Mystery Mineral Day- February 24, 2018!

Mystery Mineral Day is happening Saturday, February 24, 2018 from 10 AM to 2 PM at the museum.

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A participant at Mystery Mineral Day 2017 had her treasures identified by Bruce.

A panel of experts will be ready and waiting for you to bring your unknown rocks, minerals, fossils, gems, and potential meteorites for identification.

Have you always wondered what to call that cool crystal you picked up on a hike that one day? Did you inherit a collection, but it’s missing some labels? Do you think you may have found a fossil bone or a rock from outer space? Our experts are volunteering at this event just for you, so don’t be shy. Come on by!

 

This event is included with general admission. Admission is $12.00 for adults, $10.00 for seniors, and $8.00 for students (ages 5-17) and veterans/active military. Children 4 and under are free.

New Museum Exhibit: “What’s inside a rock?”

Have you ever picked up a rock and wondered about what might be inside? This new exhibit puts everyday rocks under the microscope to show the beautiful secrets inside ordinary stones.

What's inside a rock?

This exhibit sheds light on some of the science behind the gorgeous minerals displayed at the museum. It’s great for families and people of all ages!

Come visit to discover the humble ingredient in over half the rocks on Earth’s surface and find out what, exactly, makes something a crystal. You can even check it out during the museum’s upcoming Summer Fest, taking place this year on August 6 & 7 from 10 AM through 5 PM.

What’s in the Box? Old Familiar Places

The outdoorsy among us who have spent time in the Seattle area are surely familiar with Mount Si, a popular hiking destination close to the city. But did you know that Mount Si hosts beautiful minerals as well as incredible views?

Quartz with dravite

This specimen is on its way back to the box after three months on display in the Washington County Museum in Hillsboro, OR. It is a plate of quartz crystals covered with dravite tourmaline from the Bald Hornet claims on Mount Si in Washington state.

The Bald Hornet claims were developed in the aftermath of the 1869 discovery of iron ore in the Snoqualmie Pass area. While these small-time claims did not manage to produce any economic ores, they did give us crystallized mineral specimens like these. Such specimens are generally associated with contact zones, where intrusive granitic rocks interacted with surrounding sedimentary rock, especially limestone.

(Mining claim information sourced from “Discovering Washington’s Historic Mines (Vol. 1)”, ed. Ina Chang.)

This post is part of our What’s in the Box? series.

What’s In The Box? A Light in the Dark

You’ll almost never see gorgeous red realgar crystals on display, and if you do, it won’t be for long. Why? It turns out that realgar is one of several minerals that changes and degrades when exposed to light.

Realgar crystal

Realgar from Shimen, Changde Prefecture, Hunan, China

If left on display, this light-sensitive crystal would begin to turn dark and eventually change into an entirely different mineral: the powdery orange pararealgar, shown below. This happens because of the energy carried in certain wavelengths of light. When that energy hits atoms in the crystal, it causes some of their atomic bonds to break and rearrange into a different structure. For this reason, realgar is one mineral that will always stay inside the box!

Pararealgar crystals

Pararealgar from Royal Reward Mine, King County, Washington, USA

Even common minerals like amethyst and fluorite can begin to fade over time, especially if exposed to bright sunlight for long periods. We recommend displaying your treasures on a shelf rather than a windowsill.

This post is part of our What’s in the Box? series.

What’s in the Box? Clammy Hands

What do you think the object on the left has in common with the three objects on the right? This question isn’t too hard to answer: they’re all fossilized clams. But why do they look so different?

Agatized Clams

The clam on the left is the mineralized shell of a clam from Coal Creek, Washington. After the clam died, its shell was encased in sedimentary rock; while that rock was forming, foreign minerals grew and replaced the original calcium carbonate the shell was created from when the clam was alive. (These replacement minerals are responsible for the dark color.)

The clams on the right, on the other hand, are agate molds of clam shell insides. They come from Green Creek in Washington. Their tops have been polished a bit to give them a nice shine, but the shapes are natural. After these clams died, agate filled in the insides of their shells, and the shells themselves dissolved away.

These fossil clams show just two of the many different modes of fossil preservation!

What’s in the Box? Green Eyes

These concentric green circles look like some kind of painting or an old-fashioned LP gone wrong, but in reality this mesmerizing pattern was created by nature. This is the mineral malachite, a copper carbonate associated with ore deposits.

Green malachite "eye"

Malachite forms when other copper minerals like chalcopyrite react with acidic water percolating through the rock. This water can carry copper atoms along for a bit before the copper begins to combine with other atoms and grow minerals like malachite. Sometimes, the water drips into open cavities in the surrounding rock, and malachite will grow as a stalactite or stalagmite the same way other cave formations do.

The photo above shows a slice through a malachite stalactite. The concentric rings come from the growth of the stalactite in fits and starts, and the light and dark colors reflect small changes in the water chemistry over time.

Even though it was made by nature, a little human ingenuity helps this pattern to shine: the rings are most striking in malachite pieces that have been cut and polished like this one.

This post is part of our What’s in the Box? series.

What’s In The Box? Picture’s worth a thousand…

One of the most famous lapidary materials to have ever come from Oregon, Biggs Picture Jasper has captivated many with its beautiful blue and brown lines and swirls. This slab’s pattern is characteristic of the early material found near the town of Biggs Junction.

Biggs Jasper

Biggs Jasper was discovered by modern rockhounds in 1964 after a massive flood tore through the canyons just south of the intersection between US-97 and present-day I-84. The excitement over the find was so great that road repairs in one canyon were briefly delayed while rock enthusiasts removed boulders of the material, according to rockhound Dale Rhode. Biggs Jasper stands out best when cut and polished as cabochons or slabs.

Jaspers are a grainy variety of chalcedony (silicon dioxide) rendered opaque by incorporation of other minerals and foreign material. Brown, red, yellow, and white colors are most common; the blue of Biggs Jasper stands out.

This is part of our What’s in the Box? series.

What’s In The Box? Playing with color

The most famous precious opal in the US comes from Virgin Valley in Humboldt County, Nevada. Petrified tree trunks buried in volcanic tuffs have developed opals with gorgeous play of color.

Opal held in hand.

In this specimen, white common opal infills large holes, while blue and green precious opal is found in pores preserving the tree trunk’s original grain structure. This specimen is from Richard and Helen Rice’s original family collection.

Have you ever collected opal from Virgin Valley? Where are some of your favorite opal localities?

This is part of our What’s in the box? series.