Monday, April 02, 2012

B is for Bixbyite

B is for Bixbyite. Of course I am going to do bixbyite, being famous from Utah.

It is impossible to talk about bixbyite without looking into the past of Maynard Bixby. Maynard was born June 28th, 1853 in Pennsylvania where he worked as a clerk in his father’s dry goods store until he moved off to college. He graduated from Lafayette College in Eastern Pennsylvania, along with his brother, in 1870.

Maynard and his brother and their father and his current wife all moved to Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania and worked either operating or for a bank. Maynard studied law during this period but shortly decided to travel the U.S. looking for an adventure. He discovered mining in Colorado and Arizona. He eventually worked his way back to Chicago and then traveled to England in 1884 for a few months and then came back the U.S. It has been speculated this was a mineral collecting trip.

By 1890 he was living in Salt Lake City and had married Katherine. In Utah he explored a lot of the mining districts but is most famous for his work in the Thomas Range.

Here he had claims for topaz and in his advertisements he states; "For several years I have collected the very finest of the Utah minerals and have concluded to offer them direct to collectors at the following low prices ..."

It is here that he discovered what is now bixbyite, named in his honor.

He also discovered the red beryl (which was named bixbite in his honor). It has been discredited as a separate mineral species and labeled a variety of beryl (red beryl).

Using his formal education and his field experience he wrote articles for “The Mineral Collector”. This is only a partial list of articles he wrote;

A description of topaz crystals, their localities and occurrences in Utah (1894)

A collector in Colorado (1894)

Montana Sapphires (1896)

Idaho Opals (1894)

Notes on Collecting in Utah (1897)

Notable minerals in western mines (1894-1895)

Pseudomorphs from Utah (1896)

A trip to the Utah desert (1897)

A trip to the Old Jordan & Galena Mines, Bingham, Utah (1896)

In 1906 he published his first edition of “A catalog of Utah minerals and their localities”.

By 1935 he and his wife and daughter had moved to San Diego, California where he died on February 18th, 1935.

Bixbyite forms as black shiny cubes (or modified cubes) associated with topaz, red beryl, pseudobrookite, hematite, fluorite, sanadine, and quartz. It is rarely associated with holfertite at the holfertite pit. The majority of bixbyite crystals are single crystals but twinning does occur commonly.

Bixbyite is found in many places around the world but the most recognizable, the largest, the most distinct crystals come from one place; the Solar Wind Claim on the north end of the Thomas Range in Juab County, Utah. Here crystals form from 1mm to over 30mm often associated with, and on, sherry colored topaz, and rarely small red beryl. The Thomas range formed 33-35 mya (million years ago) when rhyolite erupted from the ground. All the minerals found here tend to be concentrated in vertical fissures where hot gases were escaping from within the earth. These gases deposited the minerals on the walls of these vertical fissures and within the sandy filling of the fissures.

Other Utah locations for bixbyite include the Wah Wah Mountains and a rhyolite flow near Marysvale. Both locations produce bixbyite crystals to 4mm.

Bixbyite is found in a number of other localities around the world. A couple of notable include; Mexico, New Mexico and Germany which produce crystals to 3mm.

N'Chwaning Mines, Kuruman, Kalahari manganese fields, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Specimens from here are small plates composed of clusters of crystals. But the crystals are still small.

Other fun B minerals include baryte, beryl, boracites, boleite, bornite, and bertrandite.

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