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Pegmatology Book Details

Book Review ~ Pegmatology
Mineral News, Vol. 20, No. 3, March, 2004.
by: Tony Nikischer
Excalibur Minerals
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Pegmatology - Pegmatite Mineralogy, Petrology and Paragenesis
by W. Simmons, K. Webber, A. Falster and J. Nizamoff

Brace yourself: here is everything you ever wanted to know about pegmatites but didn't know who to ask, and it is all in a single volume! Many readers are familiar with the authors, well known at the Rochester (NY) and Maine mineral symposia, and they are prolific contributors of mineral-related papers at both the professional and collector levels. All are active supporters of the collector community, and this 176 page, softcover book is an attempt to bring together into a single reference work the many complex features of pegmatites, their mineralogy, petrology and genesis.
After a brief preface and a short chapter on pegmatite-related definitions, the authors delve into the fundamental concepts of plate tectonics, composition of the earth's crust, mineral definitions (with an emphasis on silicate structures) and rock types. Color diagrams abound and make the discussions easier to visualize, and the subject matter is a good deal to absorb despite its relatively short length. The following three chapters deal with magmatic differentiation, origin of magmas and magma generation, and again, the authors have provided ample color diagrams to ease the journey through these complex processes.
For active field collectors, the section on pocket formation provides a useful introduction to the longest and most mineralogically descriptive section of the work, pegmatite mineralogy. Nearly one hundred pages are devoted to the fifteen major mineral groups the authors detail in this lengthy section, treating each group as a stand-alone segment of a complex puzzle. Excellent tips for identification such as twinning striations vs. exsolution lamellae in different feldspars are again supported by numerous illustrations and photographs in both black & white and color.
Pegmatite classification is presented concisely and with clearly understandable tables, and the ensuing section on pocket indicators will be particularly useful for field collectors. (Rather than randomly pounding on rocks, this chapter will at least direct you to the proper place to start pounding in search of the ultimate gem pocket!) Four additional chapters follow, dealing with volatiles in pegmatites, cooling and crystalization, petrogenetic indicators and geophysical and geochemical exploration methods. The book closes with several pages of well chosen references and four appendices which include a useful refresher in the fundamental concepts of crystalography, a periodic table, a list of elements and crustal abundance, and an igneous rock classification.
There is a lot to absorb in this work. Meant as a handy reference and learning tool for serious collectors, the authors have successfully presented enough information for the reader to develop a solid understanding of pegmatite mineralogy and genesis. It is copiously illustrated with useful diagrams and photographs. Not to be construed as a coffee table book, however, the mineral photos generally depict average specimens that will be encountered in the field, and some images of micro species are especially useful.
The only major criticism of this detailed presentation is the lack of an index. With so many new, often technical terms presented throughout the book, the inability to rapidly locate a previously mentioned definition is a drawback. The missing index also makes it somewhat difficult to locate to a specific mineral description without first knowing its general chemistry and then referring back to the table of contents which has groups organized in subsections by chemistry within the lengthy pegmatite mineralogy chapter.
This criticism aside, collectors will find this book worthwhile despite its challenging content. It will take some careful study, but it is, indeed, a single source for learning a great deal about pegmatite mineralogy.

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