New Europe Update 22 March 2022

21 March 2022

BOTH of this week’s mineral updates are from continental Europe and in today’s selection of 21 specimens we cover 13 countries. Taking great care by carefully checking a map, we span from Portugal in the west to Ukraine in the east and from north to south, Norway down to Spain.

Many of these countries remind us of the antiquity of European mining practice, with particular attention to the more advanced mining techniques developed throughout the Roman Empire and, earlier still, in ancient Greece. Anyone who has visited the Lavrion (Laurion) mining district in southern Greece will have experienced a sense of deep history and wonder that these, now tranquil mines, were once the scene of such suffering and toil. Mining across Europe certainly dates back to the Bronze age and modern isotopic analysis proves that metals mined in the Lavrion region are present in artifacts dated to around 3,200 years BCE. The Lavrion mining district lies within the south east of the Attica Peninsula and the busy port of Lavrion is only 42 km SE of Athens, as the crow flies. The close proximity of Athens to this ancient mining district is not by chance. The capital developed here because of the near-by silver-rich lead deposits, whose income financed the building of the ancient Greek Navy, allowing them to expand and control trading routes throughout the Mediterranean world.

So, beginning in Greece, we have three specimens; a copper-bearing Smithsonite; a violet Fluorite with Calcite and a lovely Azurite with Malachite, all from the Lavrion District and the latter from Christiana mine, part of the complex Kamariza mining region around (and beneath!) Agios Konstantinos. The Cuprian Smithsonite forms a flattened, deep bluish-sea-green dome over a circular matrix of grey-orange Calcite.

Norway is today’s most northerly country and from here we have a fabulous Zircon from Seiland Island and an excellent crystal of Gadolinite-(Y) from one of the two Microcline pegmatite quarries at Høydalen in the Telemark region. The Zircon crystal, measuring up to 2 cm and the colour of root beer, has a brilliant glassy lustre and emits golden-bronze flashes from fiery internal reflection planes.

The most southerly destination today is Spain and from here you really should look at the Pyromorphite from the wonderfully named Resuperferolitica mine in Andalusia and a museum quality Fluorite on Calcite from the La Collada mining area. The latter, a large cabinet specimen, is encrusted with deep, blackberry purple Fluorite crystals up to an impressive 2.5 cm, aesthetically modified between the cube and dodecahedron. When backlit, the cube faces become translucent, while the modified bevelled edges remain opaque blackberry, exquisitely framing the central prisms.

Travelling west, Portugal is represented by a magnificent Fluorapatite with Quartz from the collector’s favourite, Panasqueira mine at Covilhã. A Muscovite and Quartz matrix is richly coated with sparkling, pale smoky sky blue to deep teal interlocking Fluorapatite crystals which cover the majority of the display face. This small cabinet specimen is ex. The Philadelphia Academy Collection and was likely mined in the 1960s or 70s.

By far our most easterly country is Ukraine and from one of its most famous localities, the Volodarsk-Volynskii Chamber Pegmatites, a gemmy and delicately tinted, lime green crystal of Heliodor, a gem variety of Beryl. The single Heliodor crystal measures to 7 cm, displaying many detailed naturally etched patterns, making the otherwise ice-clear gemmy interior appear slightly frosted.

The Madan ore field in the spectacular Rhodope Mountains of Bulgaria were worked during the Roman occupation (46 to 681 CE) and this area remains a thriving metal mining region to this day. From here we have a superb group of delicate candy-pink manganese bearing Calcite crystals with an eye-catching bright glassy to silky-satin lustre.

Other great specimens include a Malachite pseudomorph after Cuprite on Native Copper from Rudabánya in Hungary; bright metallic silvery-grey prismatic crystals of Stibnite from Kremnica in Slovakia; an impressive Rhodochrosite on Sphalerite, Pyrite and Galena from the Trepča Complex in Kosovo and well-formed characteristic crystals of lustrous steel grey Bournonite from Baia Sprie in Romania.

Rounding-off today’s selection is a gorgeous group of lustrous, dark clove Vesuvianite crystals from its type locality in the Somma-Vesuvius Complex at Naples, Italy; a beautiful ‘Iron Rose’ Hematite from the Cavradi Gorge in Switzerland and a rather magnificent example of Pyroxene from the Nordmark Odal Field in Värmland, Sweden.

As such European updates continue, although we can only ever provide a tiny snapshot of what the continent has to offer, we gradually build a feel for its mineral diversity and the particular mineralogical traits of each of its countries. Enjoy looking through today’s selection and remember, there are other specimens not referred to above. See what you can find to add to your collection and we’ll be back on Friday with more in this theme. PT


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Author: JH
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