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05-06-06 Mercer County library gets dazzling collection

By Janie Southard

  ST. MARYS -- Ron and Ruth Langsdon will add some worldclass sparkle to the Mercer County Library in Celina next week when they donate more than 300 mineral specimens from their personal collection.

One of the hundreds of minerals collected by Ron and Ruth Langsdon of St. Marys over the past 15 years. One geologist has said their collection rivals that of the Smithsonian.<br></br>

  The rural St. Marys couple have been collecting minerals for more than 15 years -- from their own living room.

  "(Mineral dealers) contact us, and many come right to the house," Ron Langsdon, who owns Fluid Power Assembly Corp. in St Marys, told The Daily Standard on Thursday. The couple have never hunted minerals in the field.

  Seated in their comfortable living room, which features large and small mineral varieties from delicate pastels of pink and lavender to deep, rich midnight blue and sea green, the couple said they cleared out minerals from a couple other rooms as they put together the library donation.

  Some of the geodes, which stand more than five feet tall, are filled with varying hues of purple amethyst. Others of the minerals are very rare, some coming from mines now closed or countries that are just now opening their borders to collectors.  "The red rhodochrosite at the library is a very fine specimen because of its deep color. That's the test -- the deeper red the better. This particular one is from the Sweet Home Mine in Colorado, which is closed," he said.

  The Colorado Geological Survey Web site says rhodocrosite is not considered a gemstone, even though the deep rose-red examples of the crystals are valued at several thousand dollars.

   The value of gemstones is directly related to their value as jewelry. Rhodochrosites, even with their remarkable color, are too soft to be cut, so their jewelry value is limited.

   Ken Strickland, retired professor of geology at Wright State University-Lake Campus, is in process of appraising the collection at the Langsdons' request.

   "Their collection rivals most major museums' collection. You won't find better quality at the Field Museum (Chicago) or the Smithsonian," Strickland said.

  The big geodes with amethyst are fairly common in Brazil, he said.

  "But that fact does not detract from the fact that they are truly stunning, just incredible," he added.

  As the world has shrunk, the geologist commented, collectors are starting to import minerals from China and India.

  "Some of these are so rare they aren't even in our mineralogy textbooks. The Langsdons have several of these," he said.

  One of the multitude of interesting minerals in the Langdons' personal collection, which now numbers in the thousands, is the common pyrite (fool's gold) about the size of an egg.

  "This was found under downtown Indianapolis and I bought it for $12 from a well-known Indiana collector," Ron Langsdon said, adding the mineral was there long, long before Indianapolis was ever thought of.  

   The Langsdons first offered their collection to the Community Public Library in St. Marys, but because of space constraints as well as insurance and security concerns, that library board declined the offer.

  Pleased to receive the remarkable collection, the Mercer County library board and staff commissioned graphics, and library board member Ralph Liette, Chickasaw, designed, created and installed the seven solid oak cases complete with low-voltage lighting.

  The graphic design above the collection was painted by Theresa Walters of Celina.

  Opening night and dedication of the collection is set for Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served following the ceremonies and the public is welcome.


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