New Tsumeb Update 03 December 2021

3 December 2021

TODAY we make a return visit to Tsumeb, a mine which operated throughout almost all of the twentieth century and over this period witnessed three different names to this wonderful country.

Less than one year after Matthew Rogers discovered the orebody outcrop on January 21, 1893, the country became a German colony in 1884 and it was under this rule the Tsumeb mine began operating around 1906-07. Early mineral labels bear the name Deutsch-Südwestafrika or German Southwest Africa. This changed to South West Africa between 1915 and 1990, then after this to the Republic of Namibia, now colloquially shortened to Namibia. The history up to independence is complex in relation to German and South African rule and many interventions by the United Nations, but these dates are broadly accurate, especially for the purpose of labelling minerals.

As always, we have a selection of 21 specimens and they really are quite a special lot. There is nothing ultra-rare in terms of names most of us are unfamiliar with, but several are species seldomly seen from Tsumeb which make important additions to serious collections, Phosgenite, Scorodite, Leadhillite and Stolzite for example. The former three are all lovely miniatures providing displayable sized crystals or crystal sections. The Scorodite forms opaque, light cornflower blue octahedral crystals to 1 cm on a thin matrix of Tennantite. Although tiny, three well crystallised clusters of Stolzite crystals sit amongst curved buff-tan Siderite blades and metallic-grey Djurleite forming blocky and acicular crystals. All three species are good crystallised examples, but the Stolzite steals the show with its colourless tabular crystals, tinged slightly pale lemon with a brilliant silver lustre.

Smithsonite may all too readily be taken for granted but wait until you see the 13 cm long stalactite, it’s fantastic! The stalactite’s core is probably Sphalerite, then coated with creamy white to salmon pink micro-crystals of Smithsonite. Over this, large and gemmy Smithsonite crystals have formed as colourless, gemmy crystals averaging 1 to 1.3 cm on edge with occasional crystals to 1.6 cm. These are all glassy with a brilliant reflective lustre while their pure transparency allows the underlying salmon pink to show through. It is a magnificent specimen. We also have a gorgeous Cobaltoan Smithsonite with gemmy to translucent, gently curved rhombic crystals of cerise pink to 1.4 cm covering both sides.

Other showstoppers include Olivenite, Dioptase and Mimetite. The dark olive-green crystalline Olivenite has lots of extras including splendid Azurite, Gartrellite, Bayldonite, Gartrellite pseudomorphing after Mimetite and Malachite pseudomorphing after Azurite. It is a busy specimen as you can tell! The richness of the Olivenite is superb and the Gartrellite has a lime green intensity akin to that of uranium minerals. Where the Azurite is unaltered, it remains a stunning inky to electric blue and where pseudomorphed to Malachite, forms velvet textured replicas of the Azurite morphology, as fine acicular silky fibrous crystals.

Our small cabinet Dioptase aesthetically contrasts against the paler apple green shades of the two associated arsenates, Conichalcite and Duftite. Although the latter are hard to differentiate, they underlie the emerald green Dioptase crystals which attain 1.3 cm and dazzle with their brilliant glassy lustre. Beneath the translucent outer surface of the Dioptase prisms, light is scattered from internal reflective surface with an appearance of crumped emerald green metallic foil.

The Mimetite referred to is a remarkable cabinet specimen of lemon-yellow crystals covering a matrix of coarser crystallised Mimetite. The specimen is striking for its richness, total coverage of Mimetite crystals and warm buttery-lemon colour. The spiky acicular crystals across one half of the display face are dusted with peppermint green micro-crystals of probable Malachite. Individual Mimetite crystals measure up to about 1.3 cm and form a continuous coverage. Although the colour is fairly uniform, the crystals do grade from a paler lemon yellow on the Malachite dusted side to the richer butter lemon across the opposite half. The base displays Mimetite crystals with a more branching, arborescent habit of creamy lemon white.

There are lots of other fascinating specimens, most as good-sized miniatures. These include Tennantite pseudomorphing after Azurite and Willemite forming parallel stalactites of earthy deep carmine red coated with acicular Troostite crystals, the manganese-rich variety of Willemite. Adamite with little or no copper content from Tsumeb is considered uncommon, making this a fine example of 'pure' Adamite, as translucent light-yellow crystals to 1 cm with Smithsonite and minor Tsumcorite. The miniature Wulfenite exhibits incredibly lustrous and gemmy tabular crystals of rich toffee-brown, measuring to 8 mm with characteristic bevelled edges. It cannot be over emphasised just how lustrous these crystals are, so when looked at from differing angles the entire specimen sparkles from numerous, mirror-like faces.

Looking through today’s selection reminds even the most seasoned collector of Tsumeb just why this mine became so famous for its mineralogy. No matter how long you’ve been studying its minerals, specimens continually surprise with combinations and aesthetics never before seen or imagined. Do look at the specimens in more detail on our website through the hyperlinks where you will see many more photos of each and a full description. We hope you find something you like.

As a final note, now into December, we are rapidly approaching the Crystal Classics’ Winter Open Day, to be held on Saturday, December 11 at our showroom in East Coker, Somerset, England. It has become a tradition that as the doors open to our visitors at 10 am, our special bumper update of British minerals goes live simultaneously. This is our means of providing all who cannot attend in person the opportunity to enjoy at least one aspect of the day. Building up for this means there will be no updates on either Tuesday (7/12) or Friday (10/12) of next week. Such deprivation of fine minerals on these days is tough we know, but good things do come to those who wait…! We hope you will be joining us on Saturday, December 11, either in person or via the web. PT

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

Saturday 11th December - British (Winter Open Day) 


If you'd like to see a video of any of the specimens listed above then please contact us at and we'll be happy to assist you. We endeavour to respond to all enquires within 24 hours during weekdays, however at the weekend it might take us a little longer to respond.



Crystal Classics are delighted to announce that our 2021 Winter Open Day will be taking place on Saturday, December 11 from 10am to 5pm.

To book your place please email Debbie at or by phone 01935 862 673 to register your interest.

We have many new collections to showcase as well as thousands of superb specimens in our showroom which are set out in beautiful display cases and drawered cabinets beneath oak beams bedecked with antique crystal models and other mining and mineralogical ephemera.

We will have lots of wholesale stock available to purchase as well.

Complimentary food will be provided by The Village Cafe which is located next door to our offices.

As is standard, we will be doing a bumper British Update on Saturday morning to coincide with the Open Day, so for that week only, there will be no update as usual on Tuesday or Friday.

It promises to be a great day and we look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful showroom in East Coker, Somerset.



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We also offer an additional service that enables you, as our customer, to contact us via with your mineral wish list to enhance your current collection, but are unable to find the right specimens on our website. We have 1000's of specimens in our general stock that do not appear online.

Author: JH
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