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Misrepresented localities
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Jordi Fabre
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PostPosted: Aug 05, 2008 05:08    Post subject: Misrepresented localities  

Related with an other post: https://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/viewtopic.php?t=278
John S. White said: "By the way, in my opinion dealers who intentionally misrepresent localities are the lowest form of life and at least some of them would be publicly denounced if it were not for the fear of litigation."

Considering the interest of this topic I would like to start a new thread concerning the misrepresentation of localities. How about John's opinion? our forum visitors agreed with him?

Jordi
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Jon Mommers




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PostPosted: Aug 05, 2008 06:18    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

I agree with John, that dealers or collectors who deliberately misrepresent where a mineral is from are some of the lowest of lifeforms in the mineral fraternity and should be identified. They are guilty of identity fraud.

Naming and shaming works, it is also easily abused by dealers and in some cases collectors seeking to either denigrate a competitor or to promote their own wares.

It would often be difficult to prove that a misrepresentation was deliberate. One only has to look at some of location details supplied with the current influx of Chinese minerals. Many collectors do not accurately label specimens as to locality and labels do get misplaced and memories fade.

The current spate of legal action, police raids and seizures, threats and slander in my stumping grounds, over Gypsums specimens from evaporative deposits in Victoria and South Australia, gives a clear insight into what happens when specimen locations are misrepresented by individual for personal gain. Arguments as to where these specimens originated highlights the need for careful review of the facts presented by informed and impartial individuals with knowledge of the locations involved.

The right of reply should also be given.

The threat of being sued for slander, is a blunt instrument used by some who can afford to litiage against those who often can not or believe they can no afford to defend themselves in court. It is situations such as these that spoil the hobby for many. If however left unchallenged then the spoilers win out. Forums such as this, give everyone an opportunity to share their views on a level playing field. Let the facts be presented and discussed fairly, individuals will then make up their own minds and act accordingly.

I trust the Moderators will monitor this thread closely and act quickly to stop it turning into a school yard brawl amongst a group of spoilers and bullies.

Jon
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PostPosted: Aug 05, 2008 07:00    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Hi Jordi & others,

To complete John's statement, there also is another kind of dealers who deliberately misreprensent localities, at least in my country (France). These are professional rockhounders or cristalliers who voluntarily "blur" the real spot to avoid competitors sniffing around there digs until the work is done.

Unfortunately, when the pocket is depleted they don't always mind giving the accurate location of specimens to their new owners who sometimes learn about it when the discovery is published in a mineralogy magazine...

Personally, I prefer to be warned of a potential misrepresentation in a location has it happened when I bought a specimen from a mineral dealer who's a friend of mine. He just told me "Here I think it is from Madan, but I'm not sure and was unable to get confirmation". Sounds just fine. The specimen is labeled this way in my documentation and the information will be forwarded to his/her new owner if I sell it someday. Getting accurate information is sometimes very difficult or even an impossible task. So I prefer to have a X as location instead of a false one and wouldn't be very happy to learn that the dealer knew it when he/she sold it to me...

Christophe
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John S. White
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PostPosted: Aug 05, 2008 07:29    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

We are talking about two or three different things here. I have some sympathy for field collectors who do not want to reveal where their specimens were found for obvious reasons, but at the same time they should not make up false localities. They should simply say that they will identify the true locality when they are no longer collecting there or the source has been completely worked out.

I also am not too critical of many of the Chinese dealers because I understand that they are relatively new at this business and often do not fully understand the importance of precise locality information. Perhaps they failed to obtain locality information when they got the specimens and so they made up localities, not understanding how important this information is. What all of us who buy from the Chinese should do is repeat over and over again that locality information is vitally important so please make an effort to supply good, reliable locality details.

Then there are a limited number of veteran dealers who purposely misrepresent localities because, for some reason, it will make the specimens more desirable and easier to sell. In particular they prey on collectors who specialize in minerals from a certain country, or state, or even mine. These are the truly bad guys and the ones who need to be exposed, but who can afford to take the financial risk?

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PostPosted: Aug 05, 2008 09:20    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Let us remember that even dealers and other collectors are human and that locality information is almost always passed along as it was presented to the current owner. Mislabeling in and of itself is not a criminal activity, but purposely misrepresenting a locality for monetary gain is no different than fraud or theft.

The history of mineral collecting has its examples of those who have purposely mislabelled the localities of sepcimens. One is to conceal a locality until the collector is done with it. One that comes to mind is when Dick Jones was digging the octahedral fluorites from New Mexico. He labelled them from Catron County. As was determined later, they are from a completely different county in New Mexico but you will still see these specimens labelled from Catron County, New Mexico. There was an excellent article in the Mineralogical Record some years on this property and it is now known as the Judith Lynn claim. I have had occasion to retain some locality information but only when I was protecting a gold locality.

The other type of mislabelling, which to me is criminal, occurs when a dealer or collector puts a different locality on a specimen to make it more saleable, with generally a higher price. This is fraud. Several examples come to mind about how this is accomplished. These are examples I know actually occurred.

On two different occasions a dealer purchased two cuprite specimens from another dealer. The first was a nice specimen from a more common locality but the second was a $20 specimen and it had several old labels with a better locality. The second dealer only took note because the second specimen was not something the first dealer normally purchased. At the very next show, here was the first specimen with the set of labels from the second specimen at a much higher price than the piece was worth, just because the labels now gave it the appearance of a more desirable locality.

Another specimen, this time a sphalerite from Czechoslovakia, was purchased from a dealer and the collector wanted it to be from Colorado so that is what it became. Shortly afterwards, the collector passed away and the dealer who handled the specimen, sold it as being from Colorado. When I asked to see the catalog card, the dealer gave me a story about it being from a private collection he wanted to pursue. I knew the collector, knew he was capable of switching localities but I also knew he would have preserved all of the original labels. I had seen the specimen with its real labels before the collector in question bought it. The next time I saw the piece it was in a competition case owned by a very reputable collector. I provided him with the history of the piece and that was the last time I saw the specimen.

Finally, there is one dealer whose mislabeling exploits are legendary. Not all specimens were mislabeled to provide any apparent monetary gain. I believe it just got to the point where absolute power corrupts absolutely and he could not help himself. My favorite story is a boleite that is obviously from the Mammoth-St. Anthony mine, Tiger, Arizona. Back when this specimen was sold as being from another state altogether, no one apparently paid much attention to the small, colorless crystals sprinkled across the matrix. Today, it is one of only a few bideauxites known.

The issue of labeling and mislabeling is truly a case of buyer beware. If it is too good to be true, it probably is.
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PostPosted: Aug 05, 2008 09:27    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Hello everybody

I agree with John's classification of the 3 types of dealers/collectors who deliberate misrepresent a specimen's origin.

Owning a collection mainly of personaly collected specimens, I really like to know the right point where a specimen was collected: galery number and level, quarry depth and wall, left/right/upper dump. I like to know if the specimen was isolated, if it is a part of a bigger piece, .... Whatever.

If I gave or sell or swap a specimen I may not tell you all those details, for the same reason's John mentioned, but you will know the mine/quarry name or location, the nearest town/village, the district and the country. And these are the minimum details I will expect someone will give me. No less.

About the second type of dealers, making them understand the value of a reliable locality may not be enought. If we buy it and say that it is important they know the correct place, they may think 'ok, ok - you buy it the same way'. If we refuse to buy something because the accurate place is not given, they will understand very quickly the value of a reliable locality. Of course, they can became the third type of dealers John described. About this third type, everything was already said.

However, in the second type we can also include the kind of dealers that doesn't want to improve they knowledge and quality. They put a wrong locality in a label (I assume not as a purpose) and even after being advised, they insist in the error. Yes, I understand they doesn't know us, so why should they believe in what we say? It's source has given him that vague or wrong locality name (for what obscure reasons?) and he trusts him more. Sudenly someone send him a e-mail telling that the label is wrong or incomplete? 'who cares'.

But if we spent our time triyng to correct (you can read 'to help') him, we may be right, right? At least, he should have a reasonable doubt to clarify. He could make some research or e-mail back asking about the reasons we have. I would do so.

The truth is, even most of the old world dealers (and that includes USA) doesn't understand or doesn't care about the value of an accurate locality.

Jorge
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PostPosted: Aug 05, 2008 10:06    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

I believe that I can one-up Les' story. Long ago I had a chance to view a private collection in Italy. This collector happened to specialize in Colorado minerals, and he had a lot of them. However, included within the collection were many specimens labelled as being from Colorado, but were not from that state. One in particular was labelled bideauxite, and the label stated that the identification was done by Gene Foord. I knew that bideauxite was (and is) known only from Arizona and Chile, so when I returned home I wrote to Gene and asked him about this. He said he knew nothing about it, that he never identified bideauxite from Colorado. The truly sad part was that I was advised not to tell the collector about this deception.
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PostPosted: Aug 05, 2008 16:16    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

I, too, become very vocal about misrepresentation of mineral localities when the facts are known about a locality. I don't mind regionalizing a locality to protect specifics, such as stating the locality as being in the nearest county instead of community or a mine name. Pardon me while I grab my soap box.....OK, got it. Here goes.....

My latest encounter with this problem occurred with one of the oldest and most venerable of dealers in the USA and not too long ago. It involved malachite after azurite. I bought a specimen, as did a well known collector friend of mine, a couple of years ago at the dealer's house and the pieces were labeled as Concepcion del Oro, Mexico. We went away blissfully happy, thinking we had scored a recent find of a classic, because the dealer told us that he was privately financing a digging project and it was all quite secretive. Now, we scroll the clock ahead about a year, and the same material shows up with the same very altered intrusive matrix and it is labeled as Milpillas mine, Sonora, Mexico. Now, I'm hosed off because after checking into it, Milpillas is correct and so is Sonora. Yet, the venerable dealer had the locality listed a half a continent away from the real location to protect against interlopers. I was hosed off, big time, about it and I still am. Sonora is a big state--I did my MS Thesis down there and there's a ton of mines. There is no reason to get so carried away about misrepresenting the locality!

For those folks interested, by the way, we are still seeing some incorrect location information associated with the Milpillas mine. It is a newly discovered porphyry copper-type orebody that was blind (buried underneath alluvial fill). Small subcrops with alteration characteristics like porphyry copper deposits and exploratory sampling/drilling led to the discovery. The azurite and malachite is occurring in reasonably tight veins encountered off from the main spiral decline being driven. That is why many pieces show contacts on the crystals and it is hard to find a real "aerial" specimen (thanks to Jordi for this descriptive word--I like it a lot!). I have recently seen specimens labeled showing them to be from the area near Nacozari. The scientific publication that I read shows the locality to be within a stone's throw of the US border and it is about 10-20 kilometers northwest of Cananea, in Sonora, Mexico. I hope that helps clarify the locality. John, thanks for allowing me to vent a little about one of my pet peeves. I feel better already, and I owe you a beverage of your choice at next year's Tucson show.

best regards,

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PostPosted: Aug 06, 2008 04:50    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

With respect to dealers who intentionally misrepresent localities, there is at least one who has done this with hundreds of specimens, perhaps thousands. This means that there are hundreds (perhaps thousands) of labels in collections with erroneous information on them, so in this case it would be helpful if the dealer were publicly denounced. Then collectors having specimens from that dealer would be alerted to the possibility that the information they have with those specimens might very well be wrong. This criminal behavior can have the effect of threatening the integrity of many proper labels, thus creating a situation where we can't be sure of the validity of any of them. Not a good thing. A large number of collectors know who this dealer is, but I am sure that there are many who do not.
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PostPosted: Aug 06, 2008 09:22    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Taking the unpopular position...is the purpose of this thread to give opinions on whether misrepresentation of localities is a bad thing (see Jordi's opening post), or to bash "corrupt" individuals who may or may not remain nameless? All of the arguments I'm reading have merit, and people's individual frustrations appear to be justified. And yet, the overlying reality is that there are bad players and scam artists everywhere - not just in the minerals arena. It is an unfortuate aspect of human nature. Are they reprehensible? - yes. Should they be publicly denounced? - ideally, yes. Can they be stopped? - doubtful. Short of mounting a personal crusade to expose a con artist to everyone who falls victim to him/her, I don't see that there is much we can do except to be careful about whom we trust, and do our homework to avoid getting sucked in. And I would argue against that sort of personal crusade because it takes the fun out of collecting. As John stated in his earlier posting about the Italian collector who had been scammed: "The truly sad part was that I was advised not to tell the collector about this deception." Why was this advice given? (I'm imagining it was to ward off potential unpleasant downstream consequences for the collector)

To this latest posting - "This criminal behavior can have the effect of threatening the integrity of many proper labels, thus creating a situation where we can't be sure of the validity of any of them" - I would respond "too late." I am not still on the kearning curve, and as I follow this thread, I find I'm becoming increasingly distrustful of practically ALL my labels. At this stage I'd rather just enjoy my collection because I like the specimens I am acquiring. Along the way I will try to make friends with kind mentors who might alert me if I pursue a specimen that's not what it's made out to be, while I am still doing my homework. Falling victim to a scammer is a "fledgling" mistake and the only way to minimize one's risk is to stay properly informed, if and when one wants to be.

Slightly more than 2 cents submitted from my office, in a city that is home to the $10 Rolex and bargain Louis Vuittons.

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PostPosted: Aug 06, 2008 12:54    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Good afternoon.

I am one of the poor ones that does not know who is the dealer that usually missrepresent locations. If I know, I would never buy from him. Probably I will never buy from him, even do not knowing him....
Obviously, we are humans, and any time we could make an error. That is not a trouble.
But a continuous "mistake" is more serious.

To stop bad behaviour, I could say that in other fields I know , antiques and coins, there are list of bad sellers, and in the case of coins, a public database of fakes (well, more than one...).

No one enters for one piece, but when all the listings are fakes, well, ehemmmmmmmmmmmm!

Just my two cents

With best wishes

Lluís
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PostPosted: Aug 06, 2008 13:19    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Don't get disillusioned by Tony's, John's and my stories. We are talking about three dealers and I have known and know hundreds who would not knowingly mislabel something. Occasional mistakes are made and that just proves we are human. It is the chronic and fraudulent that we need to be on the look-out for. I can assure you that you do not have any specimens from any of these three dealers. In fact, only two of the three would I characterize as chronic and one of the two is no longer alive. Tony's story was a bit of a surprise to me.

I guess some of us are so involved that we accept that what we know is common knowledge. However, as I think about it, I do not know of a single foreign dealer or collector whom I could put in this group. I get the feeling there may be one or more I do not know about.
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PostPosted: Aug 06, 2008 14:06    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Good afternoon, Les/List

Thanks a lot for the explanation.
That makes me more comfortable, indeed.

With best wishes

Lluís
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PostPosted: Aug 06, 2008 14:24    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Posting alerts about mineral scams to a public forum such as this one (e.g., the fake beryls we read about recently) is a good way to spread the message to a lot of collectors. There is no way I can see to communicate it to ALL collectors, though, because not everyone participates in these forums and emerging collectors might not know of their existence. With respect to past offenders, one would have to rely on word of mouth, which comes with time and experience. I'm not as disillusioned (if your comment was directed at me Les) as I might have sounded earlier. The stories you've all posted underscore the need to not take anything at face value. Sadly, though, violations of trust and reputation can't be completely avoided. And without knowing the players involved, they're just stories to us novice collectors.

It would be really great if a guide existed on things to check and how to spot fakes when buying mineral specimens, though I suspect it would be an impossible task to create this sort of thing. This is a very complex and multifaceted hobby. I think it all comes down to doing good homework, and the nature of said homework varies depending on the interests of the collector. But that advice applies to just about every aspect of life...

No disrespect intended to anyone from my early-morning rant.

- Tracy

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PostPosted: Aug 06, 2008 15:26    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

My comments were meant for you, Tracy. For the most part, those of us who collect specific localities or specialties are probably the most susceptible to folks trying to pass off specimens with phony localities. For someone who is building a world-wide collection, if they are looking for a fine azurite or wulfenite or copper, they probably don't care if the azurite is from Bisbee or Tsumeb or Chessy. Once you start specializing and need an azurite from each of the numerous localities within Arizona, then you enter the realm of someone trying to take advantage.

This is where the collector needs to become as knowledgeable as possible and deal with collectors and dealers whom they trust. If it is too good to be true, it usually is. However, there is a positive side to all of this. I have acquired a number of specimens over the years that were mislabeled and the true locality was easily determined. Most of these pieces are labelled Bisbee when in fact, the piece came from one of the other copper mines in the state. I do have a flat of specimens that I do not put out except when another Arizona collector comes by in the hope they might be familiar with one of these unknowns.

The Colorado dealer (now deceased) who abused this trust was masterful in setting up various scenarios to support his stories. The sad part is at one time he was recognized as one of the most knowledgeable of Colorado collectors. Now, any specimen that carries one of his labels is suspect, even the truly legitimate ones. This is the legacy his two sons are working hard to overcome, and I believe they are doing a good job.
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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2008 01:36    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Hi Les,

I don't want to scare anybody, but unfortunately those people also exist in Europe. I've experienced such behaviour from an Italian dealer who at some point might be classified in the 3rd case of John's definition. Fortunately for you, he doesn't sale on the internet. I've also been told about the same kind of story about a French dealer ...

I agree with you those 'bad guys" are more likely to focus on collectors looking for specifics. As a result it means spending quite some time to learn about localities.

To Tracy, if you do a worldwide collection you are less likely to be a victim of such behaviour. If you have a doubt, you can always try to use the net as a cousin of mine did with a specimen he bought. Having some doubts about the accuracy of the locality, he sent a picture to a mineral collector specialized in that locality. The person answered him and told him his specimen really was from the area labelled by the dealer.

Christophe
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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2008 02:10    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Not that I am an expert or anything, however;

I value highly authenticated goods, In fact i will pay more for the "real deal" of any type of genuine goods.

Is there a way to regulate the authenticity, even if there was a margin associated. Also, wouldn't that then mean that the truly original species are actually worth more. Alternatively, the premiums associated with species promoted from misleading origins , if proven to be non authentic, would be instantly devalued.

Isn't it like, saying cubic zirconia is a diamond? well sort of the same thing.... you get my idea...
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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2008 10:25    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Knowing there are a few dealers and collectors in Europe who are known to misrepresent localities does not scare, it just reaffirms my faith in human nature.

Art goes through authentication and there is still controversy. Stamps and coins go through authentication and grading and there is still subjectivity and controversy. No hobby is without its experts and detractors. The difficulty with minerals is that while a lot of localities are distinctive and not easily changed, there is enough overlap that less than ethical behavior takes place. I have a specimen that is obviously Moroccan vanadinite but it was labeled from an obscure locality in Arizona.

Some time ago I shared the story about a dealer at the Tucson Show who had a drusy quartz on chrysocolla labeled Bisbee. It was not an attempt to defraud someone, it was how the piece was labeled in the collection and the dealer was not knowledgeable enough to know better, but he probably thought he was. When a collector walked through who was knowledgeable, the dealer acknowledged the correction but once the collector was out of earshot, the dealer turned and said, "who the heck was that guy and why should I listen to him?" That collector was Dick Graeme, today considered to be the foremost authority on Bisbee. So, honest mistakes occur but who is going to determine who the expert is? The collector knew he was right (as did I) but the dealer did not accept his opinion.

There are many ways to authenticate a specimen but they are all based on knowing a myriad of information about a particular locality and also what has been produced throughtout the world. You need to know what localities have produced, when specimens were produced, knowing associations, knowing what the matrix looks like, knowing normal crystal sizes, timing and on and on. It is really part of what makes mineral collecting so much fun. I have bought wulfenites from the Mammoth-St. Anthony mine, Tiger, Arizona labeled from the San Francisco mine, Sonora, Mexico. I have acquired calcites labeled Bisbee that were from other localities in Arizona. I have also purchased "Arizona" specimens that turned out to be from other states and countries.

Again, the vast majority of collectors and dealers are completely upfront and accurate with their labeling information. Your guiding motto should be, "If it looks to good to be true, it probably is."
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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2008 10:27    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

I think there are some dealers who just don't care if they are right or wrong. So they guess, believe an old label because that is faster or just make it up. I had the pleasure a few years ago of reviewing a collection that was well labelled, but it took some work and local knowledge to work out what the labels meant (due to codes used). When I then saw many of the pieces for sale the easy, fast route had been taken so the localities were often wrong. Now this isn't fraud just lack of care.

Would I buy from that dealer? Not very likely, as I lack confidence in his localities. So I tend to seek out dealers who, to the best of my ability to test them, are willing to take the time it takes to get things right or just admit that they do not know.

James
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GneissWare




Joined: 07 Mar 2008
Posts: 1287
Location: California


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PostPosted: Aug 07, 2008 11:05    Post subject: Re: Misrepresented localities  

Tracy,
Justin of the Vug at www (dot) the-vug (dot) com does a blog on mineral fakes that you should check out. He publishes names and details of dealers (particularly those on eBay) that are misrepresenting minerals or selling true fakes.
Bob
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