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The

Miguel Romero Collection of Mexican Minerals


Dedication This book is dedicated to the memory of Carlton Davis: mentor and mineral collector extraordinaire, and to Neal & Chris Pfaff Rob Lavinsky

Acknowledgments The Mineralogical Record gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dr. Robert Lavinsky, who provided a grant for the publication of this special supplement to honor the memory of Miguel Romero and his collection. The authors would like to thank Rob Lavinsky, Wayne Thompson and Shirley Wetmore for helpful information. Margarita Romero kindly provided the photos of Miguel Romero and reviewed the text of his biographical notes. Tom Moore reviewed the manuscript and offered helpful suggestions. Rob Lavinsky arranged for the photography of the specimens after taking possession of them.

Thanks Received When our family decided to offer Miguel’s collection for sale, Rob Lavinsky submitted the only comprehensive and creative bid, including a plan for us to donate over a third of the collection specimens back to the University of Arizona, in perpetuity. While we are saddened to see his collection broken up, his legacy will live on, at least in part, at the University, thanks to the dedication and hard work of Rob Lavinsky, Museum Board member Les Presmyk, University of Arizona Flandreau Science Center director Alexis Faust, and curator Shirley Wetmore. We thank them for working with our family to set up the best possible plan, both for us and for the museum. Rob’s belief in the importance of museum collections like that of the University of Arizona is in keeping with Miguel’s, making this donation very appropriate. We also wish to thank Les Presmyk for help in specimen handling and paperwork, and Dr. Terry Wallace, Dr. Wendell Wilson, Peter Megaw and Rock Currier for their work as authors, helping to preserve Miguel’s legacy in this beautiful book. Margarita & Alejandro Romero I want to personally thank Rob Lavinsky for working so diligently to bring a substantial portion of the Romero Collection back to the University of Arizona. Alexis R. Faust Executive Director, University of Arizona Science Center

Covers Front Cover: Upper left: Legrandite crystal 4.7 cm tall, from the Ojuela mine, Durango. Upper right: Wulfenite, 7 cm, from Los Lamentos, Chihuahua. Lower left: Rhodochrosite, 8 cm, from the Potos’ mine, Santa Eulalia. Lower right: Amethyst crystals, 14 cm, from Guerrero. Photos by Wendell E. Wilson (upper right and lower left), Jeff Scovil (upper left) and Joseph Budd (lower right). Back Cover: Acanthite, 6.5 cm, from the Rayas mine, Gaunajuato; painting, oil on canvas in the style of 17th century Spanish still-life painting, by Wendell E. Wilson. Published as a Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, Vol. 39. No. 6, November–December 2008 Copyright © 2008 The Mineralogical Record. All rights reserved. Reproduction in any form, including translation into other languages, or by any means—graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, information storage and retrieval systems, and reproduction on the internet— without written permission from the Copyright holder is strictly prohibited. Price, softcover—$20 Limited edition hardcover copies of this supplement, bound together with the Mexico-V Issue, are available while they last for $70 plus postage from The Bookstore at www.MineralogicalRecord.com The Mineralogical Record, P. O. Box 35565, Tucson, AZ 85740. Circulation ofice: minrec@aol.com. Editorial office: minrecord@comcast.net


The

Miguel Romero Collection of Mexican Minerals

by

Terry C. Wallace, Wendell E. Wilson, Peter K. M. Megaw & Rock H. Currier with an Introduction by Eugene E. Meieran and specimen photography by Jeffrey A. Scovil & Joseph Budd

A Supplement to the Mineralogical Record, November–December 2008


Legrandite

18.7 cm, from the San Juan Poniente stope, Level 5, of the Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico. This specimen, known as “The Aztec Sun,” is the largest and most famous of all legrandite specimens, and represented the pinnacle of the Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.



Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008


I NTRODUCTION by Eugene E. Meieran

I doubt that any serious collector of anything can pursue a collecting career without becoming aware of the amazing historical collections displayed in museums and other institutions. The mere names of these great collections conjure up strong emotions—of awe at the beauty and perfection of their specimens, and, yes, of an envious desire to own those specimens. As mineral collectors, we can all name the great institutions that have amassed fine mineral collections: the Sorbonne, Harvard, Yale, the Houston Museum, the British Museum, the American Museum, the Smithsonian, the Philadelphia Academy, the Los Angeles County Museum, etc. And we can often name individual collections within each of these institutions: the Roebling Collection, the Kunz Collection, the Vaux collection, and more. These historical collections were put together over time by dedicated private collectors, and eventually made their way into the museums of the world. We all have stood before such displays and thought, “Gee, I wish I owned that specimen!” Such envy is a characteristic (or a malady) of serious collectors! One such impressive private accumulation was the Romero collection, which most recently resided in the Flandreau Science Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson. This particularly outstanding collection of Mexican minerals was put together over the years by Dr. Miguel Romero, and includes several of the most wonderful Mexican mineral specimens ever dug out of the ground, some

of which indeed are widely recognized as the best mineral specimens from anywhere (so-called “mineral ikons,” using the term recently proposed by Wayne Thompson). In fact, the Romero collection of what might be called “Mexican Mineral Treasures” could be viewed as an analog of the spectacular “American Mineral Treasures” exhibits assembled for the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February 008. As is the case with many fine private collections, the Romero collection was not seen by very many other mineral collectors for many years. It was originally kept in an office in Tehuacan, Puebla, Mexico, where it was seen only by the occasional serious collector who happened by—and by hoards of local school children who were regularly admitted for tours. I was fortunate to visit the Romero collection in the early 1980s, when I passed through the city during an unsuccessful trip to acquire some Las Vigas amethyst. So in 1997 I was thrilled to see the best of the collection come to Arizona and be put on display at the Flandreau museum! Along with the fine Arizona mineral collection and the displays of world-wide minerals in the museum, the Romero collection stood out as a peerless assemblage of great Mexican minerals. During the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, thousands of visitors had the privilege and pleasure of seeing the best of the Romero

Miguel Romero in 1992, at his home in Tehuacan, showing the “Aztec Sun” legrandite, his most famous specimen, to Texas collector Imelda Klein in 1992.

Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008




collection on public display (thereby making it one of the most widely viewed mineral collections in the world). Of course, while we as collectors privately covet museum specimens, we are always grateful that public museums acquire and display great pieces for us all to see. Museums preserve valuable natural and cultural artifacts and objects for posterity. So, as I said at the beginning, we mineral collectors look at public displays of private collections with mixed feelings: appreciation that great specimens are indeed preserved and displayed for public enjoyment, and jealousy that we do not own these wonderful objects ourselves! The Romero mineral collection clearly represents the best that Mexico has to offer to the mineral connoisseur. It was put together by a person who knew, understood and loved mineral specimens and the mineral heritage of Mexico. And since Mexico is so well endowed with great minerals, the Romero collection stands out even among other great world-wide collections. And speaking personally, I really wanted some of those world-class specimens for myself, but I was equally appreciative of the fact that the collection was on public display for me and my fellow collectors to enjoy. Of course, I never thought that the best of the Romero collection would be sold to a private collector. There are times when a great private collection or set of collections goes on display in a museum, and then later some or all of the specimens are sold or traded to the public, usually for one of three reasons. First, the museum may have so many equivalent specimens that it makes no sense to keep more of the same; the museum collection is enhanced by exchange of specimens with other institutions or collectors or dealers, and these transactions enrich both the private and public collections. Second, the museum may need funds for other exhibits or programs and, perhaps too often, minerals are the first to go because there is such a strong market for museum-quality specimens. And third, the collection may simply be on loan to the museum and is only on temporary display under

its stewardship. It can be removed at any time at the discretion of the collection’s owner. This third scenario was the case with the Romero collection: the Romero family had retained ownership while the collection was on public display in Arizona, and they ultimately decided to put it up for sale. We are naturally saddened by the fact that the entire collection is no longer on exhibit. However, the situation is not as bad as it might seem. We can be heartened by the fact that suites of Mexican locality specimens will be retained permanently by the University of Arizona, through the efforts of Rob Lavinsky, the dealer who transacted the sale. The Arizona specimens have gone to the leading private collector of Arizona minerals, where they will surely be well cared for, and although some of the Mexican specimens have been dispersed, Rob has arranged for the core of the Mexican collection to remain intact with a private collector who is planning eventually to open a mineral museum overseas. So, although the unity of the Romero collection is lost, some of it will remain available for study by the public at the Flandreau Science Center in Arizona and the most of the major Mexican specimens may someday be on exhibit together once again in a public museum. Since the vast majority of private collections are ultimately broken up and their cohesiveness totally lost, it is gratifying to me as a collector to see the best of the Romero collection documented in this book, and to know that most of the collection will be preserved in major segments. In addition, 1,00 specimens still in the Romero Mineralogical Museum in Tehuacan will remain there, and a systematic collection consisting of 5,500 specimens is being donated by the Romero family to the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. I look forward to seeing portions of the Romero collection once again, albeit in different museums. Given that the Romero family has found the sale necessary, this is indeed the best possible outcome. Eugene E. Meieran

At the Romero exhibit at the University of Arizona on its last day there (left to right): Karl Warning, Marshall Sussman, Wendell Wilson, Wayne Thompson, Gene Meieran, Les Presmyk, Rob Lavinsky and Kevin Brown. Rick Beard photo.



Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008


Miguel Romero Sanchez (196–1997) by Terry C. Wallace

Miguel Romero Mexico is a land of incredible beauty and rugged terrain. The country has active volcanoes that rise more than 19,000 feet above sea level and tropical jungles that are essentially impenetrable. The geologic forces that gave rise to the rugged terrain also blessed Mexico with tremendous mineral wealth. The modern history of Mexico begins with the arrival of Hernando Cortez and the conquest of the indigenous nations in the 150s. Upon Cortez’s landing on the Veracruz coast, Moctezuma, the head of the Aztec empire, sought to convince the Spanish to leave by sending Cortez a treasure. The diaries of the Cortez expedition describe this bribe: “A wheel like the Sun, as big as a cartwheel, with many sorts of pictures on it made of gold. Another wheel of greater size made of silver, twenty gold ducks, and many articles of gold and silver.”

Of course, this great gift of treasure had the opposite of its intended effect: it assured a conquistador’s rush for mineral wealth in the new world. In a few short decades after the conquest, fabulously rich silver deposits at Taxco, Pachuca, Zacatecas, Fresnillo and Guanajuato were discovered. The amount of silver which has been mined in Mexico is extraordinary. In 150 the total silver in circulation in Europe was about 100 metric tons, but by 1580 the amount had quadrupled, mostly because of the mines of Mexico. Even more exceptional is that the mineral wealth of Mexico seems inexhaustible. For the last decade, Mexico has averaged production of nearly ,00 metric tons of silver, and it is estimated that one-fourth of all the silver in history has been mined in Mexico. The incredible mineral wealth of Mexico is well-known to the collector. Since the turn of the century, fantastic specimens of wulfenite, calcite, amethyst, pyrargyrite, acanthite, galena, gypsum—the list goes on and on—have made their way to collections across the globe. However, despite the wonderful and rich mineral heritage of Mexico, there was little effort before 1970 to preserve it. The authoritative treatise on Mexican topographical mineralogy is a pair of bulletins published by the Instituto Geológico de México in 193. The mineralogical literature on Mexico is extremely sparse in view of its rich history. There are the giants of Mexican mineralogy, beginning with Andrés Manuel del Río (176–189), who published Elementos de Orictognosia in 1795 and 1805, but there are no Mexican equivalents to Roebling or Rashleigh, who built large collections of specimens that documented mining wealth. It is fair to say that Dr. Miguel Romero Sánchez nearly single-handedly rescued this heritage by building the finest private collection of Mexican minerals in the world. Dr. Romero built a world-class mineral museum in his home town of Tehuacán in the state of Puebla to house this collection, and pursued all things related to Mexican minerals with a singular passion. He was encyclopedic in his knowledge of Mexican mineral localities, and rediscovered a number of mineral deposits that had been mentioned in historic literature but subsequently lost. At the time of his death his collection totaled nearly 8,000 specimens, approximately 6,500 of which were from Mexico. These specimens were not only of the beautiful display variety; Miguel was dedicated to documenting the full scope of his country’s rich mineralogy. He acquired minerals from every state in Mexico, and where the mineralogy warranted it, he sought tremendous duplication. For example, his collection contained more than 60 Charcas danburites, 10 Mapimí adamites, and 90 Naica fluorites. Miguel used his collection as a research tool and helped discover four new mineral species and literally dozens of minerals new to México.

Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008




Miguel Romero, during his college years, visiting the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Miguel Romero at the Tucson Show in 1984.

From Humble Beginnings to National Leader Miguel Romero Sánchez (Romero being his father’s surname and Sánchez his mother’s) was born in 195, in Tonalá, located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, where his family owned a corn and sugar cane farm and a sugar mill. He was the youngest of ten children, and despite the fact that his father died when he was an infant, he worked hard and took every opportunity to excel. Miguel was an outstanding student, and was quite interested in science. Like all his siblings, he also had a nose for business, and saw education as his path to a better life. Miguel attended the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), the premiere educational university in the country. Although Miguel was pursuing a degree in chemistry, he received a job in the laboratory of Dr. Eduardo Schmitter. Schmitter was the leading Mexican mineralogist of the mid-0th century, and he gave Miguel his first chance to work on the chemistry of minerals. Miguel was fascinated with the minerals he got to see in Schmitter’s lab, and although he did not start a collection at the time, he caught the passion. Miguel later took a position at the Institute of Chemistry and remained Schmitter’s life-long friend. In later life, when Miguel focused on collecting minerals, his relationship with Schmitter yielded some remarkable specimens. For example, Schmitter knew the Pedrazzini family, which had owned and operated the Las Chispas mine near Arizpe, Sonora. The family sent Schmitter a number of fine mineral specimens in the early 1970s, and he passed them along to Miguel; included among them was what may be the world’s finest acanthite. After graduation, Miguel won a scholarship to attend Harvard, where he received MS and PhD degrees in organic chemistry. When Miguel showed up in Cambridge, Massachusetts he could barely speak English but, as was typical of his style, he developed partnerships with other students—he helped them with their chemistry, and they helped him with his English! Miguel enjoyed visiting the Harvard Mineralogical Museum, and it was there that he became impressed with the variety of the mineral kingdom and the beauty of exceptional specimens. After a postdoctoral fellowship at Imperial College in London, Miguel returned to Mexico. He taught at UNAM and accepted a position as Research Coordinator for Searle Labs in Mexico City.

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He later left Searle to work with his brothers and sisters in the family’s poultry business. Miguel’s outstanding chemistry background helped turn the business, Grupo Romero, into one of the most technologically sophisticated companies in Mexico. He built a world-class analytical laboratory, and his expertise in nutritional chemistry was continually in demand.

Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008


Miguel Romero (left) at a zircon prospect. When Miguel returned to Mexico after his education abroad, he married a remarkable woman: Margarita Sobral. “Mago,” as she is known to her friends, is a noted “historical” architect. She has headed several restoration projects for churches and convents, and has published papers on the geometry of pre-Columbian structures. Mago and Miguel had three children. The oldest, Miguel Jr., has a PhD in chemistry and was for several years a research chemist at the University of British Columbia. Luisa has an MS degree in veterinarian medicine. She is also an entrepreneur and an aerobatic pilot. Alejandro, the youngest, has an MS degree in chemistry and has followed in his father’s footsteps as the director of Grupo Romero. Miguel’s standing in the community eventually compelled one of the major political parties to draft him to serve in the National Congress as a federal deputy. Miguel professed to hate this job, but I believe he loved visiting his constituents in the state of Puebla. He had many fond memories of traveling on the backs of donkeys to isolated mountain communities. He later served in the Puebla legislature. The reason he loved visiting these remote places is the same reason he was a great collector: he loved Mexico. In the early 1980s Miguel decided to make his collection more accessible, and so he opened the Museo Mineralógico in Tehuacán. The museum was housed within the headquarters of his business, below his office, where he had special showcases constructed to properly display the specimens. By the early 1990s he was beginning to give thought to where his collection might go some day when he was gone. His preference would have been for it to be preserved in a Mexican institution of some kind, but ultimately he decided that the University of Arizona in Tucson would provide the best home for his collection. He had often visited Tucson in February for the world’s largest gem and mineral show, and he liked the idea that collectors from all over the

world who convened there annually would be able to enjoy the fruits of his labor. Furthermore, inasmuch as Tucson is relatively near the Mexican border, he knew that Mexican citizens (many of whom regularly visit Tucson) would have access as well. The major display specimens were first sent to the Houston Museum of Natural History for a spectacular six-month special exhibit, and were then transferred to Tucson. The University of Arizona Mineral Museum displayed about 300 of the minerals in the Romero collection for 11 years (1997–008). This year Miguel’s family decided to sell the display specimens being held in Tucson, and to donate his systematic collection (about 7,000 specimens) to UNAM, his alma mater.

The Greatest Mexican Mineral Collector In 199 Miguel Romero was awarded the Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Mineralogical Award for “singlehandedly preserving his country’s mineralogical patrimony.” This was a signal honor for Miguel, as it recognized the goal on which he had built his collection: to preserve the best Mexican minerals. After Miguel began to work for the family business in the 1960s, he had opportunities to travel. One trip to Brazil was particularly auspicious; he bought a beautiful tourmaline, and the Romero Collection was started. It wasn’t until the early 1970s that he began to focus his collecting specifically on Mexico, and by the mid-1970s he was dedicated to the task of building a great Mexican collection. Over a period of less than 30 years he built an amazing collection, and sought to educate others about Mexico. Miguel became known to the international mineral community as a gracious, generous, kind and passionate collector. Miguel was fascinated with all minerals, and his vast collection represented many localities outside of Mexico. The most outstanding of these non-Mexican specimens included California gold, Tsumeb

Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008




The Grupo Romero offices and laboratories in Tehuacan, where Miguel’s collection was on exhibit.

Miguel Romero addressing the Mexican National Congress.

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Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008


wulfenite, New Mexico linarite (perhaps the world’s best, from the Blanchard claim), and Arizona azurite. When Miguel began to attend the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in the early 1970s, he was delighted to find a huge variety of Mexican minerals for sale. He purchased a thin paperback publication by Johnson (1965) entitled Field Guide to the Gems and Minerals of Mexico, which he used as a guide to look for modern Mexican localities. There were some wonderful adamites from Mapimí for sale during this period, and so Mapimí became Miguel’s favorite locality. The Mapimí district is a typical limestone replacement deposit, with “manto and chimney” orebodies. Mapimí is unusual in that it is very rich in arsenic, and the oxidation of the deposit has resulted in extremely colorful secondary minerals. Mapimí adamite is the finest in the world, and Miguel acquired many examples ranging in color from apple-green to deep purple. Several of his Mapimí pieces are considered among the world’s finest. These include paradamite and a -cm cluster of legrandite crystals known as the “Aztec Sun.” Miguel also discovered two new minerals at Mapimí: ojuelaite, ZnFe31(AsO)(OH)?HO), and the closely related species mapimite, ZnFe331(AsO)3(OH)?10HO). Considering the importance of silver to Mexico, it is no surprise that the Romero Collection became very rich in silver minerals. The collection contained approximately 55 native silvers, the most famous being a thick rope, nearly 13 cm long, reported to have been found at Batopilas, Chihuahua, in the 1860s. The specimen was once owned

Memories of Miguel Ed Huskinson introduced me to mineral collecting in 1977 and suggested that, since I was doing work on my Masters thesis right across the highway from the mineral-rich Santa Eulalia district, I should focus my collecting efforts there. Ed introduced me to Miguel Romero as the ultimate Mexican locality collector at Tucson in 1978 and we began a friendship that lasted for life. I was clearly a competitor for specimens, at least with respect to Santa Eulalia, but that couldn’t have mattered less to Miguel and he encouraged my interest from the beginning. And I quickly learned that Miguel had a silver tongue when I found myself agreeing to sell him things (from localities other than Santa Eulalia) that I would otherwise have kept. He always refused my offers of discounts, though, noting that I was a starving student with important work to do. I keep a picture of Miguel on one of my exhibit cases to remind me to keep my focus to the south. Anyone who met Miguel was instantly impressed with his gracious manner and comportment; he was a consummate gentleman in the best sense. I never heard him say a harsh word against anyone, although he did have some less than enthusiastic things to say about certain dealers who had gouged him during his early collecting years. He calmly noted that he remembered them well and simply refused to do business with them again. He knew that their long-term loss was much greater than his short-term one. Visiting Miguel at his museum in Tehuacan was a treat I had several times . . . a mixture of minerals and great conversation, as well as an opportunity to witness a seemingly endless stream of school children parading through the

by the great American industrialist Andrew Carnegie. Along with the aforementioned acanthite from the Las Chispas mine, Arizpe, Sonora (believed by many to be the world’s finest example of the species), the Romero collection also held an extraordinary jalpaite (Ag3CuS) from the type locality at Jalpa, Zacatecas, and a silver specimen mined in the early 1800s at Pachuca (this is one of the earliest surviving Mexican mineral specimens). The collection was not short on modern classics either. In recent years the Fresnillo area has produced remarkable examples of the silver sulfosalts pyrargyrite, stephanite and polybasite. Many collectors consider the Romero Fresnillo pyargyrite, known as the “mano” or “hand,” to be one of the most aesthetic specimens of any mineral species. The specimen, although repaired, is stunning. One day, when Miguel was transporting the pyargyrite from his museum in his home to take a photograph, he tripped, and the specimen broke into a dozen pieces. Miguel was shocked and crestfallen; although he restored the specimen with painstaking perfection, he would not speak about the accident for the rest of his life. As Miguel’s collection grew, he also developed an extensive library of works on mineralogy and geology. He used this library to pursue “lost” Mexican localities. One of the most exciting hunts involved the mineral buergerite, a rare member of the tourmaline group. The type locality for buergerite is Mexquitic in the state of San Luis Potosí. Some very nice crystal groups, up to 8 or 10 cm, were recovered by a rancher and sold to American dealers. Unfortunately

museum. On my most memorable visit I spent three days with Richard Gaines and Philip Goodell going through the drawers, Miguel’s office, the storage area and all the display cases at least twice. It was a humbling experience; the abundance of good specimens was incredible. Fortunately, there were useful contributions I could make on species and locality information in exchange for what I was learning about localities I barely knew. One August, when our daughter Lauren was  months old, we took her to Mexico to see Miguel’s collection and indoctrinate her early in the hobby (it worked!). Miguel traveled down to Oaxaca to meet us and visit a scapolitezircon locality nearby. After Miguel and I spent the day in the field and then rejoined Lauren (who was a bit young for field work) we wound up in a typical outdoor Oaxacan restaurant for dinner—in the middle of grasshopper season. Tiny 1-cm fried grasshoppers are considered a delicacy in Oaxaca, and are generally scooped up by the handful and eaten in a tortilla. Miguel decided we needed some as an appetizer, and looked on in amazement as Lauren proceeded to plow her way through most of a plate by herself. (Other adults at the table looked at the grasshoppers with emotions other than amazement.) This was the highpoint of the trip for Lauren; during her first night in Tehuacan she was bitten on the face by some insect and one eye had swelled up so much that she couldn’t see. As Americans we were expecting to be hauled off to jail for apparent child abuse, but this didn’t faze Miguel or his family at all. They immediately sent us to a small corner pharmacy where “Dr. Pollo” (Dr. Chicken) took one look at her and provided a remedy that worked quite quickly. Peter Megaw

Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008




the rancher died without ever revealing the exact site of the find, and it was thereafter considered a lost locality. Miguel hired two geologists, and they combed the Mexquitic region for rocks that were similar to the matrix on the preserved specimens. In the 1980s they succeeded in rediscovering the locality, and the Romero collection acquired several outstanding examples. Miguel’s commitment to the scientific and educational aspects of mineral collecting was impressive. Although his company was devoted to poultry pharmaceuticals and specialized feeds, he purchased X-ray and other sophisticated mineralogical apparatus that had no poultry application whatsoever, and hired trained technicians to run them. He was a prime motivating force behind the establishment of the Mexican Mineralogical Society in 198, and sponsored the publication of the first few issues of its journal (now sadly languishing for lack of financial support). Miguel also heavily underwrote the First Mexican Mineralogical Congress in Pachuca in 1991, where he and Peter Megaw gave the first of a series of tag-team talks that they later gave at a number of symposia over subsequent years. Peter would lay the geologic and mining framework and Miguel would fill it in with the specimen mineralogy, liberally illustrated with photos of specimens in his collection. During a reprise of this presentation at the Springfield Show in 1995, Miguel became seriously ill, and yet he somehow managed to get out of bed to give his half of the talks. Carl Francis then insisted that Miguel accompany him back to Cambridge for a check up at Massachusetts General Hospital; it was a shock to learn that Miguel had advanced cancer. Fortunately, although the disease could not be reversed, their prompt treatment gave him several years of good quality time. Miguel Romero died on January 8, 1997. Kerith Graeber, Peter Megaw and I immediately proposed to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society that a trophy for the best Mexican mineral on exhibit be awarded in his name annually at the TGMS Show. This concept was something a little different for the TGMS, since their other memorial trophies are awarded to showcases and individual specimens specifically entered in competition by their respective owners; but we wanted a good excuse to make sure we examined every Mexican mineral on exhibit at the Tucson Show, just as Miguel would have done. It’s a nice way to help sustain the memory of Miguel’s personal warmth and passion for minerals. One of the real joys of Miguel’s life was the fact that school children visited the Museum. Upon Miguel’s death his family transferred the Museum to a public space in a renovated convent. The display of magnificent cases filled with about 00 of the Romero mineral specimens, fossils, meteorites and geologic specimens opened in 1998 to the public. The focus of the museum is educational, and it remains the most visited geological museum in Mexico. Miguel was generous with his knowledge and with his minerals. Once a friendship was developed, he often would give a mineral from his collection in appreciation of the recipient’s passion for

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Miguel Romero’s wife, Mago, standing beside a bronze nust og Miguel erected by the town of Tehuacan in honor of his contributions to the town’s economy, industry and culture. collecting. He will be remembered as a true gentleman whose work benefited the science of mineralogy and the international mineral community.

Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008


THE M IGUEL R OMERO C OLLECTION by Wendell E. Wilson

In the centuries-old history of mineral collecting, Miguel Romero was unique. Many people, of course, have enjoyed collecting Mexican minerals over the years, but he is the sole major collector in Mexico since Fausto de Elhuyar (1755–1833) and Manuel Andrés Del Río (1764–1849) to attempt to build a truly comprehensive collection of Mexican minerals, one that included study-grade specimens, locality suites, rare species and display specimens alike. In fact, although Elhuyar’s collection ended up in the Museo Geominero in Madrid, and Del Río built a serviceable teaching collection for the School of Mines in Mexico City, they never had access to the kind of world-class specimens that Romero was offered, primarily because the culture and skills involved in the collecting, preserving, preparing and marketing of such specimens did not yet exist in Mexico in their day. Why is it so historically unusual that modern Mexico should have a great collector of minerals? The answer appears to be that, unlike the cultures of other European countries, the culture of Spain and its colonies never developed a strong interest in mineralogy as a field for collecting. Even in early 20th-century Spain the fascination with minerals had not yet caught on, at a time when collectors had been flourishing in England, Germany, Austria, Italy, Scandinavia and even Russia for well over 200 years. Salvador Calderón, in his Los Minerales de España (1910), complained that “in our country it is lamentable the paucity of rich collections”—and he was lamenting the relative absence not just of collections of minerals but of any natural history items. No compelling reason has been offered for this cultural disinterest, but it has lasted until modern times in Mexico, even though mineral collecting is now widely practiced in Spain.

Fortunately, the awareness of the value of fine mineral specimens has been widespread in Mexico since at least the 1940s, and consequently many miners and campesinos have been involved in collecting mineral specimens to resell—primarily to Americans who have then distributed them to the rest of the mineral world. Many mining areas have developed a system for the removal and marketing of specimens through a series of intermediaries and wholesalers, and the miners themselves have become quite skilled at extracting specimens undamaged. Thus it was a tremendous advantage for Miguel Romero to be virtually the only high-end buyer of specimens in Mexico. He was known to everyone, and many fine specimens unearthed in recent decades were brought to him first. Furthermore, even many American dealers who obtained fine Mexican minerals would often give him first refusal, in large part because they respected what he was trying to do in building a national collection within Mexico. Miguel was no dilettante; he had trained in mineralogy under a prominent mineralogist, Eduardo Schmitter, and visited countless localities to learn about their mineralogy first-hand and to field-collect specimens. Consequently his collection demonstrates a mature level of connoisseurship and knowledge. In this special publication dedicated to Miguel and his collection, we will showcase some of his favorite specimens. Although despite his many accomplishments he was a genteel and modest man, I think he would have enjoyed seeing these photos of his specimens shared with the mineral collecting world, especially now that his collection is no longer accessible to us. This generosity of spirit and his simple passion for mineralogy are what made him so beloved and admired by everyone who knew him.

Rob Lavinsky photo

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Silver

5-cm view, from the Nevada mine, Batopilas, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Rob Thacker collection; Joseph Budd photo.

Batopilas

Since their discovery by the Spanish in 1632, the vein deposits of Batopilas have yielded seven times the total amount of silver produced at Kongsberg, Norway. Most of the silver found there in recent years is in the form of herringbone crystals from the New Nevada mine, but in earlier times some of the 300 different mines in the district produced wire silver as well. In the 1980s thousands of good specimens reached the market after having been etched out of white calcite, but large specimens were rare. For more information see Wilson and Panczner (1986) “Famous mineral localities: The Batopilas district, Chihuahua, Mexico,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 17, no. 1.

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Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008


Silver

15 cm, from an unknown mine in the Batopilas district, Chihuahua, Mexico. This specimen is very old and is probably one of the few surviving examples from one of the largely unknown mines in the district; the vast majority of Batopilas specimens, mostly from recent operations in the Nevada mine, are crystals but this one is a Kongsberg-style wire silver. Obtained from the collection of the famous industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) by mineral dealer Gary Hansen in 1984 and sold to Miguel Romero; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Silver

8.7 cm, from the Nevada mine, Batopilas, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Pyrargyrite

10.5 cm, from Guanajuato, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo (top).

Guanajuato

The history of Guanajuato can be traced to a group of Spanish mule skinners who found silver there in 1548. Mining began in 1558 at the San Juan de Rayas mine, which since then has produced large numbers of superb specimens of acanthite, polybasite and other silver minerals. By the 1700’s Guanajuato was producing a third of all the silver being mined worldwide. The deepest shaft, the Boca del Infierno (“Mouth of Hell”) plunges down to a depth of 600 meters. Although the mines closed in 1935, mining began anew in 1976, and more specimens have been recovered. Guanajuato, with its rich historical ambiance, has been described as the most picturesque city in Mexico. Joseph Budd photo.

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Acanthite

6.5 cm, (with crystals to 4 cm) from the Rayas mine, Guanajuato, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Polybasite

6 cm, from the Rayas mine, Guanajuato, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Acanthite

12 cm, from the Pedrazzini mine, later known as the Las Chispas (“The Crystals”) mine, Arizpe, Sonora, Mexico. This specimen is widely regarded as the finest example of the species in existence. It was originally collected by John Pedrazzini, owner of the mine, around 1890 and may have been among the many spectacular specimens that he exhibited at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. He eventually presented it to Mexican mineralogist Prof. Eduardo Schmitter Villada (1904–1982), who later gave it to Miguel Romero. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Las Chispas

Rich silver veins were discovered near Arizpe, Sonora by soldiers under the command of Pedro de Perra, but it was not until the local Indians under the command of the legendary Geronimo were finally pacified in 1880 that significant mining could begin. During the 1890s and the first few years of the 20th century the Las Chispas mine near Arizpe produced some of the world’s finest specimens of polybasite, pyrargyrite and stephanite. Ore pockets filled with breccia fragments covered by sparkling crystals of various silver minerals dazzled the miners, hence the naming of the mine. John Pedrazzini, the owner of the mine, and Edward Dufourcq, his mine manager were responsible for preserving most of the specimens that survive today. Although mining there ceased in 1930, collectors entering the abandoned workings since then have occasionally found good specimens. For more information see Wallace (2008) “Famous mineral localities: The Las Chispas mine, Arizpe, Sonora,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 39, no. 6.

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Polybasite

8.6 cm, from the Las Chispas mine, Arizpe, Sonora, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Polybasite

6 cm, on chalcopyrite from Las Chispas mine, Arizpe, Sonora, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Stephanite

7.4 cm, from the Santo Niño vein, Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Fresnillo

The Fresnillo silver deposits, discovered in the 1550s, were not known for producing collector-quality specimens until the mid-1970s when exploratory drilling intersected a series of fabulously rich veins. Since then Fresnillo has become one of the world’s greatest silver districts, and has also yielded superb specimens of crystallized pyrargyrite, stephanite, acanthite and polybasite. The Santo Niño vein, discovered in 1975 and measuring over 3 meters in width, has been the most prolific. For more information see Wallace and Hall-Wallace (2003) “Famous mineral localities: Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Mexico,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 34, no. 6.

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Pyrargyrite

8 cm, from the Santo Niño vein, Fresnillo, Zacatecas, Mexico. This superb specimen, nicknamed “El Mano” (“The Hand”), is another of the well-known signature specimens in the Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008


Jalpaite

3.5 cm, from the type locality of Jalpa, Zacatecas, Mexico. This crystal is believed to be the finest known example of the species. Romero collection; Rob Lavinsky photo.

Acanthite

5 cm, from the El Bote mine, Zacatecas, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Acanthite

4 cm, showing sharp interpenetrating cubic crystals, from the Rayas mine, Guanajuato, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Pearceite

4.5 cm, from Guanajuato, Mexico. This extreme rarity is probably the finest known example of the species from Guanajuato and perhaps the world. Romero collection; Rob Lavinsky photo.

Arsenopyrite

8 cm, from the San Antonio mine, Santa Eulalia district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Peter Megaw collection; Joseph Budd photo.

Pyrargyrite

8.7 cm, on milky quartz from Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico. Romero collection; Rob Lavinsky photo.

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Scorodite

8 cm, from the Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Imelda and Jim Klein collection; Joseph Budd photo.

The Ojuela Mine

The Ojuela mine, well-known to mineral collectors worldwide and a favorite of Miguel Romero, may well be Mexico’s greatest and most varied mineral locality. Although the extensive deposits were discovered in 1598, they did not come to the notice of mineralogists until 1927, and mineral specimens were not preserved until 1946 when the first American collectors visited the area. Workings there are now over 900 meters deep, and mining now is carried out by small operators and mining cooperatives searching for specimens rather than ore. The Ojuela mine has produced the world’s finest specimens of adamite in a gorgeous array of colors including royal purple—the finest specimens of which were collected in 1981. World-class specimens of legrandite have also made the mine famous, especially the “Aztec Sun” specimen in the Romero collection. The world’s best specimens of paradamite and köttigite/parasymplesite have also been found there, as well as superb specimens of aurichalcite, scorodite, hemimorphite, rosasite, wulfenite and other minerals. Ojuela is the type locality for six new mineral species. For more information see Moore and Megaw (2003) “Famous mineral localities: The Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 34, no. 5.

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Legrandite

5.8 cm, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. Although not the largest known legrandite specimen, this example is considered to be the finest single crystal of the species. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Legrandite

4.7 cm, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. This slightly diverging parallel group of large crystals is one of the finest specimens in the Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Mapimi Legrandite and the “Aztec Sun”

The “Aztec Sun” (left, 18.7 cm) and the “Aztec Club” (24 cm); Wendell Wilson photos. In the early 1950s and 1960s, the miners in the cooperative that were operating the Ojuela mine under license from the Peñoles mining company produced large quantities of specimens for the specimen market. These specimens were sold in rejas, a sort of large standardized wooden box of the kind normally used for shipping produce. Thousands of rejas of adamite, hemimorphite, aurichalcite, calcite, etc., known in the trade as “Mapimí mix,” were produced. Occasionally fine specimens of other minerals were found. In 1961, Gene Schlepp was in Mapimí buying specimens and recalls seeing what was among the first lots of legrandite from this mine. He saw them through the window of a miner’s house, and though the miner was touting them as legrandite, through the window they looked like dirty hemimorphite specimens, so he didn’t even go in to look at them. In early 1977, dealer John Whitmire, who often got the best Mapimí specimens in those days, received a call from his “main man” in Mapimí, reporting that another pocket of legrandite had been encountered, and so John and Gene Schlepp drove down from El Paso to look at it. The lot consisted of about five flats of material priced at $7,000—what Gene thought was an insane price (Gene’s own words). But they bought it anyway, with the understanding that if more legrandite was encountered they would be given a phone call . . . a common enough promise in the mineral world, but one that is sadly only seldom honored when the time comes. In November of 1977 a miner named Felix Esquivel encountered a small pocket of legrandite that produced the great specimen later known as the “Aztec Sun.” Luckily, he was an experienced specimen collector, and removed it in excellent condition! Although Gene and John were supposed to be called, Shorty Bonilla, an agent of competing El Paso dealer Jack Amsbury, happened to be there and he immediately contacted Jack, who ran down to Mapimí and bought

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the contents of the pocket. He did not have enough cash with him to complete the deal, and had to wait in Mapimí till more money could be brought down to him from El Paso. The final price for the 25 or so specimens including the “Aztec Sun” was variously reported as $3,900 to $20,000 (the low figure is probably closer to the truth). Jack first offered the lot to Wisconsin collector F. John Barlow for $50,000; Barlow declined, thinking the price too high (but later came to deeply regret that decision). Bob Amsbury, who often worked with Gene Schlepp, then told Gene to come to El Paso to look at some specimens but would not tell him what they were until he arrived, such was the secrecy surrounding the lot. They worked out a deal whereby Gene would sell the specimens and they would split the profits after the initial cost was recovered. Gene first approached Harvard University, offering them the best piece, but the “Aztec Sun” was too dear for them, so a deal was made to sell them two other nice legrandite specimens. Another famous specimen in the lot, called the “Aztec Club,” went to the American Museum of Natural History where it remains on display to this day in a special case. The now-famous “Aztec Sun” was sold to Miguel Romero, Harvard having passed on it. In researching this story, the common theme that kept cropping up was that of the extraordinary character of Miguel Romero. He was universally described by the people who knew him as a true old-world gentleman of great integrity and understated intelligence. Their memories echoed my own. After spending time with Miguel I always came away feeling a bit like the barbarians must have felt leaving Rome or Athens. Gene Schlepp recalls Miguel complaining that he was going to have to run for the Mexican senate for his state but if he really had a choice, he would rather not do it because he felt that Mexican politics was such a dirty business. Rock Currier

Supplement to The Mineralogical Record, November–December, 2008


Adamite

26 cm, from the Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico; an unusual snake-like “floater” specimen nearly a foot long! Romero collection; Rob Lavinsky photo.

Legrandite

6 cm, from the Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Legrandite

5 cm, from the Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Paradamite

6.4 cm, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. This extreme rarity is the finest example of the species by an order of magnitude, and was one of the great treasures of the Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Adamite

5 cm crystal, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. This large, colorless crystal is highly unusual. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Adamite

8.5 cm, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. This extraordinary adamite was a signature piece of the Romero collection, considered by many collectors to be the finest known example of the green pinwheel habit. Jeff Scovil photo.

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Adamite

8.5 cm, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. These unusually large copper-rich green crystals are from a small find made in the 1980s. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Adamite

9 cm, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. This superb cluster of manganese-rich purple crystals is from the celebrated 1981 find. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Adamite

5.3 cm, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Adamite

20 cm, from the Ojuela mine, MapimĂ­, Durango, Mexico. This remarkable specimen has a string of adamite pinwheel-clusters running down the front face of the limonite matrix. It is perhaps the most common habit of adamite from the early 1980s, but is rare in this large size. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Adamite

10 cm, from the Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Rob Thacker collection; Joseph Budd photo.

Adamite

9.7 cm, from the Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico. These copper-rich crystals are an exceptionally dark green color. Romero collection; Wendell Wilson photo.

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Adamite

11 cm, from the Ojuela mine, Mapimí, Durango, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Ed David collection; Joseph Budd photo.

Boleite

7 cm, from the Amelia mine, Boléo, Baja California, Mexico. The large cubic crystals on clay matrix were collected during the 1973 specimen mining operation conducted by Ed Swoboda and Bill Larson. Romero collection; Rob Lavinsky photo.

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Buergerite

6 cm, from Mexquitic, San Luis PotosĂ­, Mexico. Buergerite, a rare member of the tourmaline group, is found nowhere else in high-quality crystals. The locality became lost when a local rancher who had discovered it passed away without telling anyone of the location. Years later, exploration geologists hired by Miguel Romero rediscovered it. Collectors agree that the specimen shown here is the finest example of the species. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Vanadinite

8.5 cm, from the Apex mine, San Carlos, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

The Apex Mine

The San Carlos replacement deposit of argentiferous galena and secondary minerals was exploited through the Apex mine in the late 1900s and again from around 1930 to 1952. Attractive specimens of bright red to brown vanadinite from the Apex mine began appearing on the specimen market in the 1950s, and a few very fine redorange wulfenite specimens were collected there in the early 1970s. The vanadinite crystals tend to be cavernous and form heavy clusters with white dolomite crystals. For more information see Moore (2008) “Famous mineral localities: The Apex mine, San Carlos, Chihuahua, Mexico,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 39, no. 6.

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Vanadinite

10 cm, from the Apex mine, San Carlos, Chihuahua, Mexico. Ed David collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Scheelite

5 cm, from Sonora, Mexico. Romero collection; Rob Lavinsky photo.

Pyrite

5 cm, from Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. These unusual elongated bar-shaped crystals are a rare occurrence at Naica. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Pyromorphite

12 cm, from the San Luis mine near San JosĂŠ in the Municipio of Guazapares, Chihuahua, Mexico. This specimen, collected by David Bolin in the mid-1970s, is believed to be the finest example of the species ever found in Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Wulfenite

10 cm, from the Ahumada mine, Los Lamentos district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Los Lamentos

The classic, gently inclined, manto-type ore deposit at Los Lamentos was discovered in 1907 and mining there under American owners began around 1916, despite the constant harassment of local bandits including Pancho Villa. Smithsonian mineralogist William F. Foshag visited the site in the 1930s and briefly described the minerals there in 1934. Mineral collectors first visited the mine in the 1940s and took out substantial numbers of fine wulfenite specimens showing beautiful pseudo-cubic to thick tabular (and occasionally pyramidal) orange crystals on white dolomite matrix. During the following decades local miners and visiting collectors and dealers took out thousands of fine specimens, including many that qualify as world-class. Relatively little has emerged since the mid-1970s, but occasional fluctuations in the water table in the deepest levels of the mine have shown that the finest, most lustrous and transparent crystals come from the very bottom of the workings where the orebody is by no means exhausted. A wealth of fine wulfenite remains down there to be collected, if someone can figure out how to lower the water level economically. For more information see Wilson (2003) “Famous mineral localities: The Erupción/Ahumada mine, Los Lamentos district, Chihuahua, Mexico,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 34, no. 6.

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Wulfenite

10 cm, from the Ahumada mine, Los Lamentos district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Wulfenite

6.7 cm, from the Ahumada mine, Los Lamentos district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Wulfenite

6 cm, from the Ahumada mine (probably the lower levels), Los Lamentos district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Wulfenite

6.7 cm, from the Ahumada mine, Los Lamentos district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Matt Tannenbaum collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Wulfenite

14 cm, from the Ahumada mine (a rare habit, probably the lower levels), Los Lamentos district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Wulfenite

8 cm, from the Ahumada mine (probably the lower levels), Los Lamentos district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Rob Thacker collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Wulfenite

9.3 cm, from the San Francisco mine, Sonora, Mexico, collected by Wayne Thompson around 1993–1994. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

The San Francisco Mine

The lead and gold deposit in the Cerro Prieto was never a big producer of ore, but it became one of the world’s most prolific producers of mineral specimens. Originally worked in the late 1880s, it was abandoned at the time of the Mexican Revolution. Small operators occasionally worked the mine during the 1950s and 1960s, and the Anaconda Company did some development work, but no substantive amount of ore has been recovered there since 1912. Crystal specimens of wulfenite were first collected at the mine in the 1960s, and in the 1970s specimen mining operations were carried out by various collectors including Wayne Thompson (in 1972) and Curt Van Scriver and John Whitmire (in 1976–1977)—whose work there proved highly successful. Those efforts were renewed by Wayne Thompson, James Horner and Ed Swoboda in 1993–1994 and more specimens were collected, including many of world-class quality. Sharp, transparent, golden orange to red-orange wulfenite crystals with red-orange botryoidal mimetite are classic specimens from the San Francisco mine, which ranks along with Los Lamentos as Mexico’s greatest wulfenite locality. For more information see Moore (2004) “Famous mineral localities: The San Francisco mine, Sonora, Mexico,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 35, no. 6.

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Wulfenite

5.3 cm, from the San Francisco mine, Sonora, Mexico, collected by Wayne Thompson around 1993–1994. Romero collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Wulfenite

4.4 cm, from the San Francisco mine, Sonora, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Brent Lockhart collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Wulfenite

5 cm, from the Aurora mine, Cuchillo Parado, Municipio of Coyame, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Rob Thacker collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Orthoclase

3.1 cm crystal, from the La Pili mine, Chihuahua, Mexico. The crystals show the schiller effect, like labradorite. Romero collection; Wendell Wilson photo.

Danburite

5.3 cm, from Charcas, San Luis PotosĂ­, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Jim and Imelda Klein collection; Wendell Wilson photo.

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Bournonite

on pyrite, 9 cm, from the Noche Buena mine, Zacatecas, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Chalcopyrite

7.8 cm, from the El Cobre mine, Concepción del Oro, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Karl Warning collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

The El Cobre Mine

Long before the Spanish discovered the enormous ore deposits at Zacatecas in 1568, the local Indians were collecting gold and silver from outcrops in the high mountains nearby. During the mid-1890s, illiterate local contractors took over the mines at El Cobre and Aranzazu, leaving no written records. Nevertheless, some fine specimens of azurite and malachite came out of the El Cobre mine in those days and found their way onto the specimen market, including malachite pseudomorphs after azurite to 12 cm. Greater fame was to come, however, when the world’s finest crystals of scorodite were found at the El Cobre mine in a single pocket that yielded about a dozen specimens in 1968. The mine has also produced distinctive tennantite-tetrahedrite paramorphs on white quartz. The El Cobre mine is just one of many in the Concepción del Oro district. Others include the Animas, Bonanza, Cabrestante, Cata Arroyo, Jesús María, Naranjera, Perla, Quebradilla, Refugio, Santa Eduwiges, Tajo, and Trinidad mines. Specimens are not always well identified as to which mine they came from, and may simply carry the designation “Concepción del Oro.”

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Scorodite

6 cm, from the El Cobre mine, Concepción del Oro, Zacatecas, Mexico. El Cobre scorodite specimens, found in a single pocket in 1968 (usually on white drusy quartz—the one shown here is unusual), are widely considered to be the finest examples of the species. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Pyrite

23 cm, from Concepción del Oro, Zacatecas, Mexico. This extraordinarily large and nearly perfect crystal is one of the finest ever found in Mexico and compares well with specimens from any other locality worldwide. Romero collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Pyrite

9 cm, from Concepción del Oro, Zacatecas, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Rick Beard collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Malachite

9.1 cm, from the El Cobre mine, Concepción del Oro, Zacatecas, Mexico. (Detail at right.) Romero collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Malachite

9 cm, from the El Cobre mine, Concepción del Oro, Zacatecas, Mexico. This remarkable pseudomorph after large azurite crystals is among the finest ever found in Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Ed David collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Azurite

11 cm, in typical thin, gemmy crystals from Concepción del Oro, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Ed David collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Ludlamite

7.5 cm, from Level 14 of the San Antonio mine, East Camp, Santa Eulalia district, Chihuahua, Mexico. For size and quality this is considered by many collectors to be the finest example of Mexican ludlamite. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Santa Eulalia

Silver was discovered in the Sierra de la Santa Eulalia in 1591, but its remote location about 19 km southeast of the present-day city of Chihuahua, and the resistance of local Apache Indians, rendered mining impractical at that time, and the occurrence was lost. It was rediscovered by bandits in the early 1700s and mining began around 1703. Most of the silver ore produced in the early years came from large near-surface caverns. The earliest workings included the Parcionera, Bustillos, Vieja, San Juan and Santo Domingo mines. American companies became interested in the district in 1880 and a railroad was completed as far north as Chihuahua City. Mines today are concentrated in two general areas called the East Camp and West Camp. The San Antonio mine in the East Camp and the El Potosí and Buena Tierra mines in the West Camp have been the most important specimen producers; by the 1930s the San Antonio mine had become a major world producer of tin and vanadium, and by 1920 the El Potosí mine was ranked as one of the four largest lead producers in the world. In the early 1970s a governmental effort to eliminate religion-based town names resulted in the town of Santa Eulalia (associated with the East Camp mines) being renamed Aquiles Serdán and the mining camp of Santo Domingo (associated with the West Camp) being renamed Francisco Portillo, leading to some confusion on specimen labels. However, the new names were rejected by the inhabitants, and are no longer in use.

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Rhodochrosite

8 cm, from the PotosĂ­ mine, West Camp, Santa Eulalia district, Chihuahua, Mexico. This is a signature specimen from the Romero collection, considered by many to be the finest known Mexican rhodochrosite specimens. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Rhodochrosite

on spalerite, 5.5 cm, from 10th level of the Main Silicate Orebody, PotosĂ­ mine, West Camp, Santa Eulalia district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Richard Geiger collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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Rhodochrosite

3.5 cm, from the PotosĂ­ mine, West Camp, Santa Eulalia district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Joseph Henley collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Gypsum

12 cm, from Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. This beautifully transparent crystal is a fine representative of the many excellent gypsum specimens that have been found over the years in Mexico. The Naica mine caverns, filled with enormous crystals several meters long, are the most famous gypsum occurrences in Mexico (and perhaps the world). Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Creedite

4 cm, from the Piñata orebody, 10th level of the Potosí mine, West Camp, Santa Eulalia district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Creedite

10 cm, from the Piñata orebody, 10th level of the Potosí mine, West Camp, Santa Eulalia district, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Andradite

15 cm, from Ojos Negros, Coahuila, Mexico. The Ojos Negros locality has produced the world’s finest black andradite (sometimes called “melanite”). This is one of two superb specimens in the Romero collection and is now in the David Bristol collection (the other is in the Peter Megaw collection); Jeff Scovil photo.

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Mimetite

9.5 cm, from the Congreso-León mine, San Pedro Corralitos, Chihuahua, Mexico, collected in 1968 by Benny Fenn. Specimens from this occurrence remain the finest known examples of botryoidal mimetite in the world. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

San Pedro Corralitos

The Congreso-León mine near the San Pedro Corralitos railroad station, about 120 km southwest of El Paso, Texas, was opened around 1885 and more or less abandoned in the 1950s. During all that time, no mineral specimens of note ever surfaced. Then, in 1968, mineral dealer Benny Fenn decided to explore the lower workings for specimen potential. On the 9th level he found a vein of mimetite which he dug into, and which opened up into a large cavern measuring 20 3 30 3 40 feet, entirely lined with beautiful botryoidal yellow mimetite. It required three months to carefully remove and pack all of the specimens—2 tons—and hoist them up a nearby shaft. The best specimens from this find are universally recognized as the world’s finest examples of botryoidal mimetite. For more information see Wilson (2004) “Famous mineral localities: San Pedro Corralitos, Chihuahua, Mexico,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 35, no. 6.

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Quartz

13.5 cm, from near Amatitlan, Guerrero, Mexico. Romero collection; Joseph Budd photo.

Amatitlan

The quartz veins north of the town of Amatitlan in Guerrero State have produced some of the world’s finest specimens of amethyst. They were first discovered by a local farmer, Donato Retana, in 1930 and were worked extensively for specimens in 1930–1933. It was found that the amethyst occurs scattered through many different veins which riddle the area; mining is accomplished by trenching or tunneling for short distances. The most important claims include the Palo Verde, Donato, Margarita, La Cuña, and most recently (1997–1998) the Mina La Sorpresa. Unfortunately, gold mining companies have bought up most of the land in the area, hindering further exploration for amethyst. For more information see Ontiveros et al. (2004) “Famous mineral localities: The Guerrero amethyst deposits, Mexico,” Mineralogical Record, vol. 35, no. 6.

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Quartz

16 cm, from near Amatitlan, Guerrero, Mexico. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Fluorite

5 cm, from Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. This excellent spinel-law penetration twin (with a fluid inclusion containing a moveable bubble) was collected around 1984. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Naica

Naica is one of the few silver mines in Mexico that was not initially discovered by the Spanish during colonial times. Large-scale mining began in 1830, following the conclusion of the Mexican War of Independence, but problems with hostile Indians soon shut down the operations. An extremely rich silver vein was discovered in 1894 and opened as the Maravillas (“Marvelous”) mine; it was eventually merged with other mines to become the Naica mine in 1951. The mine remains very active today, exploiting nearly a dozen separate manto deposits and 50 chimneys that have yielded large amounts of silver, lead, zinc and copper, as well as countless thousands of mineral specimens—fluorite, sphalerite, galena, calcite, anhydrite, and huge caverns lined with spectacularly large gypsum crystals.

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Sphalerite

9.5 cm, from Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Les Presmyk collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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Apatite

10 cm, from the Cerro del Mercado mine, overlooking the city of Durango, Mexico. The 7-cm crystal of apatite-(CaF) is unusually large and fine. Romero collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Cerro del Mercado

The Cerro del Mercado is a mountain of hematite ore overlooking the city of Durango. Discovered by Don GinĂŠs Vasquez del Mercado in 1552, it was long ignored during the times when only ores of gold and silver were valued. However, it was mined for iron beginning in 1828, and those operations have never ceased for long since then. The beautiful yellow apatite crystals scattered in veinlets throughout the iron ore were first noticed in 1858. Specimens were common on the market until 1985, and could be purchased by the bucketful at the mill, though really fine, large, undamaged examples were always rare; mechanization has since rendered them less accessible during ore processing, and these days only occasional specimens are collected by the miners.

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Datolite

6 cm, from Charcas, San Luis PotosĂ­, Mexico. Romero collection, now in the Rob Thacker collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

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T

hese two specimens are examples of the many fine non-Mexican specimens in the Romero collection.

Azurite

6 cm, from the New Cornelia mine, Ajo, Arizona. Romero collection, now in the Les Presmyk collection; Jeff Scovil photo.

Brookite

4.3 cm, from Magnet Cove, Arkansas. Romero collection, now in the Kevin Brown collection; Joseph Budd photo.

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The University of Arizona Mineral Museum by Wendell E. Wilson

For 11 years, from 1997 to 2008, the Mineral Museum of the University of Arizona in Tucson was the custodian of the display portion of the Miguel Romero collection. During that time most of the pieces were on public display in special exhibit cases, some of which were dedicated solely to the Romero specimens. Curator Shirley Wetmore and her assistant, Sven Bailey, are to be complimented for their good stewardship in caring for this important collection and making it accessible to visiting collectors. Although the Romero collection is now gone, the Museum recently acquired by bequest the $7 million collection of Hubert de Monmonier (see Wilson and Origlieri, Mineralogical Record, vol. 39, no. 5, 2008), which is now featured in a special display. The University of Arizona Mineral Museum now houses one of the finest mineral collections in any university. It began with an act of the Arizona State Legislature establishing a School of Mines in Tucson, Arizona Territory, in 1885; the main building opened for classes in 1891, and Arizona became a state 21 years later, in 1912. The original building, known today as “Old Main,” still stands at the center of the sprawling University of Arizona campus. Mineralogy was one of the subjects originally taught at the University, and a proper collection of minerals was essential for teaching purposes. The 1892 University of Arizona Register states: “In addition to collections made by Prof. Blandy, formerly Territorial Geologist, the private collections of the Director of the School of Mines (Dr. Theo. Comstock) are on deposit in the Museum.” This is the first reference to the Mineral Museum, and suggests that it was established prior to 1892. In 1893 the Territorial Museum was established on campus, incorporating not just the growing mineral collection but also ethnographic artifacts and historical documents. The mineral collection was the responsibility of William Phipps Blake, who arrived in 1895 as the new Director of the School of Mines, as geology and mining instructor, and as the first Territorial Geologist. He took an active interest in the Territorial Museum, and increased the size and scope of the mineral collection. By 1900 many fine specimens of Arizona minerals

were on display; “Among these may be mentioned particularly superb specimens from the mines of the Copper Queen at Bisbee.” The Territorial Museum was moved to new quarters in 1905, in 1915, and again in 1919 when the new Mines and Engineering Building was completed, and the Mineral Museum once again became a formal entity of its own. Prominent faculty members including Frank Nelson Guild (1870–1939), Frederick Leslie Ransome (1868–1935), Bert Sylvenus Butler (1877–1960), Maxwell Naylor Short (1889–1952) Frederic William Galbraith (1903–1985) and John Williams Anthony (1920–1992) were especially involved in the growth and curation of the collection. In 1957 the collection was finally given spacious, well-lit quarters and refurbished cases in the newly completed Geology Building, where it resided for many years until being transferred a few years ago to equally spacious quarters on the lower level of the Flandrau Science Center. Students, alumni, the State of Arizona, the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society, and local mining companies (including especially Phelps-Dodge Corporation) have all assisted the continued growth of the collection. Other donors have included P. G. Beckett, Boodle Lane, Martin Schwerin, Russell Honea, J. E. Burtin, Susie Davis, Richard Bideaux and Wendell Wilson. Today the mineral museum houses over 16,000 specimens in the main collection and over 6,000 in the micromount collection (built primarily by Arthur Roe). Over 1,400 different species are represented, and over 2,000 specimens are currently on display. The mineral museum also has two displays of meteorites from localities around the world. Minerals from famous Arizona localities such as Bisbee and Tiger also have special displays. As an attractive and interesting complement to the minerals, a collection of 17 historic oil paintings of Arizona mining scenes from the 1920s, by William Davidson White (1896–1971), lines the walls. The museum is open during regular hours and is always a favorite stop for mineral collectors who are in Tucson for the annual Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in February. Special exhibits and lectures are often coordinated with the show.

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The Miguel Romero Collection of Mexican Minerals  

In this Mineralogical Record supplement, the fine mineral collection of Miguel Romero is catalogued and detailed. Historical perspective is...

The Miguel Romero Collection of Mexican Minerals  

In this Mineralogical Record supplement, the fine mineral collection of Miguel Romero is catalogued and detailed. Historical perspective is...