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September-October 2012

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Who's Who in Mineral Names: Karl-Ludwig von Bezing (b. 1945)

Vonbezingite, Ca6 Cu3(SO4)3(OH)12 · 2H2O, is a rare mineral from the Wessels mine in the Kalahari manganese field, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Originally described as a new species in 1992, it remains, to date, unique to the locality. It was discovered in 1986 in a single cavity together with bultfonteinite, calcite, gypsum, barite, and sturmanite, with sturmanite being the most abundant associated species. Vonbezingite occurs as bright blue monoclinic crystals to 3 cm, hence the initial supposition that the crystals were azurite (Dai and Harlow 1992). The type material is housed in the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, catalogue number T100748. It was named in honor of Dr. Karl-Ludwig von Bezing, medical practitioner, radiologist, artist, and mineral collector, specializing in minerals from the Kalahari manganese field, who provided the samples that were used to identify vonbezingite.

Karl-Ludwig “Ludi” von Bezing was born in 1945 in postwar Klagenfurt, Austria, and his parents emigrated in 1949 to South Africa and settled on a farm close to Lydenburg in the Eastern Transvaal Province, now called Mpumalanga Province. Von Bezing started mineral collecting at the tender age of ten, but because there were not many interesting mineral localities nearby, particularly collecting sites, he took an avid interest in archeology, especially as numerous stone-age tools are found in the area. When he was only sixteen, he made the internationally important discovery of the now-famous (in African art) Lydenburg Heads. These are terra-cotta masks that date to 1500 b.p. and have remained unique in southern Africa (see von Bezing and Inskeep 1966 in bibliography).

Dr. Bruce Cairncross, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, is head of the Department of Geology at the University of Johannesburg.

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