Corona de Tucson
June 2, 2023
|Calcite with quartz and amethyst|
A day date is always fun to add to the calendar. This week we ventured north to downtown Tucson to check out the U of A Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum.
The museum is located in the restored Pima County Historic Courthouse along with a great Visitor Center and the famous Dillinger courtroom. We didn't quite know what to expect before arriving at the museum and were we ever surprised.
This 12,000 square foot state of the art exhibit space has three major galleries: Mineral Evolution, Arizona Gallery, and a Gem Gallery. It should be noted that all exhibits in the museum were either donated or loaned to UArizona.
I don't pretend to understand much of anything I read, but I do remember that minerals found here have continuously changed for 4.5 billion years. That's a really long time !
Our planet only has about 50-60 minerals in common with its neighboring rocky planets Mercury, Venus and Mars. These were the first minerals to have existed among the ingredients that formed the solar system. Earth differs from the other planets in mineral diversity as approximately 100 new minerals are discovered each year with a total of 5,000+ that are unique to Earth. Diamond is believed to be the first mineral ever formed.
Diamonds are beautiful, shiny, and costly, but they didn't come close to grabbing my attention at the museum. I can only share a few...
|Clinochlore...a Greek word meaning oblique and green|
|A zoom on one of the finest large crystal quartz clusters ever found... |
Ron Coleman Mine, Arkansa
|4. a rib and 5. a vertebrae|
|Fresh water fish fossils discovered in Wyoming...|
|Quartz, petrified wood...Arizona|
And there's a nice display of meteorites from the moon and Mars. Also included was a piece of the Apollo 15 lunar sample (a moon rock).
As you approach the Arizona Gallery, there is a beautiful collection of paintings "Capturing the Essence of Mining" from 1923.
As you would have guessed, this gallery was full of Arizona mining history.
In the 1890s as gold and silver mines fizzled out in Arizona, copper was discovered. It remains the most abundant and valuable metallic mineral product in our state today.
It was no surprised to learn that turquoise is our state gemstone. It has been used for hundreds of years in Native American jewelry. And still today, Navajo Indians believe this stone is sacred and that it brings good fortune. What I didn't know was that turquoise is formed when water filters through rock containing copper and is often unearthed during copper mining.
|Inlay with shell and turquoise: Salado Culture |
Keystone Ruin, AZ
We also learned that while Arizona is sometimes referred to as The Copper State, and copper is the most abundant mineral mined, it is not the state mineral. It is the state metal. Check this out...the state mineral is Wulfenite.
This somewhat uncommon bright yellow, orange, orange-red, or red mineral is often too thin and soft to cut for jewels making rare faceted pieces greatly prized by collectors. The red of wulfinite, especially from the Red Cloud Mine (which dates back to the 1800s) in Arizona has been called one of the richest colors in nature.
|We didn't see a red sample, but the orange, yellow and butterscotch pieces were beautiful.|
Who doesn't appreciate a beautiful gem stone? This gallery gives a simple explanation of how minerals are transformed into timeless gems. Displays included explanations of the seven basic crystal systems and how every mineral on Earth has at least one of the seven structures, how gemstones sparkle and shine by interacting with light, and how minerals are shaped and polished by skilled experts.
The last area we walked through doesn't need an explanation. Exhibits on display were some of the most beautiful and unique pieces we have ever seen.
|Title: Da Vinci|
Beryl var. helidor
carved by Alfred Zimmerman
Gold work by Henry Dunay
|These gorgeous boxes were inlaid with a variety of minerals...turquoise, quartz, opal, gold, malachite, etc...found from places all over the world.|
artist: Thomas McPhee
base: Nicolai Medvedev
Our lunch choice was La Cocina Restaurant and Pub or LaCo as the locals say. It is tucked away inside the walls of Old Town Artisans. It's colorful, quint patio setting surrounded by tiny shops and galleries stocked with local crafts makes for a fun and yummy place to have lunch.
|Their small size and agility make them skillful foragers among the thorns and spines of plants like cholla and prickly pear.|
Joe and I have commented how pleased we are that all the birds that visit seem to respect each other and get along. This week, however, we have noticed more and more White-winged dove in the yard.
One minute, they are hanging out at the seed feeder and the next they are on the ground flapping their wings and chasing the other birds away. As much as I respect their rights to be here and all they do to pollinate the saguaro, there is plenty of desert out there and I wish they would move on !
On Wednesday, I was looking thru pictures on the computer. I just happened to notice a nice chunk was missing from a volunteer prickly pear cacti we have on the side yard.
|Do you find the bunny?|