Jasper

Picture Jaspers added to The Cabochon Store

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Fellow agateers,

I added two large offerings of Hans Gamma’s wonderful picture jasper cabs to The Cabochon Shop this May. Many of the cabochons are from rare jaspers and they are all identified. You can see pictures of all these varieties in Hans Gamma’s new book: Picture Jaspers of the Northwest. You can get a copy from Hans by visiting his website worldofjaspers.com.

I also posted eighteen Willow Creek jasper cabs in The Cabochon Shop. I cut them from an exceptional area in the deposit which was quickly exhausted. I liked it because the black strokes in the pale grey and tan backgrounds reminded me of the Sumi paintings made by Japanese Zen monks.

Now I’m settled in Oregon, my ETSY stores are open for business and new postings will be announced soon. Have a great summer,

                                           Thom

A pillow cut cabochon
Owyhee Picture Jasper cut by Hans Gamma
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a scenic desert beauty by Hans Gamma
Willow Creek Jasper Cab
Willow Creek cut by Thom Lane

The Tucson Show, January 24th – February 6th 2017

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I was a dealer at the Tucson Gem Show for two weeks. My room was in the Hotel Tucson (AKA The Inn Suites), the show of preference for many agate dealers .

My agates on display in my hotel room
just one wall of the showroom, a very nice place to show.

Please send an email to TheAgateTrader@gmail.com with the word subscribe and I’ll gladly add your email address and name to our emailing list so that you can hear about new material added to our ETSY stores and our schedule of shows in the coming months.

A gathering of agateers at Agate Corner, Hotel Tucson

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HELLO FELLOW AGATEERS, 

Here’s a group photo from the show at the Hotel Tucson. Andres Carillo (on the left below) brought me polished agates from the Coyamito ranch in Mexico and next to Andres is another friend, Joshua Ritter, who sold me some superb Fighting Blood agates from China. The rest of the group are also agate lovers.

In the next couple of days I’ll be opening a new offering in The Agate Shop with many new specimens from Mexico, China, Argentina and Morocco. One by one I’ll rejuvenate the rest of the stores in this order: jaspers, thundereggs, slabs and then cabochons.
 As I update each store I’ll be sending email announcements so please send your name and email address to info@theagatetrader.com. 

                                                   Peace,
                                                          Thom

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From left to right: Andres Carillo (Mexico), Joshua Ritter (Germany), Fady Kamer (The Netherlands), Ricardo Birnie (Argentina), Thom Lane (US), Hannes Holzemann (Austria), Dave Polson (US), Cedrine and Jerry Schaber (US)

The 2016 Agate EXPO in Wisconsin This Past July

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Here are a few photos of good friends at the 2016 EXPO, it was the best agate show of all times.

Back in my booth I'm with my new friend Chuck Mosher - Thom Lane
In the back of my booth with a new friend Chuck Mosher

Other good friends I saw were Jeffery Anderson, Veronica Woods, Uwe Reir, Holger Quelmaltz, Hannes Holzmann, Alan Meltzer, Pat McMahan, Eugene and Brent Stewart, Ana de los Santos, Joshua Ritter, Roger Clark, Lorie Peterson and Steve Wheeler to name just a few.

Most photos by my famous sidekick, Norman Eberhardt.

I must mention that Dr. Goetze was kind enough to allow me to make a selection of my favorite thundereggs from his outstanding exhibition of the agates of Saxony. I also obtained some fine Moroccan agates from Joshua Ritter and many other fine pieces which will be appearing in my stores.

Hans Gamma – Master of the World of Jaspers: Author, Collector and Artist

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I first met Hans Gamma when I was hanging out with Gene Mueller and Jake Jacobitz in the mid 1980’s at the desert rockshow in Quartzsite, Arizona. Han’s wife Esther took off to go rock snooping around the show with Jake’s lifelong partner Beverly Hardin and Hans joined us to talk jaspers.

Hans would often prospect with Jake and was building an amazing collection, one of the finest in the world, which he documented as only a Swiss gentleman would. The catalogue of his collection has photos of every important piece with the date he got it and the exact location of its origin and its number in the catalog is finely written in black ink on each piece.

Hans and Esther became interested in Jaspers when they began visiting from Switzerland in the 1950’s. They got a pickup truck and traveled around the western US collecting jaspers. In 1985 Hans retired from the family printing business and settled with Esther in the hills outside Phoenix where they raised their three daughters. Esther passed away in 2015 is sadly missed, she was a true lady. She was from an area in Switzerland not far from Hans birthplace and was working as a translator in Philadelphia when they met.

owyhee-jakeHans Gamma has always made his knowledge and collection available to the rest of us, a very great kindness. Many of the photos in Agates II and III in the section on Jaspers that he wrote at the request of Johann Zenz are from his personal collection. In 2011 Hans published his first book: Picture Jaspers, treasures of the Owyhee Area, Oregon. This book features over 75 recognizable varieties of picture jaspers from the Owyhee caldera and many of them were discovered by Hans’ close friend Jake Jacobitz. This book presents the many varieties and is also a tribute to Jake, they collected together in this area on numerous occasions. The specimens are all from Hans’ collection and the book shows Hans’ artistic eye.

In 2015 Hans published a second book with a wider scope: Picture Jaspers from the Northwest. This volume includes the jaspers from the areas of McDermitt, Blue Mountain, Bruneau Canyon and Willow Creek and has new locations added to the Owyhee area. Hans collection is so vast that none of the specimens in the first book were needed for his second! These books can be ordered from his website.

nwest-jaspersHan’s website, World of Jaspers, features jaspers from all over the world and is an introduction to the vast artistic resource of jasper. His website is an almost psychedelic experience on a par with the worlds great museums. His daughter Corinna participated in the design and implementation, they are a great team. In addition to being a museum of his visions in jasper it is also an orderly tour of the most beautiful jaspers from around the world, focusing of course on those from the western United States.

As a painter I enjoyed cutting Morrisonite more than any other lapidary material but when I saw Hans’ cabochons I realized I was in the company of a true artist.

He recently allowed me to acquire many of his morrisonite cabochons (above) and very fine collector slabs (below). Each one is a painting in stone. These pieces will be appearing in The Cabochon Shop and The Slab Shop. Having these historic pieces available to purchase is a unique opportunity.

I will always be grateful for the kindness of this gentle gentleman for the hours we have spent together, the education he has offered me and the beautiful specimens from him that are among my finest treasures.

Slab Collecting is a Great Opportunity for Collectors Today

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In the early days of rockhounding in America it seemed like there was an endless abundance of wonderful agates and jaspers. The hobby of making cabochons grew so large that it was second only to woodworking as the most popular hobby in the US. During that time the great agate discoveries were exploited freely and many were quickly exhausted. Beautiful material was usually cut into slabs and the slabs were used to produce cabochons. It is still possible to find slabs that were set aside by collectors or were never cut into cabochons but it was uncommon to cut a rock in  half and polish the face. Toward the end of that period I was making my living cutting cabochons but I was also a collector and a painter and when I saw a slab that was highly artistic I rarely cut it into cabs, it went into my slab collection.

Morrisonite, the king of Jaspers - Thom Lane
Morrisonite Jasper Slab

Those who wish to collect the fine early materials should recognize that for the moment it is still possible to collect fine slabs and they offer many advantages to a collector. They are easy to store and display and they are reasonably priced given their rarity and beauty. Slabs and half nodule specimens can be combined in a display with the heavier specimens in the foreground and slabs mounted on stands above and behind them.

A few dealers at today’s rock shows still offer fine polished slabs of the rare early materials but it is not often that one sees a specimen of great beauty that is a saw cut rock with a polished face.

Precision polishing of a flat surface requires special equipment and knowledge and that may have further lessened the interest in flat lapping during the cabochon era.

A photo journal of mining at the Morrisonite Mine: 1994 – 1996

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Morrisonite is considered the King of Jaspers. I fell in love with it when I began cutting cabochons which are like miniature paintings. I felt that the images I could create with Morrisonite were the ones that really made it and I began my quest.

I met Darell Jakobitz, AKA Jake, in the late 1970’s. He sold at the 4th of July show in Madras, Oregon in the summer and once again at the PowWow in Quartzsite during the winter. On those occasions he had unbelievable slabs and many of the ones I bought went into my collection. An entire slab can equal the finest paintings in the world. In the 1980’s Gene Mueller became the principal miner and I went to Cedarburg to buy Morrisonite from him. With his permission I visited the mine in 1994 for a week with my son Miles and saw the mine for the first time. Several photos in Agates II are from Miles collection.

My first visit to the mine was in 1994

When Gene, my son Miles Lane and I arrived at the top rim of the Owyhee River Canyon Gene pointed out the road to the mining claims which goes across the hill and down the canyon wall beyond. From where we were the road dropped down very steeply to the visible area below but the next morning we went to the far side of the hill and down the side of the canyon, that’s when we really hung on for dear life. The dot in the center of the photo is the cabin on the right. It was built by the late Tom Caldwell, the first resident Morrisonite miner.

Gene and I began to talk about geology as the sun rose on the first day, a conversation that went on for years. The time I spent with Gene was a great learning experience. During our visit there Jake and Gene were working together at the area Gene eventually claimed under the name ‘Jake’s Place. As you can see in the photo of Gene tamping the nitro into a six foot drill hole this is indeed hard rock mining.

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In 1995 I participating in the mining for a month

I volunteered to help and my reward was being able to buy freshly mined morrisonite at the end of the operations. I didn’t buy much because I was cutting cabs, I wish I had a time machine so I could go back for more!

Gene used an old loader to complete a treacherous road down to his new mining spot, the Christine Marie claim far below Jake’s Place. The loader was also used to remove the muck or waste after an area had been blasted and the jasper had been carefully mined out by hand.

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The host rock at the CM Claim is broken up by nature which meant that it could be worked without explosives. We broke out the jasper by hand and Gene removed the muck with the old front end loader, shown above.

The host rock at the Christine Marie mine, above, has been shattered by forces in the earth long ago. The brown junky Morrisonite in the photo on the right was fairly abundant in certain areas and I include the photo because it shows how the jasper occurs in the rock. When it comes to gem jasper Gene said you get about a pound of Morrisonite per ton of rock.

The year before Miles and I had slept in a cabin up above so I just brought along a sleeping bag. When I asked Gene where I could sleep he said “anywhere you like”. Since there was no place for me in his cabin I tried to sleep on the ground but after about ten minuted I had rats in my face. The only way I could get off the ground was to sleep for the whole month in the five foot bed of the Ford Scout. It had front and rear positraction and was ideal for going up and down Gene’s road and  I was always so exhausted that I slept fine. Gradually I began to fit in.

Here are some photos of Gene’s cabin which he built against a large boulder from mostly found materials at a cost of 37$.

Jake (right) was working above and came down for a visit. Inside Gene’s hut was the kitchen and across from it his sleeping loft and not much else.

After about a week working in the CM Mine Gene took me further down the road to where there was a large compressor. It was parked a hundred yards or so to the south of his cabin, the compressor was just around the corner in this view of the road from Gene’s cabin. The post sticking out above the road is one of the roof poles of the cabin.

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From the compressor we headed up a scree slope and reached the Lower Cliff Dig up a ravine in the canyon wall to the left. The hose from the compressor was dragged up to the dig to run the drill from the compressor. To mine there you had to bring everything we needed for a day’s mining up the scree slope and every bit of Morrisonite was carried down in five gallon buckets. Tough work if you can get it.

In the photo on the left which was taken from about half way to the dig you can just make out the twelve foot long yellow compressor behind the long boulder on the road left of center. The photo on the right is from all the way up to the mine.  You can see a red dot far down the scree slope, that’s Gene climbing up from the road.

Once you get to the mine the fun begins. On the left Gene stands on a ledge of solid rock which he is drilling in preparation to blast. You can tell the second photo is the next week because he’s changed his shirt. The blasting is a delicate process actually, too much explosive and the rock is blown apart and the jasper shattered.

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The Lower Cliff Dig went directly into the base of a shear rock wall that went straight up above us for a hundred feet or so. The fact that I was willing to mine directly below it is evidence that I assumed that Gene knew what he was doing. Wherever he went I followed, simply putting my life in his hands and enjoying a great adventure. Thanks Gene, we made it!

Gene Mueller and Thom Lane digging in Owyhee Canyon.

The shear rock wall can be seen on the left. At the end of many days we had uncovered a vein of Morrisonite that was six feet long that yielded 600 pounds of high quality jasper. He set his camera on a rock and took this photo of us sitting at each end of the vein. He had mined it with such care that at this moment the vein was exposed but still unbroken.

1996 This year I brought a good tent

Jake joined us for this month of mining. He has been prospecting for and mining gem agates and jaspers his whole life and is also a very artistic cabochon cutter. On top of that he is one of the smartest and most considerate men I’ve known. In spite of having a hard youth and only a sixth grade education he is looked up to by everyone who knows him, Gene Mueller and Hans Gamma are close friends of his.

We had a village of 3, truly remote. Gene’s  cabin is behind a huge boulder just beyond Jake’s white ten which you will see below. I pitched my tent far off the right, I guess I couldn’t stand the crowd.

 

Jake’s tent was the most livable of our three camps with a comfy cot and a stove. When I got up in the morning I’d wander in front of his tent and eventually he would call out “Hey Thom, want a cup of bean? The best coffee I ever had.

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Here is the man himself in front of his camp that the early Native Americans would have appreciated. He spent more days living like this than under a house roof, almost always by himself, mining and prospecting.

When I arrived the Lower Cliff Dig it had just been blasted and I spent the month mining there. Eventually it was drilled and shot a second time by Jake and he spent some days up with me showing me the proper way to work it. I took these photos then.

On the left Jake had just found a piece of black Morrisonite with lovely orbs, he looks happy! In the center balanced on a rock face is Jake at work. I never saw him rush and I never saw him stumble and he spotted a lot more Morrisonite than I ever did. If nothing else that summer I was the most fit I’ve ever been.

During the time I mined at the Lower Cliff Dig I was mostly working alone except for the happy visits from Jake. Gene was mining the whole time for Christine Marie jasper and produced many great pieces of the highest quality.

Bright moments!

Gene Mueller – an outstanding miner, dealer, collector and lapidary

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TheGemShop.com is the place for great accounts of his many mining operations. I was involved in mining with Gene Mueller for a month in six different years.

He did a lot of mining by himself using heavy equipment in remote places which is more than just risky. In the evenings we generally had a fire and a lot of our talk related to mining. We talked a bit about our families and friends and other miners and various agate deposits. We avoided the areas where we might have disagreed for the most part since I’m an old hippie, for better or worse, and he strikes me as more patriarchal. My life was always in his hands under these conditions and I’m still here so well done, Gene, thank you. I was there for the adventure, I was a cab cutter then and so I never bought much, a pound of rock will cut lots of cabs and my income came from jewelers who were craftspeople.

Gene Mueller and thom at Rancho Agua Nueva in 90s the agate trader thom lane agate jasper theagatestore

The internet made it possible for me to become a specimen dealer many years later and as a lifelong collector it suits my temperament much better.

Gene told me how he got started with his life in the rock world. While he was still in college studying painting he went with another guy to Mexico just for travel, they went down the highway toward Ciudad Chihuahua. In Villa Ahumada near the Laguna area he noticed a fine agate specimen by the cash register of a restaurant. He didn’t have enough money to buy it so he talked his fellow traveler out of his wristwatch and made the trade. He bought his friend a new watch when they got home and his painting career ended there. He has worked tirelessly to make a good living for his family while following his love of mining and appreciation of great agates and jaspers and he is as tough as a two dollar steak. A good man.

What Makes Some Rock Specimens So Expensive?

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A big factor in the value of an agate, jaspers, and thundereggs is fashion.

Between 1950 and 1980 there was such an abundance of fine agate coming out of the ground in the US and Mexico that the supply seemed endless. People made a hobby of digging up agates or getting them at shows or at the hundreds of rock shops all over the country. Slabs of this material were used to create cabochons that were worth ten or twenty dollars which was a good profit from a top quality slab or a pound of Laguna rough, either of which might cost less than $5! A half nodule of beautiful agate had little value so good rough was usually cut into slabs. Now, cabs are almost worthless because of mass manufacturing, mostly in the Orient, and half nodules have become very expensive, so this represents a great change in taste and value. The large quantity of slabs left over from the earlier days are inexpensive in comparison to the value half nodules.

If you consider the agates from antiquity very few had flat surfaces. Modern lapidary equipment makes it possible to flat lap an agate so that the pattern in the stone is presented as if looking at a painting and that is now the style. In earlier times a domed surface was considered more desirable because the cutter could bring out the pattern and remove blemishes and thus create a piece that would be seen as the art of the lapidary. Sawing a rock in half and polishing the surface is a craft that requires great skill but little art. Agates that are cut according to the current taste have greater value, at least for the moment.

I cut the specimen below from a chip I picked up while I was working at the Morrisonite deposit. It had damage around the edge and the piece was thin. By doming it I was able to remove the damage and also save the pattern. The price would go up if it had the same pattern with a flat surface.

Morrisonite Jasper mined and dome cut by Thom Lane, The Agate Trader
Morrisonite Jasper mined and dome cut by Thom Lane, The Agate Trader

Another factor that affects price is the condition of the specimen itself. If the face of the agate has a crack, even a tiny one, or a chip on the edge or even a flake off the back the value of the specimen is less. Even minor flaws in the condition of the agate will affect the price. Other factors are the size of the piece and how it sits. A specimen that has to have an elaborate support is less desirable. A small specimen is difficult to appreciate but a large piece shows off the details of its pattern, size does matter. A specimen which has little contrast and is dark is rarely as valuable as an agate which has striking colors and pattern.

There are factors that depend on the life the agate has led such as having been in a famous collection or played a role in history. Some collectors desire specimens which have been featured in publications or major exhibits.

As everyone knows, from a dealer on the street to a graduate from the Harvard Business School, the main factor is supply and demand. If a material floods the market prices will drop and rarity will usually enhances value. Since agates are a surface phenomenon once a good deposit is located it is usually not long before it is worked out. Of course if social or political forces stop production or the source is very large and widely distributed it may be around for a long time. When a type of agate rough is no longer coming to market the price is sure to shoot up.

As with paintings aesthetics are very important. If viewers are struck by the art, the beauty and the elegance of an agate it can bring a fantastic price… the value of an agate is whatever buyers are willing to pay in order to add it to their collection and most collectors are very sensitive to beauty.

The agate below is very valuable because it is at the top of all the above criteria, you can go down the list and each criteria has been met in spades.

Circle Triangle Laguna, Gorn's Rock shop, El Paso - Thom Lane
Circle Triangle Laguna, Gorn’s Rock shop, El Paso. Texas. around 1960- Thom Lane

I look forward to hearing your comments on this topic, as a dealer I don’t set the prices, ultimately you decide.