by Carles Curto Milà and Jordi Fabre i Fornaguera
Figure 1. Overview of the main hall of the Folch Museum.
THE FOLCH COLLECTION IN AN INTERNATIONAL CONTEXT
Joaquín Folch Girona, better known in the mineralogical world as Señor Folch,* was born in Barcelona in 1892 and died in the same city in 1984. Many tributes to this fine gentleman have been published in the mineralogical literature (Anonime 1984; Mollfulleda 1979; Montgomery 1971; Wilson 1984). He managed to assemble, during a period when mineralogy was in almost a vacuum in Spain, an extensive collection that in its day was considered to be among the best in Europe, and which was visited and admired by professionals and such well-known collectors as Peter Bancroft (1973), Ulrich Burchard and Rainer Bode (1986), Claude Guillemin and Joseph Mantienne (1989) as well as the fine Spanish photographers José Manuel Sanchis and Francisco Piña (2003, 2004).
*In Spain people have two surnames, one paternal and one maternal. For Sr. Folch these are Folch and Girona. It is normal practice to use just the first surname.
During the early period of his life Sr. Folch managed to assemble his first high-quality collection (according to him), in which specimens from classic Spanish localities were dominant, including Hiendelaencina, El Horcajo, and Bellmunt. It was, however, confiscated during the Spanish civil war, and nothing has been heard of it since. In the last few years of his life Folch often talked about this first collection and never totally lost all hope of recovering it.
Sr. Folch was not, however, disheartened, so he started again and built the current collection, which has about ten thousand specimens in the main collection and roughly fifteen thousand in the “duplicates” collection. This task resulted from his passion for mineral specimens, which developed when he was twelve years old, thanks to a love of mountains gained during a period of notable scientific excursions in Catalonia and also, slightly less notably, the rest of Spain. It was further helped by his family's role in the operation of the metallurgical mines in Bellmunt del Priorat (Catalonia, Spain) (Abella 2008), through which he soon became familiar with the crystal forms of the galena, barite, and calcite specimens found there in the ore cars and in the mine itself.
Even today Sr. Folch's collection is, by far, the best and most extensive in Spain, and it retains worldwide importance. This is because of the work of his heirs, who have not only maintained it in the solid and excellent display cases that were designed especially for him, even keeping the original systematic layout of the collection, but who have also modernized it. The latter has been achieved through an initiative that is rare in this type of collection, consisting of selling the duplicates and investing the resulting funds in the purchase of new specimens.
BASIC FEATURES OF THE COLLECTION
Sr. Folch, an industrial engineer by training and profession, did not merely limit himself to obtaining specimens; instead, he was very active in the mineralogical community, joining numerous societies, including helping establish some, and building contacts with collectors elsewhere in Europe and in the United States. Among them was a notable friendship with Sir Arthur Russell, as both of them were founding members of the British Mineralogical Society. Russell, with his extensive mineralogical knowledge, almost certainly influenced the direction and good aesthetic taste that characterize the collection, as well as the “American” nature it now has, with a focus on size and perfection that was not typical in other European collections of the period.
Figure 2. Sr. Joaquin Folch Girona (ca. 1970). Photo: Fundación Can Costa.
But the high point of Sr. Folch's activities, which represented a new basis for a significant expansion of his collection, was the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. As he himself said, attending it was the “discovery of America”: the chance to obtain a wide range of species, to get a new view of what each specimen meant and its role in a complete collection, and to find a new way of appreciating mineralogy. According to Jones (2004), Folch attended the show every year from 1960 until he was no longer physically able to travel. He also frequently attended the annual Detroit (Michigan) Gem and Mineral Show when it was the second-best show in America, after Tucson. While at these shows, he got to know collectors, dealers, and museum professionals, worldwide, such as Arthur Montgomery, Paul Desautels, John Sinkankas, and Pierre Bariand. He developed long and fruitful relationships and, in many instances, deep friendships with them, as was the case with William Pinch and, for all the difference in their ages, the young Wayne Leicht.
Intelligent and insightful, Sr. Folch managed to combine his theoretical knowledge with a great sense of style that resulted in a very personal and unrivalled collection, a rich mix of the scientific, geographic, and aesthetic. The collection was, without doubt, one of the greatest loves of his life, to such a degree that on the various occasions when his industrial holdings had problems, he never considered the possibility of selling even one specimen.
Figure 3. Apatite with siderite, 11.0 × 5.5 × 6.0 cm, Panasqueira mines, Panasqueira, Covilhã, Castelo Branco district, Portugal.
SR. FOLCH'S ROLE IN MINERAL COLLECTING
It is important to point out that, given his talent and entrepreneurial nature, he knew how to develop mineralogical activities involving those around him. In the same manner as he did with the most prestigious professionals and specialists, the young beginners of the period were always welcomed with respect and friendship. Thus, without a doubt, Sr. Folch's attitude helped create new vocations and interests. To a strong degree, one can say that most of the better collections in the Barcelona area—which may be the best in Spain (a country where before Sr. Folch there was no custom of building mineral collections nor were there good reference museums)—owe much of their style and form to the excellent specimens on display in the Folch collection and to the never-ending and accessible source of knowledge and comparison provided in the drawers beneath the displays.
As already mentioned, Sr. Folch was a major force behind the British Mineralogical Society and also the Grup Mineralògic Català (of which he was an honorary president), one of the first mineral-related clubs in Spain. As a result of his activities, he was a member of the Barcelona Royal Academy of Sciences and Arts (Real Academia de Ciencias y Artes de Barcelona) and was named an honorary curator of the Museo de Geología de Barcelona (now the Museu de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona; Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona) by the city council.
Basically organized by the system set out by Hugo Strunz, Sr. Folch tried to collect the widest range of species possible, as well as the widest range of type localities and classic localities (it was in fact among the most complete collections for the period), but always with a requirement for high-quality specimens. Apart from the criteria of systematic and aesthetic, he felt that good crystal form, the existence of twins, and interesting associated minerals were also significant criteria. One is still surprised by the coherent and “modern” aspect of the collection, well in advance of its time.
Figure 4. Barite on dolomite with hematite, 13 × 7 × 5 cm, Egremont, West Cumberland iron field, North and Western Region (Cumberland), Cumbria, England.
Figure 5. Close-up view of a portion of a cassiterite specimen, main crystal 4 cm, Panasqueira mines, Panasqueira, Covilhã, Castelo Branco district, Portugal.
Figure 6. Vanadinite, 21.0 × 15.0 × 4.5 cm, Mibladen, Morocco.
Figure 7. Azurite, 33 × 17 × 11 cm, Touissit, Touissit district, Oujda-Angad Province, Oriental Region, Morocco.
Figure 8. Samsonite, main crystal 1.1 × 0.3 cm, Samson mine, Saint Andreasberg, Saint Andreasberg district, Harz Mountains, Lower Saxony, Germany.
A Brave Initiative
EVERY MINERAL COLLECTION reaches a point in time when its creator disappears, and it is left in a very difficult situation. The Folch collection was built almost completely by Joaquín Folch Girona, so, naturally, instead of continuing to grow, as it had always done, it went into hibernation, guarding its splendor in silence. The Folch family knew this splendor well, so they decided to conserve it with care and respect, both as a memory to Sr. Folch and as an exceptional collection. When the time came to move it, they did so carefully and with respect, keeping the cabinets as they had always been and also keeping the position of every specimen. But that done, the moment arrived when a decision that certainly affects other great collections was needed: What to do with it? Should they limit themselves to conserving its glory, or try to bring it back to life? Thankfully, the Folch family decided to resuscitate the collection; to achieve this, they developed a plan based on an unusual feature of the Folch collection: the duplicates.
THE “KNOWN” FOLCH COLLECTION has more than ten thousand specimens; it is the part everyone remembers, the part whose images are engraved in the minds of those who have seen it. But, surprisingly, Sr. Folch created a second, parallel collection that, when he died, had more than fifteen thousand specimens in it! No one knew about this collection. Sr. Folch never talked about it to anyone in the mineralogical world; he just went on adding to it, using the same criteria that he had used when creating the main collection. The specimens are well documented, some are numbered; the best are on display in show cases, and the others are carefully stored in drawers. The quality was not as good as that of the main collection, but one cannot say that it was poor either.
With this collection of duplicates at their disposal, and with the desire to improve and update the main collection, the means were there for the Folch family to achieve what they wished to do. All that was needed was to find A METHOD OF MANAGING THE PROCESS.
When young, I had the enormous luck of developing a friendship with Sr. Folch (although it is all relative when one speaks of friendship between such a major personality and a young beginner who was not even twenty years old). This friendship and some good referrals meant that the Folch family decided to approach me with an offer to manage the sale of the duplicates collection and, with the funds generated from the sales of the duplicates, manage the purchase of new mineral species that had been found since Sr. Folch's death.
There were many discussions; they had to refine many details, and confidence between all parties had to be created—NO ONE EVER SAID THAT SUCH THINGS ARE EASY, as the responsibility is enormous for both sides. However, after some years of progress on the project, and with the results now being seen, I think we can say that it is positive. The initial idea was an excellent one, and everyone has emerged a winner. The Folch family has enlarged the collection, collectors around the world have been able to obtain specimens that otherwise they would never have been able to find, the world of mineral collecting has seen a flow of funds that have been used to purchase new material for the collection, and, of course, I have had the honor of handling this material and the pleasure of increasing my knowledge through working with the duplicate specimens.
WE FULLY APPRECIATE THE HISTORICAL VALUE OF THE LABELS from the duplicates collection and are creating a digital archive of them. These labels contain huge amounts of information on the history of mineralogy during the past century, relating localities, finds, and those who supplied specimens to Sr. Folch. This information could have been lost, but now it will be preserved as a unique record that will be available to those scientific institutions wishing to use it.
It is difficult to generalize from a single case, but, after seeing the results of this initiative, perhaps other collections that are in a similar situation could follow this example and, given the positive benefits from the updating of the Folch collection through the sale of the duplicates, see it as another way of GIVING LIFE TO A COLLECTION that would otherwise die.
The collection contains an extensive mix of Spanish minerals. Llorens Tomás, in his work on the minerals of Catalonia (1919), referenced and consulted the collection. Because Sr. Folch had no significant rival collectors, he managed to unite a large number of specimens that are now considered to be among the best known from Spain. Notable for their beauty and quality are the Eugui dolomites, sphalerites from the Picos de Europa (Guillemin and Mantienne  mention a group of 8-cm crystals on matrix), fluorites from various localities in Asturias, as well as the brannerites from Córdoba (one of which has a crystal 14 × 11 × 7 cm). Additionally, there are a 10 × 8 × 7-cm scheelite from Mina Conchita, Estepona (Malaga, Andalucia), various sulfides from Hiendelaencina (Guadalajara), pyromorphites from El Horcajo (Ciudad Real), crystallized cinnabars from Almadén, and, as one would expect, a strong suite of specimens from the mines of Bellmunt.
Figure 9. Phosgenite, 8.0 × 7.5 × 5.3 cm, Monteponi mine, Iglesias, Carbonia-Iglesias Province, Sardinia, Italy.
Sulfides: A Passion
Among the systematic coverage in the collection, the classes that are clearly best represented and documented are those of native elements and sulfides. With regard to sulfides, Sr. Folch was almost certainly drawn to them by the samples of millerite, galena, and siegenite from his family's lead mines in Bellmunt del Priorat, and he was also influenced by the rare sulfides from Cornwall and Devon that were in the Sir Arthur Russell collection. So he always tried to add material that was rare for its locality, of high quality, and aesthetic. Sr. Folch said that the advantage he had was that this type of mineral was not a high priority for the top American collectors, as they tended to look for more visually appealing specimens.
Figure 10. Hessite with gold and calcite, 7.3 × 6.0 × 5.8 cm, Botes, Alba County, Romania.
Minerals from the Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps were a common summer vacation destination for Sr. Folch. With his normal friendliness he managed to gain the respect, confidence, and esteem of the strahlers and local suppliers, who did not forget to reserve and offer him some of their best material. The resulting group of high-quality alpine minerals, not just in the display cases but also in the drawers and in the duplicates collection, is impressive: smoky quartz (gwindel), quartz, hematite, adularia, an exceptional violet apatite-(CaF) on matrix that measures 25 × 20 mm, a 20-cm plate of intensely red octahedral fluorite on quartz matrix, as well as a beautiful titanite twin on adularia from Sedrun.
Figure 11. Chrysoberyl, 6.5 × 5.5 × 6.0 cm, Colatina, Espírito Santo, Southeast Region, Brazil.
Figure 12. Vivianite, 12.8 × 7.5 × 6.0 cm, Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia.
Figure 13. Fluorite on quartz, 6 × 4 × 4 cm, Göscheneralp, Göschenen Valley, Uri, Switzerland.
Figure 14. Galena on dolomite, 8.0 × 7.0 × 3.5 cm, Bellmunt del Priorat, El Priorat, Catalunya, Spain.
Figure 15. Cobaltoan calcite, 6.2 × 5.5 × 3.8 cm, Solita mine, Peramea, Baix Pallars, Pallars Sobirà, Lleida, Catalunya. Collected by Jordi Figueras in 1953.
Panasqueira: Say No More
Panasqueira is another strong theme in the collection. Thanks to his numerous visits to this locality at a time when no dealers were going to the region, Sr. Folch managed to create a group of specimens with undeniable variety and, at the same time, an extensive and colorful set of anecdotes, some emotional and some humorous. He loved to tell about how he obtained a magnificent specimen of cassiterite, which is almost certainly one of the best samples of this mineral that has ever been found in Panasqueira, with its cyclic twins on matrix. Getting the specimen was not difficult—it was used as a paperweight in the mine's offices, and the manager gave it to him. The next problem was getting it through customs, as it was hard to conceal, given its size. As he approached the customs post at the border by car, he had the great idea of hiding the specimen, balanced carefully, on top of his head and under his hat. The decision was a good one, and he managed to get past customs with no problems.
The number of specimens in the collection from Panasqueira is large and includes a considerable number of arsenopyrites, siderites, and ferberites, among which is a 22 × 16 × 15-cm group of the latter species with 10 × 5 × 2-cm crystals. But above all we must mention the series of specimens of green and violet apatite-(CaF) (Bancroft 1973).
Figure 16. Kermesite, 8.0 × 5.0 × 5.5 cm, Anzac mine, Kwekwe (Que Que), Gweru (Gwelo) district, Midlands, Zimbabwe.
The 1973 Trip to Namibia
Based on the magnificent quality of the specimens from Tsumeb that he had seen and bought during the Tucson shows at the start of the 1970s, Sr. Folch almost completely financed a trip to Namibia by a dealer that he trusted, with the clear instruction that he bring back only high-quality material. Although the value of the specimens obtained on the trip was not in proportion to the expense, Sr. Folch obtained an excellent selection of material from Tsumeb and Berg Aukas that he added to the specimens he had previously obtained. As examples of the magnificent specimens from Namibia that are in the collection, we recall an excellent crystal of anglesite; three specimens, one of which is especially fine, of azurite; and some very fine specimens of dioptase, wulfenite, aragonite (var. tarnowitzite), cuproadamite, and tsumebite. There is also a pair of beautiful cerussites, one of which is a super miniature with a complete cyclic twin that is intensely blue from inclusions of azurite.
Figure 17. Sceptered quartz (var. amethyst) with hematite, 6.3 × 2.2 × 2.0 cm, Cornwall, England.
Figure 18. Brannerite, 11.5 × 4.0 × 3.5 cm, El Cabril, Hornachuelos, Córdoba, Andalucia, Spain.
Figure 19. Elbaite, 5.3 × 5.0 × 3.5 cm, Gem Hill, Mesa Grande district, San Diego County, California.
Figure 20. Azurite with malachite, 6.5 × 5.0 × 4.0 cm, Tsumeb mine, Tsumeb, Namibia.
Figure 21. Calcite with copper, 6.8 × 4.0 × 3.3 cm, Cliff mine, Phoenix, Keweenaw County, Michigan
Figure 22. Pyromorphite, 11.0 × 9.5 × 6.0 cm, Minas del Horcajo, Ciudad Real, Castilla–La Mancha, Spain.
Figure 23. Epidote, 11.8 × 7.0 × 5.5 cm, Untersulzbachtal, Hohe Tauern Mountains, Salzburg, Austria. Found in 1966.
Regarding one of the cerussites in the collection, a reticular group that measures 18 × 16 cm, Pierre Bariand told a neat anecdote in his memoirs (Bariand 2008). Meeting in Tucson, he and Sr. Folch were both drawn to the same specimen of cuprite from Onganja, a large pseudomorph crystal on matrix. Bariand was still awaiting an okay from the Sorbonne Museum to make the purchase, so he could not buy the cuprite, but he managed to distract Sr. Folch by pointing out the cerussite, and he then managed to convince Sr. Folch that he should buy it. We can end the story in Bariand's own words: “The following year Señor Folch came to Paris to see the collection … I guided him past the displays and then he noticed the cuprite that had attracted his attention in Tucson. He didn't say a word, but his look told me that he really did not feel any resentment. We ended the visit in a restaurant. Señor Folch Girona really was a ‘señor’ (a gentleman).”
Figure 24. Pyromorphite, 9.5 × 7.5 × 6.5 cm, Minas del Horcajo, Ciudad Real, Castilla–La Mancha, Spain.
The Folch collection was created during one of the golden ages of Brazilian minerals. Between the start of the 1970s and the mid-1980s, a large number of Brazilian pegmatites were producing high-quality material. Although many of these magnificent specimens went to jewelers, such a quantity was produced that many private collectors and museums were also able to take advantage of the situation and obtain specimens that are now considered classics. A large number of the gem crystals from Brazil in the Folch collection were acquired from the famous mineral dealer Martin Ehrmann. In 1991 the collection was appraised by John S. White who had access to Sr. Folch's collection catalogue cards upon which were entered the prices that were paid for the minerals. White was impressed by the low prices that Ehrmann charged Sr. Folch. Apart from excellent material from the Minas Gerais pegmatites, we would like to mention the pseudocubic hematite from Mesa Redonda, Minas Gerais, that is 11 × 8 × 7 cm; another from Congonhas do Campo, lenticular and about 8 cm across; a rose quartz from Ibitiara; and a large, doubly terminated crystal of spodumene (kunzite) from Itambacuri that is 38 cm long, clear, and of magnificent color. Finally, our personal favorite (a choice that would surely be shared by many other professionals and collectors) consists of two cyclic twins of chrysoberyl, one of which is 7 cm in diameter, and which, as shown by the comments of numerous visitors, is one of the best in the world; it would enhance the collection of any good museum.
Figure 25. Fluorite on calcite, 6.2 × 5.0 × 4.0 cm, Josefa-Veneros Norte vein, La Collada, La Viesca–La Collada area, Pola de Siero, Asturias, Spain.
Minerals from the United States
The excellent relationship and friendships that Sr. Folch developed with great collectors and curators while attending shows in the United States provided him with several good opportunities. His collection has a number of high-quality U.S. specimens. We are able to mention only a few here, such as the wulfenites from the Red Cloud mine for the color and size of their crystals, as well as their aesthetics; one has two interlinked crystals with edges that are 4.5 and 4 cm long. Another notable specimen is a plate of neptunite from San Benito County that is 30 cm across and has many crystals up to 3.5 cm. Others include an especially aesthetic specimen of native silver from Michigan; an excellent chalcocite from Bristol, Massachusetts; excellent autunites from Spokane, Washington; and various examples of copper from Michigan, one of which has well-defined 3-cm crystals.
Figure 26. Cerussite covered by azurite, 6.7 × 4.8 × 4.5 cm, Tsumeb mine, Tsumeb, Namibia.
Morocco: A Modern Classic
The collection already contained a good range of material from Mibladen, especially a magnificent vanadanite, because Sr. Folch lived through the first few great years of Touissit, at the end of the 1970s and start of the 1980s. But the best from this locality that one can see in the collection is the selection of azurites from the great spring 1979 pocket. This pocket, many of whose specimens are found in the greatest collections around the world, was bought and taken to Barcelona by Andreu Solé, a dealer from that city who often went to Morocco. Solé called Sr. Folch, who then went in person to the dealer's warehouse. Sr. Folch was an expert at these things and normally managed to control his emotions, but this time he could not avoid showing a reaction to the impact of three large tables literally covered with extraordinary specimens of all sizes. Unable to restrict himself to a single specimen, he chose several, one of which is 33 cm long and liberally covered with brilliant blue, perfectly terminated crystals up to 4 cm long.
Exceptional Worldwide Specimens
One feature of the collection that impresses everyone is its excellent range of samples from classic localities. Sitting in one of the first few cases is a surprising example of native silver from Kongsberg that forms an elegant curve on its matrix. This is closely followed by one of the best hessites from Botes that we have ever had the pleasure of seeing, with an exceptional 5-cm crystal. Nearby is a superb stephanite that is 7 × 3 cm and also a small, but exceptional, samsonite from the Samson vein, Saint Andreasberg, Germany, the type locality, with a crystal measuring 12 × 3 mm. One also notices a magnificent kermesite from Que Que, Zimbabwe, with a fanlike group of crystals that are up to 5 cm long.
Beyond comparison for their quality and crystal size are the specimens of phosgenite from Monteponi, Italy (Bancroft 1973), especially a 11.5 × 11.0-cm crystal that Bancroft noted for its size, brilliance, transparency, and color. Then there are the three specimens of epidote from Knappenwand, the main one of which has a magnificent 18 × 3 × 1-cm crystal that is easily comparable with, if not better than, those in the Natural History Museum, Vienna.
His long friendship with Sir Arthur Russell allowed him access to the classic English localities, especially those in Cornwall. Among the material from the United Kingdom, we give special mention to the barites from Frizington and a very good witherite from Alston Moor.
A complete list of all the exceptional specimens would be far too long for an article such as this, so all we can do is point out the importance of this museum-like collection. Thanks to the effort and wisdom of Sr. Folch, it contains fine samples of all the great localities known before 1980. Its current richness is a credit both to Sr. Folch and to his heirs, who have wonderfully preserved this historical collection.
We would like to thank several people: the Folch family for all the help they provided us in preparing this article; James Catmur for his careful work in translating the text; John S. White for his kind help, additions, and comments on the English text; Joan Rosell for taking the photographs; and Francesc Riquelme for his patience with us and for looking after the collection.
1. Abella, J. (2008) Minerals i mines de la conca de Bellmunt del Priorat, Joan Abella i Creus/Grup Mineralògic Català/Fons Mineralògic de Catalunya., Sabadell, Spain.
2. Anonime. (1984) In memoriam: Joaquím Folch Girona.. Mineralogistes de Catalunya 2:9, pp. 219.
3. Bancroft, P. (1973) The world's finest minerals and crystals, Viking Press., New York.
4. Bariand., P. (2008) Mémoires d'un mineralogiste sans frontieres, Les editions du Piat., Saint-Julien-du Pillet.
5. Burchard, U. and Bode, R. (1986) Mineral museums of Europe, Walnut Hill Publishing., Carson City, NV.
6. Guillemin, C. and Mantienne, J. (1989) En visitant les grandes collections mineralogiques mondiales, Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières., Orleans.
7. Jones, B. (2004) The Tucson Show: A fifty-year history. Mineralogical Record special supplement, Mineralogical Record., Tucson, AZ.
8. Mollfulleda, J. (1979) Quién es: El Dr. D. Joaquím Folch i Girona.. Grup Mineralògic Català 5, pp. 14-17.
9. Montgomery, A. (1971) Friends of Mineralogy. The Folch-Girona collection.. Mineralogical Record 2:1, pp. 32-34. 14
10. Sanchis, J. M. and Piña, F. (2003) Joaquín Folch Girona, industrial y apasionado de los minerales (I).. Bocamina 12, pp. 84-105.
11. Sanchis, J. M. and Piña, F. (2004) Joaquín Folch Girona, industrial y apasionado de los minerales (II).. Bocamina 13, pp. 70-85.
12. Tomàs, L. (1919) Els minerals de Catalunya, Treballs de la Institució Catalana d'Historia Natural., Barcelona.
13. Wilson, W. E. (1984) Died, Joaquín Folch y Girona, 91.. Mineralogical Record 15:4, pp. 50.
Carles Curto Milà is the curator of mineralogy at the Museum de Ciències Naturals de Barcelona, Spain.
Jordi Fabre i Fornaguera (better known to mineral collectors as Jordi Fabre) is a well-known international mineral dealer.
Become a Subscriber