My fascination with minerals and crystals began when I was intrigued by the glimmers and shimmers of sparkling quartz speckles on mundane granite stones in my home garden at the age of eight way back in the early 1980s. Initially, I had thought that they were diamonds lodged in rocks and had attempted to dig them out with pointy implements, with much futility I might add. You see, before all this, I was even more in love with diamonds, and had with me some artificial “diamonds” made out of cut glass which I used to carry around. Apparently, whoever said that thing about glitter and gold could very well have mentioned diamond as well!
A couple of years after, I came to realise what quartz crystals were, and hence began my foray into the appreciation of crystals (and minerals eventually) that continues to this day, over thirty years on. Today, I will be presenting my Crystal and Mineral Collection, including other items of relevant interest.
The Early Years
The first crystal which found its way into my possession was, not surprisingly, a quartz crystal. I had personally found this rather small clear twin-point quartz crystal lodged in some laterite soil off the hills in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, in 1990. I was then a student in early secondary school, and the extent of joy in this hobby was limited to just viewing of such crystals at shops and in books. Limited funds and small pocket allowance made it impossible to establish a collection. Mining and collecting them by hand was just equally challenging – even common quartz crystals were hard to come by where I live. The twin-point quartz mentioned earlier was sure a lucky find.
Establishing a Collection
Minerals today are usually classified based on the Strunz classification (10 groups), or the newer Dana system (78 classes).
For this article, my collection will be presented based on the older Dana classification (9 classes) as follows:
- I. Native Elements
- II. Sulphides and Sulphosalts
- III. Oxides and Hydroxides
- IV. Halides
- V. Carbonates, Nitrates and Borates
- VI. Sulphates, Chromates, Tungstates and Molybdates
- VII. Phosphates, Arsenates and Vanadates
- VIII. Silicates
- IX. Organic Minerals
Fast-forward 15 years later, I was earning a decent salary as an engineer, which saw an opportunity to initiate a collection. As expected, I started the collection with the many varieties of quartz crystals. My deep fascination with quartz crystals was not merely geological but also metaphysical. The collection eventually advanced on to other interesting specimens of crystals and minerals as well, as will be presented below.
At time of writing, my collection holds about 400 samples and specimens, made up of almost 200 different types of chemical make-up and composition. It would be quite a daunting task to exhibit them all below, and so I will present only the finer specimens from the collection. These are organised by the major chemical groups based on the older Dana classification which splits minerals into the nine groups as given in the inset box at left.
Here are about 120 geological specimens gathered from around the world, which now forms part of The Devon Buy Collection of Fine Minerals and Crystals:
I. Native Elements
While most minerals are composed of a combination of compounds and chemical make-up, about twenty minerals occur naturally in pure form, divided into three sub-groups: metals, semi-metals and non-metals. See if you can identify the metals from the non-metals below.
II. Sulphides and Sulphosalts
These are made from the element sulphur combined with a metal and include some of the most important metal ores. Generally heavy and brittle, many become oxides as soon as they are exposed to weather.
III. Oxides and Hydroxides
Oxides occur when a metal combines with oxygen, forming various physical attributes ranging from dull Tenorite and Limonite to sparkly gems like Rubies and Sapphires (when polished). Note that I prefer to collect specimens in their raw and natural (unpolished) state, and in my samples of ruby and sapphire below, they occur in the natural state as shown. Limonite is the only Hydroxide here.
Halides are minerals made up of metals that combine with halogen elements such as chlorine, fluorine, bromine and iodine. They are soft and dissolve easily in water, so extra care needs to be taken to keep them dry and away from moisture. Salts like Halite (first sample below) are hard to maintain in my humid country, and cannot simply be left on the shelf without drying agents or other appropriate dehumidification means.
V. Carbonates, Nitrates and Borates
Carbonates form when metals combine with a carbonate group (CO3) comprising of carbon and oxygen. Likewise for nitrates (NO3) and borates (BO3) – with nitrogen and boron. Calcite, which is calcium carbonate, is the most abundant under this classification, and gets a section of its own further below.
The Calcite Family
Calcite, like Quartz, forms a sizable part of my collection, and hence deserve a section of its own. Composed chemically of Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3), they belong to the Carbonate group as presented in the section above.
VI. Sulphates, Chromates, Tungstates and Molybdates
Sulphates form when metals combine with a sulphate group (SO4), comprising of sulphur and oxygen. Likewise with chromates (CrO4), tungstates (WO4) and molybdates (MoO4) – chromium, tungsten and molybdenum with oxygen.
VII. Phosphates, Arsenates and Vanadates
Phosphates form when metals combine with a phosphate group (PO4), comprising of phosphorus and oxygen. Likewise with Arsenates (AsO4) and Vanadates (VO4) – arsenic and vanadium with oxygen.
Silicates are metals or non-metals which combine with a silicate group made up of silicon and oxygen in a tetrahedral structure. Silicates are the most common of all minerals – there are more silicates than all other minerals put together, and almost a third of all minerals are silicates. After all, they make up 90% of the Earth’s crust. It is no surprise that they also form the bulk of my collection:
Benitoite crystals are rare and gem-quality ones come mainly from the San Benito Mine in California, where it gets its name from. Benitoite was named the Official State Gem of California in 1985. Seen above is a specimen with some small blue Benitoite crystals, amongst some dark Neptunite and yellow Joaquinite crystals.
The Quartz Family
Quartz, a form of silicon dioxide SiO2, actually falls in the Silicates group in the section above, but due to the diverse types of this mineral and the numerous quantities that I own (over 70 pieces to-date), Quartz crystals deserve a section of their own. My collection currently consists of over 30 Clear Quartz crystal points and clusters, 15 Smoky Quartz crystals including Elestials, 5 Citrine points, 15 Amethysts, 9 Brandberg Amethysts, and some Rose Quartz and Spirit Quartz varieties. The various colours are due to impurities of other trace elements found in each of these crystals. I also use Quartz for metaphysical purposes.
IX. Organic Minerals
Organic Minerals are naturally occurring minerals formed directly or indirectly by living organisms. Due to their organic nature, they are not always accepted as minerals. One such example is Amber, made from ancient tree sap (hence organic) which is often found with an insect perfectly preserved within. Remember how the DNA of dinosaurs was extracted from a mosquito in the movie Jurassic Park?
This section is not listed under the usual classification, but I thought it’s special enough to be on its own. These are specimens rarely found in personal collections, and I’m proud to own two such samples of radioactive minerals. Euxenite (classified under Oxides) is an important mineral as ore of the rare earth elements it contains (see below) and is slightly radioactive. Carnotite (classified under Vanadates), which is often bright to greenish yellow in colour, is an important ore of Uranium and is strongly radioactive. As such, it needs to be handled and stored with extreme care.
Fossils? Are they even minerals? In a way, yes. Fossils are the remains of animals or plants that are preserved in rocks. Fossils may be internal or external moulds, and in the case of most of those in my collection, are internal moulds such as Ammonites, which consist of calcium carbonate similar to the Aragonite in Section V above. To-date, there are four Ammonites and one Trilobite in my collection of fossils. I hope to expand this collection in the near future.
There are other interesting specimens in my collection that have not been included above, including a light blue Beryl amongst Mica from Brazil and two large pieces of glassy Obsidian, one with red Hematite inclusions. These are currently kept in a container, and I have not had a chance to photograph them.
I find mineral collecting to be a very fascinating and rewarding hobby. Looking at transparent crystals while reflecting on how these wonders of nature were formed over millions of years can quickly take anxiety and stress off one’s mind, and it is in these crystals that I often seek solace. Knowing that some of the crystals and minerals which come from well-known mines from around the world, some typical to only one region on the globe, and others so rare they are seldom found listed in encyclopaedia, which now sits on my shelf brings value and meaning to this pastime and collection. It is also an interesting way to learn about other parts of the world, and how religions of the past were influenced in a significant way by crystals such as those presented above. After all, how often do you find the subjects of chemistry, biology, physics, geography and history (and maybe even anthropology) all rolled into one hobby?
Meanwhile, do tell me in the comments section below which of the crystals and minerals above appeal to you!
The Devon Buy Crystal and Mineral Collection is listed in www.minerant.org as the first entry under the country Malaysia.
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