Blue Barite Flowers from Morocco

Write By: tmmadmin Published In: Classic Mineral Localities Created Date: 2014-11-30 Hits: 13587 Comment: 0

2.7" V Spray of Gemmy Terminated Blue Barite Crystals - Morocco

Nador is a city located in the northeastern Rif region of Morocco. The city is a Mediterranean port on the Bar Ameyan lagoon, and it is the major trading center in the region for fish, fruit, and livestock.

Map of Morocco showing location of Nadur

3" Radiating Fans of SKY BLUE BARITE Crystals Highly Aesthetic Morocco

The correct locality for the blue barites is Sidi Lahcen, Nador, Nador Province, Oriental Region, Morocco. They are sometimes misattributed to the old Sagangan iron mine close to the top of Jebel Ouichane mountain, which was mined for about 50 years. In fact, they are found in the Sidi Lahcen quarry close to the community of Nador, on the road to Melilla. Francois Lietard is reported to have collected blue baryte from this mine in the mid-1970s, but nothing more was seen until 2012 when Moroccan expert Tomasz Spirifer confirmed that barite was being mined there, and brought specimens with him to the 2012 St. Marie-aux-Mines show. This was their first appearance in over 40 years. When it was accidentally re-discovered in 2012, only a handful of people were digging there. Soon word got out about the value of the crystals, and the number increased to over 100. Day and night, Moroccan miners are tunneling into the walls of the quarry, in spite of the digging operation being illegal. Thus the miners are reluctant to be photographed, and can be downright hostile.

The barite crystals occur in clusters attached to the walls of big pockets in the brecciated rock. Between the pockets and the tunnels, the vertical walls of the small ravine where they are found look like swiss cheese today. The insides of the pockets are coated with black iron oxides, and not all pockets host barite crystals. In addition, the color, size and luster of the crystals vary widely between different pockets.

The largest clusters are up to 8", and sit on either a reddish brown gossan matrix or the black iron oxide. The finest specimens look like radiating groups of flower petals. Individual blue barite bladed crystals can be up to 6", and they taper toward the terminations then come to a slightly rounded sword blade tip with a shallow point. Crystals are typically thicker in the middle, and taper toward the edges, which can be transparent. On the best pieces the crystals are translucent to almost transparent, with good luster. The color ranges from opaque white to a vivid blue; some of the crystals have hematite or limonite inclusions which tint the crystals brown to red brown.

The vast majority of specimens have one or more broken crystals, mostly due to unskilled extraction, but also the result of barite's propensity to cleave across the width of the crystal. Virtually all damaged pieces also have areas, usually at the tips of the crystals, which grew in contact with the top of the pocket, and so have unsightly red-brown or orange gossan overgrowths on the terminations. A fraction of 1% of the specimens I have seen are really spectacular specimens and are in pristine condition, thus the price for these can be relatively high.

4.7" Long Shiny Translucent Terminated Sky Blue BARITE crystals Morocco

According to reports from people who have visited the area, there appears to be the potential for fine specimens to continue to emerge from this locality for years to come, though that could stop abruptly if the authorities decide to intervene to stop the illegal mining.

4.3" Dramatic Spray of Gemmy Terminated BLUE BARITE Crystals Morocco

2.3" Long Shiny Transparent Sky Blue BARITE Terminated Crystals Morocco

Specimen photos by Treasure Mountain Mining; locality photos by Tomasz Spirifer

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