Welcome to the Best Minerals Forums
Posted by Rock Currier
Welcome to the Best Minerals Forums
November 02, 2008 09:35AM
Registered: 7 years ago
The minerals have been divided up into different forms. All the minerals beginning with the letter A are placed in the A Best Minerals forum. The B minerals in the B forum and so on. Each mineral has its own thread in the forums. In a few cases, where the minerals are very common and they are known from very many localities, those minerals have their own forum. These minerals so far are Calcite, Barite, Fluorite, Gypsum and Quartz. For these "large" minerals, each country that produces notable calcite or quartz for example will have its own thread.
What we are trying to do.
The most commonly asked question about a mineral specimen is “What is this thing?” The application of mineralogy will usually provide the answer to this question. The next thing they/we want to know is “Is this thing any good?” The question can take many forms. “What is this specimen worth?” How good is it compared to others of its kind?” Can I get one like it or better? Those are the questions that we want to answer in this forum. No science, including mineralogy can provide us with answers because the answers are subjective. Many of us spend our lives trying to find the answers to these questions. The information is scattered though out the literature on minerals but is mostly in the heads of those of us who are interested in such things. Many of the people active on Mindat spend their lives handling, studying, digging and collecting minerals. In the process we handle large quantities of specimens, sometimes as a business, and in the process we naturally form ideas about the value and rarity of mineral specimens. There is no one place where one can go to find this information, but now there is the growing resource we know as Mindat.
Now, if we want to find out about how good a mineral specimen of dioptase is, we can go to Mindat and look at large numbers of dioptase specimens. Currently that is as about as good as you can get unless you want to spend a lifetime running around the world learning about such things. The purpose of this forum is to provide a means to capture the wisdom and knowledge of Mindat users about how good mineral specimens are and to put it in a convenient format that allow the users to form their own opinions as to what a good mineral specimen its value. We also want this format to be accessible and malleable to the needs of future generations. It is an endeavor very much like that of Wikipedia where everyone who wishes can contribute. This is not a one man show, all who contribute will be required to spend a lot of their time listening to the suggestions of other knowledgeable people and where it makes sense, change what they are writing here.
Scroll now to the bottom of this article and take a look at the article on the mineral Aluminium. This will give you a brief idea of what we are trying to do. Then come back and read about the ten questions we are trying to answer for each significant mineral at a locality.
1. What is the largest crystal of the mineral that the locality has produced?
2. What do the best specimens from this locality look like and where can one be seen?
3. Does the locality produce a variety of different kinds of specimens of this species, and what do the best of each type look like and how many of them were found etc.
4. How abundant are these specimens and when were they found? A type locality? In other words, how rare are they.
5. What are the associated minerals found on specimens from this locality.
6. How do they compare to other specimens of the same mineral from other localities?
7. How much is it worth. This should probably be optional, but in cases where specimens are worth thousands of dollars we should probably say something of the value of these things.
8. What kind of care and feeding do these specimens require? Are they delicate, radioactive, unstable, color changeable etc.?
9. Are the specimens commonly faked, and if so, how to tell if they are?
10. Are there any interesting stories relating to the collecting of these specimens or their discovery as a new mineral?
OK, so what is a significant mineral at a locality? We are not trying to describe all the minerals from every known locality, just the better ones. A general rule of thumb is that if someone has gone to the trouble of taking a picture of a specimen from a particular locality, it may be worth our efforts to include in Best Minerals. If a mineral comes from only one or a very few (<6) localities, even though we may not have a picture of it available, then we will probably want to describe all occurrences of that mineral. At the other end of the spectrum lies calcite. Mindat lists ~16,000 localities for calcite. In the Mindat calcite picture gallery however, there are only ~7500 pictures of calcite specimens representing those localities including many calcites from the same locality. In total there are only several hundred calcite localities represented and we may not want to write about them all. For those more valuable to society, science and collectors we will want to lavish more attention and or show more pictures. If we error in what we exclude or short change in our efforts, there is a very good chance that people who venerate calcite from a particular locality will let us know and we can modify or add to what we have written.
Image selection for Best Minerals.
There has been some confusion about what kind of images we select for The Best Minerals and misconceptions have lead some people to do unnecessary work and submit their images for hoped for inclusion in the project. It seems appropriate at this time to set fourth some guidelines or suggestions about what images are and should be included in this project and hopefully reduce misunderstandings.
The goal of the project is to show people the images of the best specimens we can in hope that these will give the user some standards against they can compare other specimens. At the same time, and perhaps more importantly we want to teach them some mineralogy, geology, mining, history and something about the specimens that they are found of.
Originally the criterion for image selection for The Best Minerals was very simple. Did I want to use a particular image(s) of a species on not. This was fine as long as I was the only one working on the project. However as others became involved, a more detailed set of criterion was needed so that we could all work “on the same page” in harmony. So the criterion sort of became: If you write the article, you select the best images available and those that you find congenial.
Now that even more people are becoming involved almost to the level of the general population, we seem to be need further guidelines for image selection. The few people who are currently involved in generating the articles for this project are all very knowledgeable people with many years of mineralogical and or collecting experience and to a great extent think remarkably alike when it comes to selecting images of good specimens for the project. Some people, who we have encouraged directly or indirectly, to help with this project, do not have the years of experience that the authors have and therefore their ideas about what could or should be shown in our articles are sometimes strikingly different than those of the authors.
This is perhaps best exampled by enthusiastic new comers who have done a little field or silver pick collecting and have encountered a specimen they consider to be a treasure and their enthusiasm for the specimen compels them to wish it recognized by others for the treasure they think they have found. After all they have found the equivalent of gold and diamonds and to them it is very much like they have had the rare privilege of pillaging King Tut’s tomb. How could this specimen(s) not be worthy of inclusion? All experienced collectors have experienced this kind of discovery and self induced euphoria, but after many more years of experience they are able to put it in perspective, though they will always have a soft spot in their heart for their first found treasures. Rarely, very rarely, they may have found something worthy of inclusion here, but most of the time these specimens are rather pedestrian in nature and probably are not worthy of inclusion. As authors we need to understand where they are coming from and let them down as easily as possible.
Another well meaning type of person that we occasionally encounter, who wants to see “his children succeed” are the people that have become fixated on a particular species or group of minerals or specimens from a particular locality. In my case I was afflicted by a bad case of borate on the brain as one of my not very charitable friends liked to call it. In others it may take the form of micro rutile crystals or a particular type of agate or concretions that that they have dug up on a local beach. It often takes years to get over these kinds of obsessions and put your specimens in perspective with the real world, and even if we do manage to put these once overly cherished specimens in to perspective we in all honesty always have a soft place in our hearts for them. Initially we feel that if we can sufficiently educate others, they too will appreciate our cherished specimens, and will appreciate them as much as we do. But in time, lots of time, we have learned that others, in fact most others, do not and will never share our enthusiasm and we reign in our enthusiasm enough so that we don’t make other people uncomfortable. It’s a little bit like someone pushing a political or religious agenda and just don’t know when to stop. Sometimes however, these people just can’t be reasoned with. They are sort of like people trying to sell you stuff over the phone. Sometimes, though you try to be polite to them, you just have to hang up. Allowing well meaning people to brow beat us into including their somewhat less than wonderful images into Best Minerals will not be a service to the users of these articles who are trying to make informed, balanced decisions based on the content of our articles.
In general we pick the best images available to us from the huge Mindat image gallery. We almost always restrict the images we select to those that have been uploaded to the Mindat Gallery. This is because it is convenient and that the copyright of the images have been settled. This is the main reason that we do not select images that are sent to us as an attachments to an email or a thread posting. In those cases where the image is good and of a fine specimen and possibly worthy of inclusion we request that the person who attached the image formally upload it to Mindat. We are sometimes pointed to or are sent images by specimen dealers, of specimens that they have for sale in hopes that we will include them in Best Minerals and therefore put a sort of seal of approval on their specimen. They hope that this will enhance its value and their reputation as a dealer. We view such submissions with a cynical eye and usually hold these images to a somewhat higher standard than we might of others.
For very rare minerals we sometimes can’t find any images of them to include in an article and in these cases we will accept almost any image. Often the images are meaningless because the mineral can’t been seen in the picture or is often so small that it must be carefully pointed out which is the mineral of interest and what the other more obvious minerals are in the picture. Sometimes the mineral or mineral grain is so small that it can only be seen in highly magnified photomicrograph as a tiny blip in a black and white image. If that is all we can get for a particularly small and rare mineral, we will take it.
At the far other end of the scale we encounter minerals like quartz and calcite that are so abundant that we can’t hope to show examples of them from all localities. Every country in the world has quartz and or calcite though fewer than half the countries of the world are represented by images of quartz and calcite in the Mindat image gallery. Should we endeavor to show images of quartz sand grains from every beach or streambed that contains quartz sand? Obviously this is not practical or desirable. Should we then try and show pictures of quartz crystals from every locality that produces quartz crystals? Probably not even all of those. What I would propose is that we try and show examples of all quartz specimens that are commonly found in mineral collections. At least those, and that includes images of agates, opals and other quartz family minerals. At least those. I think we should also show any other rare and strange and wonderful quartz stuff that we think collectors in general will find interesting, but to a great extent this will be left up to the authors to select. The more important the locality, the more images of specimens from that locality should be shown. How many pictures should be shown for a particular locality? There is no limit, but probably more than fifteen or twenty will get us into an area that we don’t want to go, but there may be situations where more will be desirable, we will just have to see how it works out.
I would argue that we should when possible show only images where the entire specimen can be seen and show closeup images of specimens only when the larger specimen is also shown. If someone shows you a picture of just a part of a specimen and asks you "How much is this specimen worth?", what would you tell them. You would say, show me a picture of the entire specimen because I can't make a judgement bases on a view of only a part of the specimen. Since a major part of the purpose of this project is to allow people to make their own value judgments, it is essential that we only use close up images if they are accompanied by a whole specimen image.
What about pictures of micro crystals? If the species is not found in larger crystals, then pictures of microscopic crystals are what we should show. Even if the species does come in larger crystals we still can show photomicrographs of that mineral, but I would argue that the quality bar that those images must surmount will have to be pretty high before we include them along with the images of their larger cousins. Or that there must be something really unusual or compelling about the images of these micro crystals if they are to be included.
Sometimes when we are selecting images for localities that we know little about, we need to keep in mind that the images of the specimens that we have to choose from in Mindat's image gallery may not be very good. In such cases we have to make a decision about whether to include the locality in our articles and some of the not very outstanding images. If I know that the locality has produced much better specimens that we have to show, I will usually include the locality and a picture or two and note in the text below the picture that there are better specimens and we will show them when we have better images available. Sometimes localities are suggested to us for inclusion and sometimes images are sent along with the suggested locality. Often the suggestions are really good. In such cases I don’t automatically include them in the article, but will try and engage the party that makes the suggestion in helping with the project by asking questions about the image(s) and or the locality. Usually if they know enough to suggest the locality, they have more than average, and sometimes expert knowledge of the locality. We should make every effort to tap into this knowledge and to capture it in our articles.
Is this the final word about what images should and should not be included? Almost certainly not. Undoubtedly this text will be modified in the future as the project develops.
Crystals not pistols.
Edited 101 time(s). Last edit at 11/29/2010 07:50PM by Rock Currier.
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