The Exciting World of Fine Mineral Specimens

Modified: April 2011
by Steve Behling; Collector's Edge

Fine mineral specimens are nature's sculptures. These fantastic, naturally occurring works of art are not cut or polished by man. They come in an unending variety of shapes, colors, and crystal arrangements, with no two pieces ever looking exactly the same.

Highly collectible specimens are occasionally discovered in the earth by miners who are exploring for metallic ores and gemstone rough. Fine mineral specimens are exceptionally rare because the geologic conditions required for the formation of collectible mineral crystals are quite unusual in the earth's crust. The number of fine specimens is further limited because the vast majority of promising crystal pockets encountered are destroyed or damaged in the ore-mining processes.

Individuals who choose to collect fine mineral specimens have at their core an appreciation for a crystal's aesthetic beauty. Often, they also possess an intellectual curiosity about the formation of mineral crystals, a fascination with mining and exotic mining localities, and a passion for building a personally satisfying, valuable collection of these natural treasures. If that sounds like you, welcome to the world of fine mineral specimen collecting!

Fine Mineral Specimen Value Factors

Like fine art, truly fine mineral specimens are prized for their aesthetic qualities and/or for their scientific or historical importance. The aesthetic appreciation of a mineral specimen requires no scientific knowledge whatsoever; it is based solely on visual appeal.

Collecting mineral specimens will seem quite comfortable to individuals who collect fine gemstones, where characteristics like color, cut, clarity, and carat weight are used as the "yardsticks" by which quality is measured. A very similar set of characteristics is utilized to evaluate quality in mineral specimens. The six factors that a fine mineral specimen should possess are:

good crystal form and size
vibrant colors and/or exceptional luster for darker-colored, metallic species
transparency or translucency (exclusive of some opaque species like gold, silver, copper, and the majority of the metallic minerals)
relative freedom from external damage
an aesthetic arrangement of the individual crystals composing the specimen
rarity

Great mineral specimens have been given honored places in all of the world's natural history museums. Mineral specimens are the Rembrandts, Michelangelos, and Picassos of the natural world!

Today's Fine Mineral Market

The collecting of natural mineral specimens dates back to man's earliest recorded history. Until these last few centuries, mineral collecting was considered to be the exclusive pursuit of aristocracy. Today, the collecting of fine mineral specimens has never been more popular. Thousands of collectors are acquiring mineral specimens to enjoy in their homes and offices. Fine mineral specimens are available in wide range of quality and price. In the market today, collectible mineral specimens can range in price from a few hundred dollars each to over a million dollars for the most exceptional pieces.

The variety, quality, and sheer number of fine mineral specimens available to collectors has never been greater. There are several reasons for this relative plenty. Because of the strong worldwide demand for collectible mineral specimens, traditional ore-mining companies are focusing more attention on preserving the aesthetically beautiful mineral specimens they encounter in their mining processes. Specialty mining groups have been formed around the globe that are successfully exploring exclusively for well-crystallized minerals that are being made available to collectors. Over the past several decades, improvements in specimen collecting, cleaning, and trimming techniques have "raised the bar" on specimen quality. As a result, there is a much higher percentage of aesthetically beautiful mineral specimens available in the market today than ever before.

There has never been a better time to collect fine mineral specimens. For the past several decades, the strong worldwide demand for quality mineral specimens has enabled individual collectors to build valuable collections easily. Over the past five years, the world's major auction houses have been holding more frequent, successful auctions of natural history collectibles, including mineral specimens, rare gemstones, and fossils. A whole new generation of avid mineral collectors is being cultivated by the availability of fine mineral specimens from on-line sources like Jewelry Television®. Serious collectors of fine minerals are being created in the rapidly growing economies of Asia and Europe. The market future looks quite bright for collectible mineral specimens.

Getting Started: Collecting Fine Mineral Specimens

Knowledge is the key to success in any endeavor. A knowledgeable collector is more at ease in making purchasing decisions and makes better specimen selections. Here are a few tips on easy ways to develop the skills needed to make wise, informed specimen purchases:

Visit your local natural history museum to view what these institutions consider to be specimens of exceptional aesthetic or scientific importance.
Select reading materials that discuss mineral specimens and the geologic processes that form them.
Subscribe to one or more of the popular magazines devoted to mineral collecting, such as Rocks & Minerals, The Mineralogical Record, and Gems & Minerals
Seek out your local gem and mineral society to socialize with the local collecting "experts" and hopefully view their personal collections.
Develop a strong relationship with a dealer of quality (like Jewelry Television®). JTV makes the buying decision easier by employing a staff of experts who acquire specimens of fine quality to present to collectors.

A new collector is faced with so many beautiful minerals from which to choose that it can be overwhelming instead of fun and exciting. It is useful to focus on one or two key areas of interest when starting to build a collection. There are an almost limitless number of focal points or "themes" that a beginning collector can pursue:

a specific mineral species (gold, tourmaline, etc.)
specimens of a particular size (very small, decorator size, very large)
specimens from a unique mining locality/country of origin
specimens all in your favorite color
minerals from across the United States
minerals from your home state or states in which you've lived or traveled
minerals with a common element (i.e. minerals that contain copper)

Taking the first step in any new experience is always the most difficult. Remember, collecting minerals should be fun! Your selections will reflect your own sense of aesthetic beauty, because mineral collecting is an intensely personal hobby. For your first mineral purchase, we suggest selecting a piece that is a joy for you to behold.

Whether you're new to fine mineral collecting or have already built a rewarding mineral collection, we know you'll enjoy browsing all of the Collectible Fine Mineral Specimens available on JTV.com.

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