Nestled in the Val d’Argent, in Alsace, France, the town of Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines hosts one of the world’s largest minerals shows, with character and class unto itself.
Alsace is dotted with picturesque villages…
The vineyards near Saint-Hippolyte
… and forests, hills and castles.
Château du Haut Koenigsbourg
The towns are small and picturesque, with distinctive architecture.
Roses on a home in Saint-Hippolyte
Quiet afternoon in Saint-Hippolyte
First morning sunlight in Saint-Hippolyte
The Sainte Marie show itself is centred on the old theatre in the centre of town, with a small group of dealers hosted inside, and many more outside, based in white tents, lining tent “streets” in the mineral dealing area. (There are also other large buildings full of dealers).
Exhibits inside the theatre
A glimpse of some of the tents on one of many “streets” of dealers
Of course, with so many dealers and others in mineral world all coming together in one place like this, one hopes that there will be interesting minerals to see, and Sainte Marie 2014 did not disappoint. If you have time for a glimpse into a small number of highlights, here are a few.
For a couple of years now, we have been seeing the pale blue barites from the Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco. These are delicate and can be outright spectacular, but alas many are quite badly damaged and lots do not have good colour. A small number with the better colour have survived the mining/collecting, prep work, shipping and travel – and these are wonderful specimens.
Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 7.7 cm
Barite, Sidi Lahcen Mine, Nador, Nador Province, Morocco – 5.8 cm
Some super new dioptase specimens have been collected very recently at Mindouli, Mindouli District, Pool Department, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville). As always, it remains very hard to obtain specimens from this area, as it lies at the heart of the border area between DRC and Brazzaville, and conflict continues. However, these have been brought out and are beautiful.
Dioptase with Plancheite, Mindouli, Mindouli District, Pool Department, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) – crystal 1.2 cm
Dioptase with Plancheite, Mindouli, Mindouli District, Pool Department, Republic of Congo (Brazzaville) – 5.3 cm
Another new African find is quite intriguing. The now well-known Bendougou vicinity in the Kayes Region of Mali has been producing fine specimens of green prehnite balls and epidote for many years. A new locality among the many within the district – Diamonkara – recently produced super specimens of yellow stilbite. One dealer was adamant that these are stellerite, and then suggested that some are stellerite and some are stilbite, but the consensus assumption by many of us (granted, from observation alone) is that they are in all likelihood all stilbite. They are primarily “balls” and “wheels” of crystals, up to about 6 cm, some of which are associated with epidote and even prehnite. Unfortunately a few that could otherwise have been nice were terribly damaged, but the fine specimens are really sweet! I obtained the fine ones I could find available.
Stilbite, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.7 cm
Stilbite with Epidote, Diamonkara, Bendougou, Kayes Region, Mali – 3.5 cm
Finally, I would feel strange coming back from Ste Marie without anything fun from France… and I managed to find a small group of interesting pieces, including bournonite from Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, and some very cool hematite specimens from Le Haïcot, Brézouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France.
Bournonite, Les Malines District, Saint-Laurent-le-Minier, Gard, Languedoc-Roussillon, France – 7.0 cm
Hematite, Le Haïcot, Brézouard Massif, Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France – 5.0 cm
As with other top-level large international mineral shows, the Sainte Marie show included educational presentations and a display area. The theme of the display area was copper minerals and it included many jaw-dropping specimens from France and all over the world, assembled from the collections of museums and private collectors. I feel that photographing these through glass with inappropriate photo lighting would be tantamount to insulting these gorgeous specimens (and the collections in which they are housed). I mean it’s hard enough taking good accurate photos of azurite and dioptase as it is (!). Suffice it to say, I sure returned to this area more than once. (Did I kneel down in front of any cases? Well I guess you may never know…) Beautifully done!
Minerals from the show will be available on the website in updates coming over the next few weeks.
Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines 2014 was a great show – a sincere thank you to the organizers and display contributors. If you have not yet been, it is a show like no other. À la prochaine!