BEAUTIFUL COMMON MINERALS OF SOUTH AFRICA  by Deborah Painter

South Africa has a wide variety of minerals that are common and attractive, though not considered especially pricey.   As long as the property owner gives permission, the collector can find some very interesting minerals.  In cities large and small are also many rock shops which will be glad to sell you minerals originating from South Africa as well as elsewhere in the world.   South Africa is world famous for its tiger’s eye.

There are a number of gem and mineral societies, all under the umbrella of the Federation of Southern African Gem & Mineralogical Societies. The members are keen on having the experience of collecting their own specimens and organize field trips to do so. Many like to tumble some of their finds and make jewelry or decorative items for the home and offer workshops for those who want to try it themselves.

Just one of the semiprecious or common minerals to be found in South Africa include millerite, found in the Pafuri area of northern Transvaal. Millerite is usually milky in color although it can take on a vivid green hue and the crystals are either fibrous or fan shaped.  The more familiar tiger’s eye is found in localities in Northern Cape Province, It takes a polish and is tumbled for maximum display of its rich colors and deep reflective qualities.

Galena rikkerst

There’s also the unusual galena, a member of the group of minerals composed partly or mostly of the element lead. Galena is found in Northern Cape Province.  In its crystalline form it takes the appearance of little silvery cubes.

Pyrite stux

Pyrite, also known as “fool’s gold”, often occurs in association with real gold and can be found in the Kimberley Reef area.  Northern KwaZulu-Natal is a good locale for fluorite, a very colorful mineral.

 

Fulgurites Mark Layne

Wherever you see wide sandy beaches in South Africa you could, if you dig with a small spade, be lucky to find the odd fulgurites.  Fulgurites are composed of the sand grains and other minerals present in the sand when lightning struck during a storm and left a mineral specimen the size and shape of the lightning bolt!  Since they are hollow, the thicker walled specimens are sometimes used for making wind chimes!  There are other minerals just as interesting and just as attractive.

Collecting in the field is good clean fun even if you can get “dirty”.  Wear steel toed safety shoes and a hard hat, plus goggles if you are going to be using a geologist’s hammer to pry loose specimens.