Collectors of fine minerals now build their collections mainly buying online, whether due to lack of time, location or just convenience. Just as buying mineral specimens in shows, there are some advantages and disadvantages when you buy fine minerals through the internet. After having bought thousands of minerals, some of them online, I would like to share with you some general advice and tips so your buy is as pleasant as possible.
It is of paramount importance to keep in mind the measurements of the fine mineral specimen you are thinking of buying. Personally, I always have a plastic caliper and a few specimens of different sizes next to my computer, so I can get a good idea of what I am looking at.
Tridimensionality – Especially forgotten when buying fine minerals online!
It is important to realize that fine mineral specimens have three dimensions and that the image you see in your computer screen has only two. The lack of photos or lighting of a mineral can sometimes make you think the specimen is less tridimensional than it really is, or the opposite (see photos below). Seldom one can get a good idea of a mineral specimen with just one image of it. More than one photo is needed to get a good idea of what you are buying. Ideally, you should get a photo of each side of the mineral specimen.
Let’s look at an example: You see a photo of a fluorite mineral specimen on sale. It looks like a good quality crystal on top of a matrix. You only have one photo to appreciate it. In this case it could be difficult to get a good idea of the specimen. To know the overall shape of the specimen, the only thing you can do it is to look at the three dimensions you are given. It could be that the shape of the matrix is elongated towards the side that you cannot see. Due to this issue, the mineral is not a fine mineral because is not well balanced and therefore, its value is lower.
Damage – Especially important when assessing the value of fine minerals.
Analysing the damage of a certain fine mineral specimen just through the computer screen is probably the most difficult task of buying minerals on the internet, especially if you can only see one photo or if they are small size. Not all mineral dealers mention the damage a mineral specimen might have. However, we must also say that large sized and good quality images can make you think that the damage is bigger than it is. Probably you wouldn’t appreciate it or you wouldn’t mind it in real life. This is important to keep in mind for small sized specimens, like thumbnails.
Experience and knowledge are your best attributes when finding out if a mineral specimen is damaged or not. To get experience I would say that the more specimens you can have a look, the better. To gain knowledge, buy a good mineralogical book and read about the cleavage of each mineral species. Or have a look at Mindat website and look there how is the cleavage of the mineral you are interested in.
90% of mineral specimens have some kind of damage, but this does not mean that you do not have to worry about it. One of the parameters that influence the price of a fine mineral specimen is its damage, so that is why it is very important to keep them in mind. On the other side, don’t forget that sometimes it is better to choose a mineral specimen with some kind of damage rather than a flawless one but of a lower quality.
Colour and lighting
Lighting conditions can change, not only the colour of a fine mineral specimen, but also the general appearance of it. You must bear in mind that the images of specimens, in this website and in others, try to show you their best look. There is a fine line between showing the best version of a mineral specimen and trying to improve it artificially. The best advice I can give you is to choose fine mineral dealers of your entire confidence.
Personally, I think mineral photography is a side of our hobby that any mineral collector should know about. This would help to improve the appreciation of minerals and the spread and enjoy of the hobby itself, which would benefit everybody involved in the amazing world of fine mineral collecting.
As we all know, this is not a perfect world and both, buyers and mineral dealers can make a mistake. Luckily, most of the well-known dealers offer a good return policy. Always check that you can return your mineral specimen if you don’t like it.
At Spanish Minerals we have a clear return policy: Love it, exchange it or get your money back!