Welcome to the minerals of China

Welcome to the minerals of China

Robert B. Cook

The sleeping giant has awakened. What did any of us know about Chinese minerals two short decades ago? There was Chinese cinnabar pictured in Dr. Pough’s book (A Field Guide to Rocks and Minerals), and then there was that Chinese cinnabar so wonderful and so rare that we had seen somewhere, sometime, and then there was also, well, did I mention cinnabar? Actually, we knew nothing beyond a few photos and a sentence or two about a single species, and even less if we tried to read the confusing technical literature. A trickle of azurite roses and an occasional newly mined cinnabar could be seen in the mid-1980s; suddenly spectacular and plentiful realgars and orpiments appeared in about 1987. Then, at the 1988 Denver Gem and Mineral Show, dealer Doug Parson’s room was a veritable museum of exquisite Chinese specimens that represented a surprisingly diverse suite of localities and species. This seemed to mark the opening of what at times appeared to be a rather large floodgate, one barely able to hold back a vast reservoir of exciting specimens, most of which are presently coming from only a relatively small part of this mineral-rich country. Today many dealers’ shelves boast fine Chinese minerals, and a number of entrepreneurs make regular buying trips to what has become a mineral-specimen center, the city of Chenzhou in Hunan Province. Major mineral shows now have rooms and booths devoted exclusively to Chinese minerals. It seems only fitting, therefore, that Chinese minerals have been chosen as the theme for the 2005 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, continuing the regional theme that has included Russia, Africa, and the Andes. The show promises to be the best yet, with spectacular noncompetitive and competitive exhibits; a wide variety of mineral, gem, and jewelry dealers; annual meetings of various societies and support groups; and the traditional technical symposium sponsored by the Mineralogical Society of America, the Friends of Mineralogy, and the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society.

The list of fine Chinese mineral localities represented in current dealers’ stocks is impressive. Fluorite alone can be seen from a variety of localities producing spectacular specimens that include mines at Xianghualing, Xianghuapu, Dangshan, Ruyan, Yaogangxian, Shangbao, and Taolin, and these represent localities only in Hunan Province. What may well be the world’s premier scheelite and cassiterite locality, the occurrence at Xuebaoding, Sichuan Province, continues to be the source of spectacular specimens of these minerals as well as exceptional tabular goshenites. Who can forget the stirs of a few years ago when the wonderful calcite twins from Leiping or the incredible pyromorphite from the Daoping and Yangshuo mines in Guangxi Province first reached the market. Garnet lovers continue to swoon over the exceptional spessartine and quartz specimens from Tongbei in southern Fujian Province. Even collectible new minerals have made recent appearances, including hubeiite and associated inesite from the Fengjiashan wollastonite mine at Daye, Hubei Province. For quartz lovers there is the seemingly endless supply of wonderful quartz and hematite specimens from Jinlong, Guangdong Province, and the limpid quartz crystals from the Leshan area, Hunan. And, of course, there are spectacular stibnite localities including those at Lengshuijiang, Yuanling, Yungding, and Xikuangshan in Hunan Province and the well-known mine at Wuning in Jiangxi Province. Cinnabar has become almost an afterthought despite the fact that the famous mines in Wanshan County, Guizhau Province, and similar occurrences in adjacent Hunan Province are still productive. Even the arsenic mine at Shimen, Hunan Province, is still the source of minor amounts of good realgar, orpiment, and calcite. This list could, of course, continue for several pages. These examples should, however, be sufficient to focus our attention on the business at hand–Chinese minerals.

As in the past, this issue of Rocks & Minerals is developed around the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show theme. Several fine articles have been contributed that include descriptions of the classic tungsten deposit at Yaogangxian, the fluorite occurrences in the Xianghualing and Xianghuapu mines, and the Liannan Yao mimetite locality. Other articles describe world-class bournonite, unusual quartz occurrences, and a mineral collector’s first trip to China. There is even a discussion of metasomatism–a process dear to those interested in Chinese mineral occurrences. Finally, there is a media review of one of the few sources of accurate Chinese mineral data, Ottens’s Fascination of the Minerals from China. Read on. China awaits you. And there will be more articles on Chinese minerals in the March/April issue.

Robert B. Cook

Executive Editor, Rocks & Minerals

COPYRIGHT 2005 Heldref Publications

COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group