From time to time, I listen to heated discussions among mineral collectors about why common mineral species like fluorite, quartz or calcite can be so highly valued. Among the previously cited minerals, fluorite is the one which produces more buzz by far.
Fine fluorite specimens have fetched extremely high prices during the last years. Indeed, they have sometimes surpassed in price to “elite minerals” like tourmalines or beryls. Are they worth that much?
Yesterday I went for a swim nearby, here in Perth, and I grabbed the first Mineralogical Record I saw in my home to take it with me. It was the special number called “Mineral Collections in Texas”, a beautiful one indeed! Well, I made some numbers based on the mineral species represented in each collection and I found some pretty amazing results: approximately 80% of the mineral collectors represented fluorite specimens among their minerals! Out of 44 collectors who appear on the magazine only two did not display any fluorite, quartz, calcite or baryte specimens. Why I am saying all this?
The importance of aesthetics in mineral specimens is gaining momentum every year and prices are less influenced by the mineral specie. It is a fact that a greater number of aesthetically oriented mineral collectors are entering the fine mineral specimen market. Many are knowledgeable about the rarity and properties of each specie but aesthetics are of paramount importance for them.
A widely distributed mineral has more chances to be form by earth as an aesthetic fine mineral.
Fine mineral collectors/dealers don’t value specimens per carat or gram. It is true that we have some similarities to what gem collectors value as transparency, color intensity, etc. But we have a big and important difference from gem related people: we pay for aesthetics, balance, composition, call it whatever you want, you know what I mean.
I would dare to say that is more difficult to assess the value of a fine mineral specimen than the one of a gem. To pick the best fine minerals among hundreds of them you need a much trained eye for aesthetics. You can tell me: “Juan, aesthetics are very subjective!” Ok, but there are certain parameters which are universal.
People used to name minerals like tourmaline or beryl like species which have to be more expensive than common ones. Are we buying our fine minerals to make rings or necklaces? Of course not! Which is the main difference between those elite minerals and fluorite? Hardness. Tourmaline is 7 and fluorite is 4 in the scale of Mohs. Apart from mineral hardness, let’s compare some “elite species” against fluorite.
Fluorite endures the war against tourmaline or beryl and I think it wins a few very important battles:
- Color: dead heat between fluorite and tourmaline! Maybe beryl is behind because the rarity of different colors in the same crystal.
- Luster: dead heat!
- Transparency: dead heat!
- Size: maybe fluorite wins.
- Aesthetics: dead heat!
- Crystal form: fluorite clearly wins for its remarkable multitude of crystal forms.
- Association: fluorite wins, absolutely. Fluorite is not only a pegmatite mineral.
If you are thinking I have not kept in mind rarity as another important factor, let me say that nowadays with Pakistan, Afghanistan, Brazil, etc. as big sources for these “elite minerals”, they are not anymore rare (mediocre specimens are going quite cheap nowadays!) Anyone can buy average fluorites and just exactly the same stands for nice tourmalines or beryls. Moreover, I would say, truly aesthetic, top quality mineral specimens are always very rare to find, regardless the mineral specie we are talking about.
In my opinion only fluorite confronts the big names of tourmaline or beryl. Other extremely beautiful and highly priced minerals like pyromorphite or rodocrosite loose important battles like color variation, transparency or size. Or I have missed a blue rodo and a transparent large cabinet sized pyro crystal!?
As the Extra Lapis Fluorite (by editors Jesse Fisher, Miranda Jarnot, Günther Neumeier, Arvid Pasto, Gloria Staebler and Tom Wilson) says in its cover page:
“Fluorite, the collector’s choice.”