The Best of the Best

Feb. 7, 2014


Our new exhibit, “The Best of the Best: Prize Minerals from the Vaults of Arizona’s Collectors” brings together many of the most exquisite minerals from the most admired collections in the state.  Here in Arizona, the passion and science of mineral collecting goes back over a century, and Arizona collectors have gathered many of the finest mineral specimens from around the world.  But this exhibit offers more than dazzling minerals, it brings together the stories behind the minerals – the search, the discovery, the history, and the awe-inspiring science – that makes these specimens come to life and conveys the excitement that inspires the collectors.

For many reasons, Arizona is home to some of the finest mineral collections and most admired collectors in the world.  And it was Arizona mineral collectors who founded the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, the world’s premier gathering of mineral dealers, hunters, collectors, and enthusiasts.  There are many other mineral shows around the world now, but nobody does it better, nobody does it bigger, than “The Tucson Show.”  Thanks to the Tucson show, collectors who live in Arizona have been at the forefront of the mineral trade over the years as new specimens emerged from localities worldwide.

Inspired by the book “Mineral Collections In Arizona,” a 2013 publication from the Mineralogical Record that includes 50 of Arizona’s finest collectors and collections, the Board of the UA Mineral Museum decided to devote the Museum’s annual Spring Special Exhibit to a celebration of these renowned collections.  Most of those 50 Arizona Collectors will loan specimens for the exhibit so that this trove of amazing specimens that are rarely (or never!) seen in public will be on display.  As the number of people who appreciate and collect minerals in the United States and around the world has increased exponentially over the past 50 years, so has our scientific understanding of how and where and why minerals form.  The “Best of the Best” exhibit will capture this dynamic relationship between the Passion for Minerals and the Science of Minerals.

On the “Passion for Minerals” side, we’ll explore about what inspires collectors.  We’ll tell the stories about how they began collecting, what excites them about a particular mineral, and what goes into their aesthetic appreciation of minerals.  We’ll also tell the stories about how and where people search for and discover mineral specimens.  We’ll share the determination, research, physical challenges, and sometimes blind luck behind the great “self-collecting” stories that will show the fun and adventure of collecting.

And just as passion and curiosity have driven generations of mineralogists to learn more about “The Science of Minerals,” we’ll connect the public with how minerals form and how they are structured.  We’ll start at the beginning and explain what makes a mineral different from a rock, then how we identify minerals.  Visitors will learn about geology and crystal formation, how and where mineral specimens develop, and what gives them their unique colors and shapes.  In addition, we’ll feature the vanguard work being done in Dr. Bob Down’s mineralogy lab at the University of Arizona.  We’ll explain how the RUFF project, a sophisticated mineral database being developed by Down’s lab, has revolutionized the categorization and identification of minerals both on Earth and in our Solar System.

From the amazing specimens themselves to the stories behind the minerals, from tales of “self-collecting” to the marvels of atomic structure in crystals, this exhibit will take visitors from the passion to the science and back again.  Come hear the stories and see the gorgeous specimens from many of the finest collections in the state!  The exhibit will run through November 2014.