ORGANIZING A MINERAL COLLECTION
well over 3,000 minerals, and many have variances in color and crystal habits. Many are extremely rare and impossible to come across. It is thus impossible for any collector to reach the goal of having
every mineral type. No collection in the world is even close to complete. A collection method known
as specialized collecting is used by many collectors. Instead
of collecting any and every mineral specimen, specialized collectors collect only certain
types of minerals, based on several classification groups or characteristics. Some examples include:
- Minerals from specific localities or regions
- Minerals belonging to a specific class or group (for example zeolites)
- Minerals belonging to a crystal group (for example isometric)
- Minerals with certain properties (for example fluorescent minerals)
- Variances of a single mineral type (for example different forms of Calcite)
Some collectors have thumbnail and micromount collections.
Thumbnails are mineral specimens about 1 inch (2.5 cm.) in size, and micromounts are even smaller.
Both are stored in clear plastic covered boxes, and micromounts are often mounted on thin stands. There are several
advantages to thumbnail and micromount collecting. Smaller crystals are often better crystallized than their larger counterparts, thus tiny crystals can have near-perfect crystallization that is
beautifully displayed when viewed through magnification. Micromounts and thumbnails also
take up less space and are more affordable compared to larger specimens.
Mineral Display and Storage
Storing minerals is dependant upon personal
preference and financial considerations. The most ideal way to display minerals is in a well-lit glass breakfront or viewing
cabinet where the beauty of the minerals can be displayed. Because of the high
cost of breakfronts, many collectors keep their specimens in less expensive organized
drawers. A beginner may store his minerals in boxes or egg cartons, but should eventually
achieve better storage methods. Old breakfronts also make good use as mineral storage.
Mineral dealers usually store minerals in cardboard boxes called flats, which are stackable and can be labeled. The flats usually contain small square or rectangle cardboard boxes for each mineral. It is always best to store minerals in some sort of categorical sorting to keep track of similar minerals.
Professional mineral collectors value the locality of a
mineral almost as much as the mineral species type. When a mineral is found, an index
card or paper label describing the mineral and its locality should be filled out. In addition, if
purchasing a mineral without a locality label, make sure to ask for locality information.
The value of a mineral can be greatly reduced if its locality information is unknown.
It is advisable to retain the
locality details by placing a label with the mineral's name (and any other details) together with the
mineral. If minerals are displayed, they should be labeled either by a number with
information corresponding to that number. There is also a company that designs custom plastic display holders for high-end specimens with the labels and locality engraved in the plastic.
Some minerals have weaknesses in their physical
structure, and must be kept in special conditions. This includes fragile, color fading, transforming, and disintegrating minerals. All minerals can break when put under stress. Therefore, ALL minerals should be handled as little as possible. If minerals are in a
display breakfront or case, they should not be crammed together. There should be ample
space between the specimens. If the minerals are in drawers, they should be place in small
cardboard boxes separating each mineral. Many purchased minerals are sold in such boxes.
must be exercised when handling and storing delicate minerals; a badly broken
specimen loses its beauty and can become worthless. These fragile minerals can be kept
on foam padding or cotton for protection (though acicular,
fibrous, and long, slender crystals should
be kept away from cotton, as the crystals can get caught in the cotton and break). When
cleaning minerals one should also use extreme caution as many good specimens have been damaged through rough cleaning..
Several minerals lose their original color when exposed to
light for extended periods. For example, Kunzite, as well as certain forms of Amethyst, and Topaz fade upon prolonged exposure to
light. Any mineral that is known to fade should be stored in a dark area or covered box. A few minerals, namely Proustite and Pyrargyrite, darken upon exposure to light. They darken at a much faster pace than fading minerals fade, and
therefore superior care must be taken to keep these specimens away from light. The mineral Realgar must also be kept out of
light, for it will first transform into Pararealgar and eventually decompose into a powder if exposed for repeated prolonged periods of time.
Halite, Chalcanthite, and several other
minerals are soluble in water. These minerals should not be washed with water nor stored in humid conditions. To insure that they remain dry, it is recommended to store them with silica gel, or rice, which absorb
moisture. Silica gel and rice eventually become saturated and should be replaced, depending on the humidity.
A small number of minerals, such as Borax
and Kernite, are efflorescent, meaning they lose water
in their structure if stored in a dry area. Such minerals should be kept in a moist place.