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Minerals create own art form

Southwestern Oregon's rich gem and mineral heritage will be on display this weekend at the Medford Armory

CENTRAL POINT ' When you peer into the polished window, you swear there are tiny trees and bushes sprouting inside.

In reality, it's crystallized stone known as Copco agate, a semiprecious rock unique to southwestern Oregon.

The mineral in there is actually manganese dioxide which grows in the quartz, explained Frank Callahan, president of the Roxy Ann Gem & Mineral Society, which owns and operates the Crater Rock Museum in Central Point.

The growth generates out, creating bush-like images in the quartz, added the self-described rock hound. It forms almost like a snowflake does. These agates are very unusual.

The museum's dendritic rock exhibit will be one of the displays at the 51st annual Gem and Mineral Show, which begins Saturday at the Medford Armory. Last year's show drew more than 3,000 people.

— The agates come from land once used by the old California Oregon Power Co., known as Copco, on the Agate Desert just north of White City and Agate Flats in what is now the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument east of Ashland.

The agates were first found when Copco was installing its power lines, Callahan said of the firm which formed in 1911.

One Copco agate in the display is nearly a mirror image to a photograph of Cypress Point in Carmel, Calif.

It looks just like a little Monterey cypress sitting up on the point, Callahan said.

Another scene resembles an undersea garden.

These agates are all local, he said. Some of the material we can't get anymore because it is now in the monument. You can't 'rock hound' in there anymore.

But you can still go into places like the Denman Wildlife Reserve and find them, he added.

The agates were formed by volcanic action, possibly from an eruption in the upper Rogue River drainage some 7 million years ago, he said.

You can't really see anything until you polish them up, he said.

Another display will be the museum's variscite collection, the largest in the nation, Callahan said.

The stone has a slate-green center, possibly the result of copper mixing with other minerals, he noted.

This stuff was originally mined for phosphate fertilizer, he said. Phosphates help make plants bloom. Then they found these nodules which they cut and polished.

The stones are from the Little Green Monster Variscite Mine in Utah County, Utah. The collection was given to the museum by the late Thomas Riley, a longtime Rogue Valley resident.

There'll be something for everybody at the show, Callahan said.

During the show, the rock museum in Central Point will be open. The museum, which is currently being expanded, includes all forms of agates from around the world as well as fossils and Indian artifacts.

The museum is located at 2002 Scenic Ave., Central Point. There is no admission fee to the museum but donations are accepted.

For more information about the show or the museum, call 664-6081 or check out the society's Web site at .

Minerals create own art form "pfattig@mailtribune.com.

If you go The two-day 51st annual Gem and Mineral Show sponsored by the Roxy Ann Gem & Mineral Society begins Saturday at the Medford Armory.

The event will be from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday.

The show includes exhibits of gems, jewelry, lapidary products and minerals from throughout the West. There also will be demonstrations, food, a silent auction, lectures and door prizes.

Admission for adults is &

36;3, &

36;1 for students ages 6 to 18 and free to children under 6 who are accompanied by an adult.

The armory is located at 1701 S. Pacific Highway in Medford.

A Copco agate on display at the Crater Rock Museum shows how manganese dioxide grows in bush-like formations within the crystallized stone. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven