New Phil's Picks Update 14 December 2021

14 December 2021

IN the lead-up to this Friday’s Christmas Update, I have been handed the weighty responsibility of selecting today’s specimens, hence, Phil’s Picks!

This is not as easy as you might at first think. I could not really choose British minerals as we had a bumper issue of these last Saturday. So I turned to other areas which interest me greatly, hoping these provide something for everyone.

The most prominent group today are the native elements as these form one of my sub-collections. I am constantly amazed how nature has created the elements and that they should arrange themselves into the ordered elegance of the periodic table. Even those pesky actinides and lanthanides, which are normally shown below the table as if they don’t really fit in, in fact do. They are simply extracted and relegated below for aesthetics, making the table considerably narrower, hence easier to fit in a book or on a chart.

I have also included some species and localities which I particularly like, for example, Fluorite, gem minerals, zeolites, Greenland, Tsumeb, Yukon phosphates and Kola. As you see, it’s an eclectic mix, but hopefully with appeal to a broad range of mineralogical tastes. Let’s take a closer look…

There is nothing more fundamental than the elements, so we will begin here. Even if native element specimens are not your thing, in this case do take a closer look as I’ve picked out examples which have a bit of umph, a touch of the old je ne sais quoi! Take for example two sawn and polished cabinet specimens, one of Native Iron and one of Silver. Although iron is one of the most prolific elements in the Earth’s crust, Native Iron is remarkably rare. This fine cabinet specimen is from Bühl in Hesse, Germany and exhibits an outer oxidized rusty crust backing a sawn and polished display face of almost solid dull silver Native Iron with a reasonably bright metallic lustre. The Native Silver is from the Gowganda area in Ontario, Canada and displays interconnected branches of up to 4 cm long which have all maintained their bright metallic bright silver colour and lustre.

Our other terrific examples of native elements today include an impressive sheet Silver also from Canada; a Native Lead with Pyrochroite from Långban; a lovely botryoidal Native Arsenic from St. Andreasberg; Sulphur from Sicily; Native Bismuth with Safflorite from Mackenheim in Germany; Gold from Falun mine in Sweden, about 200 km northwest of Stockholm and a superbly crystallised Native Copper with a gorgeous patina from Bogoslovsk in Russia. Hey, we also have a wire Native Silver which was in the collection of Prof. Dr V. Goldschmidt no less!

My weakness for Fluorite dictated I should include two and subconsciously I selected two incredible blues. The first is from the Xia Yang mine in Fujian, China, a Fluorite crystal which can only be described as a thing of beauty. This dodecahedral, gemmy Fluorite crystal is up to 5 cm wide, purple overall, with intense shades of lilac descending into a near-electric, inky blue interior. No matter if in transmitted or reflected light, it is breath-taking.

My next offering is a rare and visually stunning blue Fluorite from the arsenic, silver and tin mining district of Marienberg in Erzgebirge, Saxony, Germany. This small cabinet specimen is a cross between deep sky and electric blue, making for the most aesthetic display piece. Well-formed cubic crystals to 1 cm on edge are scattered over an undulating Quartz matrix encrusted in light grey drusy Quartz crystals. The Fluorite is transparent grading to a translucent core with some crystals exhibiting a subtle lemon-yellow tinge at their centres.

Representing some of my favourite localities, first we have a Hydrokenoralstonite with Thomsenolite from the Ivigtut Cryolite Deposit in Greenland. Hydrokenoralstonite, I can hear you cry (providing you can pronounce it), what is that? Well, it’s the new IMA name for Ralstonite, a Greenland classic. There is also a great Dioptase with Cerussite from Tsumeb; a beautifully crystallised Stilbite-Ca with Calcite from Iceland; magnificent golden bronze sprays of Astrophyllite crystals from the Khibiny Massif on the Kola Peninsula and a Gormanite with Siderite from the Big Fish River in Yukon. Probably like many other collectors, I was first made aware of Yukon Phosphates when the Mineralogical Record published their special issue of the same title, unbelievably back in July-August 1992. Almost 30 years ago, how time evaporates!

I’ll finish this review with two gem minerals. The first is simply a double terminated Amethyst Quartz crystal from the Brandberg area in the Erongo Region of Namibia. This lovely crystal contains at least one easily seen fluid inclusion in the form of a small bubble with a millimetre or two of mobility. I have fond memories of this location having spent three nights camping there in 2009. And from the Carnaíba Mining District in Brazil, a spectacular and charming small cabinet specimen of fine Emerald crystals on and in a dark matrix of hard mica schist. Deep leafy-emerald green crystals cut through and cover the display face with crystals of up to 5 cm long and 0.4 cm diameter. Other shorter crystals can reach 0.9 cm diameter. The Emerald is translucent with an opaque core and all crystals have a bright glassy lustre. Priced at under $1000, this is a real beauty.

So there you have it, my selection, all of which I hope you find fascinating and fitting examples representing either their locality or species. There are as many reasons as there are collectors, why we are all so passionate about minerals, yet this diversity is a binding thread in that we all have something new to both tell and learn. Enjoy Phil’s Picks and I hope I’ve picked something you like! PT


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Author: JH
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