New Europe Update 21 January 2022

21 January 2022

TODAY we return to Europe where the passion for mineral collecting first began in the early 16th century. We have some really interesting specimens to offer, be they more unusual habits of common species or some which are reasonably rare.

The usual selection of 21 includes single offerings from Austria, England, France, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland, then six from the Czech Republic, five from Germany and four from Italy. We have acquired several good Italian specimens lately which contribute nicely to this update.

Contemplating the origins of mineral collecting, who knows just what people picked up and displayed in their homes back into unrecorded history. Readily accessible crystals or glistening precious metals must surely have always drawn the attention of the curious over the millennia, but this has gone undocumented. It was not until the 16th century (1500s) that scholars, particularly those concerned with mining, began to assemble their own collections of minerals and metals. The definitive birthplace appears to have been in Saxony where the likes of Georg Bauer (aka Georgius Agricola, 1494-1555) and Johannes Mathesius (1504-1565) built collections through which to study and so make the first tentative steps towards the science of mineralogy.

It seems fitting therefore to begin our review with a Whewellite on Calcite from close to Dresden in Saxony. This symmetric, arrow shaped colourless crystal sits on a bed of Calcite and its origin is associated with the adjacent anthracite deposits of the Doehlen Basin.F ollowing on from our theme of early collectors, the Cerussite from Siegen in Germany is from the mineral collection of Archduke Stephan Franz Viktor of Hungary (1817 to 1867) and is accompanied with a magnificent 9.9 x 8.0 cm label bearing the Archduke’s coat of arms. Also from Germany we have a Calcite with Quartz from Juchem quarry at Niederwörresbach; a rare acicular Scorodite from Schöne and a cut and polished Native Iron from Bühl.

All of today’s Czech Republic specimens are from the Příbram mining district. Here you will see Diaphorite (a silver-lead-antimony sulphosalt), Calcite with Pyrite, Calcite with Quartz and Dolomite, Proustite, Pyrite and Siderite with Calcite.

The four specimens representing Italy are Ilvaite from Rio Marina on the Isle of Elba; a Sarcolite from Monte Somma, part of the Somma-Vesuvius Complex near Naples; an impressive Phosgenite on Galena from where else but the Monteponi mine on Sardinia and a greenish blue Haüyne from the Albano Lake crater close to Rome. The Ilvaite is a superb crystal just under 7 cm tall and is surrounded by numerous smaller crystals around the lower half of the prism. The Somma-Vesuvius Complex is type locality to 21 species, one of which is Sarcolite, a complex sodium-calcium-aluminium silicate phosphate. The specimen we have is accompanied by three old Italian labels, one of which is very old bearing exquisite handwriting and dated 1836.

Always keen to be diplomatic, let’s review our remaining European countries in alphabetical order, beginning with Austria. From the precipitous slopes of the Teufelsmühle in the Habach valley, do look at the wonderful cabinet specimen of Titanite with Rutile, Actinolite and Adularia. Gemmy lime green Titanite crystals to 1 cm richly cover a groundmass of creamy white Adularia crystals, with rich druses of clove-coloured Rutile and scattered acicular Actinolite.

Next is England and a nicely crystallised Cassiterite from the Camborne mining district in Cornwall. Although no specific mine is recorded, the presence of Fluorite and the acicular habit of the Cassiterite does suggest Dolcoath mine. Such elongated crystals of gemmy, clove brown Cassiterite were termed Sparable Tin by the miners, in allusion to either a sparrow’s bill or a type of nail similar to the latter.

Now to France and a beautiful Azurite with Malachite from Chessy-les-Mines, type locality to Azurite. This small miniature is composed of about eight double terminated Azurite crystals, each displaying a slight surface alteration to Malachite. All are of an elegant yet blocky, slightly chunky habit and when back lit, the thinner edges glow a beautiful characteristic electric blue.

Our final three destinations are all in countries beginning with ‘S’, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. Spain is renounced for its magnificent Dolomite crystals and the area around Eugui, southeast of San Sebastian, has produced some of the best. This beautiful example is a small cabinet specimen of completely colourless Dolomite forming interpenetrant rhombohedral crystals with razor-sharp edges.

The extremely rare mineral Paraguanajuatite is a bismuth selenide, this example is from the ancient Falun mine in Dalarna, Sweden, begun in the 11th century! I wonder if anyone collected minerals then?

From the very rare to the most common of species, Quartz. But when you find Smoky Quartz crystals like this from Göscheneralp in Switzerland, they are things of beauty! Gem-clear, slightly smoky Quartz crystals cross at ninety degrees on the crest of a massive Quartz matrix, partly coated with small Feldspar crystals.

It was from the bequest of early private collections that most of the world’s greatest museums founded their collections. Just two examples are Anglo-Irish physician Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753) and the British Museum (now Natural History Museum of London) and British scientist James Smithson (1765–1829) and the Smithsonian Institution. We hope you enjoy today’s selection of 21 European minerals and that at least one of these will help your collection to grow (just a little)! Enjoy and have a great weekend. PT

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

Tuesday 25th January - British

Friday 28th January - Germany


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Author: JH
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