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Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb

Posted by Rock Currier  
avatar Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
November 10, 2008 08:43AM
Click here to view Azurite, Australia to Zambia minus Bisbee & Tsumeb and here for Azurites from Bisbee, Arizona USA and here for Best Minerals A,and here for Best Minerals A to Z. and here for Fast Navigation of completed Best Minerals articles.

Can you help make this a better article? What good localities have we missed? Can you supply pictures of better specimens than those we show here? Can you give us more and better information about the specimens from these localities? Can you supply better geological or historical information on these localities?


Azurite to malachite, 7.4 cm high
Azurite on smithsonite, 5.3 cm high.

Azurite, 4.5 cm xl
Azurite & Bayldonite 2.7 cm wide

Azurite, specimen 9.5 cm wide

Namibia was formerly South West Africa or, even earlier, German South West Africa. Tsumeb is home of a copper mine that has origins in the last half of the 19th century and has been producing copper ore and wonderful specimens of azurite and other minerals ever since though it was recently closed. When you learn what this place has produced you will understand why collectors get a little twitchy when they think about this place. Namibia is a great place to visit. Many interesting things to see and much of its landscape makes the visitor from Arizona think that perhaps he is still in Arizona until some strange animal like a big kudu runs across the road and the illusion disappears. After the mine and smelter shut down, a group from England worked some of the upper levels for a while trying to recover azurite and other mineral specimens. So far they have not been very successful.

Look at this specimen that is in the C.D. Woodhouse collection at the University of California at Santa Barbara!

Azurite, with ~10 cm xls.

There is yet another similar but better piece on display at the Smithsonian Institute. Newmont Mining Company in New York City in their corporate offices has another specimen showing monster crystals that some think is the best specimen of azurite in the world. There are undoubtedly more of these incredible specimens scattered around the world that I don’t know about and undoubtedly many others were destroyed by blasting and ended up in copper pipes under New York City. Mere mortals however cannot hope to own such things. There are also four pictures here of lesser azurite specimens in the Smithsonian institute that should pop your eyeballs if you stare at them to long.

Azurite to malachite, 12 cm xl.
Azurite xl ~13cm

Azurite xls about 5 cm tall
Azurite xl cluster ~7cm

Probably first among them is the elegant big single crystal that is partly altered to malachite. Eat your heart out, you will likely never get one like this, or if you do, I will definitely commit suicide. The other three are great specimens pictured here as well and you probably won’t get one as good as those either. The specimen from the John Sinkankas collection is shown front and back.
Azurite xl cluster ~10 cm acriss
Azurite xl cluster ~10cm across

Notice the partial alteration to malachite in places. Forget it, you probably will never get one like that either. The rest of the Tsumeb azurites illustrated in this article will further acquaint you with some of the wonderful specimens that Tsumeb has produced over the years and show you the kinds of specimens you may be able to obtain, if your wallet can stand the strain. How much would the best Tsumeb azurites bring? Certainly much more than $100,000 dollars. Would one bring a million dollars? Possibly. There is not one shown here that would cost less than a thousand dollars and in most instances the lesser specimens here would cost more than $10,000. Of all the trips I made to Tsumeb during the 60s and 70s I was never able to buy a really great azurite there. Good azurite specimens from here are talked about and there are many pictures of them, but they are anything but common. Look around at even a big gem and mineral show and you will likely not find a single fine one, let alone a great one for sale. A small 5 cm specimen in the Freilich collection sold at auction for $2400.

Azurite on Tsumebite ~11 cm across
Azurite xl doubly terminated ~7 cm across

Azurite xl cluster ~10 cm across
Azurite on Malachite ~9cm across

Azurite xls ~8cm across
Azurite xls, 4 cm across

Azurite ~6.5cm across
Azurite, ~5 cm across

“I am convinced that no more than 50 great azurite specimens exist in all the mineral collections of the world. It is a very rare mineral in superb specimens. There are perhaps several thousand good azurite specimens that have been saved over the years, but large, fine crystals or crystal groups number only a few. It has been my experience that most mineral collectors, particularly North Americans, have unrealistically high standards for acquisition of azurite, as well as many other Tsumeb species; this has been caused by the remarkably large number of superb Tsumeb specimens in American museums which deceptively suggest that many more must be available, possibly in Germany or Africa. Not true! As it happened, the U. S. was about the only place to sell minerals specimens both times Tsumeb was producing oxidation zone minerals. This is not to say that there aren’t some excellent specimens in Germany and the Republic of South Africa. The reason that some of them escaped the clutches of the collectors of the great capitalistic colossus is that Germans controlled Tsumeb for many years. Remember, it used to be called German West Africa (or more accurately German South West Africa). After 1920 and until its recent independence it was controlled by South Africa. There are however fewer good Tsumeb azurites in Germany or the Republic of South Africa than you might imagine. Specimens and all other fine collectibles gravitate to those who can pay the most money for them. "The Smithsonian and Harvard have many more superb Tsumeb azurite specimens than any other museum in the world.”1 Many times I have been to localities like Tsumeb just before the Tucson Gem and Mineral show and knew about what my foreign competition had bought. When I arrived at Tucson, almost everything they had bought was there in Tucson regardless of the home country of the dealer. If someone has a real world class specimen to sell, it is usually brought to the United States because collectors there will usually pay more for it than collectors anywhere else in the world.2
1. Charles Key, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 8, 1977, p49. 2. Personal observation Rock Currier

“The largest crystals recorded from Tsumeb…have reached 50 cm in length, but these crystals were dull… rough surfaces…altered…often intergrown with ugly clay-like matrix… A unique find was made in the 80’s (1980’s) when free-standing, needle-like, brilliant blue crystals up to 7 cm were found. These proved a dramatic contrast with the matrix of emerald-green arsentsumebite. The miner when asked how he was able to save this specimen without damage, told that it fell down in his hand from the hanging wall, but with the right side up, unlike most buttered bread!…Some of the finest azurites known originally belonged to the collections of the mine manager, F.W. Kegel and his mine captain Wilhelm Klein, who came from Waldbröl. These specimens are now in the collections of the Smithsonian and Harvard…The private collection of the late Tsumeb dealer Dieter Berger in Vienna contains an exceptional specimen similar to the very fine specimen on display in the Harvard collection. This specimen also came from the collection of the mine captain Wilhelm Klein. All these specimens were found on the 8 level, where the American dealer Sam Gordon had his great azurite experience…It must be emphasized that the majority of the shift bosses and mine captains who worked in Tsumeb from the beginning to the fifties came originally from the region located east of Cologne, between Waldbröl and Herdorf. After retiring or leaving Tsumeb for other reasons, these miners brought their mineral collections home to Germany.”1
1. Tsumeb, Georg Gebhard, 1999, p.

“…It was three days and nights to Tsumeb. The best scenery, that near Capetown , was passed during the night. I got to Tsumeb late on Sunday night. The climate is comfortable, quite warm in the sun in the day, but real cool at night. It is about 5000 feet above sea level. The mine is worked as an open cut down to about 100 feet, and thence to a depth of 1800 feet by underground workings. I was told that the upper levels were exhausted and these were the ones which contained all the azurite, cerussite, etc. crystals. That I should have come 15 years ago. So it did not sound as though I was going to be able to gather much at the mine. Further that some gentlemen visiting the Geological Congress in South Africa had come up in September including one Dr. L.J. Spencer, of the British Museum. So it did not sound as though I was going to be able to gather much at the mine. As I did not expect much in the way of assistance, I had pinned my hopes on the “Silver Pick” and was well provided with good pound notes Sterling for the operations….On Monday morning, early, I went around to the office of the company. I found the manager away for a couple of days. However, I spent Monday going over the dumps and ore piles which contained some smithsonite crystals. Tuesday was the first day in the mine. And what a day! Hectic” A few more days like that and I’ll be down with nervous prostration. Remember that I did not expect to collect anything, with all the German bosses ready to clean out any crystals and ship them to Maucher in Munich…In company with the superintendent I went down to the 800 foot level, the uppermost being worked, and pretty deep for crystallized secondary minerals. The workings are of such a nature that only a half dozen places of about 10 ft. square are visible on any level. The first few looked most unpromising. But one of the miners said there was a little azurite showing up above. I climbed up and there were some poor battered crystals, and thought that a little work might produce at least something to show for the trip. The shift boss tried to get me away from the place, but I had the superintendent sit on him. The latter, of course, did not expect me to find anything and went off. I got to work in the wall, and cut around the place where the azurite was, and had the extraordinary fortune of busting into a beautiful pocket of azurite crystals up to 6 inches long, and three inches across; one of the prettiest sights you ever saw. I worked slowly and carefully, the mine is very hot and damp and I nearly drowned in my own perspiration. The air up in the hole would get foul and hot from the lamp and every half hour I had to climb down and lie on the dirt pile from exhaustion. News of the find spread around and at 11:30 the superintendent and his assistant came around. I had already packed away in my bag the best specimen, but the vug continued into a cylindrical vug, lined with smaller crystals. The assistant who came up first, tried to break off some crystals, but I pulled his hand away. He tried all sorts of subterfuges to get into the place. Then the superintendent came up, looked in and became incoherent. All he could say was, “ I have been here fourteen years, and never have I seen such crystals.” The best, I had in my bag. He left the shift boss to guard the place, and later sent the assistant down to open it up further. In the afternoon I went down again, I found that they had created havoc, just ripped everything out with dynamite and hammers, nearly everything coming out broken. Everybody seemed to be scrambling in trying to get some crystals, particularly since big ones sell for about $100. When I got out, I was told that the mine manager, who was also a director, was back, and wanted to see me and the specimens. These were all carted to his office. He seemed all excited, walked around in circles, and asked me what I wanted. I told him that I wanted to ship off the specimens I had collected. He said that was absolutely impossible. Pleasant words after I had sweated all day gathering them. He said that their value was extraordinary and that they had none in the office in Berlin, or the German universities, and how therefore could he let me have them? He had up to this time not seen the specimens, they were being unpacked. He happens to be something of a collector, and naturally did not want anyone to cart off the stuff from his mine. He was quite beside himself. I suggested cabling Berlin, but he stated that if I did that, he would also. As a matter of fact, I am sure that they would not cross a fellow-director, particularly the miner manager, By this time the specimens were unpacked, and he walked over to them. Apparently they exceeded even his expectations. The superintendent kept muttering, “I have been here 14 years, and never have I seen such crystals.’ I was too tired to be obstreperous and hence tried diplomacy. It seemed almost impossible to reason with him, but by appearing magnanimous and appealing to his eagerness to get hold of the specimens, I got him to agree to divide the specimens equally, each of us taking a choice alternately. Certainly under the circumstances I could not hope for more than an equal half of the finds. He could just as easily have taken them all, or perhaps made a generous gesture after picking out the best and giving me the junk. At my suggestion we pitched a coin to see who would take first choice as I thought this might give me a look-in on the first specimen. But he won. The division proceeded slowly. While I would be looking over the specimens he would walk over to these he had acquired and then at my specimens. But he became quite happy and after the division, we shook hands and I made arrangements to go through the mine and divide the finds similarly. However, I did not expect to get anything more in the mines, the men were too secretive and would steer me past and well around possible places.”1
1. Samuel Gordon, Mineralogical Record, Vol. 5, 1974, p260 written in 1928 in a letter to Trudell.

The Easter pocket “It was a few days before Easter in 1994 when a shift boss saw some tell-tale signs of a possible azurite pocket on the 8 level…As luck would have it the blast left the content of the cavity intact…The enfolding view must have been staggering: a pocket 2 meters long and 80 cm wide was filled with purple-blue azurite crystals, nearly all completely crystallized and intergrown forming a blue three-dimensional network…the crystal size of the azurite began by being a few millimeter and increased to about 5 cm in the middle of the pocket…The major part of the inner part of the pocket consisted of perfect crystallized floaters of azurites, some connected together by anglesite or cerussite crystals. The finder was able to pick some of the finest specimens of azurite ever seen like apples from a tree…the crystals, even thick ones, are transparent in strong light…The shift boss had already gone before being fired, showing his ex-boss the next day his expensive, brand-new Landrover.”1
1. Tsumeb, Georg Gebhard, 1999, p239-248.

Click here to view Azurite, Australia to Zambia minus Bisbee & Tsumeb and here for Azurites from Bisbee, Arizona USA and here for Best Minerals A,and here for Best Minerals A to Z. and here for Fast Navigation of completed Best Minerals articles.

Edited 23 time(s). Last edit at 09/26/2013 05:55PM by Rock Currier.
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
May 19, 2009 09:16AM
"it used to be called German West Africa."

Wrong (although a very frequent mix-up). it used to be called German Southwest Africa. It was Togo that used to be called German West Africa.

FIXED, Thanks Rock

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2009 05:54AM by Rock Currier.
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 19, 2010 04:14PM
Hi Rock, I think the following picture by Kristalle and Crystal Classics should be considered for the article. I think WOW when I look at it. I tried to add the link as you did in my Wulfenite post, I hope I did it correctly.

Please let me know if my suggestions are helping or distracting. I really like your project. I am new to collecting and mindat has been great source in helping me decide what I have wanted to add to my collection. I believe I have saved a substantial amount of money not purchasing specimens I would later be dissatisfied with. But this has all been my personal taste, with these articles I will also learn valuable points that I would have never considered to help me pick the most interesting specimens for my collection (which unless I win the lottery will always be modest).

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/19/2010 05:33PM by Richard Felicioni.
Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 19, 2010 06:01PM
There is the link to the L.H. Conlin article on the “Newmont azurite”, in wich we can see the incredible image: not only the best Tsumeb Azurite, and the best Azurite, but probably the best mineral specimen in the planet. Simone
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 20, 2010 12:41AM
Richard, That azurite you point out is certainly a fine one and is one that I would like to have in my collection, but I am not sure it belongs in the article along with the ones pictured there. The photo is great, but the specimen is only a touch over 2 inches which means it is a fairly small specimen. There have been a few complaints that the articles are too long and in come cases have too many pictures, and I have been thinking about weeding out a few of the azurite in the article and I think a few of the weak sisters in it are really not much better than the one you suggest. The quality of the picture can make the difference between inclusion or not, but I try and judge the specimen, not so much how well it is photographed. But each author will have slightly different standards. Thanks for the suggestion though.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 20, 2010 12:53AM
That certainly is a fine azurite specimen though when I saw it in the offices of Newmont Mining in NY City years ago I remember it as being larger. But then again fine specimens always seem to grow in my memory. If we could get Larry to upload an image of it to the Mindat gallery, I would definitely include it in the article. Though best minerals tries to show the best available specimens, that is really not the primary focus of the project. We are just as interested if not more interested in presenting what is know about the specimens from various localities and accumulating the knowledge and wisdom about them that is lost when the old timers pass on to their (hopefull) rewards.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
X. G. Liu
Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 17, 2011 03:21PM
Hello! I am a graduate student. I want to research the physical properties of azurite, but now I am lack of high quality single crystal. So can you sell some to me? It is my pleasure to receive your quick reply! Thank you very much!
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 17, 2011 09:21PM
Dear X.G.
Could you tell me how large an azurite crystal you need and could you please define what you mean by high quality? Exactly what kind of research are you proposing to do and why do you need one of high quality? All of the pictures of Tsumeb Azurites pictured here would cost thousands of dollars on the collector market, sometimes many thousands of dollars.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
X. G. Liu
Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 18, 2011 07:35AM
Dear Rock Currier,
A single crystal with 0.5cm*0.5cm*0.5cm volume is enough for our research. Considering the correlation between price and dimension, some single crystals with above dimension are best for us. We usually check the quality of a single crystal by X-Ray diffraction of laue method and rocking curve. A crystal with bright surface and regular shape may be single crystal like the picture you have shown. Physical properties of high quality single crystal will show intrinsic properties and enhance our knowledge about different compound. Could you provide some other pictures with our request dimension and the price? Thank you very much!

X. G. Liu
open | download - 0988880001215884800.jpg (76.4 KB)
Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 18, 2011 12:07PM
125 mm^3 is not a terribly large volume, being only an eighth of a cc/mL. Most of these crystals are an order of magnitude or two larger. I am not sure that I see a reason that the material would need to be from Tsumeb if a relatively well-crystallised example is needed, as Tsumeb has a certain cache attached to it that for better or worse would make comparable examples relatively expensive. Recent Moroccan specimens come to mind.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/19/2011 05:41AM by Evan Johnson (2).
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 18, 2011 10:18PM
Dear X.G.
This is not a forum for buying and selling specimens and none of the specimens shown here are offered for sale. The size of the specimen you want is not very big, and I suspect that if you made your request on this Message Board, but in the General forum for a sharp shiny Azurite crystal that was one cm by one cm, that someone would probably send you one. You should make your request in the general forum along with your address to where you would like the crystal to be sent. Failing that, I am sure that there are many people on the internet who would be glad to supply you with one. If you place your request in the General Forum rather than here and tell what research you want it for, I think that one or more specimens would be sent to you.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
X. G. Liu
Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
January 19, 2011 12:59PM
Thank you very much!
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
June 11, 2012 09:39AM
Azurit xx von Tsumeb aus der Sammlung des Mineralienmuseums Hamburg:
open | download - RSCN3776.jpg (101.2 KB)
open | download - RSCN3800.jpg (100.9 KB)
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
June 11, 2012 10:37AM
Those are interesting pictures, but before we would consider using them here on Best Minerals the images would first have to be uploaded to Mindat's regular gallery.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
October 07, 2013 08:49PM
Rock you are talking about large? THIS is large:
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
October 08, 2013 11:42AM
Wow, that really large.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
August 18, 2014 06:03AM
Hello! The 11cm photo that says "azurite with tsumebite" should , if it hasn't been analyzed, be revised to say azurite with arsentsumebite.
Anonymous User
Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
November 28, 2014 02:27AM
Azurite, Tsumeb, Namibia. The crystal is 2" on edge.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/28/2014 07:00AM by Olav Revheim.
open | download - 006.JPG (98.9 KB)
avatar Re: Azurite, Namibia, Tsumeb
November 28, 2014 09:43AM
A nice azurite, but the colors have been diddled too much.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.

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