Written by Simone | 3rd September 2019
If you open up a home decor magazine or scroll through Pinterest, chances are you’ll come across minerals – think quartz countertops, amethyst lamps and obsidian necklaces; items made from minerals that previously could only be found in private collections and museums. What’s changing and what’s next? Mineral expert Trevor Boyd discusses.
Trevor: In recent years the interest in minerals has increased dramatically and this has coincided with an increased interest in Eastern spirituality and metaphysical religious beliefs. Minerals are considered to have certain healing and beneficial properties associated with the 'energy' within their crystal structure.
While there has been no peer-reviewed, scientific evidence for this, millions of people do believe in and testify to the benefits of minerals. Demand for minerals has therefore grown massively in recent years. There has also been a growing interest in minerals from the decorative point of view in homes, businesses, hotels, etc.. The natural form and beauty of crystal specimens can be awe-inspiring and top specimens can be a real feature in a room.
Clear quartz geode.
Does that mean you’ve noticed changes in the type of mineral buyer as well?
Trevor: There has definitely been a very pronounced change in the type of individual who is now interested in minerals.
Interest in collecting mineral specimens first started in the 19th century, with rich Victorian gentlemen travelling around Europe collecting specimens from the mines directly. As the popularity of this pastime grew and with improvements in transportation and communications, it became open to a wider group of individuals.
However, it was still a predominantly male hobby for those with some interest in science. Collectors looked for specimens that were very aesthetic or built collections of minerals from particular countries or mines.
Today, the mineral collecting community is much more diverse. There are still the traditional collectors but there is now a much larger group of individuals who are interested in minerals simply because of their aesthetic and potentially healing properties.
Entrepreneurs and business owners are also becoming more interested in buying minerals to decorate their homes and workplaces, as well as an investment opportunity. Minerals are a finite resource and ultimately demand may exceed supply for the best specimens.
Trevor: Minerals which form nicely defined crystals, especially quartz, are popular but also minerals which can be fashioned into pendants, bracelets and other jewellery. Buyers interested in the metaphysical properties of minerals want to be able to wear them so that they can benefit from having the minerals on them during the day; whether that’s because they’re not feeling well, or if they have stressful or difficult situations that day.
The larger display specimens are also extremely sought after from an interior design aspect. The classic Brazilian amethyst geodes are still very popular, while China has been producing some amazing large mineral specimens in recent years.
Although there is still a large community of traditional collectors I suspect that this number is declining very gradually. As a result, interest in the less aesthetic minerals which do not form nice crystals but which are important in their own right is declining.
It’s also perhaps important to mention that with the increasing demand for many types of minerals there has also been a growing trend in the production of fake minerals. These can sometimes look amazing but they are not natural. Most are artificially grown in laboratories, which is fine as long as this is made clear to the buyer.
But many are also minerals dyed or altered to look like a more expensive mineral. White howlite, for example, is commonly dyed light blue to look like the more expensive mineral, turquoise.
Trevor: Like I mentioned earlier, for many years the mineral collecting hobby was dominated by ageing men who perhaps had an academic interest in the subject or were lucky enough to live close to mineral collecting localities. However, the advent of the internet has caused an explosion of interest in minerals from both a collecting and lifestyle point of view.
Although minerals are essentially a limited resource and many of the old classic mineral collecting localities may be exhausted, there are always new locations being discovered and with that the possibility of new minerals being discovered too.
In addition, the specimens which formed part of old collections are often 'recycled', either through being exchanged or sold to new collectors. There is a growing interest in minerals specimens as objects to invest in as their value, especially with older specimens with good provenance, increases with time.
So, far from being a hobby consigned to the past, mineral collecting is still a vibrant and rapidly evolving pastime.
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