New Olympics Update 23 July 2021

23 July 2021

TODAY heralds the opening of the XXXII Olympic Games in Tokyo and we have chosen to mark this by featuring specimens representing 42 countries, all participating in the Games.

Of all the themes we have chosen over the years, we don’t recall this ‘no two countries the same’ approach, which does lend great geographical scope as well as a diverse range of specimens. Casting an eye over today’s 21 picks reveals an exciting array of aesthetic ore minerals, beautiful gem minerals, the odd native element and even a meteorite. Don’t worry, the latter does not represent an extra-terrestrial entry to the Games, it landed in Poland, so is part of the European contingent!

Let’s start our highlights section with this meteorite. Collecting meteorites is a wonderful way of combining two interests, those of mineralogy and astronomy/cosmology. To the uninitiated, all meteorites make appear the same, but once understood, their specific groupings bring the subject to life and open up a whole new world of interest. Our Pultusk Meteorite was observed to fall in Poland on January 30, 1868 and is classified as an H5 olivine-bronzite chondrite. Chondrites represent the coalition of dust and small grains in the early Solar System from the collapsing planetary accretion disk. This is a small complete meteorite with a characteristic fusion crust.

If it’s something much more colourful you are seeking, look at some of today’s gem specimens. These include a fascinating Aquamarine Beryl from Namibia; Morganite Beryl from Afghanistan; Demantoid Garnet from Madagascar and a bright rich apricot orange cluster of Spessartine Garnets from Tanzania.

I must come back to the Namibian Aquamarine from Ameib Farm 60 in the Erongo Region; it is not gemmy, not even fully translucent, but subtly beautiful and for me, mesmerising. Forming a parallel bundle of about 20 double terminated hexagonal crystals of 3 to 6 cm, the prisms are a clouded teal to sky blue with naturally etched faces while their terminations have a bright glassy lustre and siskin-leafy green cap.

Demantoid is a green variety of Andradite Garnet and this eye-catching specimen is from the intertidal mangrove swamps at Antetezambato in far northwest Madagascar. The crystals measure up to 1.5 cm, are a translucent light chrome green set against a light cream porous carbonate matrix and display dodecahedral combined with trapezohedron faces. It’s lovely.

Let’s turn to ore minerals, but with the caveat of very pretty ore minerals, far too gorgeous to be sent to the crusher. Beginning with a French classic, our choice Azurite cabinet specimen is from Chessy-les-mines in the Rhone Alps, with crystals of lustrous, deep rich royal blue Azurite measuring to 1 cm of a bladed habit, densely intergrown over a gossan Goethite matrix. This also displays emerald green Malachite forming occasional fan-like sprays of acicular crystals with a fabulous silky lustre. We have Rhodochrosite from Capillitas mine in Argentina; the N'Chwaning Mines in South Africa and Ljubija in Bosnia and Herzegovina. That from Argentina is a gorgeous cut and polished slice taken from a Rhodochrosite stalactite in many hues of pink including candy, coral, flamingo and fuchsia. It has been said this specimen looks like a glistening juicy rasher of gammon steak, but by whom I am unable to comment! Is it nearly lunchtime yet?

Still with ore minerals, good specimens of the mercury sulphide Cinnabar are always a delight and this from the Nikitovka Hg Deposit in Ukraine is rich and lovely. Deep ruby red Cinnabar crystals are abundantly intergrown across the display face and are just as rich on the reverse side! Associated with the Cinnabar on the reverse side are rare metallic grey acicular crystals of Stibnite.

There are just too many great specimens and I want to mention them all. So just a quick thumbs-up to a gorgeous cadmium-rich Smithsonite of vivid lemon-yellow from Sheshodonnell East mine in County Clare, Ireland; a mouth-watering Fluorapatite on Ferberite with Siderite from where else but Panasqueira in Portugal and, without any exaggeration, an enchanting copper-enriched Aragonite on Baryte. Powder-sky-blue balls of Aragonite are scattered over, and intergrown with, white Baryte blades from Brixlegg in Austria.

Finally and in acknowledgement of the many Bronze, Silver and Gold Medals to be awarded over the next two weeks, three native elements from Group 11 in the periodic table, Copper (Cu), Silver (Ag) and Gold (Au). Copper is as near as we can get to bronze(!). This is from the Rocklands mine close to Cloncurry in Queensland, Australia and was collected by our very own Steve Rust during the UKMV specimen recovery operation in 2017. It’s a splendid rich small cabinet specimen forming a branching display of arborescent Native Copper as stubby, near-equant crystals.

The Native Silver needs no introduction, being from the Kongsberg Silver Mines in Norway. This superb thumbnail cluster is of well-formed crystals, tarnished to a silvery golden bronze patina yet maintaining a bright metallic lustre. Displaying an aesthetic arborescent growth of crystals to almost 1 cm, many with a slightly hoppered growth structure.

Then to Gold, a super combination specimen from the 16 to 1 Mine in Sierra County, California, a mine dating from the Forty Niners period of 1849. An intergrown formation of hopper-habit Native Gold crystals individually measure up to 0.7 cm in combination with wire-like extensions. The Gold varies in colour from buttery matt yellow to bright metallic with a sparkling lustre.

Having been postponed for a year, the XXXII Olympics must now perform without any spectators, a situation never imagined throughout both its ancient (8th century BC to the 4th century AD) and modern (1894 – present) periods. One can only imagine what Zeus, in whose honour the ancient games were held, would have said had spectators been banned back then! Enjoy the Olympics, enjoy today’s update and with a fair wind you might be taking home your own trophy. PT

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

Tuesday 27th July & Friday 30th July - Tsumeb


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Author: JH
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