New Germany Update 28 January 2022

28 January 2022

FOR today’s update we are in Germany with a wide selection of species and localities, in fact I don’t think any locality is repeated. What strikes us also is an unusually high number of beautiful old labels, photographs of which accompany many of the specimen photos when you visit via the hyperlinks.

Provenance, that is, the origin and history of a specimen, is all important especially if it can be traced to an significant or famous old collection. Exhibiting a fine old label next to a specimen just lends that added kudos, not in a boastful way, but providing a backwards glance to its history since being found. The finest example of this in today’s selection are a Pyromorphite and a Cerussite, both German and both ex. the collection of Archduke Stephan of Hungary (1817 to 1867).

In his relatively short life, Stephan Franz Viktor, Archduke of Hungary, built a renowned scientific library and several highly important natural history collections. These encompassed botany and zoology, but most extensively mineralogy. Through his far-reaching European network of mineralogical contacts he amassed a mineral collection of some 20,000 specimens. Importantly, his tastes were not just for the more popular aesthetic specimens, but also for scientifically interesting minerals, uncommon species, unusual associations and rare localities. Much of his collection remains intact today, mainly in the Natural History Museum of Berlin, but also in private collections. He is honoured by the silver antimony sulphosalt, Stephanite, being named for him.

When you look through today there are many other fascinating old labels, often handwritten in the most beautiful copperplate scripts. Some are double sided where the collector has wanted to record lots of extra notes. Such information at the time of writing may have seemed almost obvious or trivial, but 100 years on it becomes invaluable. Let’s have a brief look at today’s selection…

Beginning with the two Archduke Stephan specimens, one is a Pyromorphite from Schwarzenstein in the Black Forest and one a Cerussite from Pfingstwiese mine at Bad Ems. Both are accompanied by Archduke labels, that for the Cerussite being complete and full size at an impressive 9.9 x 7.9 cm whereas that for the Pyromorphite has been trimmed back to 7.0 x 4.1 cm, so loosing the ornate printing around its edges. Following the Archduke’s death his collection was eventually bought by German industrialist Carl Rumpff, who himself died within a year of its purchase, with most specimens remaining unwrapped. His widow donated the entire collection to Humboldt University in Berlin where, in its Natural History Museum, curators trimmed many labels to fit in the smaller boxes they were using!

Another grand label accompanies the Fluorite on Siderite from Stolberg at Südharz in Saxony-Anhalt. This specimen is dominated by the Siderite, with the three Fluorite crystals perched on top. The largest Fluorite cube measures 1.4 cm on edge and under LWUV, all three prisms fluoresce moderately bright deep indigo purple.

Yet another old and impressive label is that of the Harmotome from St. Andreasberg in Lower Saxony. Covering much of the upper face of a light grey basaltic matrix, well developed Harmotome crystals to 1.2 cm cover a 6 x 3 cm area. The prisms are translucent cream to slightly dirty cream, with some displaying drill-bit twinned crystals.

A more modern label is that from the U.S. National Museum (Division of Mineralogy) which accompanies an impressive Gahnite with Quartz and Pyrite from the Silberberg mine in Lower Bavaria. The Silberberg mine is an ancient mine dating back to at least 1436 which exploited an iron sulphide deposit in a Cordierite-Garnet gneiss. Gahnite is a member of the Spinel Group and occurs as fine opaque black octahedral crystals in this specimen.

Rarer species in this update are a Clausthalite in Calcite from Zorge in Lower Saxony; a fine Lepidocrocite from Herdorf in Rhineland-Palatinate; Plagionite from Wolfsberg, Saxony-Anhalt; Berzelianite from Lerbach, Lower Saxony and a fine example of crystallised Groutite from the Emilie mine, again in Lower Saxony.

In the more aesthetic stakes, let me point you to a rather stunning miniature of crystallised gemmy mauve Strengite from the fascinating Kreuzberg, or Rose quartz cliff, now in the centre of the town of Pleystein in the Upper Palatinate of Bavaria. This Quartz cliff is the remaining core of an eroded phosphate pegmatite and you as can well imagine, collecting has long since been strictly forbidden. The Strengite crystals are either bright warm mauve or blackcurrant with a tinge of mauve and display a brilliant glassy lustre.

Other aesthetics include an arborescent Calcite from Himmelfahrt mine close to Freiberg, Saxony; a Rhodochrosite from the Hambach-Gückingen Area in Rhineland-Palatinate and a beautiful golden yellow Fluorite with Calcite and Chalcopyrite from Gersdorf, close to Roßwein in Saxony. I must refer back the mentioned Rhodochrosite because it is a treat for the eye. A small cabinet specimen, the Rhodochrosite forms a bubbly, botryoidal surface of light candy pink, often with a surface alteration to pale flesh pink over a limestone and dolostone matrix.

There are a plenty other terrific specimens but I will leave you to discover these for yourself. Germany was the birthplace of modern mining methods around the time of Georg Bauer (latinised Georgius Agricola, 1494-1555), there having been little advance in technology since Roman times. So enjoy this glimpse of Germany’s rich mineral wealth and maybe there is a specimen lurking there for you! Have a great weekend. PT

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

Tuesday 1st February & Friday 4th February - World Selection


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Author: JH
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