Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

The Treasure Hunt

One of the appeals of mineral collecting is the concept of treasure hunt. While the minerals that we look for do not fill the bill as regards monetary value, they are precious for their scientific significance. Now, don’t get me wrong. Of course, we are grateful that other mineral collectors are willing to pay for the specimens that we uncover. When we put an item up for auction, and two or more people bid on the piece, not only does it pay for the hobby, it makes for great entertainment.

Gold from Vermilion Mine

Gold from Vermilion Mine

The treasure hunt is not limited to the field, however. Reiner has found gold in the basement, for instance, when he cut open an ordinary-looking black rock. That was a nice surprise.

He has also discovered minerals while viewing the material through the microscope. When he detects something unusual for the locality, he sends off a sample for analysis to confirm the ID. We figure he has uncovered at least a dozen Ontario species that have not been previously reported in the scientific literature. That’s kind of exciting, to be able to contribute to the field of mineralogical study.

When Reiner started collecting, his focus was on “cabinet” specimens, that is, something that would fill the palm of your hand. Bigger is better, right? Well, to a point. Bigger is more expensive and more difficult to come by. But most importantly, bigger is bigger. It requires considerably less space to store a “thumbnail” specimen – that is a piece that will fit into a 1 ¼” cubed container.

Smaller, then, is better, in terms of space and expense. It also means, in many cases, that the crystals on a specimen will be in better shape than something that is larger, and therefore likely older (in geological terms) and has been exposed longer to and weathered by the forces of nature.

Smaller, though, means more difficult to see, especially if it is a micromount. That is a specimen that generally cannot be viewed with the unaided eye. Or the old-fart eye, like mine. That’s where the microscope and the macro photography come in. It’s also where I get the greatest charge out of the treasure hunt. What looks like an ordinary flat black rock is transformed into a wonderful swirl of growth habits.

Tilt the specimen a millimeter toward the camera and *boomph* the texture is revealed

Tilt the hibonite specimen a millimeter toward the camera and *boomph* the texture is revealed

When I do my photography work, I know that I am pointing the camera in the right direction and that the specimen is reasonably lit and in focus. After that, it’s all about luck. I have taken photography classes and have failed to grasp the concepts. I can say the words “depth of field” but do I really know what it means in terms of lighting and exposure? Not so much. Aperture setting? Well, that’s the hole that lets in the light, yes? But what do I do with that information? Beats me.

I am lucky that technology has come as far as it has and that cameras and photo-editing software are more or less idiot-proof. Without it, I would have missed out on any number of breath-taking “reveals” – the moments that would make me gasp and spontaneously smile at the wonder of nature.

Here are some of my favourites.

***   ***   ***   ***   ***

Inspired by The Daily Post

Categories: Mineral Collecting, Photography

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

27 replies

  1. I feel so vindicated, Maggie! Someone wrote about bokeh and I had to look it up; I just YouTubed how to pronounce it. Depth of field, aperture…whatever.
    Grey being one of my favorite colors, I am dazzled for the grey minerals. Not so much the green puffy mushroom or the white fluff. 🙂 These are all so fascinating.


    • I’m glad to hear, once again, that old refrain: that I am not alone in this! I once made similar comments about my inability to grasp photography concepts in a photo chat-room and was instantly chastised. Meanies.

      I looked up bokeh once. Then promptly forgot. So I best get googling again this morning!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I can recognize some of these, but not all. Beautiful pictures. Oh yeah, I use the ‘do it for me’ setting.


  3. Is that Australian kapundaite related in any way to the source of asbestos, Maggie ? – those fibres are a bit worrying … Who gave the okenite such a terrible fright ??? [grin]
    This is absolutely FASCINATING stuff: you can post about it as much as you like – I shan’t be bored ! 🙂


  4. As usual Maggie, you have made rocks very interesting and your photos are always stunning. If rocks actually looked like that lying on the side of the road, more people would be totally entralled with them!

    … and I’m relieved to hear someone else is camera-impaired. I think I just discovered that I can change the aperture on my old battered up camera. Now that I know that, I’m not sure what to do with it.

    … finally, I think I have legions of those white fluffy things under my bed right now. I haven’t checked them out in detail yet because – quite frankly – they scare me a little … remind me of Tribbles from Star Trek. Maybe they’re just distant cousins – harmless and all.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Glad M-R said that about the okenite. Tried to Like her, only to discover WPress doesn’t offer the option on its phone version!

    The “silky” Aussie whatchmacallit: Is that typical Australian humor? Do they refer to sandpaper down under as satin?

    The malachite was interesting because it was so unattractively bulbous. Such a pretty mineral when cut really ought to form more aesthetically-pleasing forms when left on its own. Please pass that on as a word from a well-intended friend.

    I have a tiny lidded box–a cubic inch–made from malachite given to me by one of my Russian co-workers long ago. He meant it only in friendship, but he said that in Russia, they are (were then) sometimes given by boys to girls as a sign that they were sweet on them. I keep a tiny green ceramic frog inside. He has never once dropped anything he didn’t pick up, peed on the toilet without cleaning it, lied to me, hopped out on me, or done anything to make ME feel small. I am sweet on HIM 🙂


    • You are funny. No, M-R is innocent of making bad puns (this time)

      “Silky” is a scientific term that is used to describe the luster of certain minerals.
      Metallic, waxy, vitreous, pearly… based on the play of light on the surface of the mineral.

      Next time I see Malachite, I’ll pass along your thoughts. 😉 You’ve probably seen all those marvelous images of entire rooms clad in malachite, yes? And something about a tub for Catherine the Great? (Great, speaking of which, now I must go a-googling.)

      One final bit of trivia. Frog is one of my power animals. A totem. So there, you and I are linked by Frog. And that’s a good thing.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Had forgotten that about “silky”. High school was too many decades back, I guess. Thanks for the reminder.

        Had not heard of nor seen photos of those rooms–have now. Bit too intense for my taste, but like some of the wallpapers, which are subtler.

        I will think of you now when I peek in at my frog 🙂 There is another related amphibian outside the door of my home, made of cast iron, painted realistically, wearing a gold crown. Before him is a heart engraved with the word “Hope”. As in, I have not yet given up that one of the usual male toads may yet be revealed to be a prince–prince enough for me, anyhow.


  6. I read this three times. That’s how interesting it is. Seriously.
    I always learn something on your posts Maggie. Well done to both of you.


  7. I love, love, love that greenish malachite. Beautiful photos, Maggie.


    • Thanks Judy! Lovely to hear from you and I must apologize for not reading your blog. Same old refrain: not showing up in my reader. I have just now subscribed to the email notification. I’ve got some catching up to do!


  8. I appreciate your valuing the scientific significance AND the entertainment value (auctions) of your hobby. I am impressed with your scientific contributions, and your expertise at finding items that drum up ebay responses.

    Your photos are amazing! They prove that a rock isn’t a rock isn’t a rock…

    I know what you mean about being challenged and addled by digital photography. I have a lovely high-end Nikon that a friend gave to me when it failed while under warranty. For the price of shipping, I got a nice camera to replace my 35mm. That was years ago, and I still put the viewfinder up to my eye as a matter of habit. The LCD screen gives me a rough idea of what I’m shooting at. I used to spend many minutes lining up a shot to frame it well, with my 35mm. Now, I just shoot at the target a bunch of times, knowing that I can clean it up in GIMP. I might as well use a camera phone without all the bells and whistles. I haven’t adjusted the settings in years, since I can’t see what it’s seeing until afterward. “Shooting blind” is nearly accurate.


    • Hi Grace, thanks for your kind remarks. I made sure to pass along the praise to Reiner today. He sends you a smile 🙂

      I’ve heard many people speak positively about GIMP. I’ll have to give that a try. I know exactly what you mean about shooting blind. I suppose that’s why it’s such a surprise a lot of the time when I do the processing. Ah well, the purists will scoff. Let ‘em, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think mineral collecting would be a very interesting hobby! When my husband and I go on vacation it is often the rock and mineral stores that catch our eye. More often than not, something makes its way home with us. My favorite is the piece of polished stone we bought in Durham, UK. It is the same type of marble used many centuries ago to make the columns inside Durham Cathedral. Every time I see it I remember that lovely day!


  10. I really enjoyed this post, the way you described the minerals, rocks and how to capture their depth and your pictures, too! I am a big rock collector, sometimes I have looked up names. I did a science fair exhibit on crystals, which got me first place in 7th grade and 3rd in my age level in the state. It is interesting how little I remember, when I read about them now. Do our brains turn to mush, if we don’t use the area we are trying to re-learn? Ha ha! I have a few little rocks in my car, fossils, smooth Lake Erie rocks, other pieces of things for my grandkids to look at. I go creek walking every spring with them, so they will know nature with their feet and pants wet! Smiles, Robin


    • Thank you for your great comment, and thanks for joining the club! I’m glad to hear that your grandkids are getting out into nature. From speaking with teachers who come to our booth at the mineral shows, the 9 and 10 year old kids just go nuts for the module on rocks and minerals.

      As for brain going to mush… I find it takes considerably more tries to get anything to stick these days. Especially people’s names.


  11. Love it! And your photography of these specimens is fantastic. I’d say you’ve got far better photography chops than you think. 🙂


Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s