My first rock ‘n’ gem show for three years promised to be an expensive day, so I bulked up my wallet and headed down to Cheltenham Racecourse last month to expand my collection. As I entered the show hall I had that un-natural geological excitement at the sight of “pretty rocks”. The traders had to do nothing more, I was being lured towards their stalls by the bright colours like a moth to a light bulb. The treasures tempting me to give them a good home included a spider in Baltic amber, a well-documented iron meteorite from Russia and a rare quartz point with star Hollandite inclusions.
At first I couldn’t bring myself to part with my hard earned cash until… Sat on a traders stall next to a small ichthyosaur vertebra, there was the least aesthetically pleasing, dull, blob shaped piece of rock. I had heard about the rare fossil pinecones found in Argentina earlier that day and enquired to see if this was one. To my amazement, this was a complete Jurassic pinecone from Patagonia, Argentina! Instantly my hands had already purchased the pinecone before I could stop myself and I felt a pain in the wallet. I later researched the specimen on the internet and found that the Argentinian government have stopped the export of the pinecones and the only ones available today were exported before the ban.
The silicified pinecones come from the limbs of giant monkey puzzle tress called Araucaria and Paraaraucaria from Cerro Cuadrado, Patagonia, Argentina. A circular scar on the top shows where the cone attached to the stem. Unfortunately, collecting and exportation of these specimens is now banned by the Argentine Government.
Wolverhampton Art Gallery