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September-October 2016

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Connoisseur's Choice: Ajoite, Messina Mine, Musina, Limpopo Province, South Africa

It might seem strange to begin a description of ajoite by first referring to quartz, but the reason will become obvious. Some collectors (and dealers) do not consider quartz even collectible because it is such a common mineral and therefore might be viewed as boring or irrelevant to an advanced collector or high-end mineral dealer. What elevates some quartz specimens, however, is the presence of inclusions, be they fluid, vapor or solid minerals, or combinations thereof. It is the last that comes into play when one examines quartz originating from the Messina mine in South Africa. (Note that the town where the mine existed was originally named Messina but was renamed Musina after the 1994 political dispensation in South Africa. The registered mine name remains Messina.) Since the early 1950s, the Messina mine has produced spectacular specimens of ajoite-included quartz that, arguably, reached a zenith in the mid-1980s. Even so, the original type-locality specimens from the New Cornelia mine, Pima County, Arizona, in the United States have provided the best examples of well-crystallized ajoite, albeit small (less than 5-mm) bladed crystals. These two localities and the handful of others that exist worldwide, are described here, but the Messina mine specimen illustrated as figure 1 is a fine example of material originating from the South African locality.

Dr. Bruce Cairncross is a professor of geology at the University of Johannesburg and a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals. He has been collecting southern African minerals for more than forty years and has published several books on the region's minerals and mineral localities.       

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