googleed3ca5fea536c11e.html South African Mineral Specimens: The Amazing Brandberg and its Stunning Mineral Specimens

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A Mineral specimen blog by which we want to share our mineral outings as well as our experiences in the Western Cape mountains.


Friday, April 13, 2012

The Amazing Brandberg and its Stunning Mineral Specimens

Please visit our website  to view numerous Brandberg mineral specimens and crystals.

It is commonly accepted that the most beautiful quartz and prehnite specimens come from the Brandberg and nearby hills.  Lately topaz, in a variety of colours (some weighing several kilograms) have been discovered, as well as aquamarine and tourmaline.  In addition to these, beautiful calcite, epidote, green garnet and a number of lesser known mineral specimens are found in the immediate vicinity.

Even though the Brandberg mineral specimens are fairly well known, I do not think that most people have fully come to realize just how special they really are.  I have seen quartz specimens from all over the world and even though there are many really nice specimens, none can match the best from Brandberg.  The Brandberg area is quite a vast area and in this article I want to concentrate on the South Western side of the Brandberg where the quartz, prehnite, calcite and epidote specimens are mined.  This area, a range of hills and small mountains, are known to collectors as Tafelkop and Goboboseb, and  lies about 15 km from the Brandberg itself.  The closest town, about 80 km to the Eastern side of Tafelkop, is a small mining town called Uis (the Damara word meaning 'bitter water', referring to the quality of water at Uis).  The road from Uis to Brandberg is a sand road and mostly not fit for standard vehicles.  The local mineral specimen miners, comprising of Damaras, Hereroes and Ovamboes as well as a few Europeans, mostly live in Uis and travel to and fro and sometimes live in the desert in makeshift shelters for weeks at a time 'till they have enough specimens to sell, either to mineral dealers or tourists.

A regular miner, Lori Raaths (the famous Namib cowboy), one of the very first to mine for the beautiful Brandberg crystals, told me that when he started mining the crystals, he found them lying on top of the ground.  He and his wife, three sons and daughter, lived in the desert for a number of years, but now reside in Uis.  When I visited Goboboseb in 2003, there were already over 200 mineral specimen miners just in that area alone.  Because of the increasing difficulty of mining in that area, the number of miners have dwindled considerably.  Besides the scorching heat (often over 40º Celsius), there is a shortage of water, no guarantee of success (you can mine for weeks without getting anything worthwhile), and the mining method is extreme:  10 pound hammers, large masonry chissels and hard basalt rock.  Being a quartz miner myself, I know what drives them.  To open a pocket of Brandberg crystals must be an addiction second to none, and you stand the slim chance of finding a pocket of crystals worth several thousands of dollars.  I remember one December, while visiting the mining area at Goboboseb, I gave an Ovambo man a lift back to Uis.  His foot was swollen from a mining accident.  He was discouraged and have been mining for weeks without success.  I dropped him off at the clinic at Uis and left.  About a week or so afterwards, I had a surprise visit from this very same person.  He had quickly recovered from his injury, gone back to the diggings and found a lovely pocket worth quite a few thousand dollars, and that just before Christmas!  He offered me some really nice crystals at very good prices.  My dollars were getting a bit thin so I bought a few crystals and declined a beautiful large, double terminated specimen that, even though he offered it to me at about half price, was still above my budget.  We have since occasionally had the chance to buy really top specimens, but they can be very expensive and we are not in that retail bracket yet.  Brandberg crystals of quality, that are large, are rare and usually very expensive.  We have seen a few crystals that would easily retail  for US $ 20 000 +! Next time when you see a nice quartz or other mineral specimen from Brandberg, and you wonder why it is relatively expensive, you will know that they are not just the best, but are also not easily found.  There are a few European miners that are using dynamite and digger loaders, but they are destroying pockets and those quartz specimens that do survive, are often cracked.  I am not in favour of this method.  Even this method is very costly and, thank goodness, limited.

The very first Brandberg crystals that I ever purchased were from a fellow dealer, Reine Ackermann, and I have never looked back.  We still get just as excited today while viewing Brandberg crystals, as then.  The appreciation of Brandberg crystals and other mineral specimens from this area, should be accompanied by one's appreciation for those who make a living in providing us with these beauties.  There are those who exploit these miners, but in doing so they show no respect for these hardworking and often, poor, people.  When I first visited Uis, I stayed there for a good while and spent most of my time in the location, befriending the local miners.  Getting to know these lovely people, has aided Riana and I in purchasing specimens (which are not always easy to buy) on the last number of visits to Uis.


A large quartz specimen weighing more than 3 kg. (Sold)
A stunning sceptre. (Sold)

A large quartz crystal offered to us for sale and
even though it was a very good price, it was outside our budget.

Me on the right, with the famous Namib cowboy.

A very peculiarly shaped quartz crystal; part of our personal collection.
One of our best Brandberg crystals, part of our personal collection.
A beautiful large smoky quartz crystal that forms part of our private collection.

A stunning, rare, amethyst quartz crystal (Sold)

A beautiful amethyst semi-sceptre (Sold)

An aerial photograph of a famous beacon on the Brandberg.

An aerial shot of the Brandberg, facing West.

Our Ovambo friend and his brother, digging in the background.

A footpath leads to a mining village at Goboboseb, 2003.

Another shot of a mining village at Goboboseb, 2003.

This is how it is done - 2003.

A few temporary shacks with the quartz-bearing background, 2003.

In the mining village at Goboboseb, 2003.

In the mining village at Goboboseb, 2003.

 Christmas day 2003, somewhere in the Namib desert, digging for 'music' crystals.

An aerial photo of the Brandberg, taken by the late Nico van Dyk.

An aerial photo of the Brandberg, taken by the late Nico van Dyk.
  Note the green desert after good rains!

An aerial photo of the Brandberg, taken by the late Nico van Dyk.

An aerial photo of Uis, taken by the late Nico van Dyk.

An aerial photo of the Brandberg, taken by the late Nico van Dyk.

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