House bill pushes for wulfenite to become Arizona's state mineral

Published: Feb. 10, 2016 at 6:34 PM MST|Updated: Feb. 28, 2018 at 5:17 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona is one of the few states in the U.S. that does not have an official mineral.

But a researcher at the University of Arizona hopes to change that - and he has one particular mineral in mind.

"Wulfenite is a classic mineral that every collector in the world desires," said Alex Schauss, a research associate at the UA Department of Geosciences.

Schauss was surprised to learn that Arizona, a state known for its rich mining history, currently has no official state mineral to speak of.

"We already have a state metal, which is copper. We have a state gem, which is turquoise. And turquoise is much harder than wulfenite so wulfenite wouldn't really be an appropriate gem," Schauss said.

But it would make an ideal mineral to represent the Grand Canyon State.

Schauss and is now pushing for state legislation to make wulfenite Arizona's official mineral.

He reached out to Rep. Mark Finchum (R-District 11), who in turn introduced HB 2496 in the state house to make it official.

It's no wonder that Schauss and fellow mineral enthusiasts envision wulfenite as the "one."

Wulfenite specimens loaned by Harvard University and currently on display at the UA Flandrau Science Center and Planetarium show off the mineral's allure and characteristic orange-red color.

"When it's displayed, these beautiful, tabular crystals looks 'gemmy' because they have great adamantine, or luster, as well as some of them are transparent and their colors are magical," Schauss said.

Some of the most beautiful and valuable wulfenite specimens have been unearthed in Arizona, including pieces from the Red Cloud Mine in La Paz County.

But wulfenite's properties are also prized for their industrial uses.

"One of the reasons for why wulfenite has been extracted for years and years here in Arizona is because our state is very rich in a mineral called molybdenum," Schauss said.

Or moly, for short.

It can be used to strengthen alloys.

"Once you started adding the moly to steel, what it started to allow is for us to build everything from skyscrapers, to a military applications and tanks and aircraft," Schauss said.

An Arizona wulfenite exhibit that supports HB 2496 will be featured at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show at the Tucson Convention Center on Thursday, Feb. 11.

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