Explore our most valuable treasures!
This two tonne fire resistant safe has been in existence for over 70 years. The drawers inside were custom built for the purpose of storing valuable gems, minerals and meteorites.
The safe contains our most valuable specimens which were sourced from field collection, purchasing, donation, as well as a significant number which were gifted to the National Museum of Australia. In total there are 15 000 specimens in the collection from all over the world, with the first to be accessioned in 1929.
The collection supported geologists who were undertaking fieldwork into the establishment and development of Australia’s capital city, Canberra. As work programs expanded into other areas across the country, together with changing priorities such as the search for strategic metals post WWII, the collection also grew into the museum that it is today.
This specimen of pyrosmalite (Mn) is regarded as the best of its type in the world due to the large size (up to 1 cm) of crystal clusters on calcite.
It was purchased in 1963 from Albert R. (Floss) Campbell who was a collector of fine minerals. It is the most valuable specimen (monetarily) in the Geoscience Australia National Mineral Collection.
Did you know that opals are Australia's national gemstone?
There are a number of opal shells in the collection that were found at Coober Pedy, South Australia. This world class opal region was once a marine environment during the Cretaceous (~146-65 million years ago) period when the shell was deposited and covered by sediment. During the Miocene (~23-5 million years ago) period, the original shell was replaced by opal.
This ruby (corundum) section in amphibolite was sent to Geoscience Australia in the 1960s by Hillside Properties for analysis work. In appreciation, the company donated a number of specimens to the collection.
Corundum is a crystalline aluminium oxide that comes in many varieties. For example, gem quality red corundum is referred to as ruby whilst blue varieties are sapphires.
Aspen in Colorado (USA) has produced large amounts of silver over the years including one of the worlds largest nuggets. This specimen from Aspen demonstrates the fineness and branch like structure that is typical for native silver.
The Roman's referred to silver as Argentum and hence its chemical element abbreviation is Ag.
Gem quality rhodonite is quite rare. Some of the finer specimens such as this have come from the famous Broken Hill lead-silver-zinc deposit which was one of the largest such deposits ever discovered. It produced over 300 minerals including the manganese-rich rhodonite. This is one of 6 pieces that have been faceted into fine jewels in the collection.
Azurite, over very long time periods, oxidises to malachite (green mineral) as you can see in this specimen. This weathering process makes malachite a pseudomorph of azurite.
Did you know the mineral chrysocolla (another secondary copper mineral) can pseudomorph from malachite, after azurite, known as a double pseudomorph?
The National Mineral and Commonwealth Paleontological Collection, Geoscience Australia and The National Museum of Australia Mineral Collections (specimens)
Chris Fitzgerald (photography)
Steven Petkovski and Peter Butler (text/editing)
Dave Champion (scientific review)
Marie Lake (safe image editing)
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