New Europe Update 15 February 2022

15 February 2022

THIS week we return to continental Europe with a good spread of mineral species and localities. It is all too easy to apply the label ‘classic’ to a specimen, but this week we do include a fare number which really are.

Take for example the delicately lemon tinted Topaz crystals from Schneckenstein Cliff in Saxony. This locality has been known for many centuries where, in the cliffs and outcrops of the surrounding forest, fine Topaz crystals occur amongst Quartz crystals, a result of hydrothermal alteration by greisenization. Greisens form by the alteration of granite minerals such as potassium-rich feldspars when subjected to hot volatiles escaping from the final phase of a granite or pegmatite melt. Volatiles comprise of gases and water which have become concentrated in the melt as they cannot be incorporated into the final stages mineral crystallisation. All UK collectors are familiar with the sheeted greisen veins exposed at Cligga Head in Cornwall. Other European classics available today are two fabulous Spanish Dolomites; a Wulfenite from Mežica in Slovenia and Phosgenite in Galena from the Monteponi mine on the Italian island of Sardinia in the Mediterranean Sea. Let’s take a closer look…

Although most of today’s 21 specimens are miniatures, or close to, let’s begin with today’s largest and smallest. The big boy is a magnificent large cabinet specimen of colourless to smoky grey crystallised Dolomite from the Azcárate quarry at Eugui in Navarre, northern Spain. Sharp, rhombic Dolomite crystals up to 6 cm on edge form a piled-up jumble of crystals on top of a large plate of mixed Calcite-Dolomite matrix. Many of the larger crystals display phantom edges, zoned between colourless and shades of light and dark smoky grey. All the Dolomite crystals are translucent, but the larger ones become transparent in many areas, sometimes gemmy. This is a museum quality specimen from a locality which produces some of the best Dolomite crystals in the world.

At the opposite end of the size-spectrum, take a look at a superb thumbnail of crystallised Proustite from the Schlema-Hartenstein District of Saxony, Germany. Proustite is a silver-arsenic sulphosalt which is often seen tarnished, opaque and black. However, this specimen, has been carefully curated and retains its natural bright blood-red colour. The Proustite forms divergent crystals, some in a semi-reticulated pattern and when back-lit, turns brilliant scarlet.

A specimen so easily overlooked is a miniature Siderite with Dolomite and minor Quartz from the Příbram mining district of the Czech Republic. What a totally super little miniature this is!Clove brown Siderite crystals form as flattened flying-saucer-like prisms averaging about 2 cm diameter, all interlocked with one another at random angles. Around their rims is a uniform deposition of creamy micro-Dolomite crystals forming ermine fur-like edges and appearing as interlaced hoops. It really is quite enchanting.

Also on the subject of classic localities, no one would dispute this term when applied to the Lengenbach quarry in the Binn Valley of Switzerland. This remarkable and relatively small quarry has 171 recorded mineral species to date, of which it is type locality to no less than 48. This means 28% of the minerals discovered here were new to science; if this is not a classic, what is! From here we have a gorgeous of gemmy Sphalerite some 9 mm long nestling in a characteristic fine grained, sucrosic snow white marble. The Sphalerite is rich deep sherry brown with good translucency and patchy transparency and whose habit is similar to a brilliant facet-cut diamond. Another classic is a superbly crystallised Halite from Inowroclaw in mid-northern Poland. Although not included on the label, it is most probably from the Solno mine which worked a Permian salt deposit but is now abandoned and long since flooded. The Halite crystals are essentially transparent with occasional cloudy zones, have razor-sharp edges and nucleate around a granular orange-red polyhalite matrix of probable mixed Halite and Sylvite.

One of my favourites is a yellow-tipped Baryte from Cavnic in Romania. In my opinion this is a beautiful little stunner with wonderful aesthetic appeal. Thin Baryte blades to 2 cm wide grow in parallel forming a curved, splayed-out fan of cream crystals, all capped with vivid saffron yellow terminations. These stand almost vertically across the back of the specimen and appear like a complex set of inter-meshed gear wheels.

Other tempting pieces include a rich Native Silver from Balcoll mine in Spain; a wonderful twinned Cassiterite from Horní Slavkov in the Czech Republic; a captivating Royal purple-mauve Strengite from the Kreuzberg, or Rose quartz cliff in Bavaria; Rutile from Pfitsch Pass in Austria and a Diopside with Magnetite and Clinochlore from the Nordmark Odal Field in Sweden.

If you have time, do take a good look through the photos and explore the links to more detailed descriptions as there a plenty of other fascinating specimen not mentioned here. Even if you don’t specialise in a particular country or continent, it is rather nice to dedicate a drawer or small cabinet in which to assemble a selection of worldwide classics, in the form of a sub-collection. Sub-collections are a most convenient means by which to indulge outside your specialist field without feeling over-guilty. Not that I ever do this, of course! We hope you find many specimens of interest and perhaps one or more to add to your collection (or sub-collection!). See you again on Friday. PT


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Author: JH
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