Dave Hawes

I have always thought that there are two types of people in the world, those who collect and those who don’t.

Those who don’t, often live in immaculate, almost antiseptic, homes where nothing is out of place.

Those who collect can be divided into several groups: Those who collect for business or academic reasons, it is their work. Those who collect for the appreciation of all things natural, and who usually display a few prized pieces on their mantelpiece. Those who collect for the beauty, the knowledge, or the financial gain of the object, and who usually show some restraint in their collecting. And finally there are those who collect because they cannot help themselves, who ultimately bury their gardens, their garages and even their homes with whatever it is that they are collecting.

I consider myself to be somewhere towards the later collectors, trying to show some restraint, always assisted by my wife Petra’s concern about where the next specimen is going to find a home.

I suppose it was inevitable that having relocated to South Africa with its abundance of minerals, some 45 years ago, that at some time I would start collecting minerals, as I already have numerous collections of other items like sea shells, cameras, fossils, etcetera.

The first stone that I remember collecting was beside the road in Namaqualand some 35 years ago when Petra and I stopped for coffee, and a brick sized piece of pink stone caught my eye. At that time I had no idea what it was, it was just pretty, but when I picked it up I found a seam of beautiful, small epidote crystals running through it. I was hooked.

My interest in the hobby, as for me that it what it is, progressed slowly usually driven by various people who through force of circumstance I was privileged to meet.

About 35 years ago I went to the Steinkopf reserve on a charity mission to deliver food and clothing to some destitute local inhabitants, during which trip I met Peter Strachan who it turned out worked for George Swanson as a geologist. As I got to know them both my interest in minerals increased and I spent many interesting hours walking the mountains around Springbok listening to their stories or travelling with George to collect stones from his artisanal miners.

Peter Strachan also took me on my first of many trips to the Richtersveld where I met Dirkie Uys, then a school teacher in Eksteenfontein. Dirkie had grown up in the area and had walked the Richtersveld from east to west and north to south, and was a mine of information on not only the minerals but also the flora and culture of the region. It was Dirkie who took us to crystal fields where you could and maybe still can collect beautiful large slabs of clear undamaged quartz crystals.

The next person that I met, and probably the one who had the greatest influence on my collecting, was Donald Riekert from Kuruman. Donald, who I again met through unrelated activities, became a good friend whom I was able to help out on occasions. This resulted in him keeping some really nice specimens for me. Whenever we met be it in Cape Town or Kuruman, he always said “I’ve got something special for you today, Dave”. Often when he came to our area we would be his first call, usually because he needed money to buy petrol before he went off to see the dealers with whom he traded. We spent many happy hours listening to his stories around the braai fire either at our home or in the camp site in Kuruman.


< Discussing specimens with Donald



                         Donald’s yard                                     Sugilite samples at Donald’s place

More recently I travelled to Riemvasmaak where I struck up an association with a local named Bertus who not only made sure that there was something worth buying when I visited, but also on one occasion took me to the mountains where he digs for crystals. Sadly he has now moved to Namibia so I will need to find a new contact.

Probably from the above it is obvious, that for me, mineral collecting is as much about meeting interesting, usually somewhat eccentric, people and going to really out of the way places, as it is actually collecting specimens.



Looking for specimens at Bertus’ diggings                   Trading stones in Riemvasmaak

I could continue with the stories of my one armed miner in Namibia or buying tourmaline on the back streets of Antsirabe in Madagascar, or my friend Jurgen, who was an engineer at Tsumeb during the last 20 years in which it was mined but I think enough is enough.