New Asia & Australasia Update 12 November 2021

12 November 2021

TODAY marks our last stop for a while on our tour of the continents and we’re finishing in Asia and Australasia. Although just six countries are represented, some are very big countries, so include a disproportionate part of the Earth’s surface!

I can’t hesitate any further in announcing that today’s 21 specimens are quite spectacular, so even if this part of the world is not your collecting scene, treat it like visiting a great museum. In alphabetical order, we will visit Afghanistan, Australia, China, Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Russia, with specimens ranging from small miniatures to a spectacular museum piece. The selection includes several gem species, the occasional rarity and a few ore minerals, very beautiful ore minerals I hasten to add! With lots of fabulous items to run through, let’s go…

So, from Afghanistan, what could be better to kick-off with than an Afghanite, a fairly rare mineral which can be used as a gemstone. This spectacular 3.9 cm tall deep blue crystal on a Phlogopite-rich matrix is from the ancient Lapis Lazuli locality at Sar-e Sang in the Koksha Valley. It is thought mining here dates to the start of the 7th millennium BCE, or 9,000 years ago from present! Then from Badakhshan Province, take a look at the perfectly terminated, pale lilac crystal of Scapolite to 2.3 cm tall on a matrix of snow white sucrosic-textured marble. Although the Scapolite is non-fluorescent, the marble turns dull blackish plum in SW ultraviolet.

Representing Australasia are a Smithsonite and Inesite, both from the Broken Hill mines in New South Wales, Australia. The Smithsonite displays two generations of crystal growth, initially translucent pale grey rice grain or ant egg crystals, then overgrown by a deposition of spiky Smithsonite. The Inesite, a calcium-manganese-iron silicate hydroxide, forms sprays and bowties of coral pink translucent crystals over a small plate of massive Galena. The specimen is then coated by a preferential deposition of glassy transparent and colourless Apophyllite crystals.

China heads this selection with seven specimens which include Fluorite, Arsenopyrite, Spessartine Garnet on Smoky Quartz, Scheelite, Diamond, Calcite and Chalcopyrite. Every one of these will make a superb addition to any collection, but which do I single out? I have to begin with the Spessartine covering Smoky Quartz on Microcline Feldspar from the enigmatic Wushan Spessartine mine at Tongbei in Fujian Province. The overall specimen measures 23 cm, (yes, 23!) with the largest Smoky Quartz crystal at 16 cm tall. Over both the Microcline matrix and the lower halves of the Quartz crystals, hundreds of lustrous glassy, translucent tangerine Spessartine Garnets are densely scattered, each to between 1- and 4-mm diameter. Need I say more? It’s amazing.

Diamond in kimberlite always make a great specimen and this, from the Shengli Pipes in the Changma Kimberlite Belt of Shandong Province, displays detailed concentric growth patterns in the colourless Diamond face. The kimberlite is fascinating in its own right, with a characteristic jumbled mix of constituent minerals ranging between pale olive green and dark greenish grey. Kimberlites are thought to have formed anywhere between 150 and 450 km (93 to 280 miles) within the Earth’s mantle, where temperatures and pressures are suitable for Diamond formation.

From Kazakhstan we have a Blister Copper variety of Chalcopyrite and a Ferberite with Quartz and Pyrite. We are all familiar with the classic blister coppers which came out of the 19th century Cornish mines in southwest England, but this is the first time we have ever had a good example from the Dzhezkazgan mining region in Kazakhstan. The Chalcopyrite forms almost complete spheres, up to 1 cm in diameter, of a matt, brassy dull gold preferentially coated with a micro-crystalline grey druse.

Pakistan also makes a great contribution to this update with an Elbaite Tourmaline, Topaz, pink Fluorapatite, Väyrynenite and Emerald. In reverse order, the Emerald is from the Swat Valley in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and forms two parallel, intergrown, hexagonal crystals, each to 2.4 cm long by 2.2 cm broad of a vibrant chrome-emerald green with milky peppermint green pinacoids. These are perched on a fine-grained Micaceous matrix. This Emerald deposit was only discovered in 1958 when farmers attending their goat herds came across green crystals on a hillside. The question I ask is why do I never find large green Emerald crystals while walking the occasional British hillside? The Väyrynenite is outstanding, displaying hundreds of coral pink gemmy crystals from Shengus in the Haramosh Mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan. Make sure you also look at the two Topaz specimens from Dassu in the Braldu Valley. They are completely different from one another yet stunning in their own different ways.

Our final destination is Russia, with a Topaz on Smoky Quartz from the Adun-Cholon Range in Eastern-Siberia and a Fluorite from Dal'negorsk. The clear, mainly colourless Topaz crystals do have a greenish-yellow tinge and look striking nestled amongst rich deep smoky brown to golden Quartz crystals. The Topaz displays remarkable growth patterns which I can best liken to a diagram depicting thermal convection cells. The Fluorite is colourless, gemmy and optically perfect, a characteristic of that from Dal'negorsk. It tends to form elongated cubic crystals with many prisms exhibiting slightly modified corners to the octahedron.

Casting an eye over today’s specimens reveals a colourful, aesthetic and, perhaps more importantly, fascinating selection brimming with mineralogical interest. We have no doubt you will thoroughly enjoy looking through and reading about each item with always the possibility of landing on that very one destined for your collection. PT

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

Tuesday 16th November & Friday 19th November - Weardale Fluorite


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Author: JH
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