Sweet Home Mine, Alma Park Co., Colorado
Rhodochrosite, a manganese carbonate, is a sought-after mineral species desired by both collectors and museums. One of the most recognized Colorado minerals (it is the State Mineral), it occurs in a wide range of geologic environments, including the hydrothermal vein systems of deposits such as the Sweet Home Mine. The range of colors appears to be affected by temperature, with the red at the Sweet Home mine resulting from high temperature and the pale pinks of the Silverton, Colorado mine resulting from low-temperature formation. Established in 1895, the Sweet Home Mine is the most famous of the Colorado rhodochrosite finds, producing perhaps the most important specimens in the world. Brian Lees, a well-known mineral dealer from Golden, began the last phase of mining in 1990 under a lease from the mine's owner, Leonard Beech. Just prior to the death of Beech in 1998, Lees purchased the mine. However, after careful plotting, he determined that the claim was exhausted and closed it permanently in November 2004. In its brief heyday the mine produced perhaps the single most sought-after specimens in mineral collecting: juicy, cherry-red rhodochrosite crystals in large size and dramatic clusters. The present specimen was retrieved in the late 1990s. A stunning small cabinet-sized piece with deep, robust cherry red color (not the weaker, more common strawberry color), it has an accenting association with tetrahedrite. Although there is no visible damage to the display face a small amount of restoration (epoxy) has been used to fill a contact/gap in the lower-most crystal tip. The crystals are razor sharp and very 3-dimensional in their appearance as a whole. Specimens of this caliber, when assessed for color and luster, are simply not available on the market and have not been in a decade. A small amount of repair or restoration (in this case) is thus acceptable, to obtain a display-worthy specimen. The important factors in value, of color and quality of the crystals themselves, cannot be overstated when buying a fine rhodochrosite specimen. Mediocrity has appreciated slightly, but crystals of this quality have shown annual appreciation in the double digits, year after year.
Measures 2 7/8 x 2 7/16 x 1 6/16in.