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The Story of a Nice Khinite Specimen

Last Updated: 8th Oct 2017

By Rolf Luetcke

The Story of a Nice Khinite Specimen
By Rolf Luetcke

We had a close friend who spent his winters near us in Southeastern Arizona. In Summer he was in New York and winter he got away from the cold and had a trailer in a nearby trailer park in Benson Arizona after he had retired.
Roy LaGrow loved going out collecting in the area and when he could he went to some local mining district and collected mineral specimens. He had a table set up at his campground where he always had colorful specimens sitting and they all had labels and a price if anyone was interested.
Roy was one of the fellows we went to the Morenci mine with and often went up to the Tucson mineral show every year. Roy would go with Mary to the show while I minded the store. Mary told me that Roy was magnetically drawn to tables with blue or purple specimens. He loved the chrysocolla, amethyst and fluorite. Roy would spend quite a time picking just the right piece.
Roy liked going over to Tombstone and would park on the SW end of town and then hike down the hills there to the open country below and some of the old mines of the area. Roy loved chrysocolla and fluorite and often picked up anything with color to take home and inspect there. Roy worked down many larger pieces he found right at the mines and only took home the most interesting pieces. When we would go to mines by ourselves and see a spot with nothing but the tiny remnants of rocks that had been broken down we always said "Roy was here"! We went collecting over in Courtland and Roy spent much of his time breaking down the larger pieces to make specimens that fit his collecting spaces, leaving little piles of debris from his pounding.
Roy had found our store and we became good friends over the years he came out to Arizona. Roy knew we loved minerals and knew I was always studying micro specimens under my microscope. Roy had a microscope but spent little time with it. The problem he had with his microscope was that the design was such that trying to use it with the eye pieces nearly up and down made ones neck sore in just minutes. He found I was a very grateful recipient of his scraps. When he had worked over material and found enough to put in his collection he often brought over boxes of smaller stuff for me to play with.
Roy had been collecting over at Duquesne in Santa Cruz County in Arizona and found material at the mines there and brought me the scraps. The one piece I broke had a pocket of leadhillite crystals with wonderful blue caledonite coating them. I asked if he wanted it back since it was in his scraps but he said he had no interest in it. It is still my favorite leadhillite piece from Southern Arizona.
Roy was very good at giving the proper locations of where he had collected but in Tombstone it was not very easy to actually identify the mines he had visited. He just said it was the area just SW of town and he visited just about all the old mine dumps near town.
One batch of material he found in Tombstone had a lot of the chrysocolla in it and among the pieces were also nice calcite crystals, hemimorphite, fluorite and other minerals. One piece was about the size of a golf ball and was not like the other material. It was mostly quartz and had green copper mineral coloration running through the mineralized quartz. I took the piece to my splitter an broke it in half. When I did, the piece popped open along a seam in the center of which was a great pocket on each side. I didn't break the piece further and took it to look under the microscope. As soon as I got it under the scope I realized I had found a prize.
When Roy stopped the next time I showed him the piece and since it was from his material asked if he wanted the piece back. He said no, I seemed to be enjoying it a lot, he said. He asked me what the minerals in it were. At that time I had no good idea what the minerals were. I saw there were 5 or 6 different species in the pockets and in the center were emerald green crystals unlike any I had seen. In fact, little of what I saw in the pocket was readily identifiable.
The two pieces were trimmed a bit more and were put in perky boxes with a big question mark on them. When a friend, Michael Cline, stopped by he looked at the pieces and his idea was that the crystals could be khinite. He asked if he could take a piece to the lab at the University of Arizona where he knew Marcus Origlieri, who worked the equipment. I told him he could take the piece along but only if he or anyone else would not damage or break off any of the material.
A week later he stopped by with the good news and it indeed turned out to be khinite. In fact, the story of how I came in possession of the piece was the most fun of the story to Marcus, who tested the piece. He said it was one of the nicest pieces he had seen from Tombstone and to have it given to me in throwaway from someone just made him shake his head and laugh. What a find.
Unfortunately the khinite was the only mineral that they tested but there were often other nice minerals in close association with the khinite and I assume that some of the minerals I can't identify could be some of those.
Somewhere in the hills behind Tombstone are probably other pieces like the one Roy gave me still lying around. I have never actually looked in the places behind Tombstone and Roy has passed away so I can't ask him which places he spent a lot of time visiting. I felt fortunate enough to have the two pieces he gave me and never had a great urge to go and look for more. One thing that kept me from going over and looking was a story Roy told me when he had been over there one time. A fellow with a big revolver strapped to his belt was down there and asked Roy what he was doing there. Roy told him looking for rocks and the man became nasty and told him he was on private property and in Tombstone people got shot trespassing. Roy left but was a bit worried he would get shot in the back. He went back at other times and said there were no signs to keep out or fences where he had been but he was not fond of the memory of the angry man with the gun. This was not the only story we had heard of people in Tombstone approaching people and telling them to leave places that were not posted. Tombstone is not a place to go where one is not wanted, most people there do carry guns. Sometimes I think people in Tombstone believe they are back in the 1880's still. This is one reason I have not been too anxious to go and look around Tombstone mines.
Several years later I was at the Tucson show and one room had a sign on one box, "Khinite from the Guadalupe Mine, Moctezuma, Sonora, Mexico." I looked at the box and a green mineral was in abundance on many of the specimens. They were all around $35 each and since I knew khinite was a rare mineral I bought one. A few other people we knew had also gotten one of those pieces. As soon as I got home I looked under my microscope and saw it was not khinite at all. My guess was libethenite and a good friend, Joe Ruiz, had also gotten one had called to discuss the pieces. He didn't think they were khinite but didn't think they were libethenite either but was not sure what it was. He had agreed that if it turned out to be khinite it was a darn good price. A man from France who Joe knew had purchased one also and as soon as he got home he had it tested. Turns out my guess was right, it turned out to be libethenite. Marcus, who had analyzed my Tombstone piece heard I had purchased one of the pieces that had been for sale and wondered why I had bought one when he said I had the nicest piece he had seen from Tombstone, with such a nice story as to how I had gotten it. All I told him that for $35 it would have been worth it had it been right. Well, it was not right and it was $35 spent on a piece that was not what it was sold as, lesson learned. I am sure I could have returned the piece and gotten my money back but the trip to do this would have outweighed the actual cost of the piece.
The khinite specimen we got as a gift from Roy LaGrow is one of the more fun stories I like to tell of never just tossing things without looking at them first. The host piece was really a nondescript piece and sure didn't look like it had a great pocket of rare minerals inside. The other fortunate thing was the way it split, opening up the nice pocket with no damage. If it had been a piece Roy had broken with his hammer in the field, I am sure it never would even have come home with him. Also, if he had broken it with his rock pick back at his park, the piece would probably have been destroyed. So, sometimes it just happens that all the right things fall into place to make a find like this.
I am sure there are still other pieces like this lying about outside of Tombstone and who knows, someone looking might just stumble on one. I had heard that the mine dumps from some of the mines the rare minerals in Tombstone came from, mainly the Empire Mine, had been removed and were no longer there. This one piece must have been overlooked or just been left behind, lying there for Roy to find. Photos of my find are on the Tombstone page for khinite

Article has been viewed at least 562 times.


Fun story, Rolf, thanks for posting.

I assume the specimen you are referring to is: https://www.mindat.org/photo-412588.html

Cheers, Herwig
MKA (Belgium)

Herwig Pelckmans
9th Oct 2017 7:38am

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