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September-October 2016

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Mineral Mysteries: Crystal Faces on Etched Crystals

Most mineral collectors today are, I feel certain, quite familiar with the extensively etched and gemmy spessartines (a garnet species) from the Navegadora claim, Conselheiro Pena, Minas Gerais, Brazil (fig. 1), as well as the extensively etched and very gemmy beryls, variety heliodor, from the huge mine complex at Volodarsk-Volynskii, Zhytomyr Oblast, Ukraine (fig. 2). My certainty in believing this derives from the fact that these localities, both pegmatites, have been extraordinarily productive. Thousands of the spessartines have appeared in the mineral market and perhaps as many of the heliodors have also been marketed, a large portion of which unfortunately have been cut into gemstones. Peter Lyckberg (pers. comm., January 2016) states that somewhere in the neighborhood of 2.5 tons of this beryl were produced from pegmatite No. 521 alone at the Ukraine mine, so excellent examples of both of these crystals grace many private and public mineral collections. A lesser-known occurrence of similarly etched spessartine—lesser-known because it was worked many years ago and was only moderately productive—is the Little Three mine, Ramona district, San Diego County, California (London et al. 2012).

John S. White, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, operates Kustos, a museum/collector consulting business. Now retired, he is the former curator-in-charge of the National Mineral and Gem Collection at the Smithsonian Institution.       

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