eading about minerals is roughly as exciting as watching paint dry for most individuals. Viewing fine minerals, however, can be stimulating for both young and old alike. Please read further...
Everyone who collects minerals has their own motivations and focus. Some collectors have a shotgun approach and have never seen a specimen that they did not like. Others search for perfection. Many collectors have an area of specialization in which they might try to become an authority. Space limitation might force a collector into targeting specimen size as their first consideration when acquiring pieces. Many, such as myself, choose a geographic area or specific mine to collect minerals from.
The driving forces behind the accumulation of my collection over the past decade are many: the material from China is highly aesthetic, the variety of minerals is vast, and the supply of specimens is currently at an all time high. With this high supply comes more competitive prices. Some collectors look at this choice of material for a personal collection as a negative. The minerals are too common, it is simply a fad, and Chinese minerals are not as respected as the “classics”. I fire back at these critics by simply saying, “Look at the specimens!”
For a number of years I have collected minerals from China. Until only recently mineral specimens from this vast country were uncommon or unknown. The Communist system in place over mainland China frowned upon export of minerals as collector pieces. Ores were mined with disregard to the mineral crystals that were found along with them. Everything was sent through the crusher. As recently as the early 1990’s this closed point of view has changed. Economic considerations have lead to minerals, as collector specimens, now being viewed for their potential to generate capital.
Initially, specimens being saved for collectors were reaching the market in poor condition. As in many other countries, miners soon learned more about the importance of condition and this has changed. Mineral specimens in larger quantities and better condition quickly became more common. Now anyone who wishes to own a nice quality fluorite or quartz specimen has the opportunity to do so no matter how frugal their budget.
One serious drawback regarding Chinese minerals is the secrecy regarding their locations. False location names have been an issue, but, many of the more difficult problems surround proper translations between the Chinese and English languages. My postings have been created using published sources, of which there are few, and personal contacts with other collectors, dealers and suppliers. Most location descriptions are believe to be accurate, otherwise they are left as “Unknown”.
I predict that the specimens coming from China will soon be the new Classics for many species. For example, the pyromorphites are more than just a blip on the radar. Their size, form and color, in my limited opinion, surpass even the best from France, Australia and even Idaho. The big Ping Wu scheelites have no competition anywhere in the world. They are, hands down, the best of their kind on the planet. Their being inexpensive is not a bad thing either. Quite to the contrary, world class collections are now being assembled by individuals who have limits to their budgets.
Hopefully, this short narrative has managed to pique your interest or entertain you. I believe minerals from China are highly collectable and aesthetically competitive with minerals from any country in the world. Beware taking for granted these beautiful objects. Political and economic changes in the world could quickly lead to Chinese minerals becoming the high priced treasures we kick ourselves for not purchasing when we had the chance.
Michael Walter, 2000
More recently I've made the move to narrow down my collecting. The Chinese collection, although magnificent and difficult to part with, has been sold. I now collect New York State minerals and try to limit these to St. Lawrence County, only. That's tough because I love Herks (especially Herkimer diamond scepters) and they have that certain "flash" that many of us as collectors desire. With time I am sure the collection will be either narrowed down to only St. Lawrence County or the St. Lawrence lowlands.
Michael Walter, 2010
Recently I expanded my scope for acquiring Chinese minerals by taking a trip to the People's Republic in June, 2011 for 10 days to buy minerals. The food was fantastic! The costs associated with doing most anything where very reasonable, with one exception... the price of good mineral specimens were exceptionally high. Totally unrealistic in many cases. Dealers had no problem asking 10 to 20 times what would be acceptable retail prices. No prices are posted and everything is negotiated but a surprising number of dealers have become more "Americanized" in their approach, and not negotiating from their asking price. The new material from Mongolia is interesting, although in short supply. All other regions are producing very little new material of interest. It is probably cheaper, and easier, to purchase good Chinese minerals right here in the United States from U.S. dealers on-line or at the major mineral shows. I only acquired four specimens on the entire ten day venture!
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