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Is it damaged?

Ernst A. Schnaitmann July 04, 2012 08:21PM
There's an issue that has been bothering my for quite some time now that I think may also be of interest to other fellow Mindat users.
I have noted on a few occasions that mineral descriptions on websites often leave the quality of a certain specimen to be decided by the buyer – as is illustrated in the below images, these are actual specimens that have been on sale on various websites (I am not picking on anyone here) and the corresponding descriptions that have been given in terms of damage to the specimen.

Obviously the acceptability of damages is entirely up to the buyer and this cannot be quantified as everyone has an acceptable to unacceptable range of tolerance towards damages on the specimens he or she chooses.
The question I am posing is what is acceptable for the vast majority of collectors?
This is a loaded question for sure but let me refine it in saying that the above is connection with relatively common minerals – Quartz for example and not something rare like for example Andyrobertsite, Chudobaite etc.

Another question that needs to be posed in connection to the above is to which level does a dealer need to specify damages on a specific specimen?
As far as I was taught a specimen was only truly undamaged if the main crystal(s) of said specimen were not noticeably chipped, rubbed or broken so as to be noticed by a naked eye; some people feel that there may be no visible damages under 10x magnification.
By the examples showcased though it would appear that my personal “damage policy” is not shared by others – I personally would have deemed all of the figured specimens slightly up to severely damaged.

While this may not seem to be important or too subjective to some of you reading this post I would appreciate some feedback just to get a better “feel” for the opinions of other general collectors.
While being on this subject already I personally believe that the size of the damage and the impact that it has on the specimen quality is also very much dependent on the size of the specimen.
Let me illustrate my point by giving the following theoretical example:

Specimen 1:
Main crystal is 15cm in length and has a 0.5 cm damage on the one side, so the damage is a 3.33% damage relative to the main crystal size.

Specimen 2:
Main crystal is 7cm in length and has a 0.5 cm damage on the one side, so the damage is a 7% damage relative to the main crystal size.
If we theorize that both specimens are identical except for the size, then according to my way of thinking Specimen 2 will be of a lower quality than Specimen 1 as the damage is % larger in comparison to crystal size.
Thus minute damages less than 1mm for example would not necessarily detract on a specimen that is 10 cm in size whereas a damage of less than 1 mm may be quite pronounced on a specimen that is only 4 cm in size.

I would love to hear from as many members as possible on what your thoughts are regarding this.

PS: I am in no way or form trying to lay any blame on any of the sellers of the specimens I have shown here purely as examples to better illustrate my point; I have tried to ensure they remain as anonymous as possible as I am not pointing any fingers of blame here and just want to stimulate an open discussion in general.
open | download - Damaged Azurite.jpg (302 KB)
open | download - Damaged Cerussite.jpg (295.1 KB)
open | download - Damaged Quartz.jpg (287.4 KB)
Ernst A. Schnaitmann July 04, 2012 08:29PM
Just two more specimens ...

open | download - Damaged Mimetite.jpg (912.9 KB)
open | download - Damaged Tourmaline.jpg (351.4 KB)
Bob Harman July 05, 2012 02:20AM
This is a good question/discussion. When I first started collecting display quality Indiana geodes, I accepted some really nice ones with minor damage to the main crystals. Now that I have advanced, I only accept undamaged examples with the following 2 exceptions: If the damaged inside of the geode is in a very rare variant or within a very rare secondary mineral such that it lends to further complete my examples. Or that the only damage is to the outside shell of the geode (such as a crack that can be filled) and does not affect the inside crystals. Anything for sale should note any damage at all; then it will be up to the buyer to make up his or her mind as to whether the specimen is acceptable. If damage is not noted and I buy a supposedly pristine specimen which turns out not to be as described, then I personally will not ever do business with that person/dealer again. CHEERS.........BOB

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/05/2012 02:25AM by BOB HARMAN.
AJMI July 06, 2012 12:03AM
Couldn't you also look at this a different way: Many damaged crystals are just gemstones waiting to be cut?

I happen to know of lots of damaged crystals that were nearly worthless to collectors but which have since gone on to be faceted into beautiful stones and set into amazing jewelry items that are now much loved by those who wear them.

So while a crystal specimen may lose value due to damage, it can also regain that value (perhaps even excel in value) once it's been artistically reinterpreted.

I think this is one more perspective that every collector should consider before discarding, passing up, or returning a damaged crystal specimen.

-AJMI :c)
Ernst A. Schnaitmann July 06, 2012 12:20PM
Thanks for the feedback!

I personally agree with Bob that any damage should be noted when something is being sold.
One of the things that hardly ever bothers me is if the matrix of a specimen is damaged as long as the main subject is OK – I am not saying that if a matrix consists of lots of quartz crystals that I will tolerate them being damaged but I will accept a damaged periphery as most specimens aren’t floaters and will also accept “damages” if the matrix is something like solid quartz i.e. no crystals.

AJMI, I know of a lot of specimens that I have passed up or passed on to others for cutting and while I agree that it may be worth more as cutting rough I don’t believe that this is an answer for all species and most collectors.

Looking forward to more opinions from our members….
Alfredo Petrov July 06, 2012 01:16PM
I think there is no such thing as an undamaged specimen, so the question becomes only what size of damage is acceptable, and that will vary according to ones tastes and budget. As myopic as I am, being able to look at specimens only a few cm in front of my eyes, I see tiny bits of damage on everything. Lucky are those collectors with the opposite visual problem, holding their specimens at arms length and seeing no damage :-)
Ernst A. Schnaitmann July 06, 2012 02:41PM
Hi Alfredo,

Agreed that you will only find true perfection in say micromounts and the larger a specimen is the higher the likelihood of damages.
Perhaps my own myopia also makes me more prone to seeing damages.
As a seller though where does the “reporting line” begin at ???
Donald Peck July 06, 2012 04:02PM
I think Ernst has asked the important question. Is damage visible only under magnification really damage? I don't think so. How about damage in the 1mm range on the termination of the important crystal? Maybe. Chips, larger than 1mm? I think so, and the seller should indicate that they are there. How about chipped or broken secondary crystals? It probably depends on how much they affect the aesthetics of the piece.
Scott Sadlocha July 06, 2012 04:27PM
Great questions Ernst, though I am not sure how to answer it. I have seen many photos on dealer websites of minerals described as "undamaged" and I can easily see damage in the pictures available, be rubbing along a crystal face/edge, breaking along the join, or something similar. I am not sure what grading they are using. I have seen quite a bit of discussion on the topic in the past, with varying results (MinRec has covered it quite a bit too, with talk of "Wilburs" and all that, quite humorous at times).

I have often wondered if damage along the point of connection is ever considered damage. If so, then nothing but a complete, pristine floater is ever going to be considered undamaged. I think with a point of connection (in my personal tastes that is), it is not considered damage if the point is on the 'back' of the specimen, and the area of connection damage is relatively small with regard to the rest of the piece or it fits aesthetically with the piece.

Still, I don't worry about damage too much, as long as I like the piece. With my limited budget, I can't get much that is considered undamaged, unless I get lucky, so I find myself getting things that interest me. In the past, I have purchased a severely damaged specimen because I liked the assemblage of minerals on the piece and thought it would be interesting to study. However, it is nice to find an exceptional piece with regard to damage, and there is a great deal of excitement that goes along with that. Earlier this year I was able to find an azurite TN at a fantastic price, and the piece has no damage visible to the naked eye except at the point of connection, and I was very happy when looking it over later at home.
Danny Jones July 06, 2012 05:05PM
Very interesting discussion. As a collector I want as damage free as possible for what I can afford. If damage free adds three or more zeros to the price than I am out of the running for that speciman. BUT I think the question asked was what should a dealer disclose of damage. I run a small mineral business to help finance my collection. When I had minerals up on my website very rarely did I make a comment on damage. This is because what is damage to me may not be damage to some one else. I tried to make the pictures speak for the speciman and let the customer make their own judgement. I had a full return policy if they were not happy with the speciman when they received it, it could be returned with no questions asked. Even the best pictures do not tell the whole truth. I like to hold a mineral and turn it every which way to see what it says to me. I believe that what ever a dealer says about a mineral on a website is just marketing and nothing more. Take it with a grain of salt. If a dealer you order from does not have a full return policy (returned in the same condition as received) than you should not buy from them. You are running a risk of getting a mineral that may not meet your standards.

Danny Jones
Bob Harman July 06, 2012 05:06PM
ALL repairs and ALL restorations and ALL alterations of the specimen other than routine cleaning and trimming should be reported when a specimen is to be sold and even probably when displayed. To my mind this includes, but is not limited to, overt repair and reattachment of cracked or broken crystals, fortifying or reenforcing any matrix, removing calcite or other enclosing minerals, and reattaching groups of crystals such as herkimer diamond groups. To NOT report any of these specimen changes is to try and sell a doctored specimen without its full and proper description. As I previously stated, I look with disdain on dealers who don't fully describe each specimen for my future business. Of course some repairs are more important to the overall specimen than others and each collector/buyer has an individual threshold when it comes to doctored specimens depending on each individual specimen's price, esthetics, size, rarity etc etc etc.

As to imperfections other than the repairs and specimen preparation, of course each specimen is an individual. Obvious unrepaired damage of any type should be specifically mentioned. The usual trivial dings can almost always be covered with a generic statement such as "a few trivial dings on the crystal edges" as most cabinet size specimens fit the category. CHEERS...........BOB

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/06/2012 05:18PM by BOB HARMAN.
Alfredo Petrov July 06, 2012 06:27PM
Hi Ernst, and all,

This discussion is really only relevant to the mailorder side of the mineral business, so I hope it encourages more Mindaters to get out of their armchairs and visit a mineral show, in person, where you can handle specimens, view from all sides, and decide for yourself whether the level of damage is acceptable or not. :-)

But regarding mailorder, Danny brought up an important point: the ability to return any pieces that are unacceptable to the buyer. Especially for specimens other than the expensive "top end", a dealer may not want to bother writing a long detailed description of every single ding, with measurements, for a $30 rock. But if the buyer can return it for a quick refund, then the problem goes away. Dealers eventually get to know the tastes of their regular customers and will warn you if they think a piece has too much damage for your tastes. I'm sure they don't want to waste their time and money mailing out stuff that will just get returned.

Another factor to consider is the level of mineralogical knowledge of the dealer. I've seen vivianite and phosphophyllite crystals with huge cleavages missing being advertized as "undamaged" - The dealer apparently was not trying to be dishonest, he just didn't recognize the difference between a crystal face and a cleavage face :-X

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/06/2012 06:32PM by Alfredo Petrov.
Donald Slater July 06, 2012 08:10PM
I agree with Alfredo, if you look hard enough you will find damage on anything. To me it is a matter of proportion. If you have a nice thumbnail with a 1- 2 mm chip on the tip it may detracts from the beauty and reduce the value. If you have large hand specimen consisting of several crystals and has similar damage one crystal or on the back side, then I don't have a problem. Absolute perfect thumbnail is much more common than a large hand specimen with absolutely no damage. I have been selling minerals for a long time and have seen people reject a beautiful large hand specimen because of minor damage on the back of the specimen. To me that is extreme. These specimens have to be extracted out of the solid rock, you have to have some damage to the rock. If your goal is to collect only the most perfect specimen and you have a large budget and are willing to spend the money then that is fine. We all have our goals. I myself have no problem with minor damage on the edge or back especially if it is not visible to the naked eye. Sure it will reduce the dollar value because the elusive perfect no damage specimen is much rarer but I do not think it reduces it value as a fine and beautiful mineral which is more important to me anyway. I also agree with Bob about all repairs and alterations such as polishing out defects should be disclosed. To me the important damage to the first picture of the Azurite is that it looks like it has been glued together. To me gluing a crystal together or back in place is a major problem as far as the value. I am not sure that is as important to disclose the removing a little calcite or rust stains. To the question of what damage should be disclosed by the dealer, I don't make a list of every single ding that a mineral may have. I process a lot of minerals and don't have time to examine every piece with a loupe. I agree with Danny in that what some people consider damage, others may not even care. I think it up to the buyer to examine it and determine if it is problem. I will discuss major damage with a customer or any repairs with them, then they can decide. I also have a total money back guarantee so if they find something I missed they can return it.
Reiner Mielke July 07, 2012 12:38AM
The term undamaged is overused by many dealers. On the other hand it is sometimes very difficult to describe small dings on a specimen without going into ridiculous detail. In such cases good closeup photos should be provided and the decision as to whether or not it is too damaged left up to the purchaser. I have also found that there is less regard for damage by dealers with TN's than large samples. I think this is because they do not consider the proportionality of the damage. A small ding on a cabinet specimen is large ding on a TN. I have also found that TNs are not as well cared for during collecting as larger specimens are and as a result good undamaged TNs are hard to come by. Luckily this is changing as collectors and dealers realize the value of good undamaged TNs.
Barry Miller July 07, 2012 03:23AM
I agree that this is a great topic. I'd like to add that I go beyond the usual concern with damaged specimens in that I even generally avoid minerals that are susceptible to damage. For this reason, there are some minerals that I tend to avoid (such as scolecite) and tourmaline is somewhat troublesome when I notice the commonly seen internal fracture lines that run perpendicular to the length of the crystal. The specimen that gave me this perspective was a nice (one and a quarter inch) Cerro Mercado apatite crystal that one day just broke along a fracture plane that I had known about for years.
Jolyon & Katya Ralph July 07, 2012 08:35AM
Do you make any distinction between damage that has occurred naturally (eg tectonic fractures/rehealing) and damage that has been caused by man?

Is a crystal that is natural, but has a natural fracture in it less desirable to you than a crystal that has had a natural fracture in it repaired by an expert and is therefore being sold as "restored but undamaged"?

Barry Miller July 07, 2012 01:25PM

"Is a crystal that is natural, but has a natural fracture in it less desirable to you than a crystal that has had a natural fracture in it repaired by an expert and is therefore being sold as "restored but undamaged"?"

I'll explain my position further regarding this. If the crystal with the natural fracture is on matrix and that matrix fortifies it such that there is virtually no chance that the crystal will break, then I am perfectly fine with the specimen because it would be stable. But if the crystal is not resting on the matrix in such a way that the crystal would be prevented from possibly breaking along that fracture line, I wouldn't want that specimen. Concerning the term that you used ("restored but undamaged") pertaining to a crystal that was restored by an expert, I consider the crystal "damaged" no matter how good the skill of the expert.

(Concerning natural fractures that are rehealed, as long as the naturally rehealed crystal is stable and not subject to breakage again, I would be happy with such a crystal too.)
John Stolz July 07, 2012 05:38PM
This is a really interesting subject--and I want to thank (1) Ernst for bringing it up, and (2) Jolyon for asking what I consider to be the most logical and important follow-up question.

I guess my opinion on dealers not including some sense of damage in their descriptions of on-line sales specimens is that if I have to return a purchase from a particular dealer too many times, then there's obviously a communication problem going on and I abandon that dealer. The same goes for those specimens that I keep that "marginally" fit what was described to me. One of the biggest issues I have is that I'm so isolated from other afficionados; it seems I can never fit shows into my schedule, and that when I have, followup promises of getting introduced to local groups fall by the wayside. As such, it's been difficult for me because being book-learned doesn't allow me to drill into an issue that I can't understand. For example, I was intrigued by the possibility of being fooled by a cleavage plane rather than a crystal face--but other than being shown the difference, I suspect it will be hard for me to find a clear on-line example.

But to get to Jolyon's question; the way I would answer it is that I think there are two answers with an infinite blend of qualifiers that smear between the two:

If you're an aesthete, then it seems to me that any damage--regardless of how it occurs--is undesireable. If you're a purist, then "natural" damage enemic to the formation of the specimen is acceptable--especially if it's the only available specimen of that type. And since there is a bit of the aesthete in all of us; I suppose there is a limiting amount of damage that we are individually willing to live with.

I think the same is true of repair--although in that case I could see where (to the purist-dominant eye) the type of natural repair or healing could become more important than the specimen itself, and that to the aesthete the degree of self-evidence of man-made repair (or reassembly)would be an important criterion.

I wouldn't even want to get into things like inclusions.

As far as my personal inclinations go, I suppose I'm heavily biased towards aesthetics--so much so that I eschew any specimens that are known to degrade or decompose over time in a cabinet.

Callum Elder (2) July 12, 2012 11:34AM
I think it depends on why you collect minerals. If you are interested in scientific study and collect very rare species then undamaged specimens would be world class and therefore very hard to get a example. But if you collect common species such as quartz for the aesthetic quality then damage is often unacceptable (but it really depends on the size of the damage).
Dealers however should inform the customer on the exact amount of damage. I think treatments and repairs are actually worse then small bit of damage because minerals are so unique as a "art" form because they are natural structures and if they have been repaired then they lose the natural quality.
Donald Slater July 25, 2012 05:29PM
I think Callum is right in it depends on you criteria for your collection. We all have different standards. If your intention is to only collect the most flawless specimen, then get out the hand lens and the check book. For me, it sometimes all comes down to price. If there is some minor damage and it a beautiful mineral that I need and the price is in my range, I will buy it. I guess I am cheap and not too picky. :-) I do not agree as much with Callum on the statement that the dealer should inform the customer on "the exact amount of damage" because as the question states "Is it damage". One: everybody's idea of damage is different and, Two: no dealer, especially if they process and sell a large quantity, has the time to examine every single specimen with hand lens and note every single ding. I do think that an internet dealer should be more diligent in describing accurately the condition since the buyer cannot examine it in person before purchase. If you buy a lot from the internet or mail order, only deal with dealers that will offer a full money back guarantee.
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