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Iowa's Minerals

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Iowa's Minerals
Their Occurrence, Origins, Industries, and Lore
By Paul Garvin
University of Iowa Press, Iowa City: 1998
A Bur Oak Original
ISBN: 978-0-87745-627-8

Reviewed by Harry S. Chou - April 29, 2015

Although not as well as known in rockhounding circles for its mineral wealth, as some other states, Iowa does hosts a surprisingly rich, though limited, treasure trove of minerals that is sure to bring a sparkle to the eye of any serious rockhound! In Iowa's Minerals: Their Occurrence, Origins, Industries, and Lore, Paul Garvin, a professor of geology at Cornell College, explores the diversity of Iowa's mineral riches and provides information on collecting some of Iowa's minerals for your own collection.

If you are new to mineral and rock collecting, never fear. Garvin begins at the very beginning with an overview of what minerals are, and what the differences is between minerals and rocks. He also provides a very detailed, yet concise and readily understandable description on how minerals are formed. From this foundation he embarks upon a description of the various types of minerals found in Iowa, how and when they were formed, and where you can find these minerals. Some of the minerals covered include quartz, plagioclase, pyroxene, orthoclase, mica, chalcedony, galena, amphibole, calcite, dolomite, hematite, marcasite, geothite, limonite, pyrite, and many of more. He also discusses the various rocks that are common in Iowa, such as granite, rhyolite, gabbro, basalt, diorite, pegmatite, gneiss, slate, sandstone, limestone, shale, ironstone, coal, gypsum, and more. He even touches upon some of the less common minerals you can find in Iowa such as agate, sapphire, gold, native copper. Even diamonds have been found in the state.

This first section of the book, which provides a concrete overview of the origins and types of minerals found in Iowa would have been a wonderful resource for any serious rockhound, however Garvin did not stop here. The second section of the book provides information, advice, and tips for collecting minerals in Iowa. He provides guidance on how to locate promising collection sites, an overview of the equipment you may need, the legal niceties that you must keep in mind especially when collecting on private land, as well as safety precautions that you should take especially when collecting in both old and active quarries. Most of the information in this section is applicable in all states, not just Iowa.

The third section of this handy guidebook, entitled "Occurrences of Iowa's Minerals" lists the major minerals found in the state, along with information on how to identify the mineral and where it is likely to be found, and when applicable specific, favorable collecting sites are also listed - along with the minerals likely to be found at each site. Additional information, when relevant, such as the geological history of the mineral, its crystallography, if it is florescent, and its color are also explored. Fourteen color-plates that exhibit the full glory of some of Iowa's minerals are also included.

Many book of this type simply concentrate upon the minerals and rocks in a given area, and where they can be found. However, in Iowa's Minerals, Garvin has provided a well-rounded overview of Iowa's minerals by including a detailed section on the history of Iowa's mineral industries from prehistoric times to the present. He describes the various minerals that were put into production, how they were extracted, and the various uses they have been put to from Native America tools made from basalt and chert to the mining of coal and gypsum.

Uniquely, this book also details some of the stories and lore surrounding Iowa's minerals. These stories cover a range of topics from the various meteorite strikes to hit the state to how Iowaite got its name, and the story of Andrew Clemens, who developed the art of sand painting using Iowa's multicolored sands.

This remarkable guide is further enhanced by the inclusion of sections on how to identify Iowa's minerals, information that is applicable to mineral identification around the world, as well as a section on crystal forms and habits that is also useful to rockhounds both in and out of Iowa. Additional appendices are also included that make Iowa's Minerals a truly remarkable and must-have reference for anyone interested in mineral and rock collecting in Iowa.

Throughout, although some technical information is provided, the information in this book is presented in a clear and intelligible way that makes it readily accessible to both geologists and amateurs alike. This book is ideal not only for rock and mineral collectors, but also for anyone interested in the geological and natural history of Iowa. It can also be used as a supplemental text in geology courses at the university level, and it would make an ideal addition to any geology library, both public and private.


Related Reviews:

Iowa's Geological Past: Three Billion Years of Change, by Wayne I. Anderson.
A detailed and readable overview of the historical geology of Iowa, revealed one layer at a time starting during the Precambrian epoch and continuing through the last great ice age that occurred during the Cenozoic period.

Collecting Fluorescent Minerals, by Stuart Schneider
This book offers an informative introduction to finding and collecting fluorescent minerals. The bulk of this book consists of around 870 color photos showing various rocks pictured in natural daylight, followed by one or more pictures showing the same rock under an ultraviolet light, highlighting the fluorescent minerals in the rock.


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