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November-December 2010

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Connoisseur's Choice: Tetrahedrite Cavnic, Romania

The minerals of the tennantite group are often denigrated as “black uglies,” yet they are not only important ores of copper and silver, they can also provide impressive and beautiful specimens for any connoisseur's cabinet. Indeed, although they are often black, they are far from ugly when crystallized, and an array of associated minerals helps to make tetrahedrite visually as well as intellectually stimulating. In fact, one of the fondest memories I have of my nascent collector years is the first time I was able look at and hold a specimen of tetrahedrite. The father of one of my friends worked at the local college and was able to arrange a meeting with one of the geology professors and a tour of their collections. The specimen was no doubt small, but in the fullness of time and mellowing of memory sizes are exaggerated, and I remember it as a giant, superb example of the mineral. It was from Saxony, Germany, and was to me at that time a thing of beauty and awe, but now, given my more refined tastes, I realize it was beaten up and part of an old college teaching collection. Yet the natural tetrahedral black crystals on the pale brown siderite matrix absolutely captivated me then, and tetrahedrite continues to do so to this day. So it is fitting that I take this opportunity as guest columnist to write about this fascinating mineral.

Paul W. Pohwat is the collections manager in the Department of Mineral Sciences at the National Museum of Natural History.

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