound would love to have.

In a commercial ore mine, most mineral or crystal specimens are not economical to recover so they are run through the mill. Rockhounds treasure even the smallest specimens. We don’t tear up thousands of acres or make pits eight hundred feet deep. Yet today on much of BLM land we’re not allowed to pick up a single rock.

On a current BLM page I read this:

“Collecting may not be allowed in special management areas, such as wilderness and national historic sites or on mining claims.” That’s totally misleading. Unless expressly prohibited, wilderness areas, both USFS and BLM managed, are completely open to casual collecting. I’ve been in correspondence with top people at BLM management in Washington D.C. and I have their written assurances that such collecting is allowed. This is that misleading page:

https://www.blm.gov/visit/marble-mountain-rock-collecting-area

On another current BLM page, this is stated: “In most instances, public lands are open to rockhounding although no collecting is allowed in National Monuments. BLM can help you make this determination.” Again, completely misleading. Gold Butte National Monument in Nevada and Mojave Trails National Monument in California allow rockhounding. There are probably others. This is that misleading page:

https://www.blm.gov/basic/rockhounding

As Jim Boone points out, most BLM land that has not been shut down to collecting remains open to rockhounding or claiming. But that acreage dwindles every year, as former BLM land is moved into National Parks or Monuments.

The area now known as the Mojave National Preserve had a rich history of rockhounding as well as commercial mining. But in going to Preserve status, the Federal government ended all mineral entry, including specimen collecting by rockhounds. Every one of its 1.6 million acres is now totally closed to picking up a single rock. I once had to ask staff personnel if it was permissible to make a plaster cast of an animal track. They debated that for a while and then said it would be legal as long as I didn’t step on any other tracks while I was making one. Sheesh.

Here’s a web page that shows you how to determine land BLM still considers public rockhounding areas. You have to search for rockhounding by that name. Know, too, that many BLM pages which featured rockhounding areas are now gone, like the one for Burro Creek, Arizona.

https://www.blm.gov/visit/search/0/0/rockhounding/1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And if you want an idea of an area that has been closed down, get a look at what 1.6 million acres looks like:

Pala Chief Fee Dig, Pala California

Many people wonder if a fee dig operator has picked through pay dirt before they get to a site, thinking the owner has kept the best material. At the Pala Chief fee dig, that’s certainly not the case.

Here, Jeff Jeff Swanger, Owner and Chief operator of the Ocean View and Pala Chief Mines, digs up untouched ground, piling it to one side so rockhounds can go through it. He must have spent fifteen minutes at it, removing a tremendous amount of material.

After the excavator retreated, some jumped into the new trench, to see if anything was down, rather than up. In either case, no one had gone through that ground before!

Besides that treat, we were free to dig, chisel, pry, and hammer at any rock or rock face on the mountain. Many people did very well just surface collecting. And we kept whatever we found.

https://digforgems.com