Pine Country Gem & Mineral Society

Deep in the Heart of the Piney Woods of East Texas

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GYPSUM- May 2014

GYPSUM

Jody Dorman, member PCGMS

 

 

 

One of nature's most spectacular and largest mineral deposits lies in the desert country of south central New Mexico. White Sands is 225 square miles of dazzling white gypsum sand that has been blown into dunes up to 50 ft in height. In another spectacular deposit is at the Cave of Swords, in Chihuahua, Mexico, numerous transparent, sword like selenite gypsum crystals reach lengths of 6 ft. or more.  Selenite, from the Greek word selene, meaning "the moon", is the name for transparent crystals of gypsum, but is often incorrectly used for gypsum in general.

Gypsum takes its name from the Creek gypso, meaning "chalk", "plastic", or "cement".  Uses of Gypsum: Is an important economic mineral since the time of ancient Egyptian civilization, gypsum was mined to the west of Alexandria, near Suez, in the AI Fayyum, and near the Red Sea coast.  It was used for motor and plaster in the Giza necropolis and it was used elsewhere to plaster walls, cover bodies, make statues and masks, as an adhesive, and as a filler in pigments.  The Romans discovered that heating Gypsum to 600 degrees made a plaster that sets hard when mixed with water.  This plaster was used for building, and is still widely used today.  Gypsum is also used to help clear up muddy ponds.  Gypsum is widespread calcium sulfate hydrate that is found in a number of forms, and is of great economic importance.  It is colorless or white, but impurities tint it light brown, gray, yellow, green and orange.  It often occurs in well-developed crystals.  Single crystal can be blocky with a slanted parallelogram outline, tabular, bladed, or in a long thin shape like a ram's horn.  twinned crystals are common, and frequently form characteristic "swallowtails" or "fishtails". Gypsum is also found in a parallel, fibrous variety with a silky luster, called satin spar.  The massive fine-grained variety is called alabaster.  Rosette-shaped crystals are call desert rose, and are common and less dense than the barite "sand crystals" that they resemble.  Gypsum occurs in extensive beds formed by the evaporation of ocean brine, along with other minerals similarly formed in particular, anhydrite and halite and has low solubility and is the first mineral to separate from evaporated sea water.

Gypsum also occurs as an alteration product of sulfides in ore deposits; as disseminated crystals and rosette-shaped aggregates in sedimentary deposits, including sands and clays; and as deposits around volcanic fumaroles.  Gypsum occurs widely throughout the world, but the US, Canada, Austrailia, Spain, France, Italy and England are among the leading commercial producers of gypsum.

 


Properties:

Group : Sulfates
Crystal System : Monoclinic
Color: Colorless, White, Light Brown, Yellow, Pink
Hardness : 2
Cleavage : Perfect
Luster : Sub vitreous to Pearly
Streak : White
Gravity : 2.3
Transparency : Transparent to Translucent

Form/Habit: Prismatic to Tubular

 

Source:

Wikipedia and Smithsonian Rock and Gem Book


 


 

A Visit to Poor Boy Rock Shop- November 2012

by Kimberly J. Brannon

Written for Baton Rouge's Red Stick Rambler, December 2012

 

 

 

Undoubtedly, the best part of being connected with other rock hounds are the precious gems they drop in the form of information. Mining for the information doesn't require heavy equipment or a shovel, but simply making yourself available as a student of those with more experience. Ray Duplechain dropped one such nugget when he suggested that my boyfriend Mattson and I make a trip to Poor Boy Rock Shop, adding that it's in Flatwoods 'somewhere' and we WOULD get lost. We certainly did!

 

Having just relocated to Alexandria, LA, one of my first tasks was discovering where to hunt for stones in the area and who to connect with to discuss what might be found.  Following Ray's recommendation, we drove up I-49, but soon discovered that finding Poor Boy Rock Shop is about as elusive as finding Louisiana Opal. Flatwoods is a beautiful area, we saw most of it by driving up and down every road until we determined it was an impossible task and called Ray. He encouraged us to keep searching and reassured us it would be worth it in the end, but my search soon turned to Google. Of course, you won't find Poor Boy Rock Shop online. You won't find it in the list of 'things to do in Flatwoods.' What I did find after much frustration was one blog. One blog of a biker who'd passed by when the shop was closed, he got out, looked around outside and took a photo of the sign out front. The photo of the sign included a phone number, the phone number made it possible to do a reverse look up in the white pages. The reverse look up revealed that the address is 107 Tom Edwards, Flatwoods, Louisiana. We finally had a destination and a new label as stalkers! No one answered our call, but undeterred, we continued until we arrived.

 

Ray was absolutely correct, it was worth the trip. We couldn't have imagined that such a place was hidden just thirty minutes from us. We were greeted warmly by Cheryl George, who proceeded to unlock the house (which is more a museum to her husband's love of palm wood) and allowed us to look inside. I can't begin to describe the amount of time and dedication it must have taken to create this palm wood wonderland! The walls are adorned with slab after slab of palm wood, all of which he'd found in the area. He's created a table, covered completely with palm wood and epoxy, every place you look is covered in stone, from the floors to the beams, to the walls and every available surface. His obsession with petrified wood and stones in general is evident and finely displayed in every corner of the house. Cheryl jokes that she wouldn't have agreed to the decor, but the project began before they were married. She also mentioned her secret to keeping him 'at home' was not keeping a stitch of food in there for him or he might never come back. Who could blame him though? I didn't want to leave, you could spend days in there and still uncover something you hadn't seen before.

 

The 'stone palace' is a shrine to his personal collection, but the best was yet to come. Following a path lined with more stones and huge petrified logs, she brought us out to the shed where everything is for sale. I stood dumbfounded with a thunderegg in my hand when Mattson motioned to a bucket full of them. Cheryl pointed just beyond where I was standing to reveal bin after bin... full of every variety I could wish for. The garage is packed, from top to bottom with dusty boxes of jaspers, agates, petrified woods, fossils, and knick knacks. Some of the boxes hadn't been touched or moved in what seemed like decades. At first the cobwebs made me timid, but eventually I was knocking them aside to dig in. Be prepared to leave dirty and satisfied!

 

J.H. George is a personable fellow, very much like Santa Claus and is known around town as 'the rock guy.' He began collecting sometime in the 60's and was fortunate enough to acquire much of his petrified wood during the building of the I-49 corridor. He heads out to Tucson and Quartzsite for several months of the year, but his prices have somehow stayed where they might have been when he began collecting. Once you get him talking, you'll hear the back stories of how many people it took to put a certain heavy piece in place, where such a wonder came from, and after a few visits, you begin to hear the equally interesting stories of his life. He laughed so hard telling the tale of the raccoon that slapped his father-in-law that it worked him into a coughing fit.

 

The Georges are warm and generous, both with their time and their collection. You can tell they love visitors as much as they love showing off the years of accumulated stones. They offer the opportunity to peek into their lives free of charge, allowing elementary schools to come and tour the location and opening their arms to complete strangers, like us. Mr. George's health isn't what it used to be and one has to wonder whether his family will recognize the value in his life's work and continue the tradition. It's evident that he enjoys sharing his vast experience with anyone eager to listen and learn, with anyone who smiles and can appreciate the lifetime it took to painstakingly find, cut, and place every piece. I would highly recommend making yourselves available... I can't say enough to describe the place, you must see it (more than once) to fully take it in. Oh, and an aside, I wouldn't expect to find much petrified palm wood in Flatwoods, Louisiana. He grew up just two miles from his current location and I'm certain he has every piece!

 

Location:

Poor Boy Rock Shop

J.H. and Cheryl George

107 Tom Edwards

Flatwoods, Louisiana 71427

318 793 8686