I received sad news the other day, the long running Gem & Mineral show, Gem O Rama, is permanently cancelled. Let me elaborate.
Gem O Rama was an annual mineral show in Trona, California near Death Valley. The show ran for 77 years up to 2018. Then, in 2019, a major 7.1 earthquake struck in nearby Ridgecrest which damaged many buildings in Trona as well as Searles Lake, a main feature of the show.
One of the big attractions of Gem O Rama was the ability to go out onto the dry portion of Searles Lake, the majority of it, and collect saline minerals like pink halite & hanksite.
Once a year, over 2 days, the club in conjunction with Searles Valley Minerals hosted 3 field trips onto the lake bed to do the collecting. Each year it would attract thousands of visitors, a large portion of them being children.
The reason so many children would attend is science teachers from all over Southern California would encourage their students to go out and dig in the mud & brine for hanksite & halite. In fact, that is how I found out about it. My daughter's science teacher announced it to his class one Friday and the next morning we were in our car on othe way out. This started our life in the gem & mineral world.
The minerals collected from Searles Lake were pretty unique. 3 of the main minerals were halite, hanksite & sulphohalite.
Halite is rock salt, (NaCl). You can find it in many stores as "Pink Himalaya Salt". The pink halite crystals from Searles Lake were special though. They were world class and ranged from white to cranberry pink to very rare blue. They grew from a few millimeters to 7 or 8 centimeters!
Collecting pink halite would occur on Sunday, the last day of the even. You had about 6 hours to collect as much as you could under the hot sun.
(You can see me dig this specimen out of the lake bed in the video below)
Hanksite is a rare mineral that is both a sulfate and carbonate (Na22K(SO4)9(CO3)2Cl). One of only a few in the world. Like the halite, the hanksite crystals grew big and world class.
2 hanksite field trips would happen on Saturdays. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. Both trips provided different types of hanksite, one being barrell shaped and grown in thick, black mud. The other hexogonal with pyramid terminations that grow in a brine water.
(This specimen is available on my Etsy shop here)
Sulphohalite is the rarest of the minerals from Searles Lake. It is a sulfate mineral with the chemical formula (Na₆(SO₄)₂FCl). It crystalizes as octahedral, two triangles bottom to bottom. The crystals are usually small 1-2 centimeters, but can reach up to 3-4 centimeters.
I only ever found sulphohalite in the brine water with hanksite. Never in the black mud.
Searles Lake is one of those unique places that can produce all of these minerals. It's a sump surrounded by mountains with no ability for the water to drain anywhere. This allowed the minerals to build up in the lake to produce the wonderful combinations & shapes. Now those minerals will be locked up on the lake bed until either Searles Valley Minerals leaves or someone is able to negotiate future field trips with the company. I doubt the latter will happen though because the trips required at least 10 company employees to manage it and to dig up the hanksite crystals with grow about 10 meters below the surface. They either have to be dug up by heavy excavators or by drilling and pumping the minerals out. You can see the latter in the video below.
Here is a video I made of the last Gem O Rama in 2018.
Gem O Rama was an amazing experience and I am glad I was able to go 5 different times with my family. It's a shame though that after 77 years it has come to an end. I'll end by posting some additional pictures I took over the years.
Oh, I forgot to mention, the tourist attraction Trona Pinnacles are next to Searles Lake. You might recognize them from various movies & TV as well as Westworld Season 2 Episode 2 "Reunion".
For more information here is the link to the Trona Gem & Mineral club.