HOW DO WE GRADE MINERALS?
Unlike other collectibles, minerals are in fact closer to fine art.
Mineral specimens are not like collecting stamps, coins or baseball cards, which are judged based on rarity and condition. Every mineral is totally unique and must be judged by several criteria. These criteria can often be subjective (as in “the eye of the beholder”) or more concrete.
We have designed this point system to help collectors more accurately assess how any given specimen ranks among its peers and how it compares to the finest known. This provides some reference points while leaving open the possibility that a specimen can be beautiful and important simply due to the fact that you enjoy its appearance or that it impacts your senses.
It has always been my personal habit to rank specimens on a 1-10 scale, considering the factors stated below. I recommend all collectors to strive to own “10’s”. Then, there are always specimens that are so vastly superior, so amazingly wondrous, of such shocking beauty and quality, that they must rate above all others; those are the nearly unobtainable holy grails I aﬀectionately call – The “11’s.” An “11″ is truly the finest known example of any species, and, you will know one when you see it, I assure you. Below are the factors to consider with an example of each.
Good luck and happy collecting.
Yes, the “Wow Factor”, perhaps the most important of all criteria, and the least scientific. This one is both visual and visceral – the indefinable essence of any work of art, how it affects you and moves you emotionally and artistically. Here is how one judges the “Wow Factor”; when you open the box, or walk into a room, and see the specimen for the very first time in person and you utter the word – “WOW!”. That’s it. Basically you are saying everything you need to know about the specimen. If it passes the “Wow” test, then you begin applying the other 9 criteria stated above.
This obviously only applies to those species which are transparent and takes into account varying degrees of transparency from “water clear” to opaque, within the context of what is known about the specific species. Any species not commonly found clear is far more valuable. The commonly used term “Gem” or Gemmy” implies the piece has a gem-like appearance. That is the highest form of transparency and sought after in all species. The property of a solid object being transparent has, for millennia, intrigued and fascinated humans. We are drawn to objects that glow. The light shining through a crystal should create a luminescent glow.
This relates primarily to the physical condition, lack of damage, or appearance of damage. We often say, “if it looks like damage then it is damage”. There are different categories of damage. Dings, nicks, breaks, or cleaves on a crystal are part of the reality of collecting minerals. Very few are truly perfect. Damages which are noticeable and interrupt the beauty of a specimen are not acceptable. Often a crystal will have what is known as a “contact”. Contacts are where a crystal was up against, or grew next to, another crystal or matrix. This is natural and, as long as they are not unsightly, are acceptable. Included in this criteria is repair and restoration as well. We are of the opinion that repair and restoration is acceptable when it is invisible, or nearly invisible, does not impact the beauty or aesthetics.
Analyze the surface of every crystal and how it interacts with light and reflection. There are many descriptive terms for luster, such as glassy, resinous, reflective, metallic, wet, shiny, etc. Radiance, or reflected light, is highly appealing to the eye, like the gleam of Gold, a glint of light, or the shimmer of water. While these are all very good for descriptions, I am more interested if a luster catches my eye, my attention, and makes a specimen more appealing. Dull luster is always a negative on main crystals, but in some instances on a matrix, it can enhance contrast.
This can be significant. In the mineral kingdom, large perfect crystals are valued due to rarity in relation to smaller examples. A large crystal in and of itself is not significant. This criteria is only for large crystals that are equal or superior to smaller examples of the same mineral. This criteria becomes more important in species that are rarely found in large sizes. We limit this to Somewhat Important due to the fact that not all collectors want larger specimens.
Crystal Quality, Form and Definition
This assesses crystal sharpness, termination, and form. For this judgment, crystal faces should form without interruption, angles and planes intersect with clean definable lines. Take into account the sharpness of edges (depending upon the species). Ask if the terminations are symmetrical, proportionate, well defined, and attractively shaped. The sides and faces of each crystal should be well developed. Terminations that are complex are usually more desirable, they should attract your eye, and not distract.
How the crystals and matrix contrast with each other in color and texture. This is fairly straightforward in definition. Like Dark on light, clear on opaque, smooth on coarse, etc. Contrast delineates crystal edges and sets boundaries and outlines, creating a visual perception which is more three dimensional and thus more eye appealing.
Saturated, vivid, bright, intense, colorful — these are all considered positive descriptions for most species.
How the specimen compares in color to other known examples. Normally deeper, more saturated color is desirable.
Minerals which are transparent can actually be less valuable if they are too dark and light does not transmit through
the crystals. This criteria is somewhat subjective, primarily due to the type of lighting when viewing the mineral. You will see differences in color when viewing specimens in daylight, incandescent, LED or fluorescent light. Color perception is directly related to lighting but still measurable in relation to other known examples under the same lighting conditions.
Very related to aesthetics. How the crystals and matrix relate to each other in size, ratio and form.How they interact with space. Consider angles, length, thickness and arrangement.Crystals should look proportional to each other, juxtaposed in an interesting and eye appealing way, or on a matrix in such a way as to be harmonious and counter-balanced.
Aesthetic includes the overall appearance or beauty of the specimen. Its appreciation will change from eye to eye, but some basic parameters are universal. Crystal isolation and/or well defined individual crystals, crystallized matrix, contrasting colors and textures, crystals of different size and height, three dimensional viewing angles, specimens or in other words interesting and well developed top edges where your eye is drawn initially. Just like any work of art, it must have pleasing aesthetic arrangement to your eye. This is simply a visual reference to the appeal of the mineral as one would look at any three dimensional sculpture.The intrinsic value of aesthetic minerals is the pleasure you get from viewing them.