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The Story of Winnesite

Last Updated: 25th Dec 2014

By Rolf Luetcke

The Story of Winnesite
By Rolf Luetcke

A number of years ago I had started a reference mineral collection. I was fairly new to the mineral collecting, although I had been working with the common minerals for some time.
I had been going collecting with a couple of friends and one trip in Arizona we went to visit Harold Urish in Green Valley. Harold had been visiting at my store for a number of years and had always invited me to come by his place to see his collection. When the two old time collector friends were here we called and Harold said to come over. One friend is Glenn Nicol and the other Roy LaGrow. Glenn lived in Illinois and had a large collection of minerals and Roy lived in New York and loved collecting. They both came out to Arizona in winter and we often sat around talking, went out collecting and had pleasant dinners together.
When we got to Harold’s home he showed us a display case with his favorites and they were impressive. His cabinet of drawers of smaller specimens was just as impressive to me, since I collected smaller specimens.
After viewing his collection we went outside and Harold began bringing things out he had for sale. We were all looking at various flats he had set out when Harold called me over. He offered me a flat of Rowley Mine wulfenite and I immediately jumped on it. As I was handed the flat the two friends quickly came over to see what we were doing and when they saw the flat of nice wulfenite I had just gotten for $50, they asked if Harold had more. Fortunately for me it was the only flat but I offered to share when we got back home. I did just that and only one larger specimen I asked them to leave for my collection. I still have that specimen. Glenn and Roy did find a nice piece each and since Harold had given me the flat for so little, I let them have the specimens in hopes it made them feel a bit better at not having had first pick for the flat.
Harold also brought out a flat of specimens that I had never heard of called winnesite. Harold said it was a new mineral he had bought a flat of from the woman who had discovered the mineral. Harold wanted to sell the whole flat but it was a clear mineral and not one that sold well so I declined but wanted one for my reference collection. He gave me a price of ten dollars each. I took one along. The mineral was supposed to be a new zeolite from Ash Fork Arizona.
I had a great visit with Harold and my friends found some nice things to take along as well. My wife Mary found some things also, her favorite was a goethite cast after gypsum from Mexico for all of $3. Harold had some great prices and many of the things we got from him are still in our collection.
When we were looking through Harold’s personal collection I saw he had gotten one of the malachite pseudomorphs after glauberite from the Verde Valley in Arizona. He was not aware of the crystals being colored in someone’s basement and we told him that we had been to the site and that there was no copper at all to color the crystals and someone had done it at home and we had experimented and produced the same results and knew the pieces were fakes. A second friend had also been taken in by those green colored fake specimens.
When I got home I started looking in all of my books about winnesite and found nothing. This was before the time of great internet web sites so books were about all I was able to work with. I had a good library of books and nothing had a mineral named winnesite. Since my searches found nothing, I called Harold to ask about the winnesite.
This is the story he told me. He had been driving through Ash Fork and saw a sign that said minerals for sale. As any mineral collector knows, those can be great places to stop. Harold found the owner was a woman who loved minerals and collecting. After looking around he noticed that the gal was not very up on minerals and most of what she had was very common stuff. The one thing the woman had brought out was a box of stuff with a label of winnesite on it. Harold asked about the mineral and the woman told him she had found this deposit herself and had mined out a number of flats of material. She said it was a new mineral and it was being worked on. Harold, always looking for something new ended up buying a flat of the material. He never told me how much he paid for it but he did tell me that when he got it home he did the same thing I had done and tried researching the winnesite, only to find nothing. He did the same as I did and called the woman to get more information. She told Harold she had taken the mineral to the local college and asked the people there what it was. When nobody could tell her what the mineral was she had assumed it must be something new. She had not sent any of it to have it tested but started selling it as winnesite. Her name was Winnie and she had simply named it after herself and was doing a nice business selling this “new” mineral. Harold had fallen for it and had gotten a whole flat.
So, that is why he had tried to sell me the whole flat. He had figured out it was not a new mineral and had wanted to rid himself of the headache. I was not looking for flats of material, only a sample to add to our collection. I never did find out if Harold was able to get rid of that flat or if he just tossed it.
From stories I have heard from others over the years I have found out that this practice of selling something with a name added to it was a common practice in years past.
I studied the specimen after talking to Harold and learning the truth I determined it was probably aragonite and not a zeolite at all.
I still have the specimen in our collection more for the story that it holds than for the specimen itself. It brings back nice memories of Harold Urish and the visit to his home.
I never went through Ash Fork so have no idea if there is still a little rock shop there that sells a new mineral called winnesite. There may just be a person or two who remembers this place and the mineral named after the woman who found it.

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