Grossular (Garnet), Jeffrey Mine, Asbestos, Quebec, Canada, 2 ½ inches x 3 inches
Diamonds, Murfreesboro, Pikes County, Arkansas, largest is approximately ½ inch in length and is 7.25 carats
Beryls, Marambya Mine, Jequitinhonha Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil, largest crystal is 5 ¾ inches in length and is 331.3 grams
February 12 – May 18, 2014
The origins of the Mineralogical Museum can be traced to the donation in 1964 of the Irénée du Pont, Sr. collection. Although it has long been thought that Mr. du Pont purchased this collection primarily from Tiffany & Company through their gemologist, George F. Kunz, the ongoing research of Curator Sharon Fitzgerald shows otherwise. While many of the mineral specimens did come from the 1919 purchase from Kunz, du Pont had in fact begun collecting minerals as a child; he also continued to add to his collection after 1919, with acquisitions from both Tiffany’s and from George English at Ward’s Natural Science Establishment, a scientific supply company still in operation today.
Dr. Fitzgerald’s research has uncovered new information about the origin and provenance of specimens in the collection. The du Pont collection included several gem beryl crystals, with labels such as “Beryl (variety aquamarine), crystal doubly terminated, Marambya Mine, Brazil, 331.3 grams.” Attempts to identify the locality of this old mine led Fitzgerald to The Mineral Industry, published by McGraw Hill in 1922. In the chapter “Precious Stones” George Kunz noted that “a number of large aquamarine beryls were found in Brazil during 1921. Of these the largest came from the Marambya mine and weighed 331.3 grams; another from the same mine weighed 213.2 grams. The Marambya mine furnished three other aquamarine crystals with respective weights of 48.3 grams, 39.7 grams and 34.3 grams.
When Fitzgerald weighed the Brazilian gem beryls in the University of Delaware Collection, she discovered that four of these crystals match exactly the weights given by Kunz, showing that they are, in fact, the specimens he described. Given the 1921 date that these specimens were mined, they could not be part of the 1919 purchase.
Further study has uncovered other remarkable highlights of this important collection. A 7.25 carat yellow octahedral diamond crystal purchased by du Pont in 1923 for $370 is a rare and, given the locality, unusually large diamond from Arkansas. Other treasures provide fascinating histories, including a butterfly twin calcite from the English collector and dealer John Graves, and a Swiss rutilated quartz that once belonged to the English author and art critic John Ruskin.
Many fine specimens have been added since the original gift, bringing to the collection recently mined specimens about which more is known. However, the historically significant specimens from the 19th and early 20th centuries, and the important gem crystals belonging to The Irénée du Pont Collection, are treasures with secrets that can be revealed only through continued specialized research, to be published in an article in a forthcoming supplement to the Mineralogical Record.
Sharon Fitzgerald, Curator, Mineralogical Museum, came to the University six years ago to redesign the exhibition of this extraordinary collection, and also to strengthen it through strategic acquisitions. A complete renovation of the display facility included new exhibition cases with state of the art lighting that reveals the form and beauty of the individual specimens. The presentation moved away from a purely technical focus to one more accessible to University classes and the general visitor. Dr. Fitzgerald has published numerous articles on the crystal structure and chemistry of vesuvianite and is also certified in gemology.
Recent Gifts Program
Thursday, April 10, 5 p.m.
Curator, Mineralogical Museum
Location: Mineralogical Museum (Penny Hall)