Peter Rosewarne

How It All Began

My first exposure to the world of minerals and crystals was while taking geology ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels at school in Brighton, UK, in the late sixties. My interest was of a fairly general nature at that stage, although the seeds of mineral collecting were sown on some field trips, one to North Wales, where I remember being excited by picking up some pyrite and bornite specimens. Next stop was reading geology at Kingston University, London, where a firm interest in mineralogy and igneous petrology took hold.

I was acquiring a very modest collection by this time, mainly from field trips, supplemented by buying from one or two dealers; how I can’t recall but there was no internet shopping in those days. Building this modest collection paid off in terms of assisting in identifying minerals and on one memorable occasion I astounded our mineralogy professor by identifying some obscure specimens that he had set in a class exercise; my 15 minutes of fame! I sold this first very basic and small collection shortly after leaving university, to pay for beer money I think.

The main emphasis at university was on the physical properties of minerals and their identification, not aesthetics. Deer, Howie and Zussman’s Introduction to the Rock Forming Minerals was my bible and the polarising microscope my key to the composition of rocks and the physical properties of their constituent minerals. Sadly, my extensive knowledge of the crystallography, chemistry and genesis of most of the more common mineral groups gained at this time has faded with time.

Early Days

I emigrated to South Africa in 1975, having landed a job with the then Geological Survey and proceeded to waste my ‘min. and pet.’ knowledge doing mundane regional mapping near Beaufort West. I maintained a distant interest in minerals but did nothing about it until visiting Swakopmund in 1997 to attend a geophysics conference. There I discovered the delights of the wonderful minerals of Namibia through some mineral dealer’s shops, including Stonetique, which some of you may be familiar with, and purchased some run-of-the-mill specimens from the trays of cheaper minerals in the back room. Several more visits to Swakopmund followed over the years, visits to the House of Gems in Windhoek, purchases from Rob Smith and Online Minerals and then I joined the Cape Town Gem & Mineral Club, sometime in 2005 I think. I used to look forward with anticipation to the first Saturday of each month and buying specimens from Maurice, Johan, Rocky and Margaret amongst others, building up what I thought was a reasonable general collection.

Addiction Sets In

Then came the fateful but exciting discovery of international internet mineral dealers, which roughly coincided with having more disposable cash to splurge on my, by now, full-blown mineral collecting hobby. This led me to desert the Mineral Club in 2007, only returning in July 2013, to find many familiar faces still present and meet many new, welcoming, people. I think my first internet purchases were from the Amethyst Gallery in the US; half a dozen fairly low-end specimens including diopside, nephelene, sphalerite and augite, which I still have. The main dealers I mainly buy from now are John Betts Fine Minerals, Jim Brown of Hummingbird Minerals, Jordi Fabre of Fabre Minerals, Kevin Ward of The Mineral Gallery and a few others. I also got an insight into truly world-class specimens and collections through books such as Tsumeb, America’s Mineral Treasures, Masterpieces of the Mineral World, The Desmond Sacco Collection, The Smale Collection and by subscribing to the Mineralogical Record.

One of the pitfalls of internet buying is being seduced by the wonderfully luminescent colour photographs of dealer’s offerings, all set up for maximum ‘wow’ factor. Many is the disappointment I’ve had of expectantly unpacking a parcel only to find a small, dull specimen that bears little resemblance to what I thought I had bought.  However, some that did turn out as good as the photos are shown below; all from Kevin Ward (with his permission) – he’s expensive but the ‘package’ is very professional.

                 Moroccan fluorite                                                  Mexican grossular garnetet                                         Tsumeb mimetite
        Photo:                           Photo:                                         Photo:

The other ‘pitfall’ is price. All specimens are in US dollars or Euros and so the Rand exchange rate can make quite a difference to the purchase price. You can spend as little or as much as you want or can afford but decent specimens can be had in the range $100 to $500, depending on size, rarity and perfection of the mineral. The Mineral Gallery regularly has specimens on offer for up to $50 000, a very substantial figure anyway but mind and bank balance-blowing in Rands.

My Collection

My main motivation for collecting is the beauty of fine mineral specimens, especially crystallised ones and I am also a collector at heart, having collected butterflies, birds eggs (I am presuming that there is a statute of limitations for prosecution of these nefarious activities) and shells in a previous life and guitars, wine and books in my present one. I guess I am a hoarder. I also never seem to be satisfied and am always seeing a ‘better’ example of a mineral I already have and almost compulsively buying it. Most of the specimens I started selling (at knock-down prices…) at the club in July are earlier purchases that are surplus to needs and I have had to make space as virtually all the display cabinets and drawers purpose-built for my collection are full.

My catalogued collection, which I christened The Rosey Collection, contains over 600 specimens, with many more awaiting attention. My favourite minerals are wulfenite (Mexican and Red Cloud Mine), garnets, pyromorphite (Bunker Hill), dioptase (Tsumeb/DRC), tourmalines, vanadinite (Morocco) and smithsonite (Tsumeb, Choix and Kelly mines). Despite exposing hundreds of parcels to the vagaries of the postal services of various countries, I’ve only had one go missing so far.

Some photographs (mine and rather poor I’m afraid) of groupings of the favourites mentioned above are included below.




Almost all of my good specimens are bought, not self-collected, which is a downside but obtaining good specimens of most of the above yourself is impractical or now impossible. About the only decent self-collected material I have are some tarbuttite, skorpionite and hemimorphite specimens from Skorpion Zinc Mine near Rosh Pinah, where I have been working on groundwater issues related to mining. Apart from seeing (in books/magazines) examples of high-end SA collections, such as Desmond Sacco’s, I have no idea where mine stands locally but it brings me great satisfaction looking at and handling the specimens and reading up on where they came from and their characteristics. High on my ‘bucket list’ is a visit to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show but, being averse to flying, I’m going to have to make a plan if I am ever to get there. Thanks for reading this far………………….. I’ve bought another Los Lamentos wulfenite in between writing this.  Please, I need help - mainly from my bank manager!

Wulfenite - Los Lamentos, Mexico