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November-December 2010

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Jordi Fabre i Fornaguera, Collector of the Exquisite

Caption: Jordi Fabre enjoying his mineral collection. Carmen Gimeno photo.

Caption: Jordi Fabre enjoying his mineral collection. Carmen Gimeno photo.

Although Spain has historically been a country with little tradition of private mineral collections, over the past few decades this has changed. There has been a significant growth in mineral collections recently, a number of which are considered notable. As a whole, these collections create a well-documented, consistent, and strong mineralogical foundation.

Beginning in the 1970s, almost as an island in the middle of the ocean, the Joaquín Folch Girona collection began to fill many of the gaps in the country's mineralogical vacuum. The opportunity for visits and the ability to solicit information about the collection allowed the first generation of collectors to appear, which resulted in a number of modern collections, such as that of Josep Cervelló Bach (now in the Natural History Museum of Barcelona) and that of Josep Vilaseca (which has since been dispersed). A second group of very young collectors formed around the Folch collection and was influenced by his collecting criteria. Each of these young collectors then started to create their own style and direction, building a solid knowledge and interest that became the basis for a range of collections, reflecting their personalities and development. Jordi Fabre was one of those youths.

This article reflects my personal view of the Fabre collection, so it is understandably biased. The text is not fully tied to the images, whose selection was left up to the collector. Thus, two separate views are presented, which we hope adds depth to the article.

The Collector

Jordi Fabre i Fornaguera (known to most collectors as simply Jordi Fabre) was born in Barcelona on 22 April 1957. Initially, he had a normal youngster's fascination with minerals. However, this fascination continued to grow and led him to create a major private collection, with about two thousand specimens, which he actively maintains and is very much a reflection of his exquisite taste in minerals.

From the beginning, Fabre was keen on self-collected material found in the more accessible Spanish localities. At this stage he was able to see and compare what he found to the Folch collection, to which he also supplied a significant number of specimens. Through this process he acquired a wide variety of species from various localities, enabling him to form a collection nucleus that was already based on excellent criteria.

It wasn't long before Fabre made the decision to become a mineral dealer, allowing him to increase the geographical range of the localities where he collected and to visit nearby countries on a frequent basis. At the same time, he established strong relationships with well-known collectors and museum curators, thus gaining an even wider range of views on collecting styles and interests.

Making minerals his profession did not mean that he had to give up his collection; in fact the opposite was true. Working in the mineral business and building a collection at the same time might seem easy. But in order to earn a living, Fabre cannot keep all the best specimens for himself. He resolved this by collecting from just four countries and using a very strict selection process that is reflected in the overall quality of the collection and in each and every one of the specimens. It is interesting to note that, in his commercial dealings, Fabre has worked only with specimens that he personally likes or finds mineralogically interesting. The quality of Fabre's specimens is reflected in their numerous appearances in books and journal articles worldwide (the bibliography lists some of the more significant ones).

Caption: Anglesite with cerussite, 4.3 cm high, from shaft IX, Touissit, Oujda, Morocco; mined ca. 1995. Jeff Scovil photo.

Caption: Anglesite with cerussite, 4.3 cm high, from shaft IX, Touissit, Oujda, Morocco; mined ca. 1995. Jeff Scovil photo.

The Collection

Perhaps the first thing one notices about the Fabre collection—which is focused geographically on Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and, to a lesser degree, France—is a certain ambivalence, which is as puzzling as it is interesting. The collection is divided into two well-defined parts: the specimens that are on display in cabinets and the reserve collection that is kept in boxes and drawers. The documentation of the collection is excellent. Apart from the species and locality information for the wide range of material present, there is an appropriate chemical analysis for many specimens whose identity may be in doubt.

Each specimen has its history: sometimes painful and sometimes funny. On the humorous side is the purchase of a large, very fine, zoned-blue fluorite from the first finds in La Viesca–La Collada. The owner of the specimen was named Roberto, a countryman who at one time worked in the La Viesca quarry and was fortunate to collect this superb specimen. Fabre was aware of it and visited Roberto, even though he knew Roberto didn't want to sell the specimen, considering it as a kind of “familiar patrimony.” Fabre wasn't deterred, however, and on each trip to Asturias he visited Roberto. They talked about the weather, the cows, the price of animal feed, the family—everything. And each time, they revisited the subject of the fluorite, to find out if Roberto was ready to sell the specimen. Roberto always kept the specimen well-wrapped in numerous towels and in a bed of straw. After seven years and more than twenty-five “social visits,” Roberto finally sold him the specimen. Fabre believes that Roberto was just exhausted from so many discussions about the weather, the cows, the price of the animal feed, and the family. Sometimes perseverance has its rewards.

Another fluorite specimen has a not-so-funny story. The fluorites from the Josefa-Veneros mine, La Collada, are great Spanish classics and are highly coveted. Because some miners still had a few specimens from when they worked in the mine, Fabre was doing some sleuthing and visiting those miners to find out if some “old glory” was unearthed. One of the more coveted specimens was hidden away, and after several years of investigation, Fabre learned the name and address of the owner of this great fluorite. Of course, he immediately hurried there, only to discover that the miner had already sold the rock to a local collector just a half hour before Fabre's arrival (and for a very cheap price). It was a huge disappointment that after all those years of searching, the trophy was harvested by a casual visitor just thirty minutes before he got there!

The Display

The display cases are reserved for specimens that have been selected using a very strict process. Each specimen occupies its own space in such a way as to not visually overlap the others and seems to have been through a stringent “quality control” test such that it is memorable for visitors. The selection of every piece never seems to be whimsical; it is always interesting and reflects clear, tangible motives.

There are currently five cases in which specimens are clearly displayed, with sufficient space between so features specific to each can be seen. The first case contains high-quality specimens from Spain, Portugal, Morocco, and France. Next are four more cases, in a row: the first dedicated to Spanish minerals; two to Portugal; and the fourth to Morocco. In these displays the size of the specimens does not follow any strict rule, but they are mainly cabinet-sized with a number of miniatures.

Spain

The coverage of the Spanish species is extremely varied, but the splendid suite of specimens from Asturias stands out (fluorite, barite, calcite, and quartz, among others). Above all one is drawn to the series of fluorites from La Collada and Berbes, as well to a number of extraordinary specimens from the Emilio mine, with typical tetrahexahedral crystals that are transparent, brilliant, and in a few instances, pale blue in color. The specimens from the short-lived finds made at the La Parilla mine in 1986 should be pointed out, especially a dipyramidal orange scheelite with a group of well-defined prismatic cassiterite crystals, and two more excellent cassiterites, both on a quartz matrix (fig. 15).

Apart from these localities, the collection is especially rich in classic Spanish material, including dolomites from Eugui (Navarre), sphalerites from the Picos de Europa (Cantabria), and cinnabars from Almadén. (To read the story of how the cinnabars from Almadén were added to the Jordi Fabre collection, go to <<http://www.mineral-forum.com/message-board/viewtopic.php?t=116>>.)

Portugal

The Fabre collection shows the splendor of the mineralogy of the Panasqueira mines, one of the highlights of a mineralogical feast that is already exemplary. In the display, specimens of fluorapatite show all the richness in color, form, and paragenesis typical of this locality. I point out, in particular, an exceptional group of violet crystals, and another group of lilac-colored crystals on a matrix of muscovite with quartz and arsenopyrite. Green fluorapatite is also represented, in a full range of color intensities, as well as a range of transparency, zoning, and terminations. A group of prismatic crystals—many doubly terminated, with extraordinary brilliance and color—is particularly appealing.

Cassiterite is another mineral that is well represented. In my opinion, the best specimens are a miniature with a superb complete dipyramidal cyclic twin that is aesthetically placed on its matrix, and a group of twinned translucent crystals whose matrix is a group of quartz crystals.

There are specimens of siderite with large crystals in a variety of forms, from lenticular to prismatic, and often with bright areas of color. Also exceptional are the specimens of ferberite, some in groups or large crystals, along with other excellent miniatures with twins and complex terminations that are rarely seen.

To complete the Panasqueira display, examples of arsenopyrite, pyrite, and chalcopyrite are included (among them is what must be one of the best crystals of the species found at this locality; see fig. 39).

Caption: Doubly terminated azurite with malachite, 9 cm wide, from shaft IX, Touissit, Oujda, Morocco; mined 1999. Jeff Scovil photo.

Caption: Doubly terminated azurite with malachite, 9 cm wide, from shaft IX, Touissit, Oujda, Morocco; mined 1999. Jeff Scovil photo.

Morocco

Morocco is also represented by superb specimens, especially from the classic localities. Touissit is honored by magnificent specimens of azurite, with a notable specimen consisting of a group of crystals with one well-formed, large, doubly terminated crystal (fig. 10). There are various specimens of anglesite, one of which, a beautiful miniature (fig. 2), is particularly appealing for its aesthetic form and its crystalline perfection, brilliance, and dark yellow color.

There is no lack of phosgenite samples, one of which has a very large crystal and another a small pocket with fine, transparent crystals having a dark color and intense brilliance. Cerussite, another classic for this locality, is also well represented by a specimen with a prismatic, doubly terminated twin on matrix. I should also mention two excellent examples of white, prismatic crystals of the lead-rich variety of aragonite, tarnowitzite, as well as a crystal of paralaurionite that is one of the largest known on matrix from Touissit.

The final part of our visit to Morocco includes two excellent specimens of vanadinite from Mibladen, roselites, roselite-betas, talmessites, and three pieces of wendwilsonite that have all been fully confirmed by analysis, as well as erythrites and a high-quality skutterudite, all from Bou Azzer.

France

Although French localities may not seem to be as well represented as the other countries, quickly catching the eye is a splendid pink fluorite from the Alps, one of the best pyromorphites from Les Farges that I have had the pleasure to hold (fig. 13), and an exceptional 6.2-cm crystal of stolzite from the Sainte Lucie mine, Lozère. The crystal, apart from its size, is a translucent orange, and the tip is almost transparent.

It is also worth mentioning some examples of rare-earth species from Trimouns. Among the notable are an excellent 1-cm-long transparent parisite-(Ce) with great color (fig. 27), a perfectly crystallized synchysite-(Ce), and a hingganite-(Y) (fig. 19) that must be among the best ever found.

The Reserve Collection

In contrast to the carefully selected specimens in the display cases, an initial look at the large number of pieces in the boxes and drawers suggests that many of them also deserve to be displayed. There is just not enough space in the cases. So, as one might guess, Fabre is planning to add more display cases in the near future.

The reserve material also shows another aspect of the collection. These specimens seem to have been freed from the strict dictates of the displays and are therefore less constrained, more varied, and, if you will forgive the expression, more “sentimental.” This part of the collection is particularly rich in rare minerals, from a systematic, crystallographic, and morphologic point of view. But what is particularly interesting is the large number of classic localities represented as well as some others that are really unusual or surprising, especially for Spain and Morocco.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I particularly thank James Catmur for translating the article into English and John S. White for reviewing it. Thanks are also extended to photographers Jeff Scovil, Jordi Deusedes, Louis-Domique Bayle, and Roberto Appiani, and to Jordi Deusedes for arranging the superb digital images. Finally, I thank Carmen Gimeno for her infinite patience and warm hospitality while I had the pleasure of many visits to see the collection, and I also thank Jordi Fabre for his assistance.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

This section includes a non-exhaustive but reasonably complete list of some of the places where photos of specimens from the Fabre collection can be found.

1. Azevedo, R. P. and Calvo, M. (1997) Panasqueira: Mineralogía, pp. 12-27. Bocamina, num. esp.

2. Azevedo, R. P. and Sáinz de Baranda, B. (1997a) Panasqueira: Geología, pp. 6-11. Bocamina, num. esp.

3. Azevedo, R. P. (1997b) Panasqueira: Historia, pp. 34-41. Bocamina, num. esp.

4. Barrientos, L. and Cuesta, J. M. (2007) Mina “La Viesca,” La Collada, Asturias.. Bocamina 19, pp. 36-70.

5. Calvo, G. and Calvo, M. (2006) Fluorite from Spain: Every color under the sun. Fluorite, 38–42. ExtraLapis English 9, Lithographie, LLC, East Hampton, CT.

6. Calvo, M. (2003a) Minerales y minas de España. Vol. 1: Elementos, Museo de Ciencias Naturales de Álava/Diputación Foral de Álava, Vitoria, Spain.

7. Calvo, M. (2003b) Minerales y minas de España. Vol. 2: Elementos, Museo de Ciencias Naturales de Álava/Diputación Foral de Álava, Vitoria, Spain.

8. Calvo, M. (2006) Minerales y minas de España. Vol. 3: Halogenuros, Museo de Ciencias Naturales de Álava/Diputación Foral de Álava, Vitoria, Spain.

9. Castro, A. M., Calvo, M., García, G. and Alonso, A. (2001) La mina de Reocín (Cantabria).. Bocamina 8, pp. 14-84.

10. Curto, C. and Fabre, J. (1992) Fluorite and associated minerals from Asturias, Spain.. Mineralogical Record 23:1, pp. 69-76.

11. De Ascençao Guedes, R. (2002) Le coteau minier de Panasqueira, Beira Baixa (Portugal).. Le Règne Minéral 43, pp. 6-32.

12. García García, G. (1996) La Unión: Excursiones mineras.. Bocamina 2, pp. 36-50.

13. García García, G., and M. Calvo. (1998) Yacimientos de Fluorita de Asturias: Mineralogía de los yacimientos de fluorita Asturiana.. Bocamina 3, pp. 34-59.

14. Gómez Díaz, F., Claverol, M. G., Luque, C. and Calvo, M. (2006) La mina de Áliva: La blenda acaramelada de los Picos de Europa.. Bocamina 17, pp. 28-112.

15. Gumiel, P. and Campos, R. (2000) La Parrilla: El mejor ejemplo de filones mineralizados en scheelita de la Península Ibérica.. Bocamina 6, pp. 8-27.

16. Gutiérrez Claverol, M., Luque, C., Cabal, J. R., Álvarez, García and Rodríguez Terence, L. M. (2009) Fluorita: Un siglo de minería en Asturias, Published by the authors, Oviedo, Spain.

17. Lebrun, P., Cesbron, F., Le Cléac'h, J.-M. and Ledocey, J. (2009) Minéraux uraniferes: Uraninite et minéraux d'uranium dérivés ou associés.. Mineraux & Fossiles, hors-série 28, pp. 1-176.

18. Maturana, S. and Hernández, A. (1995) Almadén del azogue.. Bocamina 1, pp. 38-64.

19. Ramos, I., Palero, F. J. and Peña, J. (2006) La mina San Andrés.. Bocamina 18, pp. 14-83.

20. Sáinz de Baranda, B. and García García, G. (2004) The Picos de Europa lead-zinc deposits, Spain.. Mineralogical Record 27:3, pp. 177-88.

21. Sáinz de Baranda, B., Palero, F. J. and García García, G. (2004) El Horcajo: Las piromorfitas más famosas del mundo.. Bocamina 13, pp. 30-68.

Carles Curto Mila has been the curator of mineralogy at the Natural History Museum of Barcelona, in Spain, since 1973.

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