New Europe Update 18 February 2022

18 February 2022

THIS Friday we remain in continental Europe with a selection of specimens from 13 of its countries. Some are common species but with amazing crystal habits, a Příbram Calcite for example.

Much less common are sulphosalts, yet despite these forming a fascinating suite of minerals, they can all too often be perceived as dull grey patches. But today’s Polybasite from Clara mine in the Black Forest, I am pleased to say, does not fall in this category, displaying a group of well-defined pseudo-hexagonal crystals nestling in a milky Quartz vug.

We do not readily associate gem minerals with Europe, but this update features a quite spectacular Ruby from Norway and Emerald from Austria, both European classics in their own right. Ruby and Emerald are, of course, varieties of minerals, Ruby being the red variety of Corundum and Emerald the bright green form of Beryl. Such names go back into antiquity and often carry quirky nuances, Ruby being one. The aluminium oxide Corundum can occur in almost any colour, yet this wide spectrum divides into only two varietal classes, Ruby and Sapphire. Ruby covers all red varieties, including purple-reds as in today’s example. However, Sapphire includes everything else, not just blue, but colourless, greens, yellows, orange, brown, golden yellows and even shades you might think were reddish, pinks for example.

The Ruby in today’s update is from Froland in Aust-Agder, Norway and the rich, pinkish cranberry-red hexagonal crystals stand out against a white and clove-bronze pegmatitic matrix. This region of Norway is dominated by a large pegmatite field, a pegmatite originating through the partial melting of crustal rocks. Such pegmatites are quite different to those of granitic composite, of which we tend to be more familiar and its strongly foliated Quartz and Mica fabric can be studied in the surrounding matrix. he dominant Ruby crystal is 4.4 cm wide, but does extend out to an overall 6 cm. The Austrian Emerald is from the famous deposit in the Habach Valley and comprises of three prismatic crystals to 1 cm, half embedded in a plate of Biotite-Chlorite Schist. Two vivid emerald green and one pale sea green Beryl crystals stand proud of the light greenish-grey Schist which has a bright satin lustre. This deposit has been known since at least the mid sixteenth century, with the first recorded mining beginning in 1797.

Amethyst, the purple variety of Quartz, is usually not classified as a gem mineral but can readily compete when displaying great aesthetics. Take a look at this cabinet specimen of an exquisitely coloured lavender Amethyst from Nyíri in the Zemplén Mountains of Hungary. The Amethyst forms an undulating drusy surface over a matrix of pinkish-cream massive Quartz. Small Amethyst crystals to a few millimetres have developed in botryoidal domed clusters which cover all the display surfaces. The small size of crystals combined with their hemispherical morphology generates a silky lustre across the entire surface. The colour is beautiful, not often is such a pure and vivid lavender seen in minerals.

The Příbram Calcite already mentioned might be small but is exquisite. Essentially, several long and narrow scalenohedral crystals with pale apricot tips morph into a succession of stacked prismatic plates of milky white. The resultant specimen is that of a complex skeletal and branching array of stacked plates and spikes. It’s easier to study the photos! A terrific miniature for all those fascinated by unusual and complex crystal habits.

One of this update’s rarer species is a superbly crystallised Melilite from San Rocco in the Viterbo Province of Lazio, Italy. Melilite is no longer regarded as a specific mineral, the name is now applied to species of uncertain composition within the Melilite Group. The large, semi-transparent to translucent, cubic, tan crystals look like Åkermanite, but this is an educated suggestion. The crystals measure up to 7 mm on edge and richly line a wide shallow vug in a dark green, granular volcanic matrix of Olivine. Although it is labelled San Rocco, this is a nearby abandoned small church and the mineral locality itself is a small depression on the rim of the Vico caldera, west of the San Rocco.

Moving on, some other specimens which must be given mention include a lovely rich vein of cochineal-maroon-red Cinnabar sandwiched within a banded white Quartz-vein matrix from the Avala Mines in Serbia; a superb, perfectly twinned Cassiterite crystal from Horní Slavkov in the Czech Republic; a rich Native Gold from Roşia Montană, Romania and vivid butterscotch-orange, bladed crystals of Wulfenite from Bleiberg in Carinthia, Austria, its type locality.

Yes, we know Bulgarian Galena is plentiful and readily available but, like Indian zeolites, what is currently abundant will one day be scarce. It also remains a fact, even if a mineral is common, this does not detract from its inherent beauty, if beauty is one of its virtues. So do take a good look today’s Galena from the Madan Ore Field; this superb miniature features a bright silver metallic group of intergrown cubic, cuboctahedral and octahedral crystals with the crystal faces aligned by precise epitaxial growth. It’s simply gorgeous and should not be overlooked.

Here in East Coker we are currently experiencing the effects of Storm Eunice, where the southwest of the UK (and the southeast also) is under a Red weather warning, the first time this been applied since the system was introduced. So we have battened down the hatches and are staying put in the office, busy beavering away selecting new specimens for the upcoming weeks!

Enjoy your European tour and we hope you find the selection varied and interesting. Remember, just use the hyperlinks to find more information on any of today’s specimens, all collated to help you make those all-important choosing decisions! PT

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

Tuesday 22nd February - Romania

Friday 25th FebruaryCzech Republic


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Author: JH
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