Friday, July 5, 2013

50th Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines Gem & Mineral Show

A little report of the Sainte-Marie "Mineral & Gem" show, at which I have been invited by the organizers to give 4 conferences. It was only my second Sainte-Marie show, but it was just as memorable as the first one!
For those who have not been to the Sainte-Marie before: 1) You have to go. 2) The atmosphere is like no where else. It is set in the small town located in the Vosges mountains, not far away from Germany, and very importantly, in Alsace, which is a wine region. White wines such as Gewurztraminer and Riesling are the specialty. Food-wise, the region is popular for its cured meat, and its "tartes flambées".
Each year, the town is completely re-configured to welcome the mineral and the gem show where thousands of dealers come and set up their booths, mostly under tents. There is the "mineral village", set up around the theater, and the "gem village", set up not far away from the Town Hall. They are separated by a 10 min walk.
For the last two years, the city is organizing the show, and I have to say, very successfully. The organizers and people working for the show were extremely nice and helpful. This year, a special exhibit on "American treasures" was coordinated by Alain Martaud. Museums and private collectors brought there best goodies to the exhibit. Alain Martaud also published a book on the minerals of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (in 3 languages!), and had a small showcase dedicated to those, which serves as a complement to the most extensive collection showed in Tellure, a town nearby.

Anyway, here are some pictures. Be aware that the weather was not great: every other day, it was raining. However, it never made the show less enjoyable, and a great atmosphere ran through the entire show!

I arrived in Paris on Sunday June 23. After a relaxing evening with friends I have not seen for ages, I went for a tour of the Sorbonne collection, hosted at the Pierre & Marie Curie University, and curated by Jean-Claude Boulliard. Unfortunately, pictures of the collection are not allowed, and I can only share my impression with you: WOW!!!! Yes, it is a fabulous collection (with 1,300 minerals on exhibit), that is worth seeing (and seeing again).
Jean-Claude drove us from Paris to Sainte-Marie in the afternoon. I was sharing a house with my colleagues from the French National Museum of Natural History in a small village called "La Vancelle". Two horses and a donkey were sharing the back-garden. Lovely place!

The back garden of our house, at La Vancelle.
A small part of our the back garden.
And Titan, the donkey.

My first day at the show was Tuesday, June 25. The show is supposed to open on the Thursday, but a lot of mineral dealers were already set up by the end (or sometimes even the beginning!) of the Tuesday. I would say that most big transactions are done before the opening of the show.
Grey sky over the Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines church.
First breakfast in Sainte-Marie: Already, Alejandro Stern is showing us diamonds and gold from Venezuela.
 And what gold! 25g of crystal. Front view...
 And back view. My personal favorite!
Assorted gold and diamonds from Venezuela.
 Set up time: curators Gian Carlo Parodi and Cristiano Ferraris are getting their "Treasures of America" ready.
 In the theater, most dealers were ready to receive their first costumers. Here, "les Merveilles de la Terre" booth is right at the entrance of the theater.
One alley of the Theater. Empty alley, for the only time of the show. No opportunity from Thursday on to take such a picture.
The entrance Hall of the theater.
A short rest for the organizers, in front of the quiet theater.
And the quiet streets during the set up.
The usual lapis booths were ready by the beginning of the week.

We left the mineral village early to get ready for the first party at our little house in La Vancelle. My room mates did most of the work, cooking lasagna and hors d'oeuvre and having the house ready for our 30 or so guests. Barbecue was first on our mind but cold weather and rain prevented us from having the entire party outside. It didn't prevent us from having a great time! Pictures were surprisingly not taken (maybe for the best?!).
Gian Carlo cooking.

Wednesday, it was time to discover more of the show. But nothing can be done without a first stop at the "Salon de Thé" (tea shop) / pâtisserie in Sainte Marie. What else than a croissant or a pain au chocolat to begin the day?
My morning breakfast place.
Within: great treasures, such as pure butter croissants and pain au chocolat, and those wonderful homemade chocolate.

The town hall of Sainte-Marie, next to the church.

 The local bar and restaurant. Lunch at the "Taverne du Mineur" can't be avoided, to eat some tasty "tartes flambées".
On Wednesday, the set up continues, with a bit of blue sky.
Some intriguing rocks... Fake chalcedony and malachite.
The set up also continues for the "American Treasures".
Alain Martaud and his daughter preparing the labels for the special exhibit.
It's not only about minerals and gems: fossils are also here!
And of course, there can't be a Sainte-Marie show without the infamous "buvettes", where dealers and collectors can talk around a good glass of cold Riesling... or Gewurtz depending on preferences.
My old friend, Michel Boudard and I, drinking a glass of Riesling. Michel's collection is a very special one: he collects only andalusite, sillimanite and kyanite.
From left to right: Laurent Thomas, Bill, Will and Carl Larson seating on the steps of the theater (the meeting place). It looks like they have found some good stones already, and are in a very good mood.
 A few cold but good nights were spent at the hotel / restaurant "Les Bagenelles".
But with a bit of good wine and great company, everybody is in an excellent spirit!

On Thursday 27th, the first day of the show, it was raining, I mean, pouring. As I was giving my first talks the day after, I took this opportunity to stay home and work on my lectures. From what I've heard, even if the weather was not that great, the first day of the show was a success. Thankfully in the evening, rain stopped, and a lovely weather came back. Right on time for the big event organized by the city, which was held at the stadium: barbecue and live music were on the schedule. Again, the event was a bit success. Some pictures of the party can be seen on the Kristalle website.
Friday and Saturday, I spent a lot of time giving my lectures and conversing about the talks. The topics: "Color in diamonds" and "Treasures of the museums of the Smithsonian and of Los Angeles". Here are a few pictures I took on the Friday. On the Saturday, it was raining too much to even take my camera out! But still, the show was overcrowded, and the lecture room full.
The lively mineral show.
Cristiano admiring some of Alain Martaud's rocks.
 Including some pyrargyrite from Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, with its old label.
A close-up of the pyrargyrite.
Side view of the theater, from one of the "buvettes".
At the end of the day, my friend Stefanos Karampelas, from the Gübelin Gem Lab, picked us up to go to dinner, in its 8 seat-van. For the story, we ran out of gas by the end of the night...

Sunday was the last day of the show, but also my day to tour around and take pictures of the exhibits and some rocks. It was also a perfect sunny day! I began with a breakfast at the Gem show, before the show opened. What a quiet atmosphere before the public arrived.
Before the opening of the show, in the early morning, the gem show is sunny and quiet.
 Overview of the gem show before the opening.
 And to begin the day, tea and pain au chocolat!
 Or maybe a petit salé? Jam or Nutella?
 Alright, time to begin looking. As usual, beads are everywhere. Tourmaline, sapphire and diamonds are popular as low quality material, rounded or faceted and ready to string.
 Diamond plates from, most likely, Zimbabwe are still popular.
Some interesting zonations are visible in some diamonds, with a typical cubic growth followed by octahedral growth for the diamonds on the right.
 And of course, I can't do a report without talking about opals. Here, at Denis Gravier's booth (Gravier & Gemmes), are some yellow opals from Madagascar.
 He also had some rare blue opal from France, from the Biot locality.

 As usual, Boris from Opallion had unbelievable opals, such as this amazing 33.6 ct opal from Wollo, Ethiopia.
 This 323 ct one, from Mezezo, Ethiopia has an "egg" inside. I've seen it a year ago, and it doesn't look like the egg is "growing". From Opallion.
 Hyaline opal from Wollo, Ethiopia. 148 ct of pure goodness. Seen in the Opallion's booth.
Overview of the main Gem Hall.
A long booth of beads.
View of the entrance of the main Gem hall.

Pearls were presents, but not as numerous as we can see in Tucson.
Nice pearls from Tahiti.

If some excellent rare gemstones were seen at the Gem show, in selected booths (Gravier & Gemmes, Gemfrance for example), there were not that many spectacular gems. Therefore, I headed back to the mineral show, as I wanted to have a better look at the minerals of the special exhibit on "American Treasures".

Here is the sightseeing between the gem and the mineral shows. Not bad, hey?
Ok, yes, you are right, it was lunch time, and I was a bit hungry!
And here some local soap with argan oil from Morocco. "Savon artisanal du Val d'Argent".

Back to the mineral show, here is a lovely cube of fluorite from Stack Nala, Balistan, Pakistan, at Jean-Michel Laverrière's booth.
A gemmy orthose crystal from Itrongay, Madagascar, still at Jean-Michel's booth.
Overview of Jean-Michel's booth.
My favorite from the show? This parasite on quartz from Mt Malosa, Zomba district, Malawi, was on exhibit at the Kristalle booth. What a specimen!

From "Les Merveilles de la Terre" (Claudette & Michel Cabrol's booth), a new found of quartz with hematite and rutile from Bahia, Brazil.
"La couronne Impériale": fluorite and scepter quartz from Inner Mongolia, China. Seen at "Les Merveilles de la Terre".
Green fluorite with quartz from Mongolia, China, from "Les Merveilles de la Terre".

 From left to right: Gian Carlo, Christoph Keilmann, and Cristiano. Christoph is the organizer of the Munich Gem & Mineral Show (end of October). This year, the theme is gold, and we will be there for that!
That's more like it: the steps of the theater are full of visitors enjoying a break.
René Daulion's booth, with lovely minerals from China.

Time to visit the "Val Expo". "Hidden Treasures of America" was put together by several museums and private collectors, and directed by Alain Martaud. The displays were gorgeous, with vaulted displays for the gold, silver and kunzite. The rest of the exhibit was under glass displays, well lighten, with a nice dark blue background. Perfect for taking pictures !
Gold from Eagle Nest Mine, California, from the French National Museum.

Explanation of the exhibit, in French and English.
Silver with calcite hanging in the tree, from the French National Museum. Just gorgeous!
The Kunzite collection from Pala, California, of the French National Museum.
Just a zoom in on this amazing kunzite crystal. Look at the termination.
 This black & white rock with Pyrargyrite from San Jose Mine, Mexico is STUNNING! One of my favorite of the exhibit! From the French National Museum.
 Overview of the French National Museum exhibit.
 Red Cloud Mine wulfenite (Arizona, USA) of the French National Museum.
Azurite from Bisbee, Arizona, of the French National Museum. And a few more from the same collection below.
The French museum also brought some gems from the new world.
Ah! What a great Smithsonite! It comes from the Mezquite Mine in Sonora, USA, still from the French Museum.

 Another wulfenite from the Red Cloud Mine, but this time from the "Musée des Mines, Paritech" collection! Pick your favorite!
 Crystallized turquoise from Virginia, USA, Musée des Mines collection.
People. Please. Stop dribbling! One of the two cumengeite displayed (Boleo, Mexico) from the Musée des Mines.
Ok, I know you wanted to see the two of them. Here you are. You are welcome!
 Bonus: this boleite from Mexico! And a few more specimens from the Musée des Mines.
These spectacular pink tourmalines are from the Pala mine, California.

 John Veevaert exhibited a "small part" (as he said to me) of his benitoite collection. OMG! Here are only a few of them. Wow... From the Benito Mine, San Benito County, California.
The sushi plate... with benitoite, neptunite and joaquinite.
Neptunite twin. Yes, sir.

An overview of the central alley of the American Treasures exhibit.

And some nice illustrations of Alain Martaud's book on the minerals of Sainte-Marie, such as this lovely aragonite.
...or this chalcopyrite.
Or this last minute addition of fluckite.

It is almost the end of the show. Let me show you some pictures of the atmosphere of the last night.
Wind chimes in the air
The orchestra was charming people, saying its last words: goodbye and come back soon.

The big rocks were there too.

A last stop at Gilles Emringer's booth to look at some lovely fluorites.

And a last drink at the show, with, from left to right: Gian Carlo Parodi, Mark Mauthner, Laurent Thomas, John Veevaert and Jean-Claude Boulliard.
A few drinks later...

Everything looked different.

And I'm taking this opportunity to thank again Mr. Le Maire (Claude Abel) and his entire team for inviting me over to the show. 

And thanks to Anne Muller who put a nice article together in the local newspaper!

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