Monday, February 16, 2015

Quartz with Dumortierite Inclusions

                                                                Photo: Jeff Scovil

A little over a year ago we started buying small quantities of Quartz crystals with blue needles of Dumortierite inside.
The locality, is western Bahia, near Vaca Morta Quarry, a remote and hard to reach area  near the border with Tocantins state.

The production is not small in terms of material, but most pieces don’t have any inclusions. Around 20 to 30% of the material has the desired blue inclusions.

The first pieces I’ve seen, had very fine, almost hair-like inclusions. The same production had also pieces with blue clouds, sometimes phantoms, very similar to   Papagoite in Quartz.
                                                                 Photo: Jeff Scovil

The price also sky rocketed mid 2014, since the demand was huge and the supply limited.

There was another find in the end of 2014. This time with slightly larger pieces, and some of the Dumortierite crystals were thicker with a metallic sheen. A small amount of deep blue pieces was also found.

It is very interesting to note the range of colors from colorless to Sapphire-blue to sometimes brown and yellow. 
The Dumortierite is usually concentrated on one side of the crystal, usually the bottom.
The cabochons are cut leaving the bottom uncut to preserve the inclusions as much as possible. 

Dumortierites were always common in this part of Bahia, but according to John Koivula, from GIA, this is the first time it is seen as visible crystals inside Quartz. 

We usually offer uncut crystals, polished points and cabochons. 
Many of the below pieces are available at

Here is an example of the variation of shapes and colors:

Here, sharp blue needles making a line in the middle of the cabochon.

Here, a uniform coverage of intertwined crystals

Here, a little cluster with Dumortierite in the smaller crystal.

Here, another natural crystal with a "blue carpet" and one terminated Quartz inside.

Here, a blue cloud, dotter with white fuzzy spots.

Here, a phantom-like pattern with little needles coming out of it.

Here, a strange white/yellow phantom mixes with blue needles in the bottom.

A cluster with fine needles on one side.

A double terminated crystal with Dumortierite in the bottom and scattered needles near the surface.

 The next three photos are of a large cabochon with little star shaped clusters:

This one has a blue layer in the bottom and a single Quartz crystal coming out of it.

Metallic blue needles inside a cabochon:

Deeper blue fine hair-like inclusions:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New Almandine from Massachusetts

I came across a very interesting material this Springfield.
Little dark Almandine crystals embedded in blades of metallic grey Graphite schist.
Mined in Erving, Massachusetts, they were interesting just like that, but the way they prepped the material, clearing out the schist out of the back of each individual Garnet, made the beautiful red color pop when backlit.

The production started almost a decade ago but they kept the material out of the market so they could prep a good amount of the material before selling it. It takes about 2 hours to prep each specimen. ( a lot of sand blasting involved)

After about 5 years, the material was finally for sale and the debut was in Springfield.

Most crystals were under 1 cm in average but I saw a few over that size.
The largest piece to come out of the ground, 3 years ago, was 2.7 cm.
Prices vary according to the size of the Garnets more than the size of the matrix.
And of course the clarity plays a factor in the price too.

                                     This is a 12 mm crystal

Gems for sale were around half a carat, well cut, with moderate inclusions.
I was told the the largest cut stone was 4.72 carats.

When the Graphite is mined, you can't really see any Garnets. That is why the preparation takes so long.


Some pieces have interesting black needles. I've been told first that they were Amphiboles.
But later analysis showed them to be Dravite.

I had first pick at the show and selected pieces that had good clarity and were aesthetic. I did get some cheaper smaller ones too. So if you would like a piece, please get in touch.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Stuffed Red Peppers

I am the self proclaimed queen of left-overs.  I don't like to toss food away. Plus I like using up
left overs in creative ways. This week I made a delicious Turkey Chili.
I had left overs and thought it would make the perfect stuffing for red peppers.
I also had a cup of brown rice from the other night.
I mixed the turkey chili with the rice and filled a couple red peppers (4 halves).

The main trick here, is to microwave the pepper halves (without the stuffing) on high for 3 minutes. Since the pepper takes too long to cook, it will expedite the process.

Compact the filling into the peppers, add some shredded cheese and bake for 20-30 minutes until the cheese starts to bubble. Sprinkle with cilantro and serve hot.
I served mine with corn bread on the side.

Turkey Chili

This is a fail proof recipe that will sure please everyone that tries it.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 lbs ground turkey ( I like ground dark meat but breast works too)
1/2 cup diced onions
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced.
8 garlic cloves, minced.
1/2 bell pepper, diced.
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper.
1 tbsp chili powder.
1 tsp dried thyme.
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1 large can of kidney beans (or 2 small ones).
1 large can of chopped tomatoes with liquid. (unseasoned, no basil, no salt)
2 cups tomato juice
2 cups chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 cup shredded cheddar
sour cream

In a large heavy pot, heat the olive oil and saute the turkey, breaking up large chunks.
When it is cooked through, transfer to a bowl and add a little more olive oil to the same pot.
Saute the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and peppers for 3 minutes. Add all the dry spices and
give it a good stir to blend well. Add the turkey back to the pan and give it another good stir.
Add beans, tomatoes, tomato juice and chicken stock and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes.
Stir once in a while and if you think it's drying up, add a cup of hot water.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and add 1/2 cup of cilantro. Simmer for another minute.

Spoon into soup bowls and garnish with the remaining cilantro, cheddar and sour cream.

Tip: before starting to simmer it for 40 minutes, Have a little taste. Sometimes I add a little extra coriander or chili powder.

If you have left overs, you can use it to make Stuffed Red Peppers

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Turkey Burgers with Kale Salad

To be very honest, when I hear the word burger, turkey is the last word that comes to mind.
What I really like is a nice all beef juicy burger.
That said, I also like to experiment with different possibilities and today I made one that was pretty good. The main secret is the sauce and the salad. They will give the taste and moisture that turkey usually lacks.

The recipe has three parts, the turkey patty, the sauce and the salad.

Turkey burgers:
  • 1 pound of ground turkey.
  • 2 tbs grainy Dijon mustard.
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed or minced.
  • 2 tbs bread crumbs.
  • 1/4 cup grated aged cheddar cheese.
  • salt and pepper to taste.
Mix all the ingredients with your hands and make patties. It should yield 4 pieces.

Kale salad:

  • 1 bunch of black kale, or cavolo nero or any kind of kale you like.
  • 2 carrots, grated.
  • 1/2 cup  good olive oil.
  • 3 tbs tamari sauce.
  • 2 tbs white vinegar.

Mix all the ingredients vigorously so the kale is completely covered with the dressing.

Kale and carrots are truly a match made in heaven. This salad is so good, you can skip the bun and 
land your burger on the top of a little salad mountain. Or serve this salad with some grilled shrimp.

Mint-cilantro aioli:

  • 1 cup of mayo
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbs finely chopped mint.
  • Juice of one small lime
  • 1 pressed garlic clove.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Mix really well and keep it refrigerated until time to serve.

Cook the burgers on skillet or grill. Add a spoon of aioli to the bottom of the bread, ( I used brioche buns)  the burger, and a spoonful of kale salad on top.
You can also add a slice of cheese to the burger just before they are done.

I served mine with an exotic mix of chips from Terra. It has carrots, kabocha and purple potatoes.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Butternut Squash Stew

This is a really simple dish that packs lots of flavor and healthy ingredients.
Although it has no meat, it is still subtantial, and with a side of rice it makes a
satisfying meal.

Here is the recipe:

3 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion finely chopped
1 can of crushed tomatos, (the unseasoned kind)
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp of ground coriander
a dash of red pepper flakes
1 small butternut squash in cubes
2 small can of chickpeas
3 cups of chicken broth
zest of one lemon
1/2 cup chopped prunes (or raisins)
4 cups of chopped watercress (spinach or chard work too)

Sautee the onion on the olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, tomatos and
spices and cook for a couple minutes.
Add the squash, chickpeas, prunes, lemon zest and broth and simmer  until the squash is tender.
You can add a little water if it starts drying out.
Stir in the watercress or spinach and cook for a couple minutes.
Check the seasoning and add salt/pepper if needed.
Serve over brown rice or couscous.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Blue Apatites from Ipirá

I have heard, not long ago, that the blue Apatites from Ipirá, in Brazil, were radioactive.
I know that Apatites can be a little radioactive due to impurities of Th and U, so I decided to investigate a little further, since it is one of my favorite Apatites. 
I learned  that they have inclusions of Thorium and had a couple pieces tested here and yes,
they turned out to be radioactive indeed.
But how radioactive?
I contacted John Rakovan, a mineralogy professor in Ohio, that has an extensive knowledge about Apatites. And he kindly checked a couple pieces for me.
He used a nuclear radiation meter that detects alpha, beta, gamma and X-rays (but does not distinguish among them). 
At a distance of 1 cm he recorded 0.113 mrem/hour from the Apatite.
As a comparison, the background reading in his lab is 0.007 mrem/hour. 
A granite pegmatite sample of the same size from Moat Mountain, New Hampshire is 0.017 mrem/hour and a 1 cm specimen of Autunite gives off 6.624 mrem/hour.
"Given the US standards I would say that an average adult occasionally wearing an Ipirá would have no statistical increase in risk of cancer due to the radiation dosage. Even at a doubling of the average background dosage (aprox. 800 mrem/year) by wearing it all day, every day. The dosage is far below the US allowable dosage for radiation workers (5000 mrem/year). Allowable dosages are based on risk probabilities. If one has an understanding of radiation and radiation safety this is just fine, but for someone who does not understand, then there is likely to be fear from hearing that a gemstone is radioactive."
A nice site to read about radiation is the one at MIT

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Roasted Okra with Spicy Tomato Sauce

I wish I had taken more photos of this dish. The result was really surprising.
I love okra. It is a common ingredient in Brazilian cuisine.
Okra is rich in dietary fiber, vitamin K, vitamin A, folates and vitamine C.
It is low in calories and high in flavor.
It is delicious in stews but this recipe has it roasted, which kept its shape and gave it a sharper flavor.


olive oil
1 small onion chopped
1/4 tea spoon piment d'espelette
1/4 tea spoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup chopped parsley
2 large tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup water
1 pound of whole okra (trim the stem carefully not to expose the seeds)
1/4 tea spoon lemon zest
1/2 cup of Kalamata olives
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped mint
3 tbsp toasted pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 400˚F
coat the okra with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 20 minutes or so, turning them once.
They will be very slightly browned.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil, saute the onion until they are soft, add the parsley, cilantro, piment and smoked paprika, give it a good stir and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes, water and sugar and simmer with a lid for about 15 minutes. Removed the lid. Add salt to taste. (easy on the salt because of the olives)
Simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened a bit.
Add the olives, the lemon juice and the lemon zest.
Add the roasted okra, the chopped mint and carefully stir to coat them well.
Serve with couscous and finish with the toasted pine nuts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

So Beet It, Just Beet It!

Last Sunday I needed to get groceries for the week and wasn't able to get to the farmers market so I ended up going to good old Whole Foods. One of the first things that caught my eye there was this gigantic beet.
I though, wow! Lucky that nobody got it before me!
At the register, I realized it wasn't luck, it was by the pound price. So I left with my almost 10 dollars beet.
Of course the fun I had with it was priceless. :) Here are some photos comparing it with other things.
Small watermelon, big beet:

cooked beet and an apple:
 Sliced beet and an egg:

First I cooked it in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. When it cooled down, I sliced it.
The bigger slices took almost the whole space of a dinner plate.
So I used one big slice for a salad with goat cheese and pine nuts.

Part of the beet was used to make a gazpacho that I then served with goat cheese and fig crostini.
The gazpacho was crazy good, perfect for summer and so easy to make.
Here is the recipe:

1 1/2 lb of cooked beets in cubes.
1 tomato, chopped.
1 slice of bread without the crust.
1/3 cup of pine nuts.
1tbsp dijon mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar.
1/2 cup olive oil.
1/2 cup of water or more if you think it's too thick.
salt and pepper to taste

Pulse everything in the blender until you get a smooth texture, season with salt and pepper and chill.
Serve with crumbled goat cheese or serve with crostini and a salad.

Believe it or not I still have half of the beet chopped in the fridge!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Chilean Sea Bass "En Papillote"

Chilean sea bass is one of my favorite white fish. Apart from being sustainable, it is mild with a moist, flaky texture. 
Cooking "en papillote" is a very easy and fun way to prepare it.  You seal the ingredients in little parcels of parchment paper or foil, pop it in the oven and voilà! Dinner is ready! 

2 pieces of Chilean Sea Bass
2 cups of cherry tomatoes cut in half
4 chopped asparagus (I used white but green is fine)
1 cup of fresh peas
1 tbsp of chopped onion
1 garlic clove in thin slices
2 tbsp of chopped kalamata olives
olive oil and white wine
salt, pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375˚F
On a rectangular piece of foil or parchment paper, start by layering the vegetables, sprinkled with a
little salt and pepper. I like to put the garlic and onions in the bottom reserving a couple garlic slices. 
Top the vegetables with the fish, and put a couple garlic slices on top. Season with salt and pepper,
add a splash of white wine and a good olive oil drizzle.
Seal everything inside the parcels by folding the edges. They will look like big empanadas.

Bake it for 20 minutes and serve immediately.