Searles Lake
Gem and Mineral Society
Care of Mineral Specimens Collected During Gem-O-Rama Field Trips
Jim Fairchild - Searles Lake Gem & Mineral Society

I have collected some beautiful specimens during the Gem-O-Rama, what should I do with them now?

All Specimens are Water Soluble
All the saline minerals you collect on Searles Dry Lake are soluble in water. Therefore, do not wash them in water.  Doing so will at least etch the faces, and in the extreme, totally dissolve the specimen.  We have heard stories of people leaving their specimens in a bucket of water over night and then thinking that someone had stolen their crystals when they found them missing the next morning.

Washing Hanksite and Sulfohalite.
Hanksite and Sulfohalite can be washed in Searles Lake brine without etching the smooth faces of the crystals. But when you put them in brine, wash them, don't just soak them. Washing can best be done using a brush with medium-firm bristles to scrub mud from the crystal surface and cracks where crystal faces meet. Don't soak your crystals for hours in Searles Lake brine. Soaking crystals over night in Searles Lake brine can damage the crystal faces because the solubility of the crystals in the brine change as the brine temperature changes, and the change is solubility can cause the crystal faces to be damaged.

Hanksite and Sulfohalite can Absorb Water from the Air
Hanksite and Sulfohalite will readily absorb water from the air when the relative humidity of the air exceeds 65%.  After you have washed your Hanksite and Sulfohalite specimens in brine, they must then be completely dried.  Warm air is the best way to dry them.  In Trona the ambient air is sufficiently dry to dry your specimens.  In more humid locations, such as along the coast, a hair drier may be needed to dry your specimens.  To best preserve your specimens after drying, the surface must be keep dry and contact with humid air must be prevented.  For Hanksite and Sulfohalite, you can immerse them in clear mineral oil and then wipe off the excess, but this may have to be repeated evey year or so to keep a tight cover of oil.  If your specimens become dusty, they can simply be reoiled.  A clear acrylic spray may also be used on Hanksite and Sulfohalite but it may be difficult to achieve a thin yet 100% coating.   If acrylic spray is used, it should be a non-yellowing type.  Sprayed specimens can simply be dusted when this becomes necessary.

Care of Your Pink Halite Specimens
Three things are important to consider when caring for your pink Halite specimens, they are light sensitive, they are somewhat fragile, and they can absorb water from very humid air (over about 75%).  The beautiful pink color comes from the presence of halophylic bacteria and algae in the salt.  This means that the color is naturally occurring and has not been tailor made to be resistant to fading.  Therefore, strong light, especially sunlight and light from fluorescent bulbs will fairly quickly cause the pink color to fade.  Therefore, when you display your specimens, put them into a low light area, well away from direct sunlight.  Of course, this will not allow their beauty to be seen all the time, but there is nothing wrong with turning on a bright light whenever you want to show them to friends.  Just turn the bright light off when you are done.  (This is also good energy conservation.) 

The fragility of the pink Halite comes from the fact that these specimens are agglomerates of crystals stuck together with dried salt as the glue.  Since salt is quite soft, the glue is weak.  What this means is that the pink Halite should be handled as little as possible.  Ideally, you would put it into a glass-top display case that would remain stationary while your friends look at your specimen.

Although we have heard of people spraying their pink Halite with clear acrylic spray, we cannot at this time recommend it.  Our recommendation is to use a sealed display case to show your pink Halite.  If you live in a humid climate, you may also want to add to your case a package of water absorbant such as those packaged with some electronics equipment.

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Searles Lake Gem and Mineral Society
P. O. Box 966
Trona, CA 93592-0966
Phone (760) 372-5356

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