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November-December 2017

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Connoisseur's Choice: Sugilite, Wessels Mine, Kalahari Manganese Field, Northern Cape Province, South Africa

Purple is a relatively uncommon color in the mineral world, and one of the most recognizable purple species is sugilite. It is also one of the minerals that occurs in both massive form, used extensively in the lapidary and jewelry trade (Henn 1986; Shigley, Koivula, and Fryer 1987) and as crystals. Good crystals of sugilite are rarer than the massive variety. They seldom exceed a few millimeters and are one of the most prized collector rarities. Another interesting aspect of sugilite is that although the type-locality is Iwagi Island, Ehime Prefecture, Japan, by far the world's largest deposit of sugilite is in the Kalahari manganese field in South Africa and in one mine in particular, the Wessels mine (Dixon 1985). If it were not for the South African deposits, sugilite would be considered a rare mineral. 


Dr. Bruce Cairncross, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, is a professor of geology at the University of Johannesburg.

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