2019 Yale Mineral and Gem Symposium - Abstracts


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Minerals with Type Localities in Saxony, Germany

Andreas Massanek

Geoscientific Collections, TU Bergakademie (Mining Academy), Freiberg, Germany


Saxony is considered the birthplace of mineralogy. Georgius Agricola laid its foundations in the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains) of Central Europe. Since the founding of the Bergakademie in Freiberg, the oldest surviving institution of its kind in the world, prominent mineral scientists have been teaching and conducting research in Saxony. Abraham Gottlob Werner, Friedrich Mohs, August Breithaupt, and Albin Weisbach discovered many new minerals there, spurring the development of mineralogy. Since the 19th century well over 200 new mineral species were described from Saxony, although about half were later discredited. Extensive research and analysis were needed to identify these minerals and their history, with names no longer in use, or that have since been discredited.

The exciting history of minerals with Saxon roots was compiled by Thomas Witzke, Klaus Thalheim, and Andreas Massanek in Erzgebirge—Minerale mit einer Typlokalität in Sachsen, the first volume of Sachsen-Schätze (Saxony Treasures) (BODE, 2018), a German-language series about minerals from the Ore Mountains. This book, eagerly awaited by collectors, is a milestone in the history of Saxon mineralogy. It is the standard work on the history of discoveries and first descriptions of mineral species and type localities from Saxony. Among the minerals discussed are not merely “classics” like pyromorphite, erythrite, kermesite, miargyrite, walpurgite, and eulytine, but also rarities such as neustädtelite, pyrostilpnite, rappoldite, schlemaite, and sphaerocobaltite, to name but a few.



U.S. Mica Industry Pioneers: The Ruggles and Bowers Families

Fred E. Davis

Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History volunteer, New Haven, CT, USA


Much has been written about the U.S. mica industry, but precious little about its origins. This historical neglect is further compounded by the repetition (to the point of appearing as fact) of myths and legends about Sam Ruggles, who established the first commercial mica mine in the United States.  The historical record almost entirely ignores Ruggles’ only decades-long major competitor, James Bowers, a New Hampshire farmer who loved collecting minerals and discovered a market to sell them. A unique and rare artifact in the Yale Peabody Museum mineralogy collection provided the key that unlocked this forgotten history. The businesses begun by Ruggles and Bowers were carried on by many family members and descendants over several generations. Discovering these family trees proved crucial to correctly identify the cast of characters in this hidden history.


The Pocket Laboratory: The Blowpipe in Eighteenth-Century Swedish Chemistry

Dr. Charlotte A. Abney Salomon

Science History Institute, Philadelphia, PA, USA


The assayer’s blowpipe was key to the identification of several new elements by Swedish mineralogical chemists during the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth. These chemists relied on the handheld blowpipe specifically, a tool that made basic dry chemical analysis portable, cheap, and quick. Although well known to individuals abroad, only in Sweden was use of the assayer’s blowpipe already ubiquitous across the chemical and mineralogical research community. This shared use was crucial to the development of domestic mineral analysis projects, first by facilitating the adoption of a system defining minerals by their chemical components and mineralogy by chemical analysis, and second by providing a simple and practical method for that analysis that facilitated collaboration across institutions, physical distance, and time.

This talk is based on Abney Salomon’s February 2019 article in Ambix.


The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum: A New Endeavor in Bethel, Maine

Dr. Carl A. Francis

Maine Mineral and Gem Museum, Bethel, ME, USA


The Maine Mineral and Gem Museum is in western Maine, where pegmatites were mined for feldspar, beryl, and mica, and where gemstones and minerals are still found. The museum was founded by Dr. Lawrence Stifler and his wife Mary McFadden to preserve and exhibit Maine’s best minerals and gems. In development for about a decade, the museum is expected to open in 2019.


The ambitious exhibits of the new museum include displays about Maine geology and mining statewide, pegmatites and local mining, and collections of Maine minerals and gems. Also featured are a diorama of a pegmatite with gem pockets, the Discovery Gallery with extensive open storage of collections, and an outdoor rock garden. The exhibits incorporate many audiovisual and interactive components. The scope of the museum has expanded far beyond the original vision to include a research laboratory and the internationally important Stifler Collection of Meteorites.


Forensic Mineralogy: Examples in Wire Gold and Silver

Dr. John Rakovan

Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA


Much more common in silver than in gold, the unusual morphology know as a “wire” can resemble the finest of threads to the strongest of ropes. Although they have adorned the shelves of mineral collections for centuries, very little was known about wire specimens until recently. Are they single crystals or bundles of many fibrous crystals? How do they grow? Some have suggested extrusion. Answers to these questions and discovery of unexpected and yet unexplained compositions have resulted from our work. The study has included some of the finest known examples of wire silver and gold and has used some of the world’s most powerful scientific instruments. This talk presents the findings of this research along with photographs of these spectacular and enigmatic specimens.


The History of Oxygen on Earth: Vanadium’s Story

Dr. Elizabeth Cottrell

National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, USA


Vanadium is an elemental chimera. It can exist in four different oxidation states in planetary materials depending on the oxidizing or reducing nature of its environment. Vanadium’s diversity leads to visually stunning mineralogy, but also great scientific insight. This presentation is a look at how we use vanadium as a deep Earth oxygen sensor and what we have learned from it about Earth’s present and past environments.



Collecting Geode Minerals in the American Midwest

Terry E. Huizing

Rocks & Minerals Magazine
Cincinnati Museum Center, Cincinnati, OH, USA


A variety of spheroidal sedimentary structures from the American Midwest have been regarded as great curiosities. These rounded objects differ so much from the flat and layered rocks that host them that some have been given special names: nodules, concretions, septaria, agates, and geodes. This talk is on geodes, perhaps the most interesting to the collector, because their often hollow centers can contain the surprise of beautiful and well-crystallized minerals.


Midwestern geodes differ, and are easily separable, from the carbonate rocks in which they occur. Geodes have an often thin, dense outer layer of microcrystalline, fibrous quartz (chalcedony) that is typically, but not always, followed by an interior layer of white, interlocking, mosaic-textured crystalline quartz, and finally by a center of inward-pointing quartz crystals. If growth stops early, that center remains open, providing space for other minerals to crystallize.


Unique in the World: Three Mineralogical Exhibitions of International Standing in One City

Andreas Massanek

Geoscientific Collections, TU Bergakademie (Mining Academy), Freiberg, Germany


The exhibition “terra mineralia” opened at Freudenstein Castle in Freiberg for a broad audience in October 2008. Its more than 3,500 minerals, precious stones, and meteorites take visitors on a mineralogical tour around the world. In October 2012, the exhibition “Mineralogical Collection Germany” opened at the Krügerhaus, next to Freudenstein Castle, putting about 1,000 pieces of minerals from German localities on display. The main lender for both exhibitions is the Pohl-Ströher Mineral Foundation. The one millionth visitor was welcomed in February 2019. Along with the more than 250-year-old systematic collection of the TU Bergakademie on view in the Abraham Gottlob Werner Building, Freiberg thus has three mineralogical exhibitions of international standing. These complement one another and are only a few hundred meters apart. The realization of the new exhibitions was only possible because the TU Bergakademie and its collections enjoy an excellent international reputation.



Keynote Address: Gems and the Scientific Revolution

Dr. Michael T. Bycroft

University of Warwick, Coventry, UK


Gems were at the heart of the transformation in natural knowledge that happened in Europe between 1500 and 1800. Historians of the scientific revolution have overlooked these objects, perhaps because of their association with magic and lapidary medicine, and perhaps also because gemology is rarely taught in faculties of science in Western universities. Yet gems played a decisive role in early modern chemistry, mineralogy, crystallography, and experimental physics. The same period saw a rapid expansion in gem collecting, the cutting and polishing industry, and the global gem trade. Consequently, the study of the gems sheds much light on the origins of modern science, and especially on the role of craft, commerce, and collecting in the emergence of new ideas about the natural world.



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