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Alpine pink fluorite.

Octahedral, pink to rose-red fluorite crystals are historically among the most treasured and sought after of all Alpine minerals. In the European Alps the best pink fluorite specimens are found in just two small regions, in Switzerland and France, where a long and honored history of field collecting has flourished for centuries, yielding numerous important discoveries.



The three words alone have power to conjure: "Alpine pink fluorite" evokes images of transparent pink or rose-red octahedral crystals resting on clean-looking, coarse-grained white granite, or squatting directly on mirrored faces of gemmy smoky quartz crystals. To recall or imagine such specimens is somehow to call up the exotic, the fugitive and elusive--clearly, in Alpine pink fluorite there is an otherworldliness not to be found in the fluorites, however beautiful, from Weardale or Dalnegorsk or Xianghualing or Cave-in-Rock. How about that label? Well, it will say either "Chamonix, France," perhaps with a few extra terms in French, or something Germanic, crisper and frostier, so there is nothing for it but to imagine serrated ranges of snow-capped peaks in Swiss middle distances where we will never contrive to go.

Because cleft discoveries in the high mountains typically yield very limited numbers of specimens, Alpine pink fluorite will never be common, and good specimens will never be inexpensive. But the fortunate paradox is that Alpine pink fluorite will never entirely cease showing up on the specimen market, either: the "deposits" can never realistically be "mined out." More crystallized clefts will always be there, however sparsely dispersed, awaiting discovery by Strahlers. (1)

For present purposes, Alpine pink fluorite is that which comes from the European Alps and not from "alpine-type" clefts elsewhere, although, as it happens, the earth contains only one important "alpine-type" locality outside Europe (though only just: it lies in the Polar Urals of Russia) which has produced octahedral pink fluorite crystals. Even within Europe's heartland region of rocks deformed by the (early Tertiary) Alpine Orogeny, nearly all clefts which contain pink fluorite are found within two small areas of granite and orthogneiss: (1) most of the Aare and part of the Got-thard massifs of south-central Switzerland, and (2) the Mont Blanc massif in east-central France. This review of historic occurrences of Alpine pink fluorite will be confined mostly to these two areas, with only brief descriptions of other, sparsely productive localities in Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

Also, the discussion will be restricted primarily to Alpine pink fluorite crystals, since it is almost nowhere else but in these Alpine regions that fluorite routinely forms crystals which are octahedral and pink. Of course, there have been Alpine finds of fluorite crystals in other colors: the largest octahedral crystal of fluorite ever found in a Swiss cleft is a 16-cm green octahedron encountered during construction of the Sommerloch power station during the 1950s (Weibel, 1966; Parker, 1973). But as every experienced collector knows, the real charisma belongs to the "pinks" alone.

Alpine color-zoned fluorite octahedrons occur as well. Most commonly these have pink cores and green, blue or purple outer zones showing successive changes in morphology during growth. Such crystals have tales to tell about their formation conditions and trace-element chemistry. Moreover, the hue of Alpine "pink" fluorite actually ranges from almost colorless through very pale pink, medium-pink, rose-red, and almost crimson, with the Swiss localities (generally) producing the paler crystals and French Mont Blanc (generally) the more deeply colored crystals.


A few other differences between Swiss and French specimens may be stated in broadly general terms. Swiss pink fluorite crystals, when fresh, are more lustrous and have more internal "sparkle" than their French counterparts; French crystals have more nearly mirror-smooth faces; Swiss crystals are more likely to rest on granite while French crystals are more likely to rest on the faces of large quartz crystals. Lab work may discern that whereas most French crystals are simple and solid within, Swiss crystals commonly have tiny, tetrahedron-shaped, internal cavities in which primary fluids of crystallization have been preserved (Stalder et al., 1998). But in both regions the fluorite crystals have formed in clefts in granite which is either purely igneous or to some degree metamorphosed, and in both regions the associated species are colorless to smoky quartz, adularia, albite, white calcite in tabular to papery--"paper spar"--crystals, and minor apatite-(CaF), hematite and zeolites.

Unfortunately, both Swiss and French crystals are prone to corrosion by circulating waters, turning their lustrous faces dull or frosted, or worse: many a promising cleft has greeted the strahler or cristallier with corroded, eroded, or nearly vanished pink fluorite crystals.

While we are listing less than pleasant facts it should also be mentioned that Alpine pink fluorite specimens have commonly been faked. The very high prices which collectors have always been willing to pay for Alpine pink fluorite specimens have inspired unscrupulous sellers to glue fluorite crystals (or even cleavage octahedrons) where they don't belong on matrix rock or on the faces of quartz crystals. In all likelihood, deceits of these kinds have been practiced regularly throughout the 250 years or so during which Alpine pink fluorite has been gathered to delight collectors.



An exhaustive account of the history of crystal-collecting in the Swiss Alps has yet to be written, but any such account would have to begin with fragmentary reports from as far back as early Roman Imperial times. Ten of the 37 books of the Historia Naturalis of Pliny the Elder (Gaius Plinius Secundus, 23-79 A.D) were published in 77 A.D., and the great work's remaining books, probably edited by Pliny the Younger, the author's nephew, were published after the elder Pliny perished in the famous eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. (Schuh, 2008). One tantalizing passage in Pliny's 37th book (in the English translation of Philemon Holland, 1634) makes it clear that Strahlers were actively and skillfully collecting minerals even in those early times:

  Thus much I dare my felfe avouch, that cryftall [quartz] groweth
  within certain rockes vpon the Alps, and thofe fo fteep and
  inacceffible, that for the moft part they are con-ftrained to hang by
  ropes that fhall get it forth. They that be skilfull and well
  experienced therein, go by divers markes and fignes which direct them
  to places where there is criftall, and where alfo they can diferne
  good from bad...

There is also archaeological evidence of interest in "crystal" some 2000 years ago: in a mountain pass often traversed by Roman legions during the 1st century A.D., a bronze Roman dagger was found in 1966, its broken-off blade still stuck in the crystallized cleft where someone had tried to pry out quartz crystals (Graeser, 1998).


Very early records of Alpine crystals and crystal collecting, when they refer to particular mineral species at all, refer solely to quartz, whose transparent, colorless crystals (thought to be hyper-frozen water) were widely used during the Middle Ages as raw material for carved vessels such as goblets and bowls (Graeser, 1998) as well as, surely, for decorative purposes. But it was not until the 18th century that written documents refer to Swiss specimens of pink fluorite. The Swiss naturalist Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (1672-1733), in a first edition of what would be his Beschreibung der Naturge-schichte des Schweizerlandes ("Description of the Natural History of Switzerland"), published in London in 1708, refers to specimens of "quartz and fluorite" which he had gathered during his yearly nature-observing trips through his homeland. Seventy-four years later, in 1782, the Italian priest and natural history professor Father Ermengildo Pini (1739-1825) published Memoria Mineralogica sulla montagna e sui contorni di S. Gottardo ("Mineralogical memoir of the mountains and the contours of St. Gotthard"), in which he wrote of his trips to the Gotthard region, describing "pink fluorite, as octahedrons, from the granite mountains around Realp, Uri" (paraphrased in Schuh, 2008). This relative reticence about mentioning the beautiful pink crystals is in a way surprising, as there were private mineral collections in Switzerland at least as far back as the 16th century (for accounts of some, see Wilson, 1994), and we may safely surmise that some of these collections contained Alpine fluorite. Moreover, abundant records exist which make clear that Alpine minerals were dug for their collector interest (as we would now call it) earlier than Scheuchzer's and Father Pini's times. Indeed, one known center of such activities was Oberwallis, i.e. northeastern Canton Wallis, around the Grimsel Pass--the heart of Swiss pink fluorite country.


Strahlers already were active in Oberwallis in the mid-16th century: in 1545, one Johannes Stumpf wrote that in several places one could find superb quartz crystals, both "white and brown," and "I myself found several specimens near the Grimsel [Pass] on 27 August 1544." The same diarist noted exciting finds by himself and others in Goms (the Rhone Valley), just southwest of the Grimsel Pass (Werlen, 1967). By the next century, commercial mineral-trading activities in the area were being recorded: an I.O.U. written in 1671 in the village of Fiesch, in Goms, Oberwallis, by a person whose signature is not clear, averred that he, the collector, owed a Handler (dealer) named Johann Kreig a certain (illegible) sum for "crystals," plus assorted expenses of Kreig's; other commercial records from the same time show various lists of costs of supplies and provisions for strahlers. Two letters dated 1676 and 1678 respectively are addressed by one J. Cournoysie of Vevey (on Lake Geneva) to Johann Kreig, the dealer who lived in Fiesch. The first letter acknowledges a consignment of "many quartz crystals shipped to France" four years before, and asks Kreig to ship more, though cautioning him not to send any crystals with "internal flecks or clouds," since such crystals "no longer have value." In the 1678 letter Cournoysie asks Kreig to send 15 or 20 transparent, doubly terminated quartz crystals to Sion (whether Sion, Switzerland or Sion, France is not specified) with a promise of payment partly "in goods" (Werlen, 1967). In Switzerland generally, mineral collectors' activities were intense enough as early as 1609 to cause an ordnance to be issued in the Binntal area which prohibited digging for crystals in farmers' cow pastures (in 1714 the strahlers were compensated in part, when another edict affirmed their rights to unrestricted collecting in the high mountains) (Werlen, 1967; Graeser, 1998).


The activities of strahlers like Stumpf and dealers like Kreig were unconnected with anything we would now call science, but in 1669 there began a movement towards scientific awareness when the naturalist, geologist and anatomist Nicolaus Steno (1631-1687) published Solido Intra Soldum Naturaliter, "the greatest contribution to crystallography, paleontology and geology made during the seventeenth century" (Schuh, 2008). The book contained the first statement of the fundamental crystallographic law of the constancy of interfacial angles, this insight having been inspired in part by Steno's examination of a collection of Alpine quartz crystals (Werlen, 1967). In 1698, Hottinger's Krystallologia argued in print that quartz, after all, is not hyper-frozen water (Graeser, 1998). Throughout the 17th and early 18th centuries in Switzerland, it is clear, interest in minerals quickened and the strahlers' art flourished, and yet, oddly, it remained true that "mineral" collecting meant quartz-crystal collecting, crystals of other species being largely considered worthless (Werlen, 1967). In 1719 the largest crystallized cleft ever found in the Alps was opened, and between 1719 and 1721 it produced prodigious numbers of quartz crystals measuring to 50 cm long (Parker, 1973; Wilson, 1984b). The cleft was found on the Zinggenstock, in the richest pink-fluorite region of Switzerland--and in 1951 a cleft very nearby, on the Zinggenlucke, produced octahedral pink fluorite crystals to 3.2 cm (Parker, 1973), but the records of the 1719 cleft mention only quartz (Werlen, 1967).

Pink fluorite from central Switzerland was at last clearly heard of in 1796, when the Swiss geologist Horace Benedict de Saussure (1740-1799) visited the cleft workings at Sandbalm, about 3 km west of the village of Goschenen. This enormous cleft system had first been opened in 1670, and intermittent working for specimens had gone on ever since: probably this is Switzerland's first example of a "specimen mine." By the time of the visit of J. G. Sulzer in 1742 the Sandbalm cleft system had been thoroughly explored, though the nature of its products to this time (besides quartz) is unrecorded (Stalder et al., 1998); at any rate, Sulzer found that a secure wooden door had been installed over the main entrance to keep out thieves. In 1796 at Sandbalm, de Saussure specifically noted some recent finds of colorless quartz, rhombohedral white crystals of calcite, chlorite, and "red fluorite," although "... the fluorite was not noticed at first but was later saved from material which had been discarded. [The crystals] are rough, translucent octahedrons" (Parker, 1973).

Written references to pink fluorite discoveries remained sparse during the 19th century. In 1861 an enthusiastic Swiss mineral collector, David Friedrich Wiser (1802-1878), published Weg von Vrin auf die Greina ("The Route from [the town of] Vrin to the Greina [Pass]")--the title refers to a region of Canton Graubunden, considerably to the east of the main Swiss pink-fluorite area, where, in the mid-19th century, fine discoveries of pink fluorite nevertheless were made (WeiB and Derungs, 2004). Wiser's Weg lies about 12 km north of the Frunthorn, in the Adula Mountain Group, where superb pink fluorite crystals have been unearthed much more recently, i.e. during the 1990s and 2000s (see later). In 1862, Gerhard vom Rath, in describing a specimen showing 7.5-cm pink fluorite crystals on quartz, became "one of the first to mention pink fluorite in Swiss literature" (Bancroft, 1984). And in 1868 on the Tiefengletscher--about 10 km northeast of the Grimsel Pass and about the same distance southwest of Goscheneralp--another gigantic quartz crystal cleft was opened (for good summary accounts of it see Wilson, 1984b, and Bancroft, 1984). Besides a haul of dark smoky quartz crystals to 95 cm long, the Tiefengletscher cleft (or "grotto") produced pink fluorite crystals, although in noting the fact Parker (1973) does not describe the crystals or judge their quality.

In Switzerland the period of "modern" pink fluorite discoveries might as well be said to begin as the 20th century opens. Since then the frequency of discoveries has probably been about what it was in earlier times, as the strahlers have quickened their pace and improved their techniques, thus staying ahead of the increasing scarcity of accessible clefts. Some major Swiss discoveries of the 20th century are surveyed later, in the "Occurrences" section.

That fine specimens of Swiss pink fluorite are cherished in a nationalistic way even by ordinary Swiss citizens is testified to by Burgdorfer's account (1972) of a Rettungsaktion ("rescue operation") which took place in Bern in 1971, for the sake of a great specimen now safely ensconced in the Natural History Museum of Bern. The specimen, from the Grimsel area, is a group of quartz crystals measuring 25 X 35 X 40 cm, partly covered by beautiful pink fluorite crystals. It was to be part of a lot of gem, jewelry and mineral specimens auctioned in Bern to diverse international bidders, creating the likelihood that, if things went as planned, the specimen would leave the country. To head off this danger, members of Mineralienfreunde Bern ("Bern Friends of Minerals") took hasty action, led by the officers of the club and aided by the co-operation of the specimen's owner and of the auctioneer, both of whom were club members. The auction catalog listed the specimen's value at 30,000 Swiss francs. With difficulty the auction contract was re-negotiated, and the specimen separated from the rest of the lot. Since the Natural History Museum of Bern lacked anything like enough funds to buy it outright, letters and circulars were sent out everywhere, donations being solicited from political leaders of the city and canton of Bern, from local business concerns, and from the general population. In a special meeting of Mineralienfreunde Bern, members voted 99 to 2 to contribute 500 francs from the club's own shallow coffers. Another 10,000 francs were raised from the sources mentioned above, and the rest of the money came finally from the Citizens' Council of Bern, i.e. from the city government in its capacity as owner of the Natural History Museum. Thus the specimen was saved for Switzerland, amid great civic rejoicing (readers are now are permitted to mutter things like "No wonder Swiss minerals are so expensive ...").



During the last three decades of the 20th century and to the present, specimens from the French part of Mont Blanc showing pink (more commonly, rose-red) octahedral fluorite crystals, many resting on faces of smoky quartz crystals, have eclipsed Swiss specimens in numbers gathered and in fame won among mineral collectors. Partly this surge in supply and in consequent popularity has been due to increased prospecting by French cristalliers, but partly it also results from the fact that, even more on Mont Blanc than elsewhere, the retreats of glaciers have revealed new outcrops of cleft-bearing rock, so that new clefts have been and are being found at a fairly good clip (for such rare treasure-chests). But the recorded history of pink fluorite discoveries on French Mont Blanc is, as for Switzerland, on the sketchy side ...

As in Switzerland, there are in France faint echoes of Roman interest in quartz crystals (from Mont Blanc), but no such echoes at all from the Middle Ages (Asselborn, 1999). Predictably, interest in Mont Blanc quartz stirred during the Renaissance, and by the 17th century there are fragments of written accounts of the risky work of unnamed cristalliers: a 1674 journal entry by one Henry Justel of London actually describes specific techniques of Alpine crystal collecting (Asselborn, 1999). Indeed, during the 17th century so many mountain guides also became crystal hunters that, according to Asselborn (1999), the century probably should be considered a "grande epoque of prospecting for quartz on the Mont Blanc massif." However, there is no specific word of Mont Blanc pink fluorite in 17th-century records.

The 18th century saw increased interest in recreational climbing and crystal-prospecting, and the beginning of the organized mercantile tourism which prevails to this day in the beautiful ski-resort and cristalliers' town of Chamonix. By the century's latter half, mineral specimens brought down by cristalliers were being sold as far afield as Paris, and Geneva-based scholars were encouraging scientific investigation of the massif (Asselborn, 1999). In 1779, Horace Benedict de Saussure of Geneva (mentioned above) published the first edition of his classic work on Alpine geology. Voyages dans les Alpes ("Travels Through the Alps"). To gather material, Saussure "crossed the whole chain of the Alps no less than fourteen times [and] climbed all the accessible summits, collect[ing] specimens," and, in his notes, celebrating the exhilarations of climbing and recording respectfully the lives and customs of the mountain people (Schuh, 2008). However, he also wrote that " ... the search for crystals [on French Mont Blanc] has decreased. Either the mountains are considered exhausted, or the crystals from Madagascar are too competitive" (quoted by Schwab, 1998). By "crystals" Saussure meant quartz, of course; there is no explicit mention of pink fluorite in his work. And his observation of a decline in collecting seems questionable: French Alpine refuges such as served (and still serve) as rest stations and staging areas for cristalliers were then being constructed (Gautron, 1999b; Asselborn, 1999), and enthusiastic climbers were setting out from them. In October 1791, on a margin of the Glacier des Bois (today Mer de Glace); near the Grandes Jorasses Rocks, cristalliers out of Chamonix made the first recorded discoveries of Mont Blane pink fluorite crystals. The specimens were publicly shown in Geneva on October 20, 1791, by Marc Auguste Pictet (1752-1825), a Geneva physician and naturalist and a friend of Saussure's. Pictet described the specimens as "transparent pieces of pink fluorite of the tetrahedral double-pyramidal form, sometimes layered in feldspar and transparent quartz" (Asselborn, 1993, 1999).


Nineteenth-century records afford more glimpses of Mont Blanc pink fluorite. During the early and middle part of the century there existed in the Chamonix area dealers in "natural history" materials who made little collections of local minerals and arrayed them carefully in little boxes made of Scotch pine, distributing these souvenirs, or curiosities, fairly widely (Asselborn, 1993). And it is highly likely that some of those little boxes harbored pink fluorite. Most of the local cristalliers remained interested solely in quartz--but in 1844 Joseph-Marie Couttet (1792-1877), the most famous mountain guide and cristallier of the time, sold for 600 francs to the English poet John Ruskin, a close friend of his, a fine "red" fluorite specimen purportedly from the Glacier du Tacul (Eric Asselborn, personal communication, 2009). This specimen ended up in the British Museum (Asselborn, 1999), and likewise three specimens showing 1 -cm pink octahedrons were acquired by two large Parisian museums before 1900 (Gautron, 1999b).

During the later 19th century, one of Chamonix's most prominent characters was the naturalist/cristallier/autodidact Venance-Arthur Payot (1827-1902), who sold local mineral specimens from a store called "Le Cristal de Roche" (its facade can still be seen today in the old heart of Chamonix). In 1873 Payot published "the first true mineralogical inventory" (Gautron, 1999b) of Mont Blanc, listing about 90 distinct minerals. And yet by the end of the 19th century, even while Payot, who by that time had become the mayor of Chamonix, was working hard to encourage crystal collecting (Schwab, 1998), pink fluorite had been but sparsely described in mineralogical literature. Alfred Lacroix (1863-1948), in his exhaustive, five-volume Mineralogie de la France et de ses Colonies (1893-1910), devoted just a few lines to
  ... the beautiful pink fluorite [which] is one of the most
  interesting minerals sought for in the clefts of the Mont Blanc
  massif ... There are many collecting sites ... but at none of them is
  [pink fluorite] present in any abundance. The regular octahedrons
  rest on colorless and smoky quartz and are accompanied by other
  minerals including prehnite, sphene and adularia.


The real glory days of pink-fluorite collecting on French Mont Blanc run through the 20th century's three or four final decades and seem now to be continuing; accordingly, major finds after 1975 will be surveyed later. The year 1975 makes a convenient cut-off between the "historical" and "modem" eras because this is the year in which the largest pink octahedral fluorite crystal ever found anywhere in the Alps was collected. This amazing crystal is a sharp, compound, translucent rose-red octahedron 18 cm (7 inches) on edge, free of matrix, forever to be known as "Georges" in tribute to the cristallier who collected it, Georges Bettembourg of Chamonix. Bettembourg found "Georges" in a cleft on the Aiguille des Pelerins, Aiguilles Rouges massif, northwest of Chamonix, in July 1975. On August 18, 1983, at the age of 33, he was killed by an avalanche on the Aiguille Verte--while hunting for crystals, of course. In 1993 the story of the pink fluorite called "Georges" was told (in German) in ExtraLapis No. 4 ("Fluorit"), by French collector Eric Asselborn--and is worth repeating here (in a loose translation):

The "Georges" Cleft

The western cliff-face of Aiguille des Pelerins had first given up fluorite specimens during the summer of 1925, when the mountain guide and cristallier Georges Charlet (1901-1978) found a large cleft near the foot of the cliff-face. Charlet and an associate extracted a few large fluorite specimens, not crystallized all around but of a fine red color; the largest of these was sold to Colonel Louis Vesigne (1870-1954), then the leading private collector in France. After Vesigne's death his collection went to the Natural History Museum in the Jardins des Plantes, Paris, where the 1925 fluorite specimen remains today: it is a large pink to red specimen--primarily a cleavage section--measuring 15 cm.

Having decided that the continual rock-falls on the western side of Aiguille des Pelerins made the area too dangerous, Georges Charlet left off collecting there altogether. The site remained largely undisturbed until 1975, when two cousins, Georges Bettembourg and Jean-Franck Charlet, who recently had declared themselves a professional cristallier team, decided to revisit it. Jean-Franck had learned of the 1925 cleft from his grandfather Georges, and the Aiguille des Pelerins was attractive additionally because one year earlier, following a large landslide, two cristalliers had investigated newly created rock exposures and brought back a few specimens of pink fluorite. On the appointed day in July 1975 Jean-Franck Charlet was held back by practical obligations, and Bettembourg invited another alpinist he knew, Daniel Audibert, to accompany him on the expedition. On their first partial ascent of the cliff-face, Bettembourg and Audibert found a few rough pieces of pink fluorite among the float; on their second try, thanks to the recent landslide which had bared new expanses of rock, they found the entrance to a large cleft. After a third long, rope-aided climb they worked hard for 12 hours to clear the cleft entrance so that they could enter. As they had expected, extensive parts of the cleft had collapsed, but many remaining vugs contained massive fluorite--a rarity--instead of quartz. And in one spot, lying loose in a mixture of muddy clay and chlorite sand, was the stunning, 18-cm "Georges." The collectors' reactions to the discovery are not recorded (which is all the better: we get to make them up for ourselves).


Otherwise the cleft offered little of mineralogical interest. During a later ascent that season the partners found another fluorite cleft about one meter higher, and from it they collected a fine fluorite specimen which Daniel Audibert kept; returning in 1976, they found two more nearby clefts and collected a few superb fluorite and fluorite/quartz specimens from them. But in August 1975 it was agreed that Georges Bettembourg would keep "Georges" (not yet so-called). In fact he guarded it in close secrecy until finally displaying it to the general public at the Chamonix Show of 1979. On that occasion, Eric Asselborn, an advanced, highly sophisticated collector with sensors particularly responsive to Alpine minerals and to pink fluorite, asked Georges Bettembourg whether he, Asselborn, might aspire to buy "Georges." The unequivocal answer was No.

Shortly thereafter Bettembourg went to live for a while in the U.S. (working there as a ski instructor) while his grandmother, Georges Charlet's widow, held on to "Georges." By 1981 Bettembourg had decided to return to Chamonix and to resettle there, and he needed money. He and Asselborn met in December 1982, and at this time Asselborn held the great crystal in his hands for the first time. The arrangement they reached was simple: if within six months Bettembourg proved unable to sell the crystal in the United States, he would offer it to Asselborn; if he did find an American buyer, Asselborn would have the right to raise that buyer's offer. At the end of May 1982, Bettembourg telephoned Asselborn with the news that "Georges" could be his--with the stipulation that, to the extent that the matter remained in Asselborn's power, the crystal would remain in France in perpetuity.

George Bettembourg died on the Aiguille Verte in the following year. In 1988--13 years after the great find--a powerful avalanche again sent a great deal of the western wall of Aiguille des Pelerins hurtling into the valley, and now there is only a virtual gash in airy space where "Georges" once resided, and behind it a sheer rock wall. "Georges," however, has been saved for indefinite residence in its home country: the great specimen is still in the collection of Eric Asselborn, in Dijon.


About 80 million years ago, during the first stages of the sub-duction of the African plate under the Eurasian plate, an orogeny began which would raise the Alps and which indeed has not yet ended--the mountains are still rising at a rate of about 2 mm per year (Zopfi, 1993). In south-central Switzerland, the highest, most famous and most beautiful mountains are formed by the relatively homogenous, quartz-rich, medium to coarse-grained granite of two massifs, the Aare and the Gotthard. Each massif measures about 100 km along its east-northeast to west-southwest strike; the thicker Aare massif lies just to the north of the Rhone River and the Gotthard massif lies just to the south. These granite batholiths were emplaced in early Paleozoic times, whereas the gneisses and schists which surround them are of late Precambrian age. Granites, gneisses and schists alike were displaced to the north by the Alpine Orogeny, and simultaneously they were pinched, twisted and overturned intricately, forming nappes on various scales. For other brief summaries of these orogenic events, see the earlier article in this series (Moore, 2007a), and see Graeser (1998).

Switzerland's richest concentration of pink fluorite-bearing clefts corresponds rather closely to the western three-quarters of the region shown in the map in Moore (2007a) as historically having offered the richest finds of quartz gwindels: it is the east-northeast to west-southwest striking belt, about 40 km long, running between the Fieschergletscher on the southwest, through the areas around the Grimsel Pass, along the Rhonegletscher and past the Furka Pass, to the peaks called Planggenstock and Feldschijen, and up the valley called Goschenertal as far as the village of Goschencn, on the Reuss River. Geologically, according to Parker (1973), this belt corresponds to the Central Granite Zone of the Aare massif, parallel to two north-lying belts of schist and a south-lying belt of gneiss within the massif. Mineralogically, again according to Parker (1973), the Central Granite Zone of the Aare massif west of the Reuss belongs to Fundortgruppe (locality group) 4a, displaying Mineralgesellschaft (mineral assemblage) A1, which consists primarily of quartz, calcite, chlorite and feldspars, with subordinate fluorite, apatite, hematite, pyrite, galena, zeolites, epidote, titanite, and titanium oxides. In Parker's paragenetic classification scheme for Alpine clefts, this is one of only two assemblages which have fluorite as the most common of their subordinate species; the other is Fundortgruppe 14a, which prevails in the central granite of the Mont Blanc massif. A third one of Parker's Fundortgruppen, namely 3c, is closely similar to 4a and 14a, except that fluorite is second to hematite in prevalence among the subordinate species. Fundortgruppe 3c prevails in the part of the Aare massif which lies east of the Reuss River, and some notable pink fluorite-bearing clefts have been found in this region also.

Other sites in the Alps outside the domains of the three Fundortgruppen mentioned above have occasionally produced good specimens of octahedral pink fluorite--see later, e.g., for a survey of some of these in Austria. However, it is the granites, granodiorites and orthogneisses of the central Aare massif which host the most famous, most storiedly "classic," Swiss Alpine crystal occurrences, with the largest clefts, the largest quartz crystals, and the longest histories of hunting by strahlers. Their specimens showing pink fluorite crystals, commonly resting on faces of quartz crystals, are among "the most highly sought-after collector objects in the whole of the Swiss Alps" (Stalder et al., 1998). Pink octahedral fluorite specimens from Grimsel, Galenstock, Planggenstock, Goschenertal, etc. have always been prized (and priced) very highly, in part out of long-established tradition, in part in recognition of the strahlers' labors and dangers, but essentially because such crystals are rare, even locally: only one in every five clefts in the Aare massif's central granite contains pink fluorite (Stalder, 2006), and similarly, in the French sector of Mont Blanc just one in 20 clefts that give up smoky quartz also give up pink fluorite (Arlt, 2004).

The Mont Blanc massif, the second of Europe's two renowned regions of pink fluorite-bearing clefts, crops out as an oval-shaped region of high mountains between the towns of Martigny, Wallis, Switzerland; Chamonix, Haute-Savoie, France; and Courmayeur, Aosta, Italy, the three countries' borders meeting at Mont Dolent, just southeast of the Argentiere glacial field. The richest cleft-bearing areas lie in France, in exposures of granite around the Argentiere and Talefre glaciers. Geologically the Mont Blanc massif very closely resembles the Aare and Gotthard massifs of central Switzerland, having, like them, a granite core and a border zone of older metamorphic rocks. It is most cleft-rich in its middle and southern parts, again like its Swiss counterparts, although crystal-bearing clefts tend to be smaller here than in Aare and Gotthard. For more summary data on the Mont Blanc massif see Arlt (2004), Moore (2007a) and Von Raumer (1999).


The earliest stages of the Alpine Orogeny began about 80 million years ago, with crustal compression as the African plate plunged under Europe. Rock units were folded, thrust over and piled upon each other to a depth of several kilometers in some places, forming the complex nappe structures of the central massifs. Under such conditions most of the rocks were at least slightly metamorphosed--e.g. much granite became orthogneiss--and the rocks were extensively fractured and sheared. What would later become crystal-lined clefts originated as slit-like tension gashes (or "pressure shadows") with long axes perpendicular to the main vectors of stress. But clefts could only form in this way when the rock became cool enough for plastic deformation to cease and fractures to form. In granites and gneisses such as those of the central Aare and Mont Blanc massifs, the threshold temperature for the ductile/brittle transition lies between 300[degrees] and 500[degrees] C (Graeser, 1998). This is in agreement with the estimate of Zopfi (1993) that the first hydrothermal solutions began circulating through the newly formed Aare clefts at a temperature of about 500[degrees] C. Zopfi further specifies that at this time the pressure was in excess of 2 kilobars (more than 2000 atmospheres), and the cleft zone was about 10 km below the surface. The orogenic uplift which first brought the rocks near enough to the surface for the first clefts to form has been dated by Stalder et al. (1998) at 17 million years ago for the Gotthard massif, and by Macchieraldo (2005) and Poty and Cathelineau (1999) at 18.5 million years ago for the Mont Blanc massif; presumably the date for the Aare massif is similar.

The earliest crystallization of minerals from hydrothermal solutions within the clefts was contemporaneous with cleft formation: when the first cracks appeared in the rock, solutions which had been seeping through the rock mass at once migrated into the voids. The composition of the solutions and pressure conditions prevailing during the earliest crystallization of the cleft minerals have been deduced from the study of fluid inclusions (largely of water and [CO.sub.2] in early-formed quartz crystals which grew on cleft walls when the temperature was around 450[degrees] C. Elements carried by the hydrothermal solutions were once believed to have come from very deep-seated basement rock masses, but are now generally thought to have been leached from nearby rocks. The silica which formed the quartz crystals in clefts, and much of the water in the hydrothermal solutions, came primarily from the breakdown of phyllosilicate minerals in the surrounding rock. The [CO.sub.2] in the fluid inclusions came from calcareous marine sediments in the nappe regions, and from these rocks also came the calcium for the ubiquitous calcite of the Aare and Mont Blanc clefts, and for the fluorite. Fluorine for the fluorite is thought to have been leached from biotite in the granite and gneiss (Asselborn, 1998; Gautron, 1999a; Arlt, 2004)--the Aare and Mont Blanc igneous rocks contain an average of up to a kilogram of fluorine per cubic meter of rock (Asselborn, 1998).


Precipitation of crystals in the clefts is thought to have continued for around 5 million years, until temperatures and pressures had fallen so far that hydrothermal activity ceased. Zopfi (1993) suggests that pink fluorite began to form at temperatures of around 300[degrees] C, while Stalder (2006) prefers a formation temperature closer to 400[degrees] C, adding that the [YO.sub.2] defect responsible for the pink color (see later) forms at 400[degrees] C in laboratory experiments. These temperatures are within the 300[degrees]-500[degrees] C range generally given for the formation of "high-temperature" fluorite (Toroni, 1994)--which is typically octahedral in habit. It is interesting to note, however, that some of the Alpine crystals may have formed, at least in part, under cooler conditions: some of them show distinct zoning, both in color and habit, grading outward from pink octahedral cores formed at high temperatures to green, purple or colorless, cuboctahedral or dodecahedral exteriors presumably formed at lower temperatures


Absolutely pure fluorite ([CaF.sub.2]) is colorless, but this most allo-chromatic of popular collector species comes in a wonderful rainbow of colors. In the illustrious case of octahedral fluorite crystals from Alpine clefts--why pink?

The causes of color in fluorite vary. The most straightforward is mechanical inclusion: some Illinois fluorites are tinted brown by finely divided hydrocarbons, and the brick-red spherulitic fluorites of India owe their color to included hematite. The pinkness of Alpine fluorite can resemble that of rose quartz, imparted by sub-microscopic inclusions of rutile (Weibel, 1977). But for relatively pure Alpine pink fluorite, mechanical coloring agents have been ruled out. More exotic agents are sometimes at work in coloring crystals: some deep blue fluorite specimens (e.g. from Illinois and from ore veins in France, as well as the blue-purple English carving material called "blue John" fluorite) are now known to owe their color to very small aggregates of elemental calcium, called "calcium colloids" (Wright, 2002; Curto, 2006). However, in nearly all other cases the explanation for fluorite colors begins with trace-element substitutions. Very commonly the substituting ions are rare-earths elements from the lanthanide series (La, Ce, Nd, Sm, Eu, Yb etc.) and/or yttrium, which is lighter than the lanthanides but routinely accompanies them in rare-earth-rich environments. Since these ions are all similar in size and in chemical behavior to [Ca.sup.2+] they can readily substitute for calcium in a crystal structure and serve as chromophores. The rare-earth element samarium (Sm), sometimes in combination with cerium and yttrium, is responsible for the green colors of fluorite from England, Spain, China, and some Alpine localities. (For a helpful table summarizing some causes of color in fluorite see Belsher, 1982).

Research has shown that trace elements can only function as fluorite chromophores in conjunction with certain flaws in the crystal structure, and in the presence of radiation. The structural flaws are called "color centers" (or "F-centers," from Farbe, the German word for color)--structural defects involving an absence or displacement of an ion or ions of [F.sup.-1] or [Ca.sup.2+] from their normal places in the [CaF.sub.2] lattice. Bill et al. (1967) doped synthetic fluorite crystals with rare-earth elements and then exposed them to X-rays. The study revealed that a pink coloration resulted when [CaF.sub.2] was doped with yttrium and then irradiated, suggesting that a particular kind of F-center, which they call an R-center, had formed; the R-center is:
  ... an association of a yttrium ion with two oxygen ions placed as an
  impurity in the crystal and ionized in course of time by natural
  radiation. ... For the red fluorites from Switzerland we propose a
  center which is responsible for the coloration of those crystals,
  e.g. a [YO.sub.2] complex.

In general the model has been accepted (Althaus, 1977; Weibel, 1977; Gautron, 1999a; Curto, 2006) and somewhat refined by later research (Wright and Rakovan, 2001; Wright, 2002). The substitution is as follows: the [YO.sub.2] complex, with a net charge of--1, is inserted into the fluorite structure, a [Y.sup.3+] ion replacing a [Ca.sup.2+] ion and two [O.sup.2-] ions replacing two of the eight [F.sup.-1] ions which surround the calcium site. Radiation detaches an electron from one of the two oxygen ions, restoring charge balance. The R-center complex preferentially absorbs light of higher wavelengths, leaving the pink color. The effect is reversible: heating will re-introduce the lost electron, eliminating the pink color, but exposure to radiation will drive off the electron again, restoring the color (Althaus, 1977; Stalder et al., 1998; Curto, 2006).

The model corresponds nicely to observed facts regarding Alpine pink fluorite. First, the [YO.sub.2]-governed R-center forms at a relatively high temperature (400[degrees] C in the lab), and so it would have formed just when "high-temperature" octahedral crystals of fluorite were being precipitated in the young clefts (Stalder, 2006). Also clarified is the role of natural radioactivity, which not only catalyzes the pinkness of yttrium-contaminated fluorite but also imparts the smoky tint to quartz crystals with which the fluorite is commonly found. The granitic rocks of the central zones of the Aare and Mont Blanc massifs have fairly high trace-element contents of rare-earth elements and uranium: the correlation of the intensity and duration of radioactive influence with the degree of smokiness in smoky quartz has long been accepted. The most spectacular specimens which show rose-pink fluorite octahedrons resting on faces of dark smoky quartz crystals tend to come from clefts in the highest mountains of the massifs' central zones (Parker, 1973; Bancroft, 1984), i.e. they come from the oldest clefts, those with the longest histories of tectonic uplift and of exposure to radiation from the groundmass. Finally there is the fact that the color of pink fluorite fades--but only very slowly--with exposure to sunlight. The loss of color is slow since the strong bonds between the yttrium and oxygen ions ensure that the chromophores (and therefore the color) remain very stable (Stalder, 2006); however, the color does fade in collector specimens, since the crystals are no longer being exposed to the color-catalyzing radioactivity. But pink fluorite, like colorless quartz, may be quickly (re)colored by strong doses of radiation.

As already mentioned, pink fluorite can be damaged or corroded when exposed to temperature changes, percolating groundwater, and other pernicious influences. Groundwater is particularly destructive: the solubility of fluorite in clean water at normal temperatures is higher than that of calcite, with only about 60 liters of water sufficing to dissolve at least one gram of fluorite (WeiB and Derungs, 2004). Thus, clefts which are close to the surface or--worse yet--have been naturally opened and exposed directly to the Alps' winds and ices may contain quartz crystals which look fresh enough, but associated pink fluorite crystals may be frosted or corroded away altogether. Consequently the brightest, freshest-looking, most transparent pink fluorite crystals are typically found in clefts which either have been sealed off by permafrost or are relatively deep-lying and have been breached by tunnels for road construction or for the building of hydroelectric facilities.


Central Switzerland

As noted above, Switzerland's pink-fluorite-bearing clefts are overwhelmingly concentrated in the Central Granite Zone of the Aare massif, just north of the Rhone--the area of Fundortgruppe 4a, displaying Mineralgesellschafl A1, of Parker (1973). Accordingly the short tour of fluorite discoveries here will linger longest in central parts of the Aare massif and will note as well some localities in the Gotthard massif immediately to the south. But there are also outlying fluorite occurrences south of both Aare and Gotthard, in the Penninic area of highly folded marine-sedimentary, granitic and gneissic rocks where the leading edge of the African plate began its plunge under Europe. The Penninic area includes the rocks of the Swiss-Italian borderlands near the Binn Valley in Canton Wallis and the Bergell region of southeastern Canton Graubunden. These two areas, lying respectively south-southwest and south-southeast of Aare and Gotthard, will be the beginning and ending points of the Swiss tour.


During the 1960s and probably earlier, scattered collecting sites in the Binntal (tal = "valley") and in the mountains and glacial fields south of it, near or on the Swiss-Italian border, have occasionally produced sharp fluorite crystals of varying colors and forms, including pink octahedrons. In the mid-1960s, clefts in orthogneiss around the Ritter Pass and on the Gischihorn (horn = "peak") and Helsenhorn, about 10 km south of the Binntal, yielded slightly corroded but still sharp, deep rose-pink octahedral fluorite crystals to a remarkable 8 cm on edge (Graeser, 1995). About halfway between the Ritterpass and the Binntal, i.e. 5 km south of the latter, some clefts around the Wannigletscher (gletscher = "glacier"), on the Swiss side of Mt. Cervandone (Italian: Alpe Devero), have yielded pink fluorite octahedrons, some modified by dodecahedron and cube faces, to 3 cm (Graeser and Albertini, 1995; Stalder et al., 1998). Collecting in the mid-1960s produced a few specimens in which pink octahedral fluorite crystals to 1 cm are associated with crystals of the rare, attractively lustrous brown, highly coveted arsenate species cafarsite, known in good crystals only from Mt. Cervandone (Graeser and Albertini, 1995).

To move north and across the Rhone from the Binntal region is to enter the Aare massif, in whose total expanse pink fluorite discoveries large and small over 20 decades have been beyond counting: no really complete inventory is possible, especially as the strahlers have often refused to reveal the precise sites of finds. For example, in 1991 Kaspar Fahner, one of the most successful and famous of modern Swiss strahlers, opened a cleft from which he took clusters of pale smoky quartz crystals (with individuals to 43 cm long) on which rest octahedral pink fluorite crystals to 7 cm on edge; specimens from the cleft were shown on the cover of Schweizer Strahler but Fahner would not divulge where the cleft is except to say that it lies somewhere in the central part of the Aare (Zopfi, 1992).


Near the western edge of the Aare massif, just east of the peak of the Finsteraarhorn, the snouts of two glaciers, the Unteraargletscher and Oberaargletscher, point to the east and contribute meltwater to small glacial lakes. In 1950-1952, construction of the Oberaar Power Station (Kraftwerke Oberaar) led to the discovery of several clefts yielding superb specimens of octahedral pink fluorite associated with quartz gwindels, adularian orthoclase crystals, and small but fine crystals of milarite and apatite-(CaF). In 1969, in a drainage tunnel associated with the power station, Kaspar Fahner found wonderful specimens showing pink to violet-blue, octahedral fluorite crystals with quartz, calcite and milarite crystals (Parker, 1973).

Between the two glaciers named above and about 6 km west of the Grimsel Pass lies the upland area called the Zinggenstock, the site of the enormous quartz cleft discovered in 1719 and, ever since then, of rich discoveries of smoky quartz gwindels and of some of the best of Switzerland's rare amethystine quartz specimens. In the late summer of 1951, at an elevation of 2810 meters on the edge of a small glacier on the Zinggenstock, H. Streun and Kaspar Fahner opened a cleft containing fine crystals of quartz, epidote, calcite, sagenitic rutile, and slightly corroded, translucent raspberry-red octahedral fluorite crystals to 3.2 cm; the strahlers collected a total of 5 kilograms of fluorite from the cleft (Parker, 1973). In the early 1960s the Zinggenstock was intensely prospected by the brothers Hans and Ernst Rufibach, and in 1966, 2700 meters above sea level, these expert strahlers opened an enormous cleft from which came many dramatic quartz specimens (including a one-meter-square plate of crystals which went on display in Ernst Rufibach's private museum in Gutannen), as well as pink fluorite crystals to 2 cm, some resting on faces of smoky quartz crystals (Parker, 1973; Rufibach, 1979; Graeser, 1998). The region has continued to be intermittently fruitful: specimens showing tight groups of deeply rose-colored octahedral fluorite crystals on granite, attributed to the Zinggenstock, were marketed at the Ste.-Marie-aux-Mines Show in 1988 (Moore, 1989).

The glacial lake called Grimselsee (see = "lake") begins at the eastern snout of the Oberaargletscher and stretches for about 5 km eastward, ending a little beyond, and just north of, the Grimsel Pass. At the northeastern corner of Grimselsee is Sommerloch, where, during hydroelectric plant construction in the 1950s, Switzerland's largest known octahedral fluorite crystal from an Alpine cleft was discovered; it measures 17 cm and is pale pink in its core, colorless to pale green in its outer zones (Parker, 1973; Cook, 1998). Excavations for industrial purposes, as well as prospecting by strahlers, have turned up fluorite-bearing clefts all along and around Grimselsee for many decades. At an unspecified date, a small stream feeding into the lake was pumped dry, and clefts newly exposed in the stream bed yielded excellent specimens of pink fluorite (Parker, 1973). Sharp pink fluorite crystals to 2 cm resting on quartz crystals were collected from two neighboring, very large clefts found in 1942 during tunneling in the Juchlistock, near the Grimsel Pass (Parker, 1973). Five kilometers north-northwest of the Pass, a cleft opened in a support tunnel during construction of the Hendegg I power plant in 1925-1932 produced pink fluorite octahedrons to 8 cm (Parker, 1973). Kaspar Fahner--again!--collected fine pink fluorite specimens at Sommerloch in the summer of 1969 (Burger, 1979). And very recently, pretty pink and pale lilac fluorite crystals to 2 cm have come from the Bachlital, in the north of the Grimsel area (Felix Garcia Garcia, personal communication, 2008). However, beware of obfuscated localities for finds around the Grimsel Pass (as indeed for other finds): beautiful fluorite/smoky quartz specimens found at a "forbidden" collecting site somewhere near Grimsel in the 1980s were falsely said to have come from Scheuchzerhorn, near the Oberaargletscher (Borzykowski, 1997).

The Oberhasli hydroelectric power station at Gerstenegg, on a slope of the Gerstenhorn about 4 km northeast of Grimsel, is the site of a "display" cleft: a tourist attraction originally opened during construction of the power station in the mid-1970s. Until the station was finished the great cleft was sealed by a concrete wall, and its maintenance thereafter was entrusted to Ernst Rufibach. The cavity is lined by quartz crystals "with pink fluorite crystals sprinkled like sugar over them" (Stalder et al., 1998; Wachtler, 2006). About 3 km south-southeast of the Gerstenhorn lies the Furka Pass, and just north of it the icefields of the Winterstock. Here, in 1975 and 1977, Kaspar Fahner collected specimens showing octahedral pink fluorite crystals resting on brilliant hematite "iron roses," the latter reaching 6 cm (Burger, 1979); and here, in the early 2000s, the Austrian strahler Miggel Zwyssig found an exposed quartz vein and was able to open a near-surface cleft that bore beautiful pink fluorite crystals to 2 cm on edge (Zwyssig, 2004).



About 6 km northeast of the Furka Pass lies the eastern edge of the Tiefengletscher, site of the great 1868 quartz cleft mentioned above and described by Wilson (1984b). "Minor" pink fluorite specimens came out with the wonderful quartz crystals of 1868 (Cook, 1998), and some pink fluorite crystals, to varying degrees corroded, have come from areas adjacent to the glacier, especially during a heavy period of prospecting by strahlers in the mid-20th century (Parker, 1973).

A few kilometers farther northeast one comes to the peaks called Planggenstock and Feldschijen, which, with two other peaks, constitute the complex known as the Goscheneralp, at the southwestern head of the Goschenertal. This cluster of localities, most commonly designated on labels simply as "Goscheneralp," has produced isolated finds of pink fluorite for many decades--e.g. 40 fine, newly dug specimens from "Goscheneralp," with fluorite crystals to 3 cm, both as floaters and attached to quartz crystals, were marketed in Europe in 1978 (Sullivan, 1978). During the 1990s there was production from a truly superlative discovery in the Planggenstock sector of Goscheneralp: in the summer of 1994, Franz von Arx und Paul von Kanel opened a 6-meter-wide cleft in granite which gave up huge plates of pale smoky quartz crystals (including gwindels) and, from one part of the cavity, fluorite octahedrons to almost 10 cm on edge. Many of the fluorite crystals are edge-rounded and slightly corroded, but some are sharp-edged and transparent, with a "wet" luster and a deep rose-red color (Arx, 1995; Stalder et al., 1998). The partners continued to mine the cleft for another five years, and some specimens from it were marketed at the 1999 Tucson Show (Ream, 1999); see Arx (1995) for the complete collecting story for this remarkable find.



In the 1880s and again in the 1940s the Feldschijen peak, just south of Planggenstock on the Goscheneralp, produced good specimens of smoky quartz and pink fluorite associated with calcite and zeolites (Parker, 1973), but a much more recent, truly major discovery was made by members of the Tresch family in 2003-2004. A large ice-filled cleft yielded superb, lustrous, dark smoky quartz crystals (again including gwindels), and on some of these crystals rest sharp, transparent, medium rose-red fluorite octahedrons; in other specimens the fluorite crystals rest directly on granite. For this collecting story see Tresch (2006).



Between the heights of the Goscheneralp and the town of Goscheralp on the Reuss River, the Goschenertal runs east for about 10 km, the ancient Sandbalm cleft (or "mine") lying just to its north, about halfway along the valley. Among the best of the numerous pink fluorite finds of the Goschenertal is one made in 1964 during construction of hydroelectric tunnel facilities at Bratschi; these specimens show fine, sharp, pale pink crystals resting on colorless quartz prisms (Bancroft, 1984; Cook, 1998). In 1957, in a tunnel being dug for the Goschenen hydroelectric power station, a large cleft produced fine, very large quartz gwindels and many transparent, highly lustrous, pale pink fluorite octahedrons to 2 cm; the fluorite crystals rest either on quartz crystals, white tabular calcite crystals, or unweathered granite. This cleft, under the name "Staupiloch" or "Stapliloch" (loch = "cavity"), was among the most famous pink fluorite localities of the 1950s-1960s, and is represented in many museum collections. Many specimens dating to the last 1950s and labeled "Goschenen" are probably from this find. (2)



About 12 km south of Goschenen lies the Gotthard Pass, with Val Tremola and the peaks called Fibbia and Pizzo Lucendro to its south. We have now passed out of the Aare massif and into the Gotthard massif, whose chief riches are other than fluorite; this part of central Switzerland is most distinguished for hematite "iron rose" specimens (see Moore, 2005b). However, notable finds of pink fluorite have indeed been made in the Gotthard Pass area, mostly during construction of (first) the Gotthard railroad tunnel and (then) the Gotthard road tunnel. The railroad tunnel, opened in 1882, provided, during its construction in the 1870s, a few specimens showing pale pink octahedral fluorite crystals with crystals of tabular white calcite, quartz, and chlorite-infused apophyllite (Parker, 1973). The road tunnel, opened in 1980, did better: in 1962-1964, work on an auxiliary tunnel revealed a cleft with pink octahedral fluorite crystals to 1.7 cm associated with calcite, chlorite and hematite (Parker, 1973; Stalder, 1984), and in December 1970 a cleft produced fresh-looking, transparent, deep pink octahedral fluorite crystals to 5 cm associated with well crystallized quartz, calcite, apatite-(CaF), adularian orthoclase, titanite and epidote (Lussmann, 1984). Stalder et al. (1998) mention fluorite crystals, both pink and violet, to 4 cm from the Gotthard road tunnel.




About 7 km southwest of the Gotthard Pass (and still in the Gotthard massif) lies the upper Bedretto Valley, on the northern edge of the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. Pink fluorite crystals came from this valley for the first (known) time in 1990, when Benedetto Bellometti extracted a few specimens from a cleft at Poncione di Manio. The crystals, reaching 10 cm on edge, are of atypically complex form, being compound octahedrons with oriented dodecahedral sub-individuals perched on their points (Toroni, 1994).


East of the Reuss River we pass from Parker's Fundortgruppe 4a to Fundortgruppe 3c--an area less rich in fluorite but still capable of producing significant fluorite specimens, as well as hematite, calcite and zeolites. Cavradi Gorge, long famous as the source of Switzerland's best (and some of the world's best) hematite specimens, lies in Val Curnera; fluorite does not occur in the Gorge but is found about 7 km southeast of it, in the upper part of Val Nalps (val = "valley"), the drainage parallel to and immediately to the east of Curnera. In 1959, in a cleft in the gneissic rocks of Piz Rondadura (piz = "peak"), Val Nalps, Lucas Monn found transparent, color-zoned octahedral fluorite "floaters," their cores pink, their outer zones pale green. The largest of these crystals, 9 cm on edge, now belongs to the Natural History Museum of Bern (Weibel, 1977; Stalder et al., 1998); a 15-cm fluorite octahedron found at another time on Piz Rondadura is now in the British Museum collection (Russ, 1990). Other fine fluorite specimens have been collected, mostly before 1959, on neighboring mountains in upper Val Nalps, among them Piz Blas, Piz Uffiern and Piz Fuorcla (Stalder et al., 1998).



About 25 km east-southeast of upper Val Nalps, the small Adula Mountain Group (namesake of the adularia variety of orthoclase) rises beyond the head of the Valsertal, barely on the Graubunden side of the Ticino/Graubunden cantonal border and in the Pennine geological province. Although these mountains are not an especially rich area for mineral specimens, the octahedral fluorite crystals found there can be superb, with unusually intense pink, rose-red, strawberry-red or (rarely) orange-red colorations. In 1994, 1996, 2000 and 2003, fine fluorite and fluorite/smoky quartz specimens were dug from narrow clefts in granite gneiss on the rubble-strewn northwestern flank of the Frunthorn. Strahlers had worked these difficult slopes since the mid-19th century, but the major finds had to wait until modern times when accelerated warming melted the permafrost and ice which earlier had blanketed the Frunthorn's northwestern flank. Because this melting has been so recent, most of the fluorite crystals collected since 1994 on the Frunthorn are remarkably fresh, showing little or no corrosion. The sharp octahedral crystals, all of which show small triangular vicinal growth features, range between a few millimeters and 3.5 cm on edge (Stalder et al., 1998; WeiB and Derungs, 2004). The greatest single find on the Frunthorn occurred in September 2000, when Alex Derungs collected about 200 pink fluorite specimens from a cleft which measured 2 meters long, 1 meter high and 30 cm wide. The deep rose-pink crystals reach 2 cm, and some show sparse drusy coatings of adularian orthoclase; matrix specimens from the find reach 25 cm across (WeiB and Derungs, 2004). A few specimens from this discovery were marketed at the 2001 Tucson Show (Moore, 2001).


Switzerland's easternmost locality for significant pink fluorite crystals is in the Bergell region of the Bernina Alps, almost 40 km southeast of the Frunthorn. In quarries in gneiss near the town of Soglio, Bregaglia Valley, pink fluorite octahedrons, exceptionally to several centimeters on edge, occur in chlorite-filled clefts with prehnite, quartz and zeolites. Elsewhere in Bergell, fluorite occurs sporadically as blue-green octahedrons and purple cubes (Lareida, 1977; Stalder et al., 1998).

Pink octahedral fluorite has been found in the clefts of the eastern (Swiss and Italian) parts of the Mont Blanc massif, and also in the Swiss part of the Aiguilles-Rouges massif near Mont Blanc. These occurrences in the southwestern corner of Switzerland will be treated later, under the heading "Mont Blanc area: Switzerland and Italy."


The Austrian Alps strike east-west across parts of the provinces of Tirol, Salzburg and Ost (East) Tirol. Pink-fluorite-bearing clefts in these mountains occur very rarely, but a few discoveries of fine specimens have been made. In the Tuxer Alps, Tirol, during the 1980s, bicolored pink-green octahedral crystals of fluorite reaching 7 cm on edge were collected at a site called Alpeiner Scharte (Scharte = "fissure"); these crystals are associated with molybdenite (Niedermayr, 1990). Also in the Tuxer Alps, between 1980 and the mid-1990s, fine fluorite specimens were found at Schrammacher, Valsertal: some of these specimens show pale pink to almost colorless octahedral fluorite crystals to almost 14 cm (5.5 inches) on edge, while others sport beautiful green fluorite octahedrons to 2.5 cm partially coated by acicular quartz crystals (Niedermayr, 1990; Burgsteiner, 1996).


Austria's highest peaks lie in the 75-km-long Hohe Tauern range, in the Pinzgau region of westernmost Salzburg Province. Here a huge anticline has caused high-grade metamorphic rocks of the underlying Penninic nappes to crop out--the term "Hohe Tauern window" is sometimes used, as these mountains provide a "window" into the deep structure of the Austro-alpine mountain belt. A series of small, parallel stream drainages run down the northern side of the peaks of the Hohe Tauern to join the little Salzach River, and in some of these drainages lie famous mineral localities--pre-eminently the great cleft in amphibolite at Knappenwand, Untersulzbachtal, which, since its discovery in the 1860s, has given up what are probably still the world's finest specimens of epidote.

With regard to pink fluorite, the Pinzgau's westernmost drainage of interest is the Krimmler Achental, where, in a sub-drainage called Rainbachtal, octahedral pink fluorite crystals to 9 cm were once found (Niedermayr, 2002). The Habachtal (with the dumps of the old Leckbachrinne emerald mine reposing at one point on the eastern slope of the valley) lies three drainages to the east of the Krimmler Achental. At the head of the Habachtal, at a site called Wildenkar near the peak of the mountain called Breitfuss, Erwin Burgsteiner and Erich Mosser opened two clefts in gneiss in the summer of 1988, taking out about 10 fine specimens showing octahedral pink fluorite crystals to 3.5 cm. The transparent crystals are almost colorless within, but have thin, intensely rose-pink outer zones. One of the clefts also yielded colorless, transparent fluorite octahedrons, modified by dodecahedron and trapezohedron faces, to 2 cm; good crystals of adularian orthoclase, smoky quartz and white tabular calcite also came from both clefts (Burgsteiner, 1989; Niedermayr, 1990). When Burgsteiner and Mosser revisited Wildenkar in the summer of 2005 they found only a handful of fluorite crystals, but the best of these is a glowing rose-pink octahedron 4 cm on edge, with calcite and adularian orthoclase crystals, on a matrix of gneiss (Burgsteiner and Mosser, 2007).

One more drainage eastward, in the Hollersbachtal, pink fluorite octahedrons to 12 cm were found in a cleft in the old Achselalm lead-zinc mine in 1911--Niedermayr (1986, 1990, 2002) opined that these anomalous old classics are the finest fluorite specimens from anywhere in the eastern Alps. In 1913, Georg Gasser, a mineralogist from Bolzano, Italy, wrote the following in his Die Mineralien Tirols:
  In 1911, by chance, I was able to track down some remarkable large
  fluorite crystals [from the Achselalm mine], raspberry-red to rose
  red, of a kind such as was only found decades ago in the St. Gotthard
  region of Switzerland. In their simple octahedral form and the
  qualities of their faces the crystals are exactly like those from St.
  Gotthard. ... The largest and most beautiful crystals, seeing which
  put me onto the scent of the rest ... measure exactly 12 cm. The
  crystals were found loose in a cleft in the mica schist which
  surrounds the orebody, associated with fine-grained white fluorite,
  green fuschite, yellow sphalerite, galena, and other species; the
  cleft was wholly filled with iron oxides and clayey mud.

Unfortunately, the only fluorite crystals which have been found in the Achselalm mine since 1911 are corroded, almost colorless, wholly unremarkable octahedrons measuring no more than 7 mm on edge (Kohout, 1997).


About 35 km farther east, the Rauristal runs about 25 km from the heights of the Grossglockner Pass to meet the Salzach at the village of Taxenbach. Narrow clefts in the southwestern face of a mountain called Hocharn, fronting the upper Rauristal, produced fine fluorite crystals during the 1960s, including uncorroded and fresh-looking, lustrous rose-pink octahedrons to 6 cm; other clefts on the Hocharn have yielded sharp fluorite octahedrons which are pale green, dark purple, dark blue, and bicolored purple/rose-pink. The typically Alpine associations include crystals of quartz, white tabular calcite, apatite-(CaF) and bavenite (Stroh, 1985; Niedermayr, 1986,2002).

Finally, clefts in gneiss along the very steep slopes of the Gasteinertal, at the eastern edge of the Hohe Tauern, are famous for good fluorite crystals, most of them octahedral but almost none of them pink, associated with small white stilbite crystals. Superb bicolored green-pink fluorite octahedrons to 6 cm were found during construction of the Theresienstollen (stollen = "tunnel") of the Hohe Tauern electric power station, Bockstein, Gasteinertal, during the 1950s (Niedermayr, 1986, 1990).


The only significant Italian source of octahedral pink fluorite outside the Mont Blanc massif is a small group of quarries which face a highway along the Val d'Ossola near the towns of Beura and Villadossola, Piedmont. Geologically this locality belongs to the Penninic belt of the Alps, in which the Swiss Binntal also lies. The quarries have operated for decades and are still active, though mineral collectors currently are forbidden access; most extant specimens date from the 1950s and 1960s, when numerous local enthusiasts were allowed to collect without restriction (Preite et al, 1997). The quarries, of which the most specimen-rich is probably Cava Maddalena ("cava" = "quarry"), exploit a tough but cavity-rich granite gneiss for building stone, and the cavities yield a generally "Alpine" mineral suite of about 50 species, mostly as microcrystals. Simple octahedral crystals of fluorite seldom exceed 1 cm on edge, but exceptionally they can reach 7 cm. Some of the fluorite crystals are of a "standard" pale pink but the color-palette also includes colorless, pale yellow, pale green, medium-green, color-zoned pink/green, and rose-red; the most common associated species are quartz, adularian orthoclase, titanite and laumontite (Gramaccioli, 1975; Preite et al., 1997). Some exquisite specimens show sharp, complete fluorite octahedrons impaled by black, sleek, needle-like crystals of schorl (Gramaccioli, 1975).

Mont Blanc area: Switzerland and Italy

In its southwestern corner, south of the town of Martigny-Ville, Switzerland shares the high mountains of the Mont Blanc massif with Italy and France. Also, about 20 km north of the northern edge of Swiss Mont Blanc, the northeastern (and higher) part of the Aiguilles Rouges massif falls within the country's borders (the southwestern part lies in France, across the Valle de Chamonix from Mont Blanc). The Aiguilles Rouges massif is composed essentially of granitic rocks like those of Mont Blanc, but it is not as strongly metamorphosed and is poorer in mineralized clefts (Arlt, 2004); on the other hand, cleft-hunting is easier, as the modest elevation has kept Aiguilles Rouges largely unglaciated. Hiking is good and the views are splendid: the massif's name (Aiguilles Rouges = "red needles") was inspired by the way morning light shows roseate red on the granite spires near the peaks. In 1974, attractive specimens showing pink octahedral fluorite crystals to 1 cm associated with quartz, albite, epidote and galena were found in a cleft in granite at Mieville, north of Vernayaz, in the Swiss part of Aiguilles Rouges (Stalder et al., 1998).

A few fine octahedral pink fluorite specimens, most of them with smoky quartz crystals, have come from sites in the Swiss sector of the Mont Blanc massif. (Collectors should take care not to confuse these with the more common specimens from French Mont Blanc and from the Aare and Gotthard regions.) Swiss Mont Blanc fluorite specimens, with octahedral crystals to 3 cm on edge, have come from exposed clefts around the Glacier du Trient (whose western edge is just meters away from France); other good finds have occurred near Glacier d'Orny, the mountain peak called Catogne, and the eastern side of the mountain called Tour Noir, which straddles the Swiss-French border (Stalder et al., 1998; Meisser, 1999). Also numbered among remarkable Swiss Mont Blanc fluorite specimens are one showing a rich pink 10-cm octahedron, found in 1997 on Glacier des Grands, and a magnificent 4.2 X 5.8-cm piece with transparent deep pink fluorite octahedrons resting on a quartz crystal, from Pilier (Meisser, 1999).

Italy's Aosta Province owns a small southeastern sliver of the Mont Blanc (Monte Bianco) massif, and pink fluorite specimens are occasionally found in clefts around the Miage glacier, on the southern end of Mont Blanc, and the Triolet glacier, just on the other side of the border from the Talefre glacier in France. The area of the Triolet glacier occasionally produces pink octahedral fluorite crystals to 2 cm (Monistier, 2004). In general, finds on Italian Mont Blanc are isolated and sparse: color-zoned octahedrons, pale pink to strawberry-red, and crystals with the familiar pink cores and pale green outer zones, occur at scattered sites, and fluorite (and other) crystals are sometimes discovered in glacial moraine material which has tumbled down from the heights (Macchieraldo, 2005). A spectacular specimen from Italian Mont Blanc, with a perfect 2-cm pink fluorite octahedron on a lustrous, 10-cm, terminated, pale smoky quartz crystal, collected in 1986, was marketed at the 1990 Tucson Show (Robinson and King, 1990).



The Italian part of Mont Blanc is now a nature preserve, and strahlers are no longer permitted to dig for minerals there (Arlt, 2004).



Mont Blanc area: France

Asselborn (1993) remarked that "Since 1950, very fine specimens showing small, pink octahedral fluorite crystals resting on smoky quartz crystals have been unearthed by Jean-Paul Charlet (1924-1984), the father of Jean-Franck Charlet, as well as by Roger Foumier (1939-1976), the widely known cristallier who did much to spearhead new searches for fluorite crystals around Chamonix." As recounted above, Georges Bettembourg and Daniel Audibert collected the great 18-cm crystal called "Georges" in 1975, and Roger Fournier, "always in rivalry with Georges Bettembourg" (Asselborn, 1993) made some of his last great finds at around the same time, i.e. before his own early death in 1976. Fournier opened a huge cleft which had been found on Aiguille de Grand Montets during construction work on a ski run. At the collecting site, called "Pierre a Bochard," he extracted specimens showing fluorite octahedrons of incomparable deep red color; the crystals are slightly corroded but they reach 10 cm on edge (Asselborn, 1993). In 1968, in a cleft called "Amede" on the Aiguilles de Chardon-net, Fournier found a spectacular specimen with a parallel row of pink fluorite octahedrons resting aesthetically on a smoky quartz crystal cluster (Benz, 2004).


From the mid-1970s on, pink fluorite specimens from French Mont Blanc have been increasingly seen on the mineral market, the majority of them from rich collecting sites around the Argentiere and Talefre glaciers. These sites lie in granite exposures (many quite new, courtesy of glacial retreats) near Aiguilles de Requin, Aiguilles de Pierre Joseph and Aiguilles Taiefre (south of the Taiefre glacier); Aiguilles Verte, Les Droites, and Les Courtes (between the two glaciers); and Mont Dolent, Pointe Kurz, and Le Tour Noir (east of the Argentiere glacier, almost on the Swiss border). Outlying finds have also been made elsewhere in the Mont Blanc massif and (as for "Georges") in the Aiguilles Rouges massif on the other side of the Chamonix Valley.



In 1977, two young Swiss strahlers took about a dozen fluorite/ smoky quartz specimens from a cleft somewhere on the Mont Blanc massif, and these pieces, sporting dark pink octahedrons to 2 cm on dark brown quartz prisms, were offered (for very high prices) at European shows (Sullivan, 1978). At the 1983 Munich Show, Jean-Franck Charlet and Rene Ghilini offered specimens with highly lustrous pink fluorite octahedrons to 2.5 cm on edge, transparent and with sparkling internal reflections, resting on quartz crystals or on white granite (Wilson, 1984a); these had been taken from a cleft on the north face of Les Droites by Charlet and Ghilini, assisted by Georges Bettembourg, just before his death (Asselborn, 1993).

In 1985 the mountain guide Jean Francois Hagenmuller opened a cleft at Pointe Kurz which yielded beautiful specimens showing cuboctahedral fluorite crystals with pink cores and violet outer zones (Asselborn, 1993). In the late summer of 1987, somewhere in the massif, a cleft produced about 10 specimens with pink fluorite octahedrons to 5 cm on smoky quartz crystals, and a neighboring cleft produced about 30 specimens showing fluorite crystals to 1 cm, in cube-octahedron-dodecahedron combinations which are color-zoned in pink and blue/purple. Both specimen lots were marketed at the 1987 Denver Show (Wilson, 1988).



The summer of 1989 was balmy in Europe, creating especially favorable collecting conditions for cristalliers (and strahlers). In this banner year, three very large and very great fluorite-on-quartz specimens were collected by two cristalliers whose names have come up more than once in this article, Jean-Franck Charlet and Rene Ghilini. After a great deal of work they managed to extract the specimens from an ice-filled pocket on Les Droites at an elevation of 3600 meters. On these magnificent pieces, very sharp, entirely gemmy, deep rose-red fluorite octahedrons to 2.9 cm are thickly strewn over the faces of smoky quartz crystals to 18 cm long; that these may be "the greatest fluorite specimens in the world" is by now a well-aired proposition. One of the specimens is pictured in Cook (1998); another appears on the cover of vol. 23 no. 3 of the Mineralogical Record (May-June 1992), at which time the specimen was in the F. John Barlow collection. The latter specimen is also shown in Wilson et al. (2004), by which time it had reached the Houston Museum of Natural Science, where it reposes today. Also in 1989, about 25 lesser but nonetheless excellent fluorite specimens emerged from an unspecified site on the Mont Blanc massif and were marketed at the 1989 Munich Show. In these thumbnails and miniatures the fluorite crystals rest not on smoky quartz crystals but on white granite, and they are a paler pink than in the "great" specimens from Les Droites, but they are transparent and lustrous and sparkle brightly, resembling typical specimens from central Switzerland (see photo in Moore, 1989).


The French Mont Blanc bounty continued through the 1990s, and continues still as the new millennium opens. In the summer of 1995 a cleft yielded matrix specimens to 8 X 10 cm, with gemmy, very dark pink fluorite octahedrons to 2 cm perched on white weathered granite, with gemmy crystals of smoky quartz to 5 cm long (Moore, 1996). In August 1997, at Tour Noir, a cleft produced about 25 exceptional specimens, with deep rose-pink octahedrons to 2.5 cm on edge in loose groups, on granite matrix, or adorning groups of gemmy smoky quartz prisms to 6 cm long (Moore, 1998). In the summers of 2003 and 2004, at Pointe Kurz, about 30 fine specimens were collected, showing lustrous, transparent, dark rose-pink octahedral crystals to 2.5 cm, some with thin, faintly purple zones around the outside, associated with very thin hexagonal plates of white calcite in little stacks, some of the calcite crystals reaching 5 cm across (Moore, 2005a). In 2005 Jean-Franck Charlet, rappel-ling from a vertical cliff-face, broke into a cleft 30 cm tall and 3 meters wide, removing hundreds of specimens showing slightly corroded and frosty octahedral pink fluorite crystals to 4 cm; at the 2005 Munich Show, enough specimens from this find were offered to cover two large tables (Wilson, 2006). And in August 2006, Christophe Peray collected a single extraordinary, undamaged, 18-cm floater specimen showing 12 sharp, glowing rose-red fluorite octahedrons, reaching 6 cm, lightly attached to each other in a group which itself is lightly attached to a stout crystal of smoky quartz--Peray named the piece "Laurent" in memory of Laurent Chatel, his best friend, who had fallen to his death on the Argentiere glacier a year earlier (Arlt, 2006). The cover of the November 2006 issue of Schweizer Strahler shows Peray using both hands to hold this stunning specimen out into sunlight.



Late in 2007 came what Eric Asselborn (personal communication, 2009) terms "the biggest discovery of all time in quality pink fluorite in the Mont Blanc massif"--the collecting story is told (excitedly, in French) in the January-February 2008 issue of Le Regne Mineral, with a marvelous specimen from the find on the cover. The three cristalliers in question, Christophe Lelievre, Michael Bibollet-Ruches and Frederic Eva, opened the cleft on Aiguille Verte in August 2007; from it came clusters, to almost 10 cm, of gemmy, glowing rose-pink fluorite octahedrons to 6 cm on edge individually, as well as beautiful smoky quartz crystal clusters to large-cabinet size, and interesting specimens showing transparent, colorless, lustrous "paper spar" calcite with free-standing crystals to 6.5 cm (Lelievre, 2008).




Of course the foregoing is only an overview of some important pink fluorite discoveries on French Mont Blanc during recent years. Anyone who can visit the small but exciting show held on the first weekend of August each year in the beautiful cristalliers' town (and skiing center) of Chamonix might see specimens from other, smaller, mostly unpublicized finds made, more years than not, on the Mont Blanc massif. The Chamonix Show, begun in 1965, is exclusively about minerals--no lapidary materials allowed--and hosts 35 to 40 dealers, many of them being French, Italian and Swiss cristalliers who bring fresh material from their latest discoveries. Another attraction in Chamonix is the Crystal Museum, opened in 2006, which is dedicated entirely to the display of Alpine minerals, with special emphasis, naturally, on those from the Mont Blanc massif. The museum exhibits more than 250 fine specimens found over the past 40 years, all donated from several public and private collections and by members of the Chamonix mineral club.


Until late in 2006 it could seem heretical even to fantasize that world-class octahedral pink fluorite specimens could come from mountains anywhere save in Switzerland or France. But at the Munich Show of that year five utterly breathtaking cabinet specimens were displayed from a find which had been made on September 25, 2006, at Chumar Bakhoor, Gilgit district, Northern Areas, Pakistan: razor-sharp, medium-pink, pellucidly transparent octahedral fluorite crystals to 9 cm on edge rest on matrix-blanketing crusts of sharp, edge-on muscovite crystals (Appiani, 2007; Moore, 2007b). Only a handful of such specimens emerged from a single pocket near the summit of Chumar Bakhoor (altitude 5,520 meters). The five great pieces shown in Munich had already been sold, but they were the hit, that year, of Europe's premier mineral show, for they are at least as impressive as even the kingly fluorite/smoky quartz specimens found on Mont Blanc in 1989. The Pakistani pink fluorite specimens came, however, not from an Alpine-type cleft (albeit such clefts do occur, and yield Alpine-like specimens of other species, elsewhere in Pakistan), but rather from a pocket in a granite pegmatite.




Another granite pegmatite region, that of Strzegom-Sobotka (formerly "Striegau"), Silesia, Poland, has produced good specimens of octahedral pink fluorite in crystals exceptionally to 15 cm on edge, associated with good crystals of quartz, microcline, albite, stilbite and chabazite (Praszkier and Siuda, 2008). A beautiful 3-cm "Striegau" pink fluorite specimen is shown on the cover of vol. 1 no. 1 of Mineralien Welt (1990).



A very famous but decidedly non-Alpine-type pink fluorite occurrence is the one discovered in November 1980 in the Huanzala mine, Huanuco Province, Peru--see Belsher (1982), and see the specimen shown on the cover of the "Peru Issue" of the Mineralogical Record (July-August 1997). Huanzala mine pink fluorite specimens are very beautiful, and collectors have cherished them and paid high prices for them for nearly 30 years, but the environment from which they come is a hydrothermal sulfide replacement orebody in limestone, and the crystals most commonly seen with the fluorite are not quartz and calcite but pyrite, sphalerite and galena. (Late in 2008 the Huanzala mine began yielding new specimens of pink octahedral fluorite, some spotted with brightly metallic gray, spinel-twinned galena crystals.)



Old specimens showing octahedral pink fluorite crystals from the Obira mine, Kyushu, Japan, while they can be impressive, also do not represent an Alpine cleft-type occurrence but rather came from a skarn surrounding a metasomatic ore deposit (Belsher, 1982; Komuro, 2006).



It would seem so far that the only significant Alpine cleft-type occurrence of pink fluorite outside the Alps is in the quartz mine exploiting the Puiva deposit in the Subpolar Urals, Tyumen Oblast, Russia. Here, quartz and a number of other species characteristic of Alpine-type clefts have crystallized in enormous fissures in quartzite, schist and amphibolite (see Burlakov, 1999). The Puiva deposit, more mineralogically complex than its sister, the nearby Dodo deposit, occasionally has yielded specimens showing sharp, pale pink octahedral fluorite crystals to 1.5 cm associated with well crystallized apophyllite and axinite. Puiva fluorite specimens generally do not appear at U.S. or European mineral shows, and the truth is that they are poor compared even to mid-range Swiss and French pink fluorite specimens.



Vagaries of individual taste aside, it seems safe to say that the kind of fluorite specimens dwelt upon at length above will always remain the most cherished of fluorites for most dedicated collectors (and certainly not just for the Europeans among them). This is also to say that Alpine pink fluorite will always remain, probably by a wide margin, the most expensive of familiar types of fluorite. However, a more sanguine thought is that French Mont Blanc seems now to be in a fairly long-term, reliable period of productivity, thanks to the efforts of enthusiastic cristalliers and thanks too, yes, to the effects of global warming. At heart most mineral collectors are cheery optimists, and we are easy to please: show us one fine Alpine pink fluorite, one of the most gorgeous natural objects to be found anywhere on earth, and worries about much weightier matters--say, global warming--are for the moment forgotten.


For their discussions, expert critical commentary and hints for further research on Alpine pink fluorite I heartily thank Eric Asselborn, Edwin Gnos, Thomas Bolli, Matthias Benz, Tom Gressman and (last but very far from least) Wendell Wilson, especially for his efforts in gathering, refining and organizing the many illustrations and preparing the maps. For their willing contributions of fine photographs I thank Jeff Scovil, Roberto Appiani, Louis-Dominique Bayle, Thomas Schupbach, Robert Weldon, Christian Hager, Eric Asselborn, Wendell Wilson and Brian Kosnar.


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(1) To be clear at once: the German word Strahler denotes a skilled mountain-climber and crystal-seeker, whether amateur or semi-professional; the French word cristallier denotes the same thing.

(2) On page 93 of his Die Mineralfunde der Schweiz ("Mineral Finds of Switzerland") (1973), R. L. Parker asserted that "Staupi-loch" is a "false" locality designation for these widely marketed fluorite specimens. I am indebted to Dr. Edwin Gnos of the Natural History Museum of Geneva for ferreting out the facts which probably underlie this puzzling (because unexplained) judgment. The fluorite specimens were collected in 1957 (Parker gives the date as "around 1958") by men employed in constructing facilities for the Goschenen hydroelectric power station. The cleft in question was opened during construction of the Rotiboden water tunnel, running between Goschenen and the hamlet of Rotiboden, I km to the southwest. One or more of the workers brought the specimens to a mineral dealer--perhaps he was Hans Nelle of Bern, whom an old label names as having "acquired" the specimens in 1957 and then as having sold some. Since crystal-collecting during construction work in the tunnels was strictly forbidden, the dealer, to protect his source, deliberately misattributed the specimens to "Staupiloch." This is a local term, not shown on any map, which sounds more like "Steipiloch" in the local dialect of Swiss German; it denoted a waterfall which then lay at a point where the Reuss River joined another small river, with "Staup-" from Gentian "Staub," dust, alluding to the clouds of water spray which billowed up at the site. Later damming of the Reuss River destroyed the beautiful place of the "water dust," and today the spot is covered by logistics buildings around the entrance to the Gotthard road tunnel at Goschenen. Although the former "Staupiloch" waterfall lay only some hundreds of meters away from the true collecting site, Parker could justifiably call the locality "false," as the specimens really came from somewhere along the 1-km length of the Rotiboden tunnel.

Thoms P. Moore

2709 E. Exeter St.

Tucson, AZ 85716
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Author:Moore, Thomas P.
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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