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In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher
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PostPosted: Apr 10, 2010 11:09    Post subject: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

Our beloved Jesse Fisher, published in the latest edition of the magazine Rock & Minerals a fine article: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" where in my opinion is supremely well explained the conflict between the appearance of the minerals when they come out of the mine and the "ideal" beauty that collectors expect from them.

Short, well written, full of humor (black humor ;-), this article is something excellent to read and to learn. The best is that, generously, Rock & Minerals magazine ( http://www.rocksandminerals.org/ ) has made available the article on line for free -> http://www.rocksandminerals.org/Back%20Issues/2010/March-April%202010/guest-editorial-full.html

Anyway, is highly recomended, as always, buy the magazine too, to find there some other excellent articles (not availables on line) as "Let’s Get It Right: Epitaxy—A Simple Concept?" written by our greats John S. White and Pete Richards (BTW, they participated in a similar topic here in FMF-> http://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/viewtopic.php?t=429 )

Don't miss it!

Jordi

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PostPosted: Apr 10, 2010 11:55    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

Thanks for the complements, Jordi.

I've been a mineral collector for about 30 years now, but it was only when I became involved with producing specimens for the collector's market that it really occurred to me that there is sometimes a serious discrepancy between what some collectors say they want and what it is that they really want. Mineral specimens are the product of natural, geological forces, which have nothing to do with our ideas of what a "perfect" specimen should be. This obsession with perfection seems to me to be at odds with a professed love of nature and natural items such as minerals. But this obsession with perfection seems to be dominating the mineral collecting hobby/business to the point that all manner of manipulations must now be imposed on the minerals as they come out of the ground in order to make them marketable. At the same time, a lot of collectors do not seem to want to acknowledge this, which leads to a "don't ask-don't tell" situation concerning the "naturalness" of specimens offered for sale.

Everyone collects for their own reasons, and this is how it should be. There is no correct or incorrect way to do it. It just occurred to me that there are some logical discontinuities in what I see as a prevalent attitude towards collecting these days, and hope to provoke a bit of discussion about it.

Cheers,
Jesse
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PostPosted: Apr 10, 2010 13:07    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

Very good article Jesse. It tells it like it is. The job of cleaning up specimens from their original, as found, state sometimes takes no more than a quick gentle washing with a soft brush. But most of the time there is quite a bit more involved before anyone wants to look at them.

Jim and I did a lot of specimen cleaning and trimming through the years.

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PostPosted: Apr 10, 2010 13:18    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

An excellent article about a topic that most collectors do not understand (or likely do not want to understand.) I also thank Jesse for his classifications "retail" and "wholesale", not once using the words "Museum Quality" in the article. Although, if anyone ever had the right to use that term for some of his production, it would be Jesse and his partners.
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PostPosted: Apr 10, 2010 15:17    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

I am not of course in the elite atmosphere of many of the collectors on this forum, but I truly do enjoy looking at and collecting minerals and have for most of my life. This was a very interesting article and got me to thinking a bit about what I like and do not like.

Mr. Fisher states "People who collect minerals claim to want natural items, but they also desire aesthetic perfection. This concept of aesthetic perfection is a totally human preoccupation and really has nothing to do with the “naturalness” of the specimen."

It could be argued that since minerals are by definition natural items that there is really no way to make them "un-natural" except by human intervention. It is of course true that the concept of aesthetic perfection is a totally human preoccupation, as he states, but one must always remember that the drive to collect, classify, and appreciate is also a totally human preoccupation. It may have originated in a rudimentary form in some deep evolutionary instinct--but has evolved in human beings as not something that is necessary for the survival of the species.

So if you accept for the moment at least the argument that to “de-naturalfy” a mineral has to be done by conscious human intervention, I think the argument then becomes what kind and how much human intervention constitutes “de-naturalification”. My opinion is that essentially one can take away as much as one wants but cannot add anything to a specimen. In the instance of those fluorite specimens, the act of cleaning and trimming does nothing to change the character of the fluorite itself--which is the object being sought and collected. And although many think that the method of removal is relevant and sawing should be eschewed, I cannot see any difference from using a saw than a hydraulic trimmer or and chisel or any other means to remove the material. The only difference is that the hand of man is of course quite apparent where as the other techniques disguise the hand of man. Sawing and then "roughing up the saw cut" still adds nothing but is a removal process. And from an aesthetic point of view, roughing is perhaps valid-but really does not make it more or less “natural”.

However using super glue to repair a crystal, stabilize the matrix, or re-attach a crystal to its matrix, is, IMHO much different than removing surrounding material leaving only what the "sculptor" wanted. Irradiating to produce a different color of course changes the integrity of the specimen also. Polishing of crystal faces is of course a no-no as you are actually imparting something that was not there in the first place.
I think it was Michelangelo that said in effect that sculpting a piece of marble was essentially just removing all the material that was not necessary. That to me is a pretty good way of thinking about a mineral specimen.

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PostPosted: Apr 10, 2010 15:17    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

I think the term "Museum Quality" is a vague one, to say the least. I suppose it is meant to mean a "top-quality" specimen, but these days the best things often seem to go to well-off private collectors and not museums.

The use of "wholesale" and "retail" definitions is simply a reflection of how we (UKMV) do business. We are primarily focused on mining specimens, and to support this we must sell most of our produce. Most of what we sell ourselves goes to other dealers who, in turn will sell the specimens on to what I call the "end user," otherwise known as a collector. So as not to be competing overly much with our dealer/customers, we restrict what we call "retail" specimens to the few that we think are quite good. Even so, we will, and often do sell many of these as parts of wholesale lots, regardless.
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2010 05:06    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

Thank you for sharing this article with us, reading it gave me a nice insight in the world of cleaning and selling. I'm only a novice at collecting minerals, and I don't know much about the big world of mineral dealing, but It is clear that people want something that cannot be found: perfect specimen.

I agree that it is very inconvenient to have a big rock in your hands when there are only a few small crystals on it that have your interest. Cutting down that rock is the best solution, but i find it rather strange that someone doesn't want a clear saw-cut on their specimen. Why not? If people think that specimen are always rough on the outside, they must have lost all connection with nature. Nature doesn't do convenient, nor perfect. If your crystals are embedded in a matrix, you can throw them away because they don't look like the stuff sold in shops. But if you think you can find them looking that way, you'll have to look for a very very long time I guess. If I am going to clean a mineral drastically, I always take a photo of the specimen before and after, so that I will always know how it looked. Sometimes I find surprises, which is a good thing about cleaning, but I never go so far that it doesn't look like the 'before' specimen anymore. I want to keep that feeling of having it dug up, sticking close to nature, but still getting a nice specimen.

I have always thought is was strange that the mienrals and rocks you find are nothing like the minerals from the dealers, but this article explained nicely why this is. So thank you again, for this nice piece of information from 'backstage'.
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2010 07:56    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

TheBrickPrinter wrote:
...one must always remember that the drive to collect, classify, and appreciate is also a totally human preoccupation. It may have originated in a rudimentary form in some deep evolutionary instinct--but has evolved in human beings as not something that is necessary for the survival of the species...

You have an excellent thread: "Why we collect" ( http://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/viewtopic.php?t=672 ) which is largely talked about that point of view.

Jordi
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2010 11:13    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

Well done Jesse..excellent article..i am impressed sir!
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2010 13:39    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

Super article, congratulations!

- Tracy

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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2010 14:00    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

The perfection that the collectos are looking for is the perfection that the nature can offer they.
Like you say, the perfection or beauty is a rare thing, but it exists!
Nature can offer form, clarity, color and lustre. The geometrical forms exist in the nature before the mind of the man could to conceive it. The man always looks for treasures in the deep of the earth. You looks for treasures in the Rogerley mine! You have satisfaction when you find this treasures in your mine. But the collector don´t have this kind of satisfaction that you have. But he needs some kind of perfection in the treaures that you find, he needs beauty in the minerals that you offer him.
I don´t speak about perfection like total perfection. Just the perfection that can be considered beauty, some kind of beauty. And the nature can offer it! Beauty exists in the four kingdoms of the nature! But the collector maybe needs more beauty than the beauty that you find when you discover your fluorites, because of you have the extra emotion of the discovery. And the collector only have just the stone.
To clean the stone is just to discover its beauty.
The acccidents in the geode are naturals, I admit it. I think that the small breakages caused because of it do not detract its perfection. I always prefer stones no sawn nor cut, but sometimes maybe it is necessary.
To glue stones is not perfection at all. I think you must warn about the glued stones.
You say: "don't ask-don't tell" situation concerning the "naturalness" of specimens offered for sale". I am not agree at all with it. The collector ask for details of the stone, and the seller must tell him the situation of the stone!
And maybe we are not so separated from the nature, from the stones. Maybe the search for perfection is a comun objective in stones and in the human beings. With ideal conditions, the crystals tend to be clear and with good form. The human being, I think, tends also to the inner clarity and perfection. We are not separated from the nature. Stones and the man are nature.
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2010 15:03    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

I think it is neccessary to separate two kinds of action of the nature: The action that form the crystals and the geological convulsions and transformations in the geode through the ages.
The first action is the main creative of beauty, I think. The second action may produce beauty, but it also can hide the essential beauty of the natural crystals.
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2010 20:04    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

I would like to congratulate Jeff for he great job that he and his partners are doing at the Rogerly mine and the great skill they have been applying in trimming, cleaning and restoring these wonderful fluorite specimens.

Some of the colleagues here at the Forum has expressed they restrictions against any use of glue to reinforce or repair specimens; I would like to express my disagreement with their opinion.

Many specimens from many mines are found over a very britte matrix, it not only causes the inconvenience of having small grains falling apart every time the piece needs to be handled but also poses a high risk of having the specimen broken into parts when it has to be transported; on this case it is obvius for me the necessity of reinforcing the matrix with super-glue, it is not an action that is modifying the specimen but just allowing its preservation for, hopefully, centuries to come.

About the gluying of crystals back to matrix, or repairing broken crystals, I would like to mention an editorial written by Wendell Wilson at the Mineralogical Record many years ago, about this matter, and I totally agree with him: unfortunately crystals may get broken, many times by natural events after their formation, but also during the mining, cleaning, transportation or handling; what should be done on this case?; throw the piece away?; on my opinion it would be a crime against Nature to do that; therefore, a repaired specimen should cost less than a natural un-repaired one, an any repair should be informed to the buyer; but when Jesse and his partners find a fluorite crystal that can be attached back to the matrix, improving the aesthetics and the quality of the piece, they should do it, and this action is not modifying what Nature created, they will be just making the specimen looks closer to the way they originally formed.

Luiz
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PostPosted: Apr 11, 2010 23:04    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

I want to first thank Jesse for a great article - it was the first thing I read when I received my latest copy of The Mineralogical Record, and have since reread sections of it a couple of times.

The difference of opinions and tolerances expressed by others is a true reflection of the diversity of the mineral collecting hobby. Personally, I have a handful of polished agates (sorry Jordi), and a specimen with a base that was put through a saw. I know I own many specimens that have been trimmed and etched (i.e. most Pakastani gem minerals on matrix and Chinese Fluorites). I enjoy them for what they are and realize that they have been "enhanced" by man. But then, almost any natural product is (think wood furniture in relation to tree trunks and branches) a product of man, who also is the result of nature.

On the other hand, I have a large cabinet-sized Wulfenite and a large cabinet-sized Adamite that were purchased in my early teens almost forty years ago that would be very small cabinet-sized or large miniatures if they were trimmed. Although both have been absent from my cabinets for a while (they are on my book shelves), I have grown attached to their imbalanced state probably because they remind me of another time in mineral collecting when "perfection" wasn't sought as enthusiastically as it is today.

Luiz brings up a very good point about repairing specimens. However, upon scrutiny, my own eye can't accept the beautiful tourmalines from Brazil that have been repaired - I love to see the elegant crystal(s) but then I can't handle the disturbances along the glassy forms - whenever I see one a second or third time I only see repaired fractures.
That is just my eye. My eye doesn't mind the repaired Azurite stalactites from Morenci or someone reattaching crystals to matrix - again, it's just me.

I have field-collected a lot of minerals in Arizona (mainly from field trips to the Ray and Morenci mines), and have only trimmed two. The reason I haven't trimmed others is I like to associate the specimens with the time I collected them, and it's just easier to leave them alone. Also, except for the two I have trimmed, they are not what most would consider "great display" specimens.

Before I go, I can't resist saying that we could take natural to the extreme and leave all minerals "in situ." Unfortunately, that would make our own hobby virtually nonexistent.

Greg
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PostPosted: Apr 12, 2010 00:59    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

As I have said before, everyone collects for their own reasons and has their own criteria for what they want in their collections. There is really no right or wrong. It is a personal judgment - if one digs up a specimen that looks like it will crumble to bits when it dries out, should it be preserved by reinforcing the matrix with some glue, or should we allow it to fall to bits? This is up to the collector. My opinion (obviously) is that a specimen should be preserved so that it can be enjoyed by others and maybe contribute to the body of scientific and historical knowledge on minerals and mining. Others may decide that the specimen is not worthy of their collection because it has been interfered with or altered by the hand of man (or woman as the case may be).

As someone who finds himself in need of selling minerals to finance an all to expensive undertaking, I find that we need to be as objective as we can as to what the overall mineral specimen market requires. We need to make money if we are to continue, simple as that! I have found that the overall marketplace is accepting of a certain (and sometimes variable) degree of manipulation of specimens in order to improve their appearance. Some collectors will admit to this, and some won't. If someone wants their specimens as natural as possible, please let me know and I will be happy to provide them as such. Please keep in mind that "perfect" specimens are exceedingly rare straight out of the ground (at least at our mine), and that if/when we come across one, it will be expensive.

And as much as I like the Mineralogical Record, the original editorial was in Rocks & Minerals. Both are publications worthy of every mineral collector's support, and if you do not subscribe to both, I can only ask "what's the matter with you?"

Cheers,
Jesse
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PostPosted: Apr 12, 2010 02:06    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

I have several fluorites from the Rogerley mine, beautiful pieces, taken from you. You have great patience when you reply to the questions, and you really do efforts in pleasing to the people, It is true.
Your article is good, but I think it is incomplete. It is a good article, but it is not perfect, like the stones are not perfect! It is just an opinion, a respectable opinion; but to be published in the Mineralogical Record and Rocks & Minerals can´t be a certificate of infallibility. All the opinions in this forum can do that this article is perfect; they are like to trim the stones (not like to glue the stones)!
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PostPosted: Apr 12, 2010 10:49    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

It was called an "editorial," wasn't it?
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PostPosted: Apr 12, 2010 15:15    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

Here there are too much words. We are speaking about aesthetic, about beauty... and there is no image! It is necessary to solve this problem.
This is an aesthetic example of fluorite from the Rogerley mine.



Fluorite.RogerleyMine5.jpg
 Description:
Fluorite, Quartz. 15,5x5x4,2 cm.
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Fluorite.RogerleyMine5.jpg


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PostPosted: Apr 12, 2010 18:13    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

I remember the specimen well. We found three specimens like it one day in July 2007 from the Rat Hole pocket. Here is a photo of one of it's siblings.


07-001-daylight-r.jpg
 Description:
Fluorite on quartz, 12 cm across, from the Rogerley Mine, Rat Hole pocket, 9 July, 2007.
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07-001-daylight-r.jpg


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PostPosted: Apr 12, 2010 19:33    Post subject: Re: In Rock and Minerals: "Natural Versus Aesthetic" from Jesse Fisher  

I found Jesse's article of considerable interest.

There are so many other instances of "specimen preparation" or "improvement" that could be written about or some might say "exposed". In reality this is only an honest way of doing business.

Another example is the preparation of native copper crystals. If you simply treat with weak acids the surface of the copper is new penny bright and metallic and if then exposed to air may take on green colors, not considered desirable. But efforts are made by many to apply a dark patina. Soaking in water is a simple and one might think benign treatment. But recently learned that some boil the piece in hydrogen peroxide and then coat in hydrocarbons to achieve and maintain a dark patina. There is also the older habit of applying shellac to the surface of crystalized copper and I understand there is no way of taking that coating off without affecting the natural patina. I am not advocating any of these treatments but why not discuss them?

Given the many preparation methods that seem more or less acceptable for collectors of minerals I do not understand the aversion of some to pieces that are cut and polished. Agates and datolite nodules are examples. We admire a well prepared plate of crystals, skillful trimming of a piece, and knowledgeable cleaning of crystals. Cutting and polishing is also a skill, there is considerable difference between the products of a hack an those who know how to properly prepare and enhance a good specimen of any type.

Personally I would like to see additional articles along the line of what Jesse authored. It offers a new dimension. Besides admiring the location for the mineral should we not also acknowledge the skill of collection and preparation?
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