Desperately Trying to Organize

I put off organizing my rock collection until two weeks ago because I was too busy writing. It got to the point, though, where I couldn’t find things, much still wrapped up, never opened, or else sitting in cardboard boxes everywhere around the apartment.

I’m still organizing, although not in alphabetical order. Or any order at all. I got wire frame shelves since they are light weight, cheap (WalMart), and wouldn’t have to be dusted. I put the individual shelves at different heights to accept different things. The three shelves are zip-tied together.

The wire frames accept “S” hooks and hanging baskets.  Note the UV lamps hanging down in the last photo. Not everything can be seen in these pictures, especially individual collections within their own cases. Like my mad rare earth mineral collection and the lead sheets I have on top of it.

I’m happy the way the shelves are working out.

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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 Got To Have Sheen to Shine

I’ve started taking photographs of rocks and minerals I’ve sourced to illustrate my book. While my publisher has an account at, I need certain custom photos to accompany my text. My work this morning revealed insights into truthful rock and mineral photography.

My tools are a camera, a tripod, and a light table. The light table flickers so I leave it off, using its white surface as a background. Professionals say that dark material is usually photographed against a light background while lighter material shows best against dark. But my publisher prefers white for all shots.

I took this photo of phyllite and I thought it turned out well. I was using natural light through a south window. A flat specimen, it had no irregular surfaces to throw the camera out of focus.

A few hours later I happened to glance at the description given by Geological Specimen Supply, fine folks who answer their e-mails and sell good sized rock and mineral specimens. Their description reads in part, “Phyllite is one step beyond slate in metamorphism. The surface has a definite sheen from clay minerals that altered to mica, chlorite or graphite.” Hmm. Where was my sheen?

While I will have to take another photograph with my good camera, I snapped a pic with my iPhone camera and a table lamp to show the sheen. Here it is. Looks different, doesn’t it?

While I don’t have a piece of slate handy to show the difference between it and phyllite, I do have a photograph of shale, which is the first step in the metamorphic process. First shale, then slate, then phyllite. And then schist and then gneiss. This shale was photographed under the same side lighting as used in the shot above. No sheen at all, which is a definite property of phyllite. This shale, by the way, is what you would look into for trilobites.

As a side note, the phyllite shown was collected in Placer County in the American River Canyon. There are actually three canyons in that area as there are three forks of the American River, though they wander into El Dorado County as well. These canyons were my main prospecting area for over twenty years and I can’t tell you how many times I walked over slate, when in fact it was probably phyllite. The differences in the rock world can certainly be sublime.  Until you throw some light on the subject!