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Azurite


Mineral: Azurite
Chemistry: Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2
Size: 300 mm
Owner: American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
Photographer: AMNH

Large, prismatic and striated crystals of deep blue azurite (to 180 mm) occupying an open vug in a matrix that consists largely of tan-coloured calcite. A little malachite is present, mainly at the margins of the azurite crystals group.  The main crystals are terminated and undamaged, and of a size that is quite remarkable for the species.   

The famous "Newmont Azurite" was discovered in 1952 and used by a miner to pay off a bar bill at the local Eckleben Hotel, in Tsumeb.  The specimen was on display behind the bar for some time, but was eventually rescued by the mine's general manager, Charles E. Stott, who reminded the hotelier that it was mine property.  After several years, the specimen was shipped to the New York offices of Newmont (then the majority partner in the Tsumeb Corporation Limited) and eventually donated to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, where it remains on public display.  The story of its discovery and donation was described by Conklin (2016), who considered it to be "the world's finest mineral specimen".

Many, but by no means all, of the great azurite specimens from Tsumeb originated from the first oxidation zone, and it has been tacitly assumed that the Newmont Azurite must also have come from the upper levels of the mine, not least because at the time of its discovery (1952), mine development was only beginning to penetrate the levels that are now refered to as the second oxidation zone (i.e. below 26 Level). 

However, in 2017 a photograph of the specimen (see below left) came to light among the unpublished papers of the late Charles E. Stott, general manager at Tsumeb between 1953 and 1965.  The reverse of the photo (see below right) is marked “Foto: Geier” and dated “1962” and clearly attributes this “Group of giant azurite [crystals]” to the West 80 (W.80) stope on 28 Level.  Bruno Geier was the chief mineralogist at Tsumeb in 1962, and this is therefore almost certainly a photograph taken by him, which brings considerable credibility to the attributed level number.

Accordingly, there is now evidence, albeit circumstantial, that the Newmont Azurite may have originated from the second oxidation zone at Tsumeb, and not from the upper levels of the mine as hitherto assumed.  The original photograph has been donated by the Stott family to the American Museum of Natural History. 

By courtesy of the American Museum of Natural History.