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Tucson Show 2009 Review - Part 3 - TGMS

Last Updated: 25th May 2013

By Jolyon & Katya Ralph

Tucson Show Report - Part 3 - the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show

The final event in the Tucson show calendar is the TGMS (Tucson Gem and Mineral Society) Show, or more simply "The Main Show".

The Tucson Gem and Mineral Society Show

It's the biggest mineral event in Tucson, although at only 4 days, it's also one of the shortest. It's also the only one you have to pay to enter, but that never seems to put off the crowds of people who descend on the show at 10am on Thursday morning for the opening.

As you know, I'd flown in especially for the show:

Jolyon arriving in Tucson

And I was pleased to follow the advice on the roadsigns on the the way into the center of town

Roadsigns offering valuable advice

This year was different, because had it's own booth, right in the center of the show. Here's me at the booth.

Me at the Mindat Booth

You'll notice that we used part of the booth to promote the artwork of one of our mindat artists, Sophia Shultz, who paints minerals from photos that have been uploaded to mindat (with permission!).

The mindat booth was paid for very kindly by Crystal Classics and Kristalle for which I am very grateful. Of course, the booth was both a blessing and a curse, it gave an excellent place for meeting people, but it also tied me down so it was not so easy for me to travel round and see everything (and from viewing other reports I know there were things I never got to see. I never saw that crazy banana for example!)

Here's an example of regular activity at the booth. Mindat regulars Chet Lemanski (left) and Van King are discussing the finer points of mindat while using my laptop.

Chet and Van discussing stuff

Of course, it does look on that photo that they are taking a great deal of interest in the mindat home page, which they've probably both seen a hundred times a day. Next time, when we stage photos, we'll try to stage them more believably!

Another visitor was Jim Bean, who as you may have seen in my previous report, was one of the intrepid helicopter collectors. He was showing off his Dioptase minature that he'd collected on the trip that previous day.

Dioptase - Jim Bean specimen

So when I did go wandering round the show, I tried to keep an eye out for interesting things. The first thing to catch my eye wasn't even a mineral - John Attard had a nice selection of rare element oxides for those who like odd things (which was, of course the theme of this show).

John Attard's rare oxide collection

Here's a video for those who want to linger longer on small bottles of variously-shaded powders!

Alfredo Petrov is of course a mandatory feature of all my show reports (there must be at least six of him as wherever I am in the world he invariably turns up). Here is one of his specimens, a Phosphophyllite from a new find at a new locality in Bolivia. When he was shown this by the miners and told it was Phosphophyllite, he didn't believe them, the appearance is wrong and the locality is nowhere near the traditional sources. He bought it anyway as he suspected it might end up being something unusual. And when he got it back and tested it, it was indeed Phosphophyllite - proving that the miners in the bolivian mines know what minerals they're finding better than the dealers!

New find of unusual Phosphophyllite

Here's a photo of Alfredo with mutual friend and long-time mindat contributor Frank De Wit

Alfredo (left) and Frank

Right next to our booth was The Vug who as you probably know publish a free mineral magazine at showtimes and run a website that you may have visited. The website rivalry between them and us was of course captured perfectly with other photos that Gail and Jesse have posted to the messageboard, but here's the guys sitting down relaxed waiting for the massed crowds to descend.

The Vug Booth

It's well worth going to see their show reports at The Vug. Brandy has spent the best part of the last two weeks uploading photos and videos, far more than I would be able to manage.

Here's one of their videos of Justin and I chatting rubbish and looking down to our booths at the center of the show on the wednesday as we were setting up - giving a good idea of the scale of the show if you've never been.

The free magazine The Vug were distributing had a cover photo of a mouse from the Fersman Museum in Moscow, Russia - this mouse died and fell into copper-rich waters in a russian mine, to end up being replaced and encrusted in Atacamite, Chalcanthite and other copper minerals. Unfortunately this specimen is far too fragile to travel, so instead the display from the Fersman museum (see below) contained two photos of the mouse, including one needing 3d glasses (stuck to the display case) for those who wanted to both examine the specimen in 3 dimensions and get a headache at the same time.

Justin told me that on the Friday morning, which was the schoolkids day, he was constantly asked by kids about this mouse, which was renamed "The Atakamouse" by the kids. "Where's the atakamouse?" they would all ask. Here's a little video of Justin from The Vug and I talking about the 'Atakamouse' and various other rubbish:

Right next to The Vug, Collector's Edge had their impressive display, including two of the largest slabs of petrified wood I've seen in ages. One was being displayed as a 2001-style monolith, the other being used more practically as a table.

Petrified Wood Slab - Collector's Edge

Of course, Tucson is also about the social gatherings. On the Thursday night I was invited as Gail Spann's guest to a dinner hosted by the Mineralogical Association of Dallas (which was kindly sponsored by Danny Trinchillo of Fine Minerals International and Rob Lavinsky of The Arkenstone - more from them shortly).

The highlight of the evening was a presentation by Tom Moore, Editor at the Mineralogical Record magazine on German minerals. It was a short potted history of all things mineralogical from Germany, and very informative and interesting it was too.

Tom Moore talking at the MAD dinner

On friday evening, I had the pleasure of attending Pete Megaw's annual Tucson party. I learnt it's probably not a good idea to criticise museum lighting displays in front of the curator.

Alan Hart (right) replies to my question about the quality of lighting in the museum displays

Fine Minerals International had some of the nicest single specimens I saw for sale. For example, this was one of the recent finds of stacked calcites from China

Calcite from China - Fine Minerals International

But pride of place had to go to this amazing large crenillated Tourmaline from Afghanistan - here being lit from above by Danny from Fine Minerals while I took the photo. Quite probably the nicest specimen for sale I saw at the show.

Afghan Tourmaline - Fine Minerals International

Walking over to Kristalle and Crystal Classics, I went to thank Wayne and Dona for their gracious sponsorship of the mindat booth. Unfortunately I missed the combined 160th birthday part for Wayne, Lois and Ian Bruce (Crystal Classics) - that was a couple of days before I arrived, but by all accounts it was enormous fun.

Dona and Wayne outside their display area

Here's their display area from the outside, my favourite dealer area of the show, the (large) team put an enormous effort into the show.

Kristalle/Crystal Classics at Tucson 2009

And here's a (longish) video walkthrough of their cabinets, so you can see the quality of material they had for offer. More minerals from Kristalle and Crystal Classics are available online from MinVision.

You may have seen in other show reports how easy it was for Justin and Brandy from The Vug to invade my personal space by poking their heads through the curtains on one side of the Mindat booth. Well, I had to check myself one day what would happen if I poked my head through the curtains on the OTHER side of my booth. And this is what I saw!

Gail Spann (center) at the Crystal Classics/Kristalle tea party

I wandered over later and found an even more alarming sight!

Left to right - Dave Hacker, Jim Spann and Ian Bruce

And unfortunately just a little from Rob Lavinsky at the The Arkenstone, some fine Mexican Azurites.

Azurites from Milpillas, Mexico

However, a short distance from Rob's booth was a display cabinet showing highlights of the Lindsay Greenbank collection of Northern England minerals - this has been a legendary collection for many years amongst UK mineral collectors, something I had never managed to see myself. Retired UK dealer Ralph Sutcliffe was coaxed out of retirement to help Rob Lavinsky with the small job of securing this collection.

Ralph Sutcliffe and the Lindsay Greenbank collection display

Rob tells me they are writing a book on the collection which will shortly be published by the Mineralogical Record (I wasn't sure if this was a separate publication, a 'free book' for subscribers or a special issue of the magazine, but I'm sure we'll find out soon.

Here's a video preview of the display

Dan and Diane Weinrich had some particularly beautiful minerals for offer - many were from the Minette collection that previewed at Tucson a year ago, but others were new. I especially liked this chinese pyromorphite

Chinese Pyromorphite, Dan Weinrich

Also helping out at the booth was fellow Brit, Nick Carruth, who had no less than five of the rare pseudomorphs of Cassiterite after Orthoclase from Wheal Coates in Cornwall. Here is one of the better ones. I've collected at the mine dumps at Wheal Coates, but never found anything interesting.

Cassiterite after Orthoclase, Wheal Coates, Cornwall

So, the primary thing that distinguishes the Main show from all the others (apart from size) is the quality of displays that are put on. This year's theme was 'Mineral Oddities', which was a perfect opportunity for everyone to display their weird, odd and in several cases downright phallic minerals for all. As other people are doing a far better job of systematically recording the contents of display cases, I'll use this report to show some of the highlights of the show to me.

Here are some, ahem, unusually shaped specimens.

Unusually shaped minerals

Mindat regulars Gail and Jim Spann put on a display of some of their more unusual minerals.

Here's a cheeseboard from the Gail and Jim display:

Cheese Board

As quartz is the most common mineral on the earth's surface, it's not surprising that there were plenty of odd quartz specimens being displayed.

Pseudocubic quartz from Victor Yount

Here is a case of strange epimorphs of quartz after various minerals. An epimorph, for those who don't know, is a cast of one mineral (in this case quartz) after another, where the original mineral has disappeared leaving a hole or hollow area.

Strange epimorphs

Something for the quartz connoisseur was this Belovda twin Quartz. I wish I could tell you more about this, because it's fascinating, but I don't have any more information in my books about it at all. So hopefully someone can reply with some info. Obviously it's like japan-law, but twinned on a different plane with a smaller angle between crystals.

Belovda Twin Quartz

But my favourite of the quartzes was this one - the smokey quartz fish:

Smokey quartz fish

Here is a display of california borate minerals

Borates from California

Maria Alferova from the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow, Russia could not bring the 'Atakamouse' for display, so to try to make up for it, she made her own traditional Russian Sarafan and wore it at the show. Here she is in front of the display (which I should mention was the joint work of Dmitriy Belakovskiy and Maria, both from the Fersman).

Maria in a sarafan and the case without an Atakamouse

Here's a close-up of some unusual Staurolite crystals from their display.

A Staurolite equation

Mindat regulars Jesse Fisher and Joan Kureczka put on this wonderful display of twinned Fluorites. For some reason twinned fluorites are particularly common in certain mines - for example many in the north of England.

Jesse and Joan's Fluorite display

The HAMS from Houston put on a great display of minerals from the collections of their members.

The Houston Area Mineralogical Society display

As did the MAD group from Dallas...

The Mineralogical Association of Dallas

But wait... what's that I see? A familiar looking Tanzanite that I saw last year. But something is wrong!

Tanzanite from... Texas???

You might remember in my report last year that this very specimen was mislabelled as from Tennessee - well the owners certainly have a sense of humor (or perhaps they're just trying to pretend that last year's faux pas was deliberate?) and this year, the same specimen has migrated to Texas. Assuming an alphabetical progression, we can expect to see this specimen labelled from Utah next year.

Justin had his own display, of course, of asbestos minerals previously from the Philadelphia Academy collection.

Mr Asbestos and his display

Here's one of the pieces that you're glad is safely behind glass.

Asbestos from France

The Smithsonian Institution brought a single gemstone to display - but what a good one. The Maharani Chrysoberyl Cat's Eye is over 58 carats, and it's one of the finest examples of its kind.

Maharani Cat's Eye - Smithsonian specimen

That's all from Tucson this year. If you haven't already seen them, please check out these other fine show reports:

Show reports from Robin of Crystal Classics

Show reports and display walkthroughs from The Vug

Show reports from John Veevaert of Trinity Minerals

Gail Spann's show report at

My next report will probably be from The Rochester Symposium in April, where I'll be giving a presentation! I'll post highlights on mindat of course.

Article has been viewed at least 31799 times.


Jolyon, what a great fun show report, love you getting off the plane ( which is a retired plane stored amongst many left in the desert where it won't rust ) and your being bashed by Alan Hart. Well done, and glad you had such a good time!

Gail Spann
1st Mar 2009 4:05am
Hello Jolyon,
"TGMS" stands for "Tucson Gem and Mineral Society." Calling it the TGMS Show is correct. In fact, I believe they have trademarked it.

Glad to see you have survived having those unruly Americans for neighbors at the show. Hope to see everyone at Munich.

Jesse Fisher
1st Mar 2009 6:07pm
Oops. Brain failure. Now fixed, thanks.


Jolyon & Katya Ralph
1st Mar 2009 7:06pm
Gail - the plane I was descending from was the 'Air Force One' from the early 1960s (Johnson & Kennedy era), which is now an exhibit at the Pima Air and Space Museum.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
2nd Mar 2009 7:25pm
Hi Jolyon, Thanks a lot for sharing this great Show report! It is like that I am there when I view. I saw a lot of nice specimens and many peoples. And also glad to see some nice specimens from China and nice display. Thanks & I will save some photos on my computer.

XiaoJun Chen
15th Jun 2009 12:58am
This message has been a long time coming! I stumbled onto your picture in the 2009 Tucson report of the strange quartz twin from Brazil called a Belovda twin. It apparently was in someone's case, but the owner was not identified. If I am not mistaken, this is a specimen that belonged to Richard Gaines, and he lent it to me for study about 1993. I determined that it was a twin on {30-32}. Unfortunately, I had to return it to Dick! A beautiful specimen!

R. Peter Richards
10th Aug 2015 10:24pm

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