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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Nevada Opal Mines and Mining Claims for Sale in Virgin Valley


          It has been awhile since I have posted here, and most of my posts will now be made on our company blog via our website, and the blog appears at!blog/c6vq.

          Last year I took up several opal mining claims again in Virgin Valley, Nevada, and I am offering them for sale.  These are precious opal gemstone mining claims for the official Nevada state gemstone, the Virgin Valley Black Fire Opal.   One of the claims (Rincon Belle Extn Lode, 18+ acres) borders the Rainbow Ridge Opal Mine fee dig and the other one (Greenfire Opal Lode, 20 acres) is between Virgin Valley Campground and the Rainbow Ridge Mine just off Sagebrush Creek Road.  I have two other claims as well for sale in the area.  For details, see my website at:!opal-mining-claims-for-sale/c23ud.

It is not often that historic claims like these are made available for sale.  They are proven producers and the Greenfire Mine has been featured in many magazines and books since its discovery in 1957.  All claims have road access onto the claims and to the main workings areas.  Power runs across the Greenfire claim, and a powerline runs alongside the east border of the Rincon Belle Extn at Rainbow Ridge.  I'm not sure how long that I will offer the Rincon Belle Extn claim for sale.  Once I get in there and put serious work in and start finding huge opals like the bordering fee dig mine, it will be likely that I won't want to sell.  I will be bringing heavy equipment into this claim around July or August 2016.  I saw opals that one of the prior owners pulled out over 20+ years ago, and I have no doubt this claim will become a legend once it is opened up like the neighboring fee dig mine.


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Golden Barite from Elk Creek, South Dakota

The famous Elk Creek locality is located in Meade County in western South Dakota.  The region consists of primarily private ranch land, and is part of a crescent-shaped region in which world-class barite (also called "Baryte") has been found.  The barite and calcite forms in hard, calcareous concretions within the Pierre Shale and mudstones.  The concretions are broken open by collectors with sledgehammers, prybars, and chisels.  It is rare that a concretion will have barite, and is stated that only 1 out of 15 to 20 will.  Based on my experience with the region, it is more like one out of 50 will have barite.  Most specimens, when recovered, will have some trivial damage, imperfections, (and sometimes repairs) resulting from breaking open the hard concretions.  It is truly a miracle that any are recovered intact.  The Elk Creek locality was 1 of 50 American localities featured in the American Mineral Treasures Exhibit at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show in 2008 and the corresponding book featuring America's most treasured mineral localities and specimens.  Click HERE for a link to a photo of this display on Mindat.  Many worldwide Barite and mineral collectors will say that the finest barites in the world come from Elk Creek, and I can't disagree with that.  Most specimens from Elk Creek are comprised of nearly transparent golden honey to dark brown "root beer" colored barite with accents of yellow calcite crystals.  Many of the larger barites from this locality have interesting growth helices on the crystal faces.  As to collecting, most existing exposed deposits have been depleted and, unless you know someone in the region who will let you collect on their land, collecting and trespassing is prohibited.  Specimens from this locality are very collectible and in high demand by mineral enthusiasts.  With so little being found, prices for specimens from this locality can only be expected to rise and existing specimens becoming harder to find.  To see the Elk Creek Locality page on Mindat Click HERE.  To see what some of the finest Elk Creek specimens at Tucson 2012 looked like, read my blog post on Tucson HERE.   Several specimens appearing in this blog post are for sale on the Dominion Exploration website, to see them CLICK HERE or go to:!elk-creek-barite-specimens/c15tq

Exposed concretions of the Pierre Shale at Elk Creek

Closer view of exposed concretions

yellow calcite elk creek south dakota
Yellow Calcite from Elk Creek

elk creek concretions
Another exposure of  the Pierre Shale with small concretions

Large, 4.7 c long contacted Barite, but shows crystal faces.

Barite crystal with calcite

Unique large contacted barite wich shows individual welded crystals
with yellow calcite fringe.

elk creek barite south dakota
A large 5.5 cm long Golden Barite with smaller barites to 2.8 cm
on yellow calcite from Elk Creek.

golden barite elk creek south dakota
A 5.0 cm, twinned Golden Barite crystal on a 12.5 cm long matrix
with yellow calcite crystals, from Elk Creek

Nice golden barites to 2.8 cm on a large 11x11x9 cm matrix with both a fine
dusting of lemon calcite and larger crystals of yellow calcite.

A small golden barite in matrix of yellow calcite

A view of the Elk Creek locality, which area has produced some
of the world's finest barite specimens

Yellow calcite

A nice golden barite (repaired) on yellow calcite

Golden Barite on yellow calcite

a nice specimen of yellow calcite

Holding a very small Elk Creek concretion.  These typically do not contain much
except small crusts of calcite

A fine, gemmy, chisel point golden barite crystal from Elk Creek

A small concretion, split open showing only thin crust of yellow calcite and
one small pocket of yellow calcite.  These things are HARD to break open which
is why pristine specimens are so rare.

A nice miniature of golden barite on yellow calcite, 6.6 cm long with
the largest barite measuring 3.2 cm.

Golden Barite crystals

barite crystal

barite crystal

barite crystal, a nice clear to honey color

Another view of barite crystals grouped together

Friday, May 24, 2013

The most recent Rose Quartz finds from our Mining Claims in South Dakota.

While out performing the annual assessment work on our claims in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Ron and I found some of the best rose quartz yet to come from our claims.  This new material was found along an extension from the older workings along the pegmatite.  Some "highgraders" had obviously been doing some work up at the mine when we were not there, and made a dig into an exposure that I had been saving for later.  They obviously made off with some good material, very facetable dark pink material.  I could tell from the mess and damage they left behind as well as all the broken pieces.  They probably ruined more than they got.  But what they got away with was not as good as what I found next:

The most recent quality of deep Rose Quartz recovered from our claims in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

On the left is a high-quality piece of rough red rose quartz from the Scott Mine near Custer, South Dakota, which I
recently purchased from a local miner.  On the right is a piece of rough rose quartz from our adjoining mining claim
dug the last weekend of April 2013 when we were performing the annual assessment work on our mining claims in
the Black Hills.  The piece from our claims on the right (higher up on the same vein) is only one degree of a shade
lighter than the piece on the left from the Scott Mine, which has been called the finest red rose quartz in the United
States.  Christopher Wentzell photos and collection.

We will be making several more trips over the summer to get more material even though we have completed our annual work, as I would like to build up a larger stockpile of rose quartz for future use.  I'm not going to announce when we will be up at the claims because I would love to catch the highgraders on video and then pursue relief in the Courts for civil mineral trespass, theft, damage, and loss of income.  I normally freely invite people to go out to the claims with us if we are there, but I cannot allow collecting when we are not there due to this type of activity.  Perhaps placing some hidden game cameras on the claims that can catch images of illicit diggers will deter future highgrading from our claims.  I'll have to consult the Forest Service about how to proceed.  In the meantime, happy adventures everyone-- get out and dig some rocks!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Help save black opal mining at Lightning Ridge, Australia, by signing the Petition at

     Our friends at Lightning Ridge, Australia, need our help.  The opal mining industry at Lightning Ridge, home of the world's best black opal, is threatened.  Here are a few quotes and excerpts from the Lightning Ridge Miner's Association website,, that describes what is happening:

                      “THE END OF LIGHTNING RIDGE?
The opal mining industry is imminently close to collapse due to government policy and inaction and pressure from a handful of western lands leaseholders.
Lightning Ridge was built on the opal mining industry.  The facilities you enjoy today such as the hospital, school, and sporting complexes were all built on the back of a strong opal industry along with all the tourist venues, opal shops and numerous businesses.
The future of our town also relies on a strong opal industry.  Without a secure supply of black opal over a thousand miners are out of work, the local opal retail stores and tourist attractions will not be in business and every other business in town will suffer.  Ultimately all the services we take for granted will be drastically reduced.
Economic welfare is only one aspect.  People’s lifestyle and community will also be radically impacted by the demise of the opal industry.
We need to make a huge impact {…} to ensure government takes notice of the importance of the black opal industry to our town, region, state and country.”  

Here is the link to the LRMA petition at which YOU can (PLEASE) sign to help:

Let's do what we can, from wherever we are in the world, to help this community and the opal mining way of life, by signing their petition.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Ed Swoboda, 1917-2013: Tribute to a Gem of a Miner

 Ed Swoboda
       On January 5, 2013, the jewelry, gem and mineral world lost a great person, and giant legend, Edward Swoboda.  Ed was a wonderful man and a huge inspiration for both myself and so many others.  I grew up reading the stories of his mining adventures, finds, and world-beater specimens in his collection.  Most people know Ed for his famous strike of blue-cap tourmalines with Bill Larson at the Tourmaline Queen Mine near Pala, California, in 1972.  But there is so much more to Ed's story.  Ed traveled the world in search of gems and minerals.  In his younger years he became friends with Peter Bancroft (Pete later became one of the worlds great mineralogists).  Ed and Pete made numerous trips to mine Benitoite in the 1930's at the Gem Mine near Coalinga in California.

Ed Swoboda at Benitoite Mine in California ca 1930's.
(Swoboda presentation photo)

        Ed went on to mine gems and minerals in Brazil, and helped in the World War II war effort in mining rock quartz crystals to be used in radio communication devices.  About 1945, Ed discovered what is still to this day regarded as the most important Brazilianite crystals ever found, at a locality called "Corrego Frio."

(Rob photo)

Ed Swoboda returned in 1980 and seen here inspecting spring 
at Brazilianite deposit which he mined years before in the 1940's.
Peter Bancroft photo.

       From what I can tell, Ed began making and selling semiprecious gemstone jewelry in the 1950's.  Ed then formed Swoboda, Inc., in 1962 and began commercially producing his jewelry with semiprecious gemstones and also produced beautifully designed gem trees.

Swoboda jewelry design using carved jade leaves, pearls and amethyst.
(web domain photo)

Swoboda Gem Trees
(web domain photo)

The gem trees were a personal favorite of Nancy Reagan, whose husband was Governor of California at the time.  Many credit Ed for being the first to use tumbled semiprecious gemstones in modern commercial jewelry.

Miniature Swoboda Gem Tree, in the Wentzell Gem Trust collection.

 Swoboda Inc., jewelry design with carved jade leaves and red garnets.
(web domain photo)

 One of the Swoboda jewelry trademarks.
(web domain photo)

Swoboda Gem Tree, made of Tourmaline and matrix
specimen from the Stewart Mine, Pala, Calif.  Fabricated
about 1978, including 18-karat gold vermeil filigree work
for the branches.   9 1/2 inches high.  A beautiful
 masterpiece created from gems Ed found at his own mine.
(web domain photo) 

       In 1968, Ed purchased the Stewart Lithia, Tourmaline Queen and Pala Chief mines near Pala, California, and formed the company Pala Properties International with younger partner Bill Larson.  Ed and Bill, as Pala International, rediscovered the famous "lost" tourmaline adit at the Stewart Mine in 1969, and recovered a great deal of the finest gem-grade hot pink tourmaline there.  Mining attention was then focused higher up on the mountain at the Tourmaline Queen Mine where, in 1972, the finest tourmaline specimens ever found anywhere were discovered: the famous blue-capped rubellites.

 Ed Swoboda holding the "Candelabra" from the 
Tourmaline Queen Mine (see specimen in photo below)
(Swoboda presentation photo).

The famous "Candelabra" Tourmaline from the 1972 strike
made by Ed Swoboda and Bill Larson (Pala Properties Int'l) at
the Tourmaline Queen Mine at Pala, California.  It is now
in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.
(Smithsonian NMNH photo)

The famous "Rabbit Ears" bluecap Tourmaline from the
1972 Queen Mine find, found by Ed Swoboda and Bill Larson,
and first in the Ed Swoboda collection, and later sold to Perkin Sams,
now residing in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Houston Museum photo.

     In the early to mid 1970's, Ed Swoboda and Pala Intl reworked the old Amelia Mine at Santa Rosalia, Baja California, Mexico.  His main interest was in producing crystal matrix specimens of the rare minerals found here.  His efforts here unearthed "boleite crystals measuring up to 2.5 centimeters (equaling the largest known specimens) and superbly formed pseudoboleite crystals...As a result, this enterprise yielded the best-known matrices of boleite cubes...." (Peter Bancroft, Gem & Crystal Treasures, Western Enterprises, 1984, page 119).

Boleite crystal in Matrix, Amelia Mine, Santa Rosalia, Baja California, Mexico.
Boleite crystal measures 4mm; overall size of specimen is 2.8 cm.  
Christopher Wentzell collection & photo.

       Ed also made significant discoveries in 1982 of purple Adamite at the Ojuela Mine and in 1989 of Wulfenite & Mimetite at the San Francisco Mine, both in Mexico.  He also built several great mineral collections over the years and has, at one time or another, owned many of the worlds most famous specimens.

      Ed was the focus of a special program at the Westward Look show at Tucson in 2012.  He gave a wonderful illustrated presentation and was the first ever recipient of the American Mineral Heritage Award.  At the conclusion of his program, he was honored by a long standing ovation of applause.  I would not have missed it for the world and will never forget it.  This memorable event was captured on dvd which is available from BlueCap Productions.  Consider getting a copy, I think you will certainly enjoy it as I did.
 Ed Swoboda holding a "Bluecap" tourmaline matrix
specimen from his 1972 finds at the Tourmaline Queen
Mine (closeup below)  This photo was taken at his
wonderful presentation at the Westward Look at Tucson in 2012.

Ed Swoboda was the first recipient of the American Mineral
Heritage Award at the Westward Look, Feb. 2012.  The award
was established by The Mineralogical Record for achievements in
field collecting and recognizes those individuals whose personal
discoveries of minerals have contributed significantly to the heritage of
American minerals in museums and private collections worldwide.
(Christopher Wentzell photos).

       In the early 1990's Ed told me about a location in Mexico, an old "lost" mine, that he never got the chance to search for but wanted to.  Sometime in the next few years I am hoping to begin my search for it.  I am quite jealous of Ed passing over before me, because he will undoubtedly be the first to make yet many, many more mineral discoveries where he has gone, and where we will all go eventually.  Even several days after hearing of his passing, I am still quite numb about the reality that he is no longer physically here.  However, what makes this great loss somewhat bearable is knowing that someday I will join him to dig along with other friends whom are no longer here.  Until then there is certainly another angel watching over us in the mineral world.  I can truly say this, he was a gem of a miner and will be greatly missed and remembered.  May you rest in peace, Ed, and find some wonderful new treasures where you have gone.

For anyone who is interested, here are some links for more information about Ed Swoboda: