Monday, April 26, 2010

Collection Management VI: The Label, part 4 (last)

What else goes on this little label?

I write a small description of the specimen at the bottom, such as:
  • Gray metallic massive
  • Pencil-shaped crystals
  • Green, pink, and blue Xtals on matrix [Xtals = crystals]
  • Blue XOM [XOM = crystals on matrix]
  • Blue mXOM [mXOM = microscopic crystals on matrix]
  • Massive; from type locality
  • Heavy!
  • Fragile! Don't touch Xtals!
  • Water soluble white XOM
  • Poisonous gray octahedra OM
  • Radioactive yellow powdery OM
  • et cetera.

That is, the description should be a short version of anything you would say to a beginning collector who wanted to look at the specimen.


Also, you may want a border, signature, or "from the collection of..." statement on each of your labels.


I put indexing information on the back of my labels. I am a systematic collector, so the label gets the Dana numbers (from Dana's System of Mineralogy, currently in its eighth edition) for each of the minerals present.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Collection Management V: The Label, Part 3: Localities

The specimen's locality is the most crucial piece of information that can be provided. This is because a mineral's identity can always be redetermined, but its exact locality usually cannot be restored with any certainty.

I recommend that the label contain locality information in as much detail as you can provide: for mines, this includes the level, stope, cross-cut, etc.; the GPS coordinates, if you have them; address, city, township, county, state, etc. If you have not collected the specimen, all this information may not be available; the currently desired minimum information is the county (or equivalent), state (or equivalent), and country (or equivalent).

What about existing labels? I generally make my own label as well (you may want to save the old label in a separate place if it is delicate). Some locality information may be out of date (e.g., "Czechoslovakia" or "USSR").

For localities, don't add new information that did not come with the specimen, unless you can indicate on the label that you are doing so. One way is to put the new information in brackets, ideally with your initials labeling the change:
[Czech Republic]mjc, formerly Czechoslovakia

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Promotion: Translation and Deciphering

Speaking of labels,

Do you have any old mineral specimens whose labels make no sense to you?
They might describe strange materials (Bergkrystal, Ghassoul);
They may come from bizarre places (Styria?);
They may be written in handwriting a doctor would envy;
Or they may be written in a foreign language.

Maybe I can help! I can read technical German, Spanish, French, and Portuguese, and work my way through some Russian, Ukrainian, Latin, and Greek. I am also familiar with old styles of cursive writing and with Fraktur.

Contact me at if you could use these services. My rates are reasonable.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Collection Management IV: The Label, Part 2

Last week, I mentioned that a mineral label should accompany each specimen. It should display: a number, the mineral identity, the locality, a short description of the specimen, and possibly the mineral formula (chemistry), and a descriptor for the collection itself. I also discussed the specimen number (as used on the label). Let's look at some other items.

The mineral identity (species, possibly variety):
The standard reference used is Fleischer's Glossary of Mineral Species, published by the Mineralogical Record Press. (The 2008 edition is marred by a controversial decision by the IMA that renamed many common minerals, including those in the apatite mineral group; the decision has now been reversed, so some mineral names are already outdated.)

I tend to use variety names when they are available, such as:
Beryl, variety Emerald
Beryl, var. Emerald
Beryl v. Emerald

The next item, when present, is the Mineral Formula. You can use words:
beryllium aluminum silicate
or the chemical formula:

I usually do not include additional chemical information true for the variety in the formula (such as the presence of Cr and/or V in emerald); I put that information in the comments field, if anywhere.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Collection Management III: The Label, part 1

Traditionally, a label is a small card (e.g., 1.5 x 2 inches or 3x5 cm) that accompanies the specimen. (This discussion is not about display labels for competitive exhibits, but for those for the collection "at home.") For mineral specimens, I recommend the following contents:
  • The specimen number
  • The mineral identity (species, possibly variety)
  • Optional: the mineral formula
  • Not optional: the mineral locality information, as exactly as possible
  • A short description
  • Optional: Label design or information indicating the collection from which it comes.
Number: Each specimen has a unique number, and that number will be prominently displayed on the label. Usually, each specimen has its own label, but in some cases several very similar pieces can share the same label.
For example, one collector I know numbers several loose crystals of the same mineral from the same locality as follows: 1234-1, 1234-2, 1234, 1234-4. These can then share the same label numbered 1234, with the description including: "Four (4) loose crystals."