New Native Elements Update 30 April 2021

30 April 2021

FRIDAY is upon us once again and we continue with our theme of Native Elements. It is now recognised 94 elements exist naturally on Earth and of these 35 can occur as native elements, or what are sometimes termed native element minerals. This number is a little deceptive however as many are found combined as natural alloys rather than in their pure form.

Three metals dominate today’s update, all in the same column of the Periodic Table: Copper, Silver and Gold. The horizontal rows in the Periodic Table are called Periods and the columns, Groups. Our three metals are in Group 11. The first person to organise the Periodic Table in the form we recognise today was Dmitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist and mineral collector, who first published this work in 1869. Many of the symbols we use to denote elements appear to bear no connection to the names we now use, Copper (Cu), Silver (Ag) and Gold (Au) being examples. All three are derived from their original Latin names, cuprum (copper), argentum (silver) and aurum (gold). Our other two featured elements are Platinum (Pt) and Sulphur (S), whose chemical symbols are more apparent.

Together with Gold, Silver, Mercury and several rare elements, Platinum is termed a noble metal because if its high resistance to chemical alteration, even at high temperatures. We offer a small water worn nugget of this silvery white metal from the Fox Gulch Platinum placer deposit in Goodnews Bay, Alaska. The nugget’s smooth surface is pitted and still contains the odd tiny piece of rock debris, be this original matrix or alluvial gravel.

Native Gold makes a big splash with six outstanding examples of either beautifully crystallised Gold or unusual locality. Romania features big with specimens from Baia Mare (Nagybánya); Roșia Montană (Verespatak) and one probably from Transylvania. The other Native Golds are from the Berezovsk deposit in Russia; El Infierno mine in Venezuela and a fabulously rich specimen from Nevada, USA. On this specimen leaves of Native Gold almost entirely cover a thin 6.5 x 5.0 cm plate of creamy white Quartz matrix with Gold sheets up to 2 cm in length and a texture of crisp golden dried autumn leaves. The Baia Mare specimen is a stunning miniature with masses of intergrown flakes of rich buttery-yellow Native Gold and an overall hackly texture.

Two Russian specimens feature splendid Cuprite crystals. The Cuprite and Native Copper is from the Rublevskoe mine in Siberia and the Cuprite with Native Silver, the Rubtsovsk mine in Altai Krai. That from Rubtsovsk comes with a massive wow factor so brace yourself if you buy it! Superb, sharp octahedral crystals of Cuprite up to 2.5 cm on edge are surrounded by bright silver-white granular crystals of Native Silver. The Cuprite is an opaque metallic mahogany-gunmetal and where the crystals are much smaller, their translucent cherry to claret-red colour shines through.

For a change of colour take a look at the fine bright lemon-yellow miniature of Native Sulphur from Agrigento Province on the Mediterranean island of Sicily. Gemmy-translucent crystals of Native Sulphur to over 1.5 cm cover a matrix of pale lemon granular Native Sulphur and creamy Aragonite.

The five Native Coppers and eight Silvers show a diverse range in colour, crystal habit and provenance, and include a couple of pseudomorphs: Native Silver after Dyscrasite and Native Silver after Pyrargyrite and Stephanite, both from the Příbram Mining District in the Czech Republic. And speaking of Silver, mention must be given to a choice miniature from the Kongsberg mines in Buskerud, Norway. Crystalline Native Silver almost entirely envelopes a greyish cream block of Calcite, forming chains of granular clusters and crude arborescent branches. The Native Silver adopts a patina of rose gold, although many silver-coloured crystalline areas are also present.

The Native Elements are considered the very first minerals recognised by ancient humans because native metals such as Gold, Silver, Platinum and Copper were obviously very different to anything else ever encountered. That primitive fascination remains in our psyche today with an inner desire to hold and admire these remarkable products of nature.

Enjoy the long May Day weekend and take some time out to look through this week’s second selection of naturally occurring elements, some of which may find a new home in your collection.

Here is what you have to look forward to in next week's update:

Tuesday 4th & Friday 7th May - Africa


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Author: JH
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