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July-August 2010

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Flying Jewels: A Celebration of Color and Pattern in the Mineral and Insect Kingdoms

Many of us who are avid mineral collectors consider visual aesthetics to be a prime factor in the selection of our specimens, crystals, or polished rock slices. Who hasn't admired the beautiful colors of a fine tourmaline or wulfenite, the iridescence of polished labradorite, or the play of pattern and color in an agate slice? Even in more mundane rocks, the patterns formed by mineral inclusions, crystal structures, and layered sediments are often eye-catching in their symmetry and color variations. The insect world is equally beautiful and varied in color and form, perhaps no more so than in the wings of exotic butterflies and moths. The carapaces of tropical beetles, as well, can be jewel-like, and some of these “flying jewels” have indeed been worn by humans as ornaments.

In October 2009, the crowds at the annual Munich mineral show were treated to a first look at a very special collection that closely pairs the colors, textures, and patterns of the mineral kingdom to their counterparts in the insect world. The result is a beautiful and sometimes breath-taking exhibition of how form, pattern, and color are echoed throughout nature, as even the tarnishing and annealing colors of many ore minerals, sulfides, oxides, and metals are matched with nearly identical displays throughout the insect world.

Joan Kureczka is a longtime mineral collector, writer, and partner in UK Mining Ventures.

Dr. Ulrich Burchard is an exploration geologist, dealer in minerals and historic scientific instruments, and author of Mineral Museums of Europe (Walnut Hill Publishing, 1986) and various articles on mineralogical instruments.

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