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Mineral man

Calumet man builds unique specimen collection

September 17, 2011
By Stacey Kukkonen (skukkonen@mininggazette.com) , The Daily Mining Gazette

CALUMET - One may not know that when passing through northern Calumet, a local mineral collector quietly keeps hundreds of discovered minerals on display.

Each mineral is carefully placed and labeled on shelves and in cases, tucked inside an old storefront, which is a hidden gem on its own.

"We restored this building," said Jerry Hall, who keeps many of his discoveries on display at his location.

Article Photos

Daily Mining Gazette/Stacey Kukkonen
Mineral collector Jerry Hall looks at specimens behind glass at his shop in northern Calumet Friday.

His shop, featuring a reconstructed ceiling while staying true to the historic crown molding, proved to be the perfect location for Hall to spread out his collection of specimens from all over the world.

Although Hall doesn't open his shop up to the public, from time to time he is asked about private tours, and often, serious mineral collectors frequent his space to marvel at various minerals in all shapes and sizes.

"We show to collectors who have a special interest," he said.

Many of the specimens Hall has discovered himself on different occasions all over the Copper Country. In fact, after Hall retired from Dow Chemical in Midland,?Mich., after 33 years of work, he and his wife, Pam, made a home in Calumet 10 years ago to be able to hunt for minerals at their leisure.

"Most of our vacations, we would come up to the Copper Country," he said. "We found that we enjoyed collecting up here."

Hall has been collecting minerals since he was a child. As a boy, he became interested in colorful and luminous minerals and began learning about the different kinds of minerals in the world. For some time, he used to show many of his minerals, which he doesn't do much of today, and then quickly became involved with the Copper Country Rock and Mineral Club.

Hall's collection contains many specimens so unique, they are on display at Michigan Technological University's A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum in Houghton. However, "because of old age," Hall is beginning to limit his area to hunt for minerals and now mostly only searches locally.

The places he likes to visit are old mines with poor rock where he looks for copper-related minerals, such as greenstone, datolite and Lake Superior agates that perhaps weren't as important 100 years ago.

"When you grind it down, it comes alive," he said, sifting through a bag of greenstones. "You begin to see patterns."

And a select few of those finds become jewelry, or he sells them as they are to people who are interested. Among the specimens, the Halls' space is decorated in a historic Keweenaw motif. Images of miners pop off the walls and Hall has hung mining tools, such as pickaxes.

One of Hall's acquisitions, a delicate case which once hung in the Tech mineral museum when it was the Michigan College of Mining, holds dozens of locally made jewelry with the minerals Hall found and treated. Hall has a friend from Baraga who creates silver work, and a friend from Chassell also creates several jewelry pieces that can be found in Hall's collection for sale.

"I'm just learning the silversmithing thing," he said. "But I love polishing stones."

One of his most prized pieces in his collection is also one of the more unique minerals: A Brockway Mountain shelf agate about a foot in size. The 9-pound agate showcases layers of red and pink colors and was found when Hall and a friend received permission to go up the mountain to hunt for minerals.

"I dug on that location and a friend found it and I purchased it from him," he said. "I polished part of it and left part rough."

Just a few feet away from the Brockway Mountain shelf agate Friday, Hall was sitting in his shop looking over a handful of greenstones collected in July pondering what he will do with each stone next.

"I'm still in the discovery stage," he said, lifting a rock and showing a copper deposit embedded against the green of the stone.

Half the fun is collecting the stones and then polishing them to discover what is underneath, he said. As he grinds away at each stone, magnificent patterns and colors are revealed and Hall reflects on how these stones, each as different as a fingerprint, are formed.

"The way these form, they're called amygdaloids," he said.

When lava was flowing and then cooling and thickening, it solidified and created air pockets, he said. As it solidified during a secondary occurrence, super heated steam and highly enriched mineral water filled the pockets, he said, which created the minerals.

"It's exciting," Pam Hall said. "It's always a surprise.

Many times, Hall is approached by people who are familiar with his collection and are seeking advice about their own, something he is more than willing to give out. People ask if they can look at his collection, and the Halls welcome enthusiasts.

"We really enjoy doing this," she said.

Serious mineral collectors are welcome to contact the Halls at 337-1703.

 
 

 

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