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Old Salt Lake | Virtual Museum

Exhibit 32

"Moonstones" Revisited - by Galen Hunter

It is uncertain what a "moonstone" from Redondo Beach actually looked like. There is no old photograph, for instance, of a stone, close up and in color, with text written on the front or back of the photograph "Moonstone from Redondo Beach" and dated from the time of the original famous pebble beach at Redondo - and ideally, signed by a naturalist or lapidary known to have lived at Redondo when there was a pebble beach. We do know exactly where the original pebble beach was and it is gone - the famous natural resource is now a small yacht harbor.

An old, close-up photograph of a "moonstone" would be helpful to assess what this legendary beach stone's geological composition was - which would be helpful in tracing where the stone originated from and then be able to surmise how it was transported and under what conditions (tides) it could be picked up by a person strolling the beach then - which was the original tourist attraction of Redondo Beach.

Moreover, that hypothetical old photograph would be helpful in to order to determine whether or not a stone found today on the current shoreline beaches north or south of the original location of the pebble beach, or around the harbor breakwater and rock revetments that destroyed the original famous pebble beach ... whether or not a beach stone found today (see below) could be a "moonstone".

Curiously, after an extensive search for years by this author for such above described photograph - no such old photograph has been found. Perhaps the reason for this absence of historical documentation of an prized natural resource is simply people then just thought there would always be a pebble beach at Redondo with moonstones on it - so no need to do the work of photographing and labeling enough sample beach stones and effectively archiving those photographs for future generations of people to be able to find and scrutinize.

In any case, historical documentation about the original pebble beach does still exist and even some of this documentation has been digitized and is accessible on the world wide web. Below are excerpts of a few selected such historical resources mentioning moonstones at Redondo. This brief web page exhibit does not analyze whether these historical explanations have conflicting technical interpretations as to the geological composition and source of the stones.

Are there "moonstones" from Redondo Beach in this old jar?

The following is a photograph by this author of an unlabeled old jar with white stones in it from the John G. Buxton Collection a known naturalist/lapidary who lived at Redondo when there was a pebble beach. The stones in this old jar may contain Redondo Beach moonstones - but really there is no way to know whether any of the stones in the jar are "moonstones" or even if any of the stones are sourced to the Redondo Beach waterfront. Having said that and erroring on the side of not missing something significant, here is the photo:

Photograph by this author of beach stones collected on March 05, 2016 at 1:15 pm (low tide) at "Torrance Beach" some 2.5 miles south of where the original pebble beach at Redondo Beach was. Note the white stones (quartz) on the lower right of the photo. Whether those stones on the right are moonstones or not has not been determined.

Two more photographs by this author of the location where the beach stones in the above photograph were collected - a place previously known as the beach fronting Flotsam Castle. The first photograph is looking southwest toward Palos Verdes and the second is looking down at a detail of beach sand with stones or pebbles in it.

1901, George Fredrick Kunz, book "Precious Stones", page 755, excerpt "Chalcedony" paragraph:

1905 George Fredrick Kunz, in his book a photograph labeled "Pebble Beach, Redondo, Los Angeles County.":

1908, Article, "The Beach Stones of Redondo", by A. K. Rutter, Redondo Reflex, April, 1908, Souvenir Great White Fleet Edition

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The Beach Stones of Redondo

An Article from the Pen of A. K. Rutter, Descriptive of the Different Varieties of Semi-Precious Native Gems

Redondo Beach is especially favored with an abundance of pretty stones that are cast upon its beach by the action of the ocean currents running from the south to the north through the deep channels, where their soft matrix has disintegrated and allowed the hardened substance to fall out in their rough state, as are seen on the beach. If the currents, running from the south to the north, prevail for some length of time, there will be an abundance of pebbles cast up. If the currents are to the opposite, then they disappear.

I shall try to describe those that are the most desirable to have polished, although it is exceedingly difficult to do so in every instance, on account of the many different kinds. The novice need not despair in finding pretty stones, although it takes years of experience to separate the best stones. Any one, by close observation, can tell whether __ is a pretty stone or not, and, what is more important, is whether it is fractured too much or crystallized too coarse or not. If the grains or crystals are too far apart and not of even texture, it is not susceptible of a good polish.

Now as to character and kinds that are found on this beach. While they are apparently numerous, they are nearly all related and come under one head, namely: Quartz, of the carbon silicon group: either vitreous, cryptocrystaline, or granular. Among the first named appears the clear crystal, sagenitic, or rutilated, enclosing hornblend, asbestos stibnite, and often containing water, being transparent. Under the second head comes the translucent chalcedony, or beach moonstone, of different colors. When white we call it moonstone: green, it is called chrysoprase, and a dark green, with red blood spots, it is called heliotrope or bloodstone.

In great variety of colors and combinations of colors come the agate-jaspers, with streaks of sardonyz running through them, and might be called the sacred jaspers on account of their biblical description.

All of those coming under the last named head are a very hard substance; a polished surface of these will stand the test of the hardest steel.

Opal is never found in the water and consequently is never found on the beach; it being a much softer substance you will not find it with the other pebbles.

It might not be out of the place here to state that fine specimens of an aluminum spar, the composition of Ceylon moonstone, is found here, but not so plentiful as the chalcedony variety.

Under the last named class of quartz that are found here are the following: Beckite, or coral changed to quartz; the conglomerates of different kinds; silicified wood, or jasperized wood; geyserites, tripolite, etc. Almost all known forms of quartz are found here and some forms that are not found elsewhere. The green porphyries and the serpentines are also included in the last named class.

Although the book names will not interest some, it is quite interesting to know them. Among them are just a few that are found at this beach, other than those already given: Cairngorm, ferriginous-sinter, cherts, flints, hornstone, rutile, epidote, prase, calcite, albite, gympsum, fluorite, menilite etc.

No one with the aid of book description alone can tell the different and the best stones as he sees them and get the best results in cutting – it requires the practical work of research and testing by cutting and polishing, and the more time you devote to it the more proficient you become.No one can hope in the short time of six months, a year, or two years, to know it all concerning the pretty stones that are found at this beach, that appear in kaleidoscopic changes of no two stones alike.

The “freak” stones, with peculiar combinations of colors, with peculiar associations and mineral enclosures, nature marks, taking different forms and figures of faces, birds, and animals, and very valuable, are among the very fascinating gems to be found at this beach.

No one can hope to give a full description of all the pretty gems that can be fonund [sic] here. On one will ever know or see all the distinct and pretty, valuable stones that can be found to add to your collection in your lifetime. Every trip made in search of them discloses new beauties, never before seen, and makes one wish to live a hundred years.

It is interesting to know that for a great number of people these pretty stones have a great attraction and is the magnet that draws them out of their thoughts of sorrow and care and places them on the road to health and happiness.
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1951, "The Source, Transportation, and Deposition of Beach Sediment in Southern California", March Technical Memo 22, Beach Erosion Board, U.S. Army Corp Engineers, Page 53 excerpt: