Cerussite (red) with Bayldonite and Calcite
Smithsonite with Hydrocerussite
Calcite with Cuprite inclusions
Malachite on Dolomite
Azurite on Cerussite
Cuprite on Copper
The Tsumeb Mine is arguably the finest mineral locality ever discovered. The ore-body produced a diverse range of specimens and spectacular crystals which were, and still are, sought after world-wide.
This website says of the Tsumeb orebody:
"Tsumeb offers one of the greatest varieties of mineral assemblages known. It produced 247 known species, plus 24 species still under investigation.
Of the minerals discovered in Tsumeb, 45 are known to occur solely there. But not only the rare finds boast of superlatives. The crystallization of most minerals is so perfect and aesthetic that 68 species from Tsumeb display the finest crystals known from any deposit.
Many localities have produced specimens generally considered to be the finest of the species ever found. However, most of the localities are known only for one or two species of this quality.
In comparison, Tsumeb exhibits more outstanding mineral specimens than most localities even contain minerals. These minerals provide the quality benchmark for every collector."
As I explained in an earlier post, I worked as a miner for 12 years at the Tsumeb Mine and during that time I was privileged to see many examples of these spectacular crystals.
I've stood in vugs surrounded by crystals, jewels glittering in my headlamp. I've seen men shiver with greed, fight over and risk their lives to get them - 'crystal fever' - and in truth, I was also overwhelmed on occasion, though not to the extreme I've just described.
The removal of mineral specimens was always a murky and controversial issue. Although it was considered theft and people could be fired if caught, everyone from laborers to managers carried them out.
There was a constant stream of European and American buyers in town, offering big bucks for top pieces.
The official policy was that the purpose of the mine was to mine ore, not preserve mineral specimens but, if found, miners were 'expected' to save and hand them over to the 'Company', so that they could be sold on auction - with no reward to the finder.
This presented a problem to those who also appreciated the specimens for their aesthetic value - it was unthinkable to just leave these unique crystals to be dumped into an ore-pass, to be destroyed in the crushers.
On the other hand, if they were handed over to the company, the best pieces would be skimmed off by greedy hands long before they reached any auction.
Today, twelve years years after the closure of the Tsumeb mine, the saddest aspect is that there are very few spectacular specimens in Namibia itself - most are to be found in private collections and museums overseas.
The first image is from the Sussman Collection and the rest from the John Schneider Collection - more specimens via Arkenstone Fine Minerals
All photos in this post by John Schneider.