Printer Friendly

Famous mineral localities: Volodarsk-Volynski Zhitomir Oblast, Ukraine.

Large, beautiful, deeply etched crystals of yellow-green beryl from the Volodarsk-Volynski pegmatite district first reached the Western mineral market in 1980. The majority of specimen crystals known today were recovered from pockets encountered in 1953, 1973, 1982, 1992 and sporadically since then, continuing after quartz mining ceased there in 1995. The deposits have also yielded large, complex, colorless to orange, blue or bicolored topaz crystals to 117 kg, and rare aquamarine, phenakite, fluorite, goethite and other species.



The Volynian (1) pegmatite area is centered a few kilometers west of the town of Volodarsk-Volynski ([TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) in the Volodarsk (2)-Volynski (3) district of Zhitomir Oblast (Province), north-central Ukraine, on the Irscha River. The pegmatite bodies discovered in the district were found to contain giant crystal pockets with a general structure that had never been seen before. Consequently a new term was coined to describe them: "Volynian chamber pegmatites." Other similar pegmatites have since been found in Finland and Kazakhstan.

The Volodarsk-Volynski district was mined primarily for industrial-grade piezoelectric quartz during the Soviet era, and was referred to in Soviet literature as the Volynsk Piezoquartz Deposit. Some optical-grade fluorite was found there as well, but more important was the discovery of gem-quality beryl crystals, huge gem topaz crystals and a variety of other species in collector-quality specimens. Information about the pegmatite deposits was treated as a state secret during the Soviet era, but thanks to extensive research over the years by many Russian and Ukrainian investigators, the area now ranks as one of the most widely studied and described pegmatite regions in the world.



Previous Investigations

Quartz and topaz crystals in the Volyn region were first found by farmers in the course of plowing their fields, and were presumed to have been carried down from Scandinavia by glaciation during previous ice ages. It was believed that such exotic gem materials could simply not have originated in the Ukraine!

Konstantin M. Feofilaktov (1818-1901) was the first to describe pegmatite bodies in the Volyn region in 1851. But it was amateur geologist Gottfried I. Ossovskiy (1835-1897) who in 1867 provided more details about the mineralogy. He described large blocks of colorless to smoky quartz and he found cleavages and crystals of topaz.

F. Kreuz (1891) and S. Kreuz (1931) briefly described topaz and a few other minerals from Ossovskiy's personal collection.

Geological-geomorphological research continued for the next few decades, but it was not until the publication of V. I. Vernadskiy's On the Mineralogy of Volyn (1911) that mineralogical interest was revived. Much research on the various species and on the genesis of the pocket pegmatites followed. Boris A. Garusevich (1908-1965), in particular, published a series of papers on the mineralogy, proposed a genetic scheme of crystallization, and commented prophetically that "this type of pegmatite is a promising source of interesting minerals, especially of beryl" (1930). The results of many studies were summarized by Ivanov (1936) and Buryanova (1940).

Mining of industrial-grade quartz began in 1931, and production exceeded 10 tons in the first year. Most of the quartz was recovered by open-pit mining of the kaolinized granite and associated pegmatites using primitive methods. Local farmers also dug trenches and sank their own primitive shafts. In 1931-1933 gem-quality topaz was recovered and exported to England for jewelry production.


From December 1941 to December 1943 the area was occupied by the German Army and quartz was flown to Germany in Messer-schmidt planes. It is possible that topaz may also have been sought, for use as the outer layer in tank sights, being less vulnerable to scratching from dust in the course of desert warfare. This has not been confirmed. During this time smoky quartz was being mined from other miarolitic pegmatites some kilometers to the east of the Volynsk piezoelectric quartz deposit. In January 1944 the Soviet Army returned, and production came to a halt for the remainder of the war.

In 1945 a 10-ton quartz crystal, the largest ever found at the deposit, was recovered from the soil in an open pit some 200 meters from the future site of shaft 2 (opened in 1975). In 1946 production reached over 100 tons, with one crystal weighing 7.5 tons and five other crystals weighing several tons each. Some individual pockets contained up to 100 tons of quartz crystals; the termination sections were of piezoelectric quality and were sought after by the Soviet Army. Only a few of the pegmatites in the district have yielded the more collectible gem species--seen as a curiosity in the early days.

The pegmatites occur in a 22-km-long, north-south-trending belt that is 500 to 1500 meters wide. These miarolitic pegmatites were located by drilling on a 50-meter grid pattern over an extensive field, generally to depths of 100 to 150 meters but in some cases to 600 meters, resulting in many hundreds of kilometers of drill core at a cost in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

There followed an intense period of research in which literally dozens of mineralogists, geologists and petrologists brought their talents to bear on the Volyn pegmatites, but the two most important summaries in modern times are Mineralizing fluids and mineral assemblages of the chamber-type pegmatites of the Ukraine (Kalyuzhnyi et al., 1971) and Mineralogy and genesis of Volynian chamber pegmatites (Lazarenko et al., 1973).


Recent publications include an excellent summary by Pavlishin and Dovgyi (2007), a geological review by Kievlenko (2003), and a specimen-mineralogy review by Koshil et al. (1991).


The Volyn pegmatites are genetically related to the granitic phases of the Proterozoic Korosten pluton, which crops out over a 110 X 150-km area in the northwestern part of the Ukrainian Shield. Most pegmatite bodies are located in the western margin of the massif. The pluton, dated at around 1.77 billion years old, is a highly complex three-phase intrusion encompassing a number of rock types and including eight major pegmatite areas. Several regions of the world with similar rapakivi-like granites have formed during crustal extension where crustal rocks are believed to have been mixed with magma from below, resulting in the formation of anorthosite and granite (Lyckberg, 2009).

The individual pegmatites and pegmatite clusters (known collectively as the Korosten pegmatite field) are the Guta-Potievskiy, Pikhtenskiy, Ignatopolskiy, Krivotinskiy, Pugachevskiy, Usolusskiy, Radomyshlskiy and Volodarsk-Volynski sites. They are situated in three basic environments: (1) the contact zone of the granite and intruding into adjacent mafic rocks, (2) in fine-grained granite porphyry, and (3) in hornblende-rich granites. Only the syngenetic Volodarsk-Volynski pegmatites, in the contact zone, contain rich chamber-type pegmatites containing giant pockets with quartz, smoky quartz and significant collector-quality crystals. These were formed as water-rich, highly fractionated segregations merged and later crystallized within the cooling and crystallizing granite body. The term "chamber pegmatite" relates more to the structure of the pegmatites having a single large chamber than to the size of the pocket itself (Lyckberg, 2009).

The intensive core-drilling program revealed that the richest zone of pocket pegmatites occurs between the surface and a depth of 100 meters. Many hundreds of pockets were worked between 1931 and 1995 when mining for quartz ceased.

Pegmatites typically occur in groups or swarms of five to a dozen within a distinct area. The pegmatite bodies become progressively less common with depth, at least down to the 622-meter level. The deepest bore hole brought up clear quartz from the bottom. Mining was carried out by the open-pit method, and by large-scale underground mining from levels driven at 50, 96 and 150 meters depth, accessed via six main shafts, several smaller shafts, and drifts extending from the bottoms of the open pits. According to Bulgakov and Panchenko (1981), prospecting extended to a depth of 200 meters.

The chamber pegmatites occur in irregular, blob or loaf-like shapes within the granite, and also as rare pocket-bearing bodies and veins injected into the nearby country rock. The more fully differentiated pegmatite bodies of roughly equant shape generally contain a single large open chamber with crystals, whereas the irregularly shaped, more attenuated bodies can contain two to five chambers. They are separated into graphic, pegmatitic and blocky microcline zones with typically a single (rarely more than one) gray quartz core forming the roof of the chamber pockets. Typically the internal zoning is asymmetrical. From the chamber roof, fractures having ovoid shapes commonly extend into the surrounding granite, and serve as useful indicators for the location of potential pegmatites and pockets. Pocket zones are characterized by quartz crystals, perthitic microcline, platy albite, orthoclase, biotite, lithium-iron micas and kaolinite.


Open crystal pockets tend to be lenticular in shape, typically measuring around 4 to 6 meters in length, 3 to 4 meters in width, and 1 to 3 meters in height, with a volume of 35 to 40 cubic meters. However, some of the more elongated pegmatite bodies proved to contain chambers over 15 meters long and 250 cubic meters in volume. The largest chamber found thus far, in pegmatite no. 521, measured between 5,000 and 8,000 cubic meters!

The large chambers were generally filled with clay and studded across the roof with downward-pointing quartz crystals interspersed with feldspar crystals. Quartz crystals decrease in size and number down the side walls, as mica and topaz crystals become more common. Most pockets have collapsed and large quartz crystals have fallen down together with platy giant shards of the overlaying quartz cap above the pocket. A space of half a meter to 3 meters commonly opened up in several pockets above the collapsed quartz crystals and shards.

What is usually visible when entering a pocket are the huge meter-size quartz shards that have fallen from the roof and cover the giant quartz crystals from the collapsed ceiling. The ceiling itself consists of the upper part of the quartz core and feldspar-rich pegmatite having a very large grain size. The floors of the chambers are covered with druses of small quartz, microcline, cleavelanditic albite, and rare topaz and mica crystals. The pockets are commonly filled with a breccia of broken quartz and feldspar as well as clay minerals. Only 10% or so of the pockets found have contained topaz crystals, and in most parts of the field only 2% have yielded beryl crystals (Lyckberg, 2008). Because of the large pocket size, each one produced from a few tons to more than 100 tons of quartz, though generally only a small part of the quartz crystal terminations have been of good piezoelectric quality (Lyckberg, 2008).

Beneath the open portion of the chamber is a zone of vuggy rock of comparable volume and up to several meters deep, called the leached zone. This zone is the alteration product of the primary pegmatitic and graphic zones and in rare cases the enclosing granite itself (Lyckberg, 2009). The quartz has been dissolved and recrystallized in the roof and wall sections of the pocket, with crystal size decreasing from the top downward. Here a more complex mineralogy, affected by an intense process of dissolution and recrystallization, includes microcline, albite, albitized microcline, altered hydrous micas, and sometimes small pockets lined with drusy quartz. Relict crystals from the leaching phase and newly grown crystals of other species formed up to 10% of the pocket contents and could include siderite, fluorite, molybdenite, topaz, columbite-(Fe), rutile, pyrite, beryl, very rarely phenakite and other minerals. Most commonly this leached zone consisted of feldspars with small hollows left by dissolved quartz which recrystallized as giant crystals in the ceiling. Spodumene, tourmaline and other minerals occurred in some pegmatites in the frozen sections as tiny crystals that have no value to collectors.




The area richest in beryl-carrying pegmatites is south of the Irscha River, in the Vishnyakovka and Dvorischansky quarries. The surface and underground workings are just to the south of the river, accessed by shafts no. 2 and 6.

In the northern part of the pegmatite field, where the overburden is only 3 to 10 meters thick, much topaz has been found. Further to the south the overburden is between 10 and 40 meters thick, some of it made up of weathered granite now in the form of kaolinite that in some cases contains preserved pockets. Topaz also occurs abundantly in the south-central part of the pegmatite district.

At its peak of operation, the mine employed over 1,000 miners and 60 geologists (Director P. Minko, personal communication, 1995); the quartz processing facilities above ground employed an additional staff and supported around 10,000 inhabitants. Commercial mining for quartz at Volodarsk-Volynski ceased in 1995, and the state-owned mining operation was greatly reduced. In Soviet times there were no real budget restrictions because the mines were given priority in order to supply the Army with vital piezoelectric quartz. Mining by a limited staff with a limited budget began in later years.



When the granitic rocks began to crystallize, segregations of enriched solutions became trapped in place and began to form pegmatite bodies. The first pegmatitic structure to form (as the outer shell of the pegmatite) crystallized with a graphic structure at 750[degrees] to 760[degrees] C in barren pegmatites, and at 700[degrees] to 730[degrees] C in pocket pegmatites. The latter pegmatites have yielded topaz formed at 620[degrees] to 640[degrees] C because the fluorine-rich rich solutions functioned as a flux (inducing a lower melting point).

This zone ranges from a few millimeters to several meters thick and is asymmetric. The following crystallization inwards yielded a blocky pegmatitic structure, with larger grains to very large single crystals, and is of the same scale. The zone has complex contacts and gas inclusions (but no melt inclusions).

Giant clear or smoky crystals of quartz hanging from the roof and walls below the gray quartz core crystallized between 600[degrees] and 100[degrees] C. The core itself formed at the higher temperature, and the lower range represents the primary pegmatite quartz leached at the bottom of the pocket and recrystallized as giant crystals in the ceiling and walls. Analyses suggest that crystallization began from a gaseous phase, followed by boiling of liquids during two acidic periods, separated by an alkaline phase between the two.

When all of the primary pegmatites had crystallized, the alkaline solutions leached quartz from the pegmatite bodies and in rare cases even from the underlying granite and the metasomatically altered feldspars, micas etc. Albitization of microcline took place at around 300[degrees] to 400[degrees] C, followed by an acidic stage in which crystals of micas, fluorite and thick tabular albite crystallized from weakly enriched [CO.sub.2] solutions. Fluorite formed in two main stages: in the first, green fluorite crystallized together with topaz at 400[degrees] to 415[degress] C. In the second generation, purple fluorite formed cubic crystals at 340[degrees] C and pH of around 6.5. Then followed the deposition of siderite at a pH over 7 and a temperature of 290[degrees] to 340[degrees] C, after which came molybdenite and rutile.


Very few people today, even in Volodarsk, are aware of the early discoveries of gem crystals in the district. However, a systematic search during the past 15 years of all old work ledgers, drawings and geological descriptions, as well as interviews with many old geologists and miners, has uncovered some of this lost information, later verified in situ and presented here for the first time.

One exceptional pegmatite, no. 206, is located some 400 meters north of the large Vishnyakovka open pit and 300 meters south of the Irscha River. It was mined in 1953 via a 22-meter-deep open pit in kaolinized granite, and proved to contain five large pockets, all filled with gem-grade material. The lower three pockets carried gem beryl crystals up to 5 kg in size, and the upper two carried topaz crystals weighing up to 82 kg. One of the lower pockets contained both topaz and beryl. A total of 460 kg of gem-grade beryl was officially recovered as a byproduct, not counting souvenir specimens kept by the miners. Beryl crystals from this find are the only ones from the chamber pegmatites of Volodarsk to show some similarity in the etching structure to those from the jumbo pocket encountered in pegmatite no. 521 in 1982 (see below).

In 1965 a 117-kg topaz crystal was recovered, along with two additional large crystals weighing over 100 kg together, all from the same pocket.

In 1960 the large Vishnyakovka pit and quarry were opened, first mining a kaolinized pegmatite, and then hard granite enclosing ten additional pegmatite bodies, five of which proved to contain gem-grade beryl. Some of the finest beryl crystals from this find are preserved in the Fersman Mineralogical Museum in Moscow, and date to 1967 and 1968. Other specimens are in the Museum of Precious and Decorative Stones in Volodarsk. Some of them have rounded, cylindrical shapes 12 to 15 cm long that are the result of etching, and show a yellowish green color and flawless transparency (see Fig. 17). In the Volodarsk Museum there is a crystal measuring 30 cm long, with a fantastically etched surface.

At the bottom in the middle of the Vishnyakovka open pit a drift was driven at the 55-meter level, leading 800 meters to the north, to a point under the Irscha River. It passed under pegmatite no. 206 and intersected ten large miarolitic pegmatites that were mined in 1972-73.



The most spectacular pocket produced 260 kg of pale green, hexagonal crystals with well-formed terminations and very light etch patterns on the faces. It was found in 1973, in pegmatite no. 422 on the 55-meter level; 50 tons of quartz were also produced. Some of the beryl crystals reached the Western mineral market in the early days, including a 400-gram crystal that was offered for sale at the 2009 Tucson Show by Scott Werschky (Miners Lunchbox).

In 1976-1978 a 15-meter-tall pocket on the 96-meter level in shaft 2 produced 5 tons of topaz!

In the summer of 1983, pegmatite no. 576 was mined. Located between the Vishnyakovka open pit and the Irscha River, it was accessed via shaft no. 6 at a depth of 96 meters.



Many heliodor crystals were recovered from pockets found in 1953, in the 1960s and in the 1970s; at least one great beryl discovery took place in each decade. During these years the quartz miners would often put a beautiful beryl specimen in their pocket as a souvenir, as these were not part of the ore being mined. The miners generally had no idea of the monetary value of such crystals as mineralogical specimens or as gem rough, and regarded them only as attractive curiosities. Many of the crystals were given as gifts to friends or visiting geologists; others were put in windows as ornaments, or were used as doorstops (e.g. large topaz crystals), or were exchanged for bottles of vodka. Some eventually ended up in Russian museums or came to the market in Moscow.



For many years the Volyn piezoelectric quartz deposits were primarily known and very famous only among scientists in Eastern Europe. Among the first heliodor beryl crystals to reach the Western mineral market were two excellent small gem beryls brought out by Polish dealers Andrei and Anna Chrapowicki in 1980 and sold to Austrian dealer Rene Triebl. Rene then obtained a third excellent gem crystal from Igor Bogucki, a young low-level agent for the Soviet heavy metal industry who was working undercover as a mineral dealer. The first time Igor appeared at the Vienna mineral show he had some incredibly fine specimens at very reasonable prices. Three 2.5 X 10-cm gem crystals were sold to Austrian collector Peter Huber. A Nuremberg, Germany gem expert was so sure they were synthetic Russian products that he declined to buy any, a reaction shared by other Western European collectors. The crystals proved to be impossible to sell for a year! (Rene Triebl, personal communication). Despite being purely natural, they were regarded as too good to be true.

Rene finally sold them to California mineral dealer Curt van Scriver (1955-1982). Curt brought several beer-can-size crystals of etched but highly gemmy and beautiful yellow crystals, carefully wrapped in towels, to the 1981 Detroit Show and showed them off to a few people; two of the crystals were purchased for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County by Hyman Savinar (Brad Van Scriver, personal communication, 2009). Another lot followed shortly thereafter, one specimen from which was acquired by the Harvard Mineralogical Museum. In 1985 Rene discovered Igor's source in Moscow at the well-known Ptichij Rynok (a Moscow animal flea market where minerals were sometimes sold), thanks to a tip from Leo Bulgak, who was at that time curator of the Fersman Mineralogical Museum. The flea-marker seller was a man belonging to a special police squad charged with combating homosexuality, and he had hundreds of Ukrainian heliodor crystals in stock; he remained the best source for years.

Specimens nevertheless were very scarce until five years later, when a new batch emerged at the 1987 Tucson Show, via dealers Brad van Scriver and the team Andrei and Anna Chrapowicki; heliodor crystals as well as aquamarine beryl were included in the lot (Wilson, 1987). Andrei, who sold the beryl crystals for $34,000, had obtained his crystals in Volodarsk and tried to convince Peter Lyckberg to join him on a visit to the mine, disguised as a Balt (citizen of the Baltic states). The offer to see these interesting mines was exceedingly tempting, but the risk of being arrested and spending an indeterminate amount of time in an unknown "resort in Siberia" was deemed too high.

Andrei was the first person who was able to supply first-hand information on the mines and their interesting geology and mineralogy. Among numerous great specimens, Andrei had a superb, nearly 30-cm crystal for sale at the Sainte Marie-aux-Mines show in the mid-1980s. Unfortunately in the early 1990s he and his wife disappeared from mineral dealing. The years 1988 to 1992 were the very best time for obtaining fine specimens in Russia and the Ukraine; but thereafter many Western dealers began arriving to buy specimens, and consequently supplies diminished and prices increased.

Pegmatite no. 521

Some of the earliest crystals seen at the Detroit Show, and certainly later specimens as well, came out when an access tunnel was driven to exploit a giant pocket in pegmatite no. 521. In 1982 the pocket produced about 500 kg to 1 ton of beryl! About 230 kg of gem beryl were officially recorded, 20 kg of which were of pure faceting quality, and another 70 kg were at least partially gem grade. The rest was classified as carving-grade material.



The beautiful beryl crystals recovered from this pocket, showing typical etch features on the faces, made Volodarsk-Volynski world-famous. The pegmatite body, encountered at a depth of 23 meters, measured 60 meters in thickness and 50 X 70 meters horizontally. It contained two huge chambers, accessed from the 96-meter level off of shaft 2. The first was 30 meters long, 12-15 meter high and 15-25 meter wide, totaling 5,000 to 8,000 cubic meters--and has still not been completely emptied of quartz! Around 40 to 45 tons of quartz were recovered, the largest crystals weighing around a ton each.

Beryl specimens were found at the bottom of the first pocket along the sides. Higher up on the upper walls, dark purple to black 2-cm cubic crystals and pods of fluorite were common. The second jumbo pocket, located directly adjacent to the first, produced 80 tons of quartz but contained no beryl. Miners reported finding large hexagonal beryl crystals lying around in the muck on the floor while they were bringing out huge quartz crystals. Occasionally they would put one of the beryls in their pocket and bring it out.

Pegmatite no. 576

In the summer of 1983 a pegmatite chamber (no. 576) was opened a few hundreds meters from shaft no. 6, at a depth of about 90 meters. It yielded particularly sharp and attractive beryl crystals of a yellow to grass-green color, but was rather poor in associated minerals. Besides beryl, only black quartz, gray quartz and orthoclase were found, plus a single crystal of ilmenite, visually identified as an inclusion inside a gemmy 398-gram yellow beryl crystal. The pegmatite chamber was comparatively small, measuring about 1 X 5.5 meters, and contained 43 kg of beryl crystals, only 3 kg of which were gem-quality; 12 kg were partially gemmy and the rest was of poor quality. The largest beryl crystal of gem quality weighed a little under 900 grams and had a grass-green color. Because no buyer was willing to pay the price for preserving it as an uncut crystal--perhaps the finest large, sharp, hexagonal gem beryl crystal ever found at Volodarsk-Volynski--it was cut into a flawless 2,500-carat gemstone.

Some excellent yellow and green crystals weighing up to 540 grams have been preserved from this pocket. The best is 20 cm long and weighs about 480 grams. Beryl crystals from pegmatite no. 576 are easy to identify. They are sharper and show less etching than the crystals typical of the workings around shaft no. 2; in general they have better terminations and an extraordinary luster. The crystals are rich in faces (terminated by a combination of two pyramids and a very small pinacoidal face) and are elongated, often resembling a rocket shape.


Beryl crystals from pegmatite no. 576 were unknown to Western collectors until recent years. They first appeared on the market when Mike Bergmann offered a single crystal at the 1993 Tucson Show; in 2005, two fine golden crystals were offered at the Munich Show by the Volhyn Kvarts Samotsvety mining company. At the 2006 Munich show, Marco Amabili purchased three of the crystals. Many other collectors immediately noticed them as well, and they drew the attention of Tom Moore, who wrote about them in his show report in the Mineralogical Record. A few months later the best crystal from this discovery was pictured and described by Louis-Dominique Bayle in Le Regne Mineral no. 76 (2007), in a report on the 2007 Sainte Marie-aux-Mines show. This crystal has been named the "Dnieper Rocket" because its shape resembles that of a Soviet rocket of the Dnieper class, and because the Irscha River near shaft no. 6 is a tributary of the Dnieper River.


Beryl crystals from pegmatite no. 521 continued to reach the market occasionally for the next several years. In 1992, as the miners became more aware of the value of beryl specimens and the economies of the former Soviet states deteriorated, miners went back to pegmatite no. 521 specifically in order to recover more beryl crystals. Within a short time about 1,500 kg (3,300 pounds!) of additional gem beryl crystals were recovered from the big pocket, left there during original mining. The largest gem-quality crystal recovered during this period weighed over 22 kg but broke during its extraction into two parts weighing 5 and 17 kg. A little bit turbid at the base but otherwise of faceting quality, it was probably sold to gem-cutters in Idar-Oberstein, Germany or to a buyer in the U.S. Based on interviews with the miners involved, it appears that a total of more than 2.5 tons of beryl were removed from this gigantic pocket.


During the early to mid-1990s it was common for the Volodarsk-Volynski miners (like most workers in the former Soviet states) to not receive their salaries for months. A condition of near-anarchy prevailed, while so-called "businessmen" and organized crime took over parts of the industry--sometimes legally and sometimes not. To avoid starvation, miners in the 1990s began staying after working hours in the mines to dig for beryl and topaz for Kvarts Samotsvetny (the mining company operating the deposit) and also to sell to local dealers.


One miner told of how, for a couple of years, he stayed underground in the mine for a week and sometimes several weeks at a stretch, working for 12 hours and then resting or sleeping for 12 hours, wearing the same clothes. After such a period, having made some extra money, he left by train to visit his girlfriend in Russia. On the way he stopped in Kiev to buy some perfume and jewelry for her, still dressed in his mining clothes, covered with red mud, only his face and hands washed. He was admitted into a fancy store despite his appearance. The jewelry shop staff knew that miners were among the few people in the early 1990s who had extra money to spend. Their salary ran from $10 to $20 per month between 1990 and 1995, and the sale of gem materials could significantly add to their incomes. In 2005-2008, when the search for gem material was renewed, salaries for miners had increased to between $100 to $400 dollars per month, depending on how much gem material they found.

In 1992 an American dealer, Jim Wills of Wicast Ltd. in Norman, Oklahoma, imported more than a ton of the Volodarsk beryls. He subjected several hundred kilograms of olive-green beryl to heat treatment at 350[degrees] C for 12 hours, and succeeded in turning them to a strong blue color. It was found, however, that some heliodor crystals would lose their color entirely if heated above 230-260[degrees] C, and others would become colorless above 300-320[degrees].

About 260 kg of Wicast's gem-quality heliodor crystals from pegmatite no. 521 were sold immediately before the Tucson Show to William Larson of Pala International. These were mostly sold as gem rough but a few beautiful crystals were preserved for their specimen value (William Larson, personal communication, 2008). The importance of collectors who are willing to pay the gem value of such crystals in order to preserve them for the future cannot be understated.


In 1993 Wicast Ltd. had about 850 kg of Volodarsk beryl for sale at the Tucson Show in a tent (Koivula et al., 1993) and at other Tucson locations. These were mostly giant, carving-grade, heavily etched hexagonal prisms in the 300-gram to 4-kg range, and some even larger, lying on about 10 meters of table space and filling plastic laundry boxes on the floor under the tables. Not a single high-quality crystal was in this remaining lot. The dealer confirmed that all the best specimens had already been sold and he was trying to sell the low-quality "logs" to collectors.

P. Minko, the General Director of the Kvarts Samotsvetny company, reported in 1995 that the mining company had not received any payment for this material from Wicast, Ltd. and had heard nothing from Wicast owner Jim Wills. Several times in Tucson, as late as the 2008 show, two very big Ukrainian men were in town looking for Wills, and there was a reward offered for information that might lead them to him.

A pegmatite worked from Shaft 3 (at a depth of 60 meters) produced some very beautiful optical-quality purple and blue cubic crystals of fluorite 10-20 cm in size.

Since the mid-1990s, small-scale clandestine mining has been carried out by locals going into the old tunnels and shafts before they became entirely water-filled. Open pits and dumps have been heavily searched since then, and are now pretty well picked over.



One of the cleverest tactics used by the mining company to deter unauthorized collecting during the Soviet era was a barbed-wire enclosure surrounding an open pit, posted with several signs saying "No Trespassing," "Collecting Strictly Forbidden," and "Violators Will Be Prosecuted." This attracted numerous collectors who crawled under the fence after dark and dug frantically for hours looking in vain for beryl crystals. The mining company knew very well that this particular pegmatite contained no beryl or topaz at all, though many unposted pegmatites around it did! (Igor Pekov, personal communication.)

Author's Visit in 1995

Peter Lyckberg (then with Chalmers University of Technology) and Professor William B. "Skip" Simmons (University of New Orleans) were the first foreigners allowed to enter the Volodarsk-Volynski mines in the post-Soviet era--in September 1995, just as the mines were about to be closed. Until that time, secrecy had been rigidly maintained regarding the mines, and it was most difficult if not impossible for anyone, even Russian geologists, not having a special mission at the mine to visit. Secrecy has continued to be maintained in the Ukraine until now regarding the mining of much gem material, as it was during Soviet times.

The water and air temperature in the mine was rather cold, just about 4[degrees] C. Our visit was to shaft 2, known for accessing pockets producing not only the largest quantity but also some of the finest beryls. The chief geologist at the time, Mr. Panchenko, and one mine geologist guided our party into the mines. Digging in a pocket in pegmatite no. 445 that was yielding beryl was not allowed, though we were allowed to look into the pocket. In pegmatite no. 452, which was yielding topaz, digging was approved. During work a decade later by the new Chief Geologist, Vsevolod Chornousenko, in pegmatite no. 445, new and very interesting, beautiful beryl specimens were recovered and the features of the occurrence were observed and recorded (see Fig. 19).

The large pockets contain giant quartz crystals, commonly smoky to black quartz, as a main component. Other minerals include mica, kaolin, microcline, albite, orthoclase, broken and re-healed shards of quartz, secondary silica in the form of opal, and a few others. A great quantity of large beryl crystals was found, some of them weighing 500 grams to several kilograms and measuring up to 10 cm in diameter and 30 cm in length, although most beryl crystals are in the range of 1-3 cm in diameter and 3-10 cm long.

Mining at Volodarsk was conducted from six main shafts connected by drifts at the 50, 96 and 150-meter levels. In addition, several internal shafts (locally called shurfs) were sunk down to 70 meters depth in order to reach various pegmatite bodies. During Soviet times the definition of a shurf was a shaft not more than 38 meters deep, but in Volodarsk the same term came to be used for internal shafts reaching deeper. Around 500 pegmatite bodies were mined until operations ceased in 1995/1996 for economic reasons.


Shaft 6 Workings

Since the early 1990s the Kvarts Samotsvetny mining company has been studying all the old geological reports from the beginning of mining and has located potential areas of interest where it might still be possible to recover mineral specimens and gem rough. This work has been led by Chief Geologist Vsevolod Chornousenko. As a result, selected workings have been dewatered, beginning with shaft 6 (in 2004) and then shaft 2 (in 2006). Various pockets, including especially those where beryl had been found, were investigated and documented. An exceptional crystal that has been named the "Peter and Pablo Beryl," weighing over 6 kg and measuring 25 cm tall (now in the Museum of Precious and Decorative Stones, catalog no. 476) had been found earlier in one of these pockets. After September 11, 2001, though, all use of explosives was restricted to only one authorized company in every province, thus rendering it much less economical for the Kvarts Samotsvetny company to continue mining using explosives.

In the workings accessed by shaft 6, only two of the 130 pegmatites were known to have yielded beryl in the past, but recent work identified another two pegmatites carrying beryl. New production of gem crystals succeeded in recovering the costs involved in pumping and mining, and most of the good material has been cut and sold for jewelry in the Ukraine. A few of the crystals that had been offered on the Western mineral market failed to sell immediately, and were then cut within a week and sold in the Ukraine for double the price offered in Western Europe and the U.S. About 56 kg of topaz were also recovered, along with much gem-grade and specimen-quality beryl.


The finest crystals from here were recovered in the same pegmatite (no. 576) as produced the lovely 17-cm group in the Volodarsk Museum of Precious and Decorative Stones (catalog no. 534, weighing 718 g), pictured in Pavlishin and Dovgyi (2007, page 62). The renewed mining effort recovered some of the very finest beryls ever found in Volodarsk. These include several deep yellow heliodor crystals and several very fine green crystals. The finest are fairly sharp hexagonal prisms showing good termination faces and only slight etching. This is probably because they were formed within deep, thin fissures 1.5 to 2 meters above the pocket bottom, and were apparently protected from the corrosive solutions that typically leached the beryl crystals in the bottom of the pockets.

Twenty (15%) of the 130 pegmatites accessed by shaft 6 have yielded topaz, though overall only about 10% of the pegmatites of the whole pegmatite field contain topaz.

Recent work in shaft 6 has yielded superb, slightly etched hexagonal yellow and (rarely) green gem-grade beryls. Three superb crystals from 14 to 18 cm tall weighed 334,400 and 900 grams. The largest one, a flawless, razor-sharp, hexagonal prism, was unfortunately cut into a flawless 2,500-carat gemstone. The other two have been preserved as specimens. The best pure yellow crystals were found in pegmatite no. 576, the largest one measuring about 23 cm long and 6 cm thick; but the finest-quality crystals are 1 and 2 cm thick and 8 cm long, flawless, and exceptionally lustrous.

Shaft 2 Workings

Of the seven pegmatites accessed by shaft 2, five have been found to carry beryl. Some of the very finest gem crystals ever found in Volodarsk were also recovered during work in this area, the best ones being sharp, hexagonal, flawless crystals of yellow color found in a thin fissure high above the floor, where they had escaped severe etching. The best were recovered from pegmatite no. 445 off of Shaft 2 at 60 meters depth, only a few hundred meters to the southwest of pegmatite no. 521. About 150 meters to the northeast of pegmatite no. 445 is pegmatite no. 452 at a depth of 50 meters. Here bi-colored blue and salmon-pink topaz was recovered during mining and again in 1995 by one of the authors (PL).

In January 2007, dewatering of the huge old flooded Vishnyakovka open pit originally mined in the 1960s began. By September 2007 it had been emptied and new work was initiated in pockets in the underground workings. Silt covering an access adit to the workings was removed and about 400 meters inside the tunnel a sandbag dam was constructed, measuring a few meters wide and 1.5 meters high. Below this dam, a 400-meter inclined shaft was pumped out. At the bottom of this incline, at a depth of 70 meters, a long side-tunnel led westward to a topaz pocket and a beryl pocket.

Authors Peter Lyckberg and chief geologist Vsevolod Chor-nousenko visited and participated in the mining of several pockets accessed via this 800-meter-long tunnel. Working conditions in this environment proved difficult, as the oxygen level was low and working efficiency was severely compromised (equivalent to working at more than 5,000 meters altitude). At least one of the authors suffered from a reddened and very swollen face during this work, which Chornousenko himself judged to be very difficult despite having worked in pegmatites at over 5,000 meters in the Pamir Mountains of Tadzhikistan.

The main pegmatites to be reworked were the following:

Pegmatite no. 436, at 55 meters depth, was reworked, including a pocket measuring 3 X 20 X 15 meters that yielded flawless gem beryl crystals to 8 cm in diameter with rounded faces and terminations. A dozen crystals were removed in matrix, which shortly crumbled to gravel after drying out. The largest fragment left from blasting in 1973 was a section of a 10-cm-diameter gemmy green beryl crystal. No other pieces of this crystal could be found.

Crystals recovered ranged primarily from the size of a small finger, i.e. 1 by 4 cm, to 3 or 4 cm thick and 8 to 10 cm tall. These beryls commonly show hundreds of short needle-like microcrystals that can easily be felt along the sides and on the rounded terminations; others show small bubbles within the same faces.

A layer of rubble approximately 1.5 to 2 meters thick in the pocket (see Figs. 11 and 12) was dug through, and along the sides gemmy beryl crystals were mined from in situ positions using a small electric jack hammer. Crystals were found in a fine-grained grayish green matrix just below a zone carrying large white feldspar crystals. Surprisingly, no well-formed feldspar crystals were found, and beryl crystals were in most cases broken on the end, possibly as a result of pocket collapse.

A few beryl crystals could be seen to have originally grown on other minerals, and all of them showed a rounded hexagonal to cylindrical shape with highly rounded terminations; a few of them showed remnants of steep termination faces.

Pegmatite no. 438, 70 meters in depth, measured 3 x 5 x 6 meters and contained lovely feldspar crystals, deep orange topaz chunks up to a kilogram in weight, and small, white, rounded, 2 X 5-cm beryl crystals. In most cases the beryl crystals in pockets where topaz is found have been largely dissolved. Microcline, orthoclase and smoky quartz crystals were found as loose floaters in crystals to 25 cm.

Pegmatite no. 422, at a depth of 55 meters, produced 50 tonnes of quartz and 260 kg of beryl in 1973. Recent finds included giant morion (black quartz) crystals to 4 tons, with large, sharp, slightly etched, hexagonal green to yellowish green gemmy beryl crystals to 793 gram.

Pegmatite no. 434 produced rare, small, 4 to 8-cm cylindrical aquamarine beryl crystals and some topaz.

Off of the same tunnel, pegmatite no. 428 yielded many wine-yellow topaz crystals and bi-colored topaz in complex crystals to 200 grams (these small ones had been left by previous mining); three more pegmatites were also exploited during our visit. Some of the pegmatites that had been described by geologists in the 1970s as still containing significant amounts of gem beryl crystals (e.g. pegmatite no. 422) had by then proven to be less productive, whereas other pockets that had originally been overlooked were still yielding some beryl crystals.

Pegmatite no. 198, a kaolinized pegmatite at shallow depth (5-10 meters), yielded typical, fantastically etched beryl crystals. In April 2008 a superb, flawless crystal weighing 240 grams was found just before pumping was discontinued and the quarry was allowed to fill with water. The crystal was unfortunately cut within a week.

Pegmatite no. 364, containing a giant, extremely heavily etched pocket, was also among those where two of the authors (VC, PL) participated in mining; we excavated this pocket together with a team of three miners. Access is via a 70-meter vertical shaft that was pumped out in the winter of 2007/2008. Miners desended in a heavy metal bucket hanging on a steel cable, from a temporary crane to an access drift at the bottom. This shaft is located on top of, and at the edge of, the above described open pit, in its southwest corner. The drift leads north under the giant pegmatite no. 206 pocket mined in 1953.

This shaft is located just at the southern edge of the huge Vish-nyakovka open pit, where seven major chamber pegmatites and three smaller ones had been mined during 1960-1973. One of them yielded a 12-kg gem beryl crystal. In the Fersman Museum in Moscow, specimens from this open pit which were found in 1967 and 1968 are exhibited. During the earlier mining of this open pit in the 1960s, a flawless elongated gem beryl some 30 cm long and 8 cm in diameter, weighing 2 kg was found (broken off on both ends). This specimen is today exhibited in the Volodarsk museum and was illustrated on page 30 (left image) in Koshil et al. (1991).

The large gemmy heliodor crystal illustrated on the same page and the inside front cover of Pavlishin and Dovgyi (2007), named the "Academician Evgeniy Lazarenko" heliodor, measuring 27 cm long and 10 cm in diameter (weight 4.879 kg) was broken in half on purpose because the lower portion was not as transparent and gemmy as the top half. This crystal was found in the 1960s in a pegmatite near shaft 6, in a pocket measuring 12 meters long and 14 meters high. Because the surfaces of the hexagonal crystal are frosted, one face has been polished to show the flawless interior.

In pegmatite no. 364, a gushing waterfall was issuing from the shaft wall at 40 meters depth, requiring that a 30-meter-tall rubber curtain be installed to protect us from being completely soaked during our descent. Four big pumps were working continuously, extracting the inflowing water through 20-cm steel pipes to the surface. If the pumps had failed, the workers digging in the pocket (that is, the two of us and three more miners) would have had very little time to get all the way back down the drift to the vertical shaft before it was completely flooded.

Pegmatite no. 364 had originally been located by test-drilling to 70 meters depth on a 50-meter grid pattern; one drill hole happened to hit in the middle of the pocket. As a result, further drilling in a 5-meter grid was carried out in order to delineate the pegmatite pocket. A 4 X 4-meter shaft was sunk and a 100-meter access drift was driven at 70 meters depth. The original mining operation in 1973 had intersected the pocket a bit too high, and the pocket was thought by the mine geologist to be empty. Renewed work revealed a beryl-rich layer only a few centimeters to a couple of meters under the floor of the access drift. Quartz crystals were found in situ 5 meters under the floor. Gem beryls were found in a very irregular zone following the top of the leached zone.

Several marvelous, heavily etched beryl crystals were found that had been reduced by dissolution to less than 30% of their original weight. The granite beneath this pocket was leached to a depth of 26 meters, meaning that the quartz had been dissolved and had recrystallized as giant quartz crystals in the upper portion of the pocket. Many of the former giant gem beryl crystals in this pocket had been etched down to a few percent of their original size, a reduction which could easily be determined based on impressions and molds in the surrounding matrix. The largest green gem beryl found in 2007 weighed 4.2 kg and consisted of a pinacoidal termination on the core of a giant, heavily etched crystal estimated to have originally weighed between 15 and 30 kg. This superb crystal would be worthy of any world-class museum. It was sold to a collector in the Ukraine.

Some really unique and atypical beryls were recovered from this pocket, but most of them ended up as cut gemstones. Among the finest deep gemmy green, heavily etched beryl crystals recovered was a crystal weighing 1.75 kg. A superb, highly etched, 1.6-kg specimen named Svinja ("The Pig") perfectly resembles a sleeping pig with nose, ears, eyes, and even a perfect tail. The largest crystal found was of superb quality, with a pinacoidal termination modified by a few more termination faces that survived etching, while all prism faces were deeply etched. All of these largest and finest specimens stayed in the Ukraine and Russia, where collectors are willing to pay the faceting rough price in order to save them from being cut. Specimens named "The Fireman's Helmet" (288 grams) and "The Devil's Postpile" (461 grams), both very fine and gemmy crystals, were sold to European collectors at the 2008 Tucson Show and the 2008 Munich Show. David Wilber was extraordinarily excited about these during the filming of "What's Hot in Tucson 2008." He had never seen anything like them, which is not surprising as none had ever been collected until November 2007 to February 2008!

All of these pockets had been mined originally in 1972-1973. When Lyckberg (Lyckberg, 2008) later visited the mines in the spring of 2008, only small-scale digging was taking place, in a single open pit just above the water level. One 14-cm flawless gem crystal weighing 240 grams had just been found, having small knobs on the hexagonal faces (typical for this kaolinized pegmatite). When it was not immediately sold as a specimen it was cut into a flawless, richly colored, 512-carat gemstone and sold for double the original asking price within a week.

During the last few years a strip-search of all miners and geologists exiting the mines, under camera surveillance, was mandatory. All gem material found by miners in the mine was put into a special container that was then removed from the mine only by special guards. Consequently very few matrix specimens were brought out, despite the fact that some wonderful feldspar crystal specimens, topaz and beryl crystals in matrix were found.


Following are the species which occur in the Volyn pegmatite area in collector-quality specimens. These and all other species identified from the area are listed in chemical order in Table 1.
Table 1. Minerals identified and confirmed from the Volyn pegmatites
(after Pavlishin and Dovgyi, 2007; and Koshil et al., 1991).


Arsenopyrite                  FeAsS

Bornite                       [Cu.sub.5][FeS.sub.4]

Chalcopyrite                  [CuFeS.sub.2]

Galena                        PbS

Marcasite                     [FeS.sub.2]

Molybdenite                   [MoS.sub.2]

Pyrite                        [FeS.sub.2]

Pyrrhotite                    [Fe.sub.[1-x]]S

Sphalerite                    ZnS

Oxides and Hydroxides

Anatase                       [TiO.sub.2]

Brookite                      [TiO.sub.2]

Cassiterite                   [SnO.sub.2]

Columbite-(Fe)                [Fe.sup.2+][Nb.sub.2][O.sub.6]

Corundum                      [A1.sub.2][O.sub.3]

Goethite                      [alpha]-[Fe.sup.3+]O(OH)

Hematite                      [alpha]-[Fe.sub.2][O.sub.3]

Ilmenite                      [Fe.sup.2+][TiO.sub.3]

Ixiolite                      (Ta,Nb,Fe,Mn)[O.sub.2]

Magnetite                     [Fe.sup.2+][Fe.sub.2.sup.3+][O.sub.4]

Rutile                        [TiO.sub.2]

Spinel                        [MgAl.sub.2][O.sub.4]

Uraninite                     [UO.sub.2]

Wolframite group


Albite                        NaAl[Si.sub.3][O.sub.8]

Allanite-(Ce)                 CaCe[Fe.sup.2+][Al.sub.2]

Annite                        K[Fe.sub.3.sup.2+]Al[Si.sub.3]
                              [O.sub.10] [(OH).sub.2]

Bertrandite                   [Be.sub.4][Si.sub.2]

Beryl                         [Be.sub.3][Al.sub.2]

Buddingtonite                 ([NH.sub.4])Al[Si.sub.3][O.sub.8]

Chamosite                     [(Fe,Al,Mg).sub.6][(Si,Al).sub.4]

Cristobalite                  [SiO.sub.2]

Dickite                       [Al.sub.2][Si.sub.2]

Dumortierite                  [Al.sub.7]([BO.sub.3])

Epidote                       [Ca.sub.2][Al.sub.2] ([Fe.sup.3+],Al)

Euclase                       BeAl[SiO.sub.4](OH)

Kaolinite                     [Al.sub.2][Si.sub.2]

Kyanite                       [Al.sub.2][SiO.sub.5]

Trilithionite-Polylithionite  [KLi.sub.[1.5-2]][Al.sub.[1-2.5]]
                              [Si.sub.[3-4]] [O.sub.10][F.sub.2]

Microcline                    KAl[Si.sub.3][O.sub.8]

Montmorillonite               [(Na,Ca).sub.[0.3]] [(Al,Mg).sub.2]
                              [Si.sub.4] [O.sub.10] [(OH).sub.2] *

Muscovite                     [KAl.sub.2][Al.sub.2][Si.sub.3]

Natrolite                     [Na.sub.2][[Al.sub.2]
                              [Si.sub.3][O.sub.10]] * 2[H.sub.2]O

Opal                          [SiO.sub.2] * nH2O

Orthoclase                    KAl[Si.sub.3][O.sub.8]

Phenakite                     [Be.sub.2][SiO.sub.4]

Quartz                        [SiO.sub.2]

Spessartine                   [Mn.sub.3.sup.2+][Al.sub.2]

Spodumene                     LiAl[Si.sub.2][O.sub.6]

Staurolite                    [(Fe,Mg,Zn).sub.[3-4]]
                              [(Al,Fe).sub.18] [(Si,Al).sub.8]

Thorite                       (Th,U)[SiO.sub.4]

Titanite                      CaTiO[SiO.sub.4]

Topaz                         [Al.sub.2][SiO.sub.4][(F,OH).sub.2]

Zircon                        Zr[SiO.sub.4]

Zoisite                       [Ca.sub.2][Al.sub.3]


Apatite-(CaF)                 [Ca.sub.5][([PO.sub.4]).sub.3]F

Monazite-(Ce)                 (Ce,La,Nd)[PO.sub.4]

Rhabdophanite-(Ce)            (Ce,La)[PO.sub.4] * [H.sub.2]O

Vivianite                     [Fe.sub.3.sup.2+] [([PO.sub.4]).sub.2]
                              * 8[H.sub.2]O

Xenotime-(Y)                  [YPO.sub.4]


Teepleite                     [Na.sub.2]B[(OH).sub.4]Cl


Bastnaesite-(Ce)              (Ce,La)([CO.sub.3])F

Calcite                       [CaCO.sub.3]

Cerussite                     [PbCO.sub.3]

Parisite-(Ce)                 Ca[(Ce,La).sub.2]

Siderite                      [Fe.sub.2+][CO.sub.3]

Synchysite-(Ce)               Ca(Ce,La)([CO.sub.3]).sub.2]F


Anglesite                     Pb[SO.sub.4]

Anhydrite                     Ca[SO.sub.4]

Caracolite                    [Na.sub.3][Pb.sub.2]

Gypsum                        [CaSO.sub.4] * n[H.sub.2]O


Cryolite                      [Na.sub.3][AlF.sub.6]

Elpasolite                    [K.sub.2]Na[AlF.sub.6]

Fluocerite-(Ce)               (Ce,La)[F.sub.3]

Fluorite                      [CaF.sub.2]


Halite                        NaCl

Rokuhnite                     [Fe.sup.2+][Cl.sub.2] * 2[H.sub.2]O

Sylvite                       KC1

Teepleite                     [Na.sub.2]B[(OH).sub.4]Cl

Albite NaAl[Si.sub.3][O.sub.8]

Albite occurs in pockets as the platy white cleavelandite variety. Very few specimens with albite and smoky quartz have been preserved because pockets are, in general, collapsed and most specimens have been broken apart; even when intact matrix specimens were found, they were rarely taken out of the mine.

Beryl [Be.sub.3][Al.sub.2][Si.sub.6][O.sub.18]

Beryl is understandably the most famous of the Volodarsk minerals because of its occurrence as beautiful, large, gem-quality, typically etched crystals of an unusual yellowish green color. Most collectors are not aware that each beryl-containing pocket yielded characteristic shades, morphologies and grades of etching. The most common are beryls from pegmatite no. 521 near shaft number 6. This pocket was primarily mined in 1982 but specimens that reached the Western market as early as 1981 are likely from this pocket as well.

A ton of beryl crystals was by chance recovered from the sides of the pocket as a by-product of the mining of 80 tons of piezoelectric quartz. In 1992, becoming aware of the value of specimens on the collector market, miners and geologists at the mine went back into this pocket and recovered an additional 1,500 kg. Thus in total about 2,500 kg of beryl were recovered from this jumbo pocket.

Beryl crystals from Volodarsk are commonly heavily etched and range in color from dark olive-green to bright green to the more common yellowish green. Pure yellow crystals are rare but have been found in pegmatite 576, for example. Natural pale blue aquamarine beryl is very rare and was found only in a couple of pegmatites. Colorless, bright lettuce-green and deep green beryl crystals have also been found.

Numerous large beryl crystals have been recovered, some weighing up to several kilograms and measuring 20 centimeters in diameter, although most of the crystals found are between 1 and 3 centimeters in diameter and 3 to 10 centimeters in length. Average-size crystals are 10 to 15 cm tall. Larger crystals can be 15 to 30 cm long. Literally thousands of crystals were found, weighing in total around 3.5 metric tons or more. Of these some 500 kg could be called real gem crystals, and only a few kilograms were of the very best quality, i.e. perfectly formed lustrous gem crystals of green to greenish yellow and rarely pure yellow color.

It must also be noted that even while digging a pocket very carefully, beryl crystals in matrix were found with fresh-looking breaks, and the broken off portions were nowhere to be found. Few beryl crystals have been found where the attachment to other minerals has been preserved. Hexagonal crystals with little etching are the most unusual ones, together with exceptionally etched ones from pegmatite 364.

Beryl typically contains up to 0.3 weight % alkalis (predominantly [Na.sub.2]O), and between 0.6 and 1.5% [Fe.sub.2][O.sub.3]. Divalent iron occurs in low concentrations or is absent in beryl, a fact which suggests an alkaline environment (pH 8.5 [+ or -] 0.2) during crystallization of beryl favoring the oxidation of iron (Kalyuyhnaya and Kalyuzhnyi, 1963)

Precisely where in the pocket beryls crystallized originally is not known, as they are usually found only in a very irregular layer in the pockets. However, in pegmatite no. 422, at a depth of 55 meters, a giant beryl crystal was found growing from a termination face of a giant smoky quartz crystal hanging vertically from the ceiling, the beryl lightly attached horizontally to one of its termination faces.

The largest recorded gem-quality beryl crystal, named "Vladimir," was found in pegmatite no. 521 in 1992. It weighed 22 kg and measured 55 cm long and 16 by 18 cm across. Unfortunately it was broken into two sections while being removed from matrix. The crystal was almost entirely of faceting quality but had some turbidity caused by numerous small three-phase (fluid, gas and solid) inclusions in the lower section.

The largest beryl crystal from the Volodarsk area was found in a kaolinized pegmatite in the Vishnyakovka open pit in 1973. It is a green carving-grade crystal recovered in six pieces which, when reassembled, become a 1.2-meter-long crystal weighing about 66 kg (145 pounds)! It is on exhibit in the Museum of Precious and Decorative Stones in Volodarsk.

Beryl and topaz are antipodal minerals in this type of pegmatite; that is, when one grows, the other dissolves, and consequently only a few pegmatite pockets have been found to contain both minerals together. When they do occur together, one is always heavily etched.

Columbite-(Fe) [Fe.sup.2+][Nb.sub.2][O.sub.6]

Columbite-(Fe) is uncommon but does occur as small crystals in most of the pegmatites in the central part of the pegmatite field. Most crystals are only a few millimeters in size, but crystals up to 2.5 cm have been found in the leached zone at the bottom of some pockets.

Fluorite Ca[F.sub.2]

Fluorite occurs primarily in poorly developed pegmatites, i.e. those without major pockets. One pocket yielded large blue and purple cubes of optical quality and up to 20 cm in size at 60 meters depth near shaft 3. In the largest of two giant chambers of pegmatite no. 521, near shaft 2, dark purple fluorite occurred along the upper walls as small 5-mm chunks. Green octahedral crystals up to 8 cm occur mostly near the chambers. The finest fluorites of Volodarsk are highly desirable collectibles.

Goethite [alpha]-[Fe.sup.3+]O(OH)

Goethite occurs in some of the pegmatites as large sprays and clusters to 20 cm, with individual acicular crystals to 10 cm. Sometimes the goethite crystal clusters are found growing around smoky quartz crystals. Excellent specimens are preserved in the Gemstone Museum in Volodarsk.

Kerite [C.sub.491][H.sub.386][O.sub.87]S(N)

Kerite, a rubbery tar-like organic compound, was formed under hydrothermal conditions. It has been found in many pegmatites by Vsevolod Chornousenko as small concentrations and large fibrous masses (up to meter-size lumps) in only a couple of the pegmatite pockets. It has been found also sporadically in pockets yielding topaz and in pockets yielding beryl.

Microcline KAl[Si.sub.3][O.sub.8]

Microcline occurs in many pockets in sharp crystals measuring 2 to 30 cm in size, but the crystals generally were not preserved. Sometimes it forms beautiful twins; Manebach twinning is most common, but Carlsbad and Baveno twins also occur. Fine specimens are preserved in the Gems Museum in Volodarsk.

Molybdenite Mo[S.sub.2]

Sharp hexagonal crystals of molybdenite to 15 cm, showing an unusual, dark metallic gray color, were recovered from one of the pegmatites near shaft 2 by Vsevolod Chornousenko. The finest one was donated to the Fersman Museum.

Orthoclase KAl[Si.sub.3][O.sub.8]

Lovely crystals of orthoclase in the 2 to 30-cm size range occur in many pockets. Some show sharp twinning. Pegmatite no. 364 (at 70 meters depth) contained many very sharp groups 5 to 35 cm in size. Pegmatite no. 438 produced some floater crystals to 25 cm.


Phenakite [Be.sub.2][SiO.sub.4]

Completely gemmy phenakite in complex, semi-lustrous crystals to 2 cm occurred with albite on orthoclase in pegmatite no. 373, located in the southern part of the Vichnyakovskovo area. In 1969 this pocket was found and delineated by core-drilling on a 6 by 6-meter grid. The core contained poor quality morion and fragments of blue topaz. In 1972 the pegmatite body was delineated in detail and the study resulted in mining at a depth of 25 to 40 meters. The pegmatite body is 26-30 meters long by 7 to 15 meters wide. These were probably the finest phenakite specimens ever found in Volodarsk. The shape of the crystals is very uncommon for this species (Tomasz Praszkier, personal communication, 2009).

Phenakite crystals have also been found inside large smoky quartz crystals (examples are preserved in the Igor Pekov collection).

Quartz [SiO.sub.2]

Giant colorless to dark smoky (morion) quartz crystals occur in vugs in the chamber pegmatites. The largest documented crystal weighed 10 tons and was recovered in 1946 from near the surface in an open pit 200 meters from shaft 2. In January 2008 a 4-ton morion crystal was found together with several tons of other giant quartz crystals in a continuation of pegmatite no. 422 (at a depth of 55 meters) which had originally been mined in 1973. Eighty-ton quartz crystals had come from that pocket. The pocket measured about 7 x 15 meters across and 5 meters tall; it was found to continue in one end as a small, 2 x 3 x 3-meter cavity with smoky quartz crystals to 1 meter in length. In the other end it narrowed down to a 10-cm to 40-cm sub-horizontal clay-filled fissure containing hexagonal, pale green gem beryl crystals to 14 cm in length. The fissure then opened up once again into a second giant chamber yielding the second largest quartz crystal with faceting quality termination and large, hexagonal, lightly etched gem beryl crystals to over 1 kg. For the first time in Volodarsk, gem beryl crystals were found in their original positions of attachment, on the termination faces of giant 1.5-meter smoky quartz crystals that had not collapsed into the pocket but were still hanging from the roof of the pocket. The interiors of the quartz terminations were smoky to citrine in color, and a substantial quantity was recovered for faceting.

Unfortunately none of these giant crystals could be brought out intact because of their size, difficult location, and the narrow access to the pocket. The inclined shaft leading to the pocket was several hundred meters long, connecting to a drift that was three-fourths filled with water and was passable only by lying flat on a rubber raft. This drift ended at a small vertical entrance shaft from the Vishnyakovka open pit (Lyckberg visit 2007-2008).

Quartz occurs in well-formed crystals, sometimes of the Tessin habit, often found also as huge clear shards and fragments from crushed giant quartz crystals. Amethystine quartz is very rare, found only as thin overgrowths on larger smoky quartz crystals.


Perhaps the most expensively obtained smoky quartz group ever to be recovered is a half-meter-size cluster of short, prismatic, dark black crystals preserved in the Gems Museum in Volodarsk. Core drilling to a depth of 70 meters intersected a crystal pocket, and the geologist in charge predicted a 60-ton yield from the pocket. So a shaft was sunk down 70 meters to reach it, but when the pocket was finally entered it proved to contain only the one specimen (shown in Fig. 55).

Volodarsk quartz is commonly in the form of Dauphine or Brazil-law twins or a combination of both (Leydolt twins). One rare, symmetrically developed Japan-law twin of black quartz 20 cm wide was found in the 1980s and is kept in a private collection.

Rutile [TiO.sub.2]

Rutile occurs in the Volodarsk pegmatites as small dipyramidal crystals to 2 cm.

Topaz [Al.sub.2][SiO.sub.4][(F,OH).sub.2]

Approximately 10% of all mined chamber pegmatites in Volodarsk contained well-formed, large to very large topaz crystals. The richest find of topaz may have taken place in 1976-1978, when 5 tons of topaz crystals were recovered from a single pegmatite chamber near shaft 2. The crystals generally range from colorless, to dark champagne color, orange, and sky-blue. When faceted the topaz is used only in jewelry intended for evening wear, because the orange and champagne colors fade under the ultraviolet component of sunlight. In a few pegmatites beautiful bi-colored topaz was found showing a sky-blue and pale pinkish orange color, sometimes with beautiful white "cloudlike" fluorite inclusions. Gray fluorite inclusions have also been found in colorless topaz. The rich colors seen in topaz were induced by natural radiation over the 1.77 billion years since their crystallization.


Studies of two-phase fluid inclusions in topaz indicate an initial crystallization temperature of from 360[degrees] to 540[degrees] C and the formation of later secondary (rehealing?) inclusions at 180[degrees] to 350[degrees] C (Kievlenko, 2003). Very few pegmatite pockets carry both beryl and topaz. Beryl crystallizes first, at a higher temperature, and as the temperature falls the acidity of the solutions increases. By the time topaz begins to form, the solutions have become sufficiently acidic to begin dissolving the beryl. Rare matrix specimens containing both species were collected in October 2007 from pegmatite no. 438 at a depth of 70 meters.


In a small pit near shaft 2, sericite pseudomorphs after topaz were found which contain flawless cores of topaz. Topaz occurs as doubly terminated crystals, although because of its prominent cleavage on {001}, crystals are commonly found cleaved into two or more sections. The largest crystal found to date had a wine-yellow color, weighed 117 kg and measured 35 X 37 X 82 cm; it was discovered in 1965, but was not preserved. (This certainly supports the theory that there was some industrial use for gem-grade topaz which was considered more important than preserving the crystal as a specimen.) Other large crystals have also been found, three of which weighed in at 82 kg, 110 kg and 116.5 kg respectively; in addition to these, another 100 smaller crystals were recovered. Huge crystals are preserved in the Fersman Museum and the Vernadsky Lomonosov Moscow State University (a 67.2-kg crystal) in Moscow. Topaz is frequently found as large cleavages in the pockets.

Topaz occurs primarily as large, brown, sharp to rounded or etched crystals which may show numerous small needle-like points on and near the terminations. On rare occasions, blue or blue-peach bi-colored crystals have been found. Minerals besides fluorite that have been found as inclusions in topaz are quartz, feldspar, albite, columbite, elpasolite and smoky quartz.

A display in the Fersman Museum shows several good examples from the Volodarsk deposits. Two particularly well-known topaz specimens in the Fersman Museum are an 8 X 8 X 14-cm blue topaz cleavage containing white cloud-like inclusions of fluorite (Fig. 51), and a smaller, flawless, blue and salmon-pink crystal with similar inclusions.

Trilithionite-Polylithionite [KLi.sub.[1.5-2]][Al.sub.[1-2.5]][Si.sub.[3-4]][O.sub.10][F.sub.2]

Trilithionite-polylithionite occurs in the Volodarsk pegmatites, but is rarely of specimen quality. The mineral forms drum-shaped small crystals in the quartz core near the contact with the blocky feldspar zone, and also cone-shaped inclusions in topaz.

Zinnwaldite series

Zinnwaldite occurs in the Volodarsk pegmatites, and although it is rarely of specimen quality it is a major constituent of the micas in the pegmatite. It occurs most commonly in the central part of the pegmatite field, in the chambers or sub-chambers of the pegmatites, i.e. the more evolved and fractionated areas. In the pockets, zinnwaldite occurs as brown, well-developed crystals associated with cleavelandite and quartz.


By 1996 the rich mineral specimen output from the former Soviet Union was diminishing and the supply of Ukrainian heliodor crystals had been nearly exhausted, but mining continued on a reduced scale. Open-pit mining was taking place in one pegmatite, yielding bi-colored topaz in late 2008 and the spring of 2009. Investigations aimed at locating previously missed weathered pegmatite bodies in or under the 10 to 40 meters of kaolinized granite overburden continued for a while. But during the summer of 2009, only a little digging took place in the open pits, turning up some small topaz crystals for cutting. By August 2009 all mining in the district had ended.



The exhaustion and closing of such a rich and fascinating group of deposits is a sad development for mineral collectors. But the most important legacy from a scientific standpoint is the fact that the reworking of pockets in the last few years has been conducted carefully, with more documentation than ever before in the mines' history.


We are grateful to director Vasiliy Mihaylovich Batuk, former director P. Minko, and former chief Geologist Dr. V. I. Panchenko of Volhyn Quartz Samotsvety for their hospitality during our first visit to the mine, and to Alexander Hmyz for his help on recent visits. Andrei Chrapowicki provided many interesting discussions in the 1980s. Rene Trieble provided information in 2009 regarding the first specimens he acquired in 1980-1987, as did Brad Van Scriver. Marco Amabili kindly provided information on discoveries, and James Elliott provided photos of specimens. Thanks also to Professor V. Gordyenko of St. Petersburg State University for discussions on the geology of the deposit and other pegmatites. And thanks to Prof. William B. "Skip" Simmons, who enthusiastically joined one of us (PL) for a month-long expedition to Transbaikalia, the Ural Mountains, and Volodarsk.


Our special thanks to Michael Leybov, publisher of Mineralogical Almanac, for permission to use numerous photos and illustrations, and to Peter Huber and Konstantin Buslovich for specimen photography.


BARTHOSHINSKIY, Z. V., MATKOVSKIY, O. I., and SREBRO-DOLSKIY, B. I. (1969) Aksessornyy berill iz kamery pegmatitov Ukrainy ("Accessory beryl from chamber pegmatites of the Ukraine"). Mineralogitcheskiy Sbornik, 23, 382-397.

BURYANOVA, E. Z. (1940) Mineralogy of granite pegmatites of the Korosten pluton in Volyn and studies of ferruginous biotite. ZVMO, part 69, vyp. 4.

FEOFILAKTOV, K. M. (1851) On the crystalline rocks of Kiev, Volyn and Podolie provinces. Proceedings of the High Command at the Imperial University of St. Vladimir for the Description of Kiev Province, vol. 1.

GARUSEVICH, B. A. (1930) The mineralogy and geochemistry of Volynian pegmatites. Trudy mineralogicheskogo muzeya AN SSSR, vol. 4.

IVANOV, L. L. (1936) On the mineralogy of the topaz deposits of Volyn. Proceedings of the Lomonosov Institute AS USSR, issue 7.

KALYUZHNAYA, K. M., and KALYUZHNI, V. A. (1963) On the paragenesis of accessory beryl, phenakite and euclase in topaz-morion pegmatites. Mineralogicheskiy Sbornik, Lvov University, N17.

KALYUZHNYI, V. A., VOZNYAK, D. K., GIGASHVILI, G. M., KALYUZHNAG. M., KOVALISHIN, Z. I., LAZARENKO, O. E., SOROKIN, Yu. G., and BULGAKOV, V. S. (1971) Mineral-forming Fluids and Paragenesis of Minerals from the Chamber Pegmatites of Ukraine. Kiev, Naukova Dumla, p. 261.

KIEVLENKO, E. Y. (2003) Geology of Gems. Ocean Pictures, Ltd., 431 p.

KOIVULA, J. I., KAMMERLING, R. C., and FRITSCH, E. (1993) Gem news: Beryls from the Ukraine. Gems & Gemology, 29 (1), 54-55.

KOSHIL, I. M., VASILISHIN, I. S., PAVLISHIN, V. I., and PANCHENKO, V. I. (1991) Wolodarsk-Wolynskii Geologischer Aufbau und Mineralogie der Pegmatite in Wolynien, Ukraine. Lapis, 16 (10), 28-40.

KREUZ, F. (1891) Grafit w granitowej skale z Jozefowski iz Samezyka na Wolyniu. Bull. Intern. Acad. Ss. Krakovi. Cl. Sc. Mathemat. et Nature, 22-26.

KREUZ, S. (1931) Krysztaly topazu z Jahodenki. Sprawozdania Polskej Akademji Umieietnosci, 36 (2).

LAZARENKO Ye. K., PAVLISHIN V. I., LATYSH V. T., and SOROKHIN, Yu. G. (1973) Mineralogija i genezia kamernij pegmatitov Volhyn ("Mineralogy and Genesis (of) Chamber Pegmatites (of) Volhyn"). Ukrainskoje Mineralogicheskoje Obschestvo, Lvov: Viscvha shkola, 359 p (in Russian).

LYCKBERG, P. (2001) Gem Pegmatites of Ukraine, Kazachstan and Tajikistan. Abstract in FM-TGMS-MSA Mineralogical Symposium: The Minerals of Russia. Mineralogical Record, 32(1), 45.

LYCKBERG, P. (2005) Gem beryl from Russia and Ukraine. ExtraLapis (English): Beryl, 49-57.

LYCKBERG, P. (2008) Book review: "Volodarsk-Volynski: Mineralogy of the Volynian Chamber Pegmatites, Ukraine." Gems & Gemology, summer, 44, 193-194.

LYCKBERG P. (2009) The Karelia beryl mine, Luumaki, Karelia, Finland (in preparation).

OSSOVSKIY, G. I. (1867) Geological-geognostic essay on the Volynian province. Trudy Volynsk. Stat. Komiteta za 1867 g. Zhitomir.

PANCHENKO, V. I., BULGAKOV, V S., MUZHANOVSKIY, F. V. (1972) Evaluation of pegmatite prospectivity according to the exploration data. Izvestiya vuzov, Geologiya I Rezvedka, N12.

PAVLISHIN, V. I., and DOVGYI, S. A. (2007) Volodarsk-Volynski. Mineralogical Almanac, 12, 128 p.

SINKANKAS, J. (1981) Emerald and other Beryls. Chilton Books, Radnor, Pennsylvania, 665 p.

TRAVEL IN UKRAINE, (accessed January 2009).

VERNADSKIY, V. I. (1911) On the Mineralogy of Volyn.

ZAGORSKY, V. Ye., PERETYAZHKO, I. S., and SHMAKIN, B. M. (1999) Miarolitic Pegmatites. Vol. 3. Granitic Pegmatites. Novosibirsk: Nauka, Siberian Publishing FimRAS, 485 p. (in Russian), p. 65-67 and 153-156.

WILSON, W. E. (1987) What's new in minerals? Tucson Show 1987. Mineralogical Record, 18, 244-245.

(1) In the literature, "Volynian" is used as an approximate equivalent of the more cumbersome "Volodarsk-Volynskian." The name should not be confused with Volyn Oblast (Province) in northwestern Ukraine.

(2) The Volodarsk name may be in memory of Marxist revolutionary activist V. Volodarsky (1891-1918).

(3) The Volynski name may be in memory of Artemy Petrovich Volynski (1689-1740), a Russian statesman. There is poor agreement in English-language mineralogical and geological literature on the correct spelling of Volynski. Other variations, reflecting various transliteration conventions and traditions, include Volyn, Volijn, Volynsk, Volynska, Volynsky, Volhynsky, Volynskyi, Volynskiy, Volynskii, Volynskyy and Volynskij. Variations such as Volynskogo, Volynskaya and Volynskoye are grammatically based (in Russian) on the gender of associated nouns, and need not be used in English. German-language versions substitute "W" for "V" to maintain correct pronunciation.

Peter Lyckberg

B.P. 2785, L-1027 Luxembourg

Vsevolod Chornousenko

Chief Geologist Volyn Piezoelectric Quartz Deposit Kvarts Samotsvetny Company Volodarsk-Volynski, Ukraine

Wendell E. Wilson

The Mineralogical Record

4631 Paseo Tubutama, Tucson, Arizona 85750
COPYRIGHT 2009 The Mineralogical, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2009 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Lyckberg, Peter; Chornousenko, Vsevolod; Wilson, Wendell E.
Publication:The Mineralogical Record
Geographic Code:4EXUR
Date:Nov 1, 2009
Previous Article:Famous mineral dealers: Bryce McMurdo Wright, SR. (1814-1875) and Bryce McMurdo Wright, JR. (1850-1895).
Next Article:The Braen quarry: Haledon, Passaic County, New Jersey.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2019 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters