5 mm 2.97 carat twinned platinum crystals with minor gold
The earliest date for Konder platinum is given on the mindat.com website, which states that placer mining that started there in 1984 produced 5 tons per year of platinum group minerals. The Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency website reports that in 1989, a mine was opened on the northwest side of the massif, which produced gold and platinum. Platinum crystals from Konder first appeared at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show in 1993, where they were an instant sensation. Until this new material became available, actual crystals of platinum were practically unknown. Previously, native platinum was only available as stream-rounded nuggets, or as tiny grains in matrix, thin encrustations, and rarely as dendrites. Mining these tiny crystals was a major challenge, considering that the Konder is in an extremely remote and almost inaccessible region in far eastern Siberia. The number of specimens available has always been very limited. After their initial appearance, they all but disappeared from the market, until they turned up again at the 2004 Tucson show. That year, a dealer set up in a room at the Inn Suites who had several hundred crystals. Unlike the majority of people who set up to sell at Tucson, with their huge shipping crates and containers filled with barrels, this gentleman only had a briefcase with him, and it held his entire inventory. In fact, the entire lot of platinum crystals would probably have fit into an empty cigarette pack! He set up again in 2005 and 2006, and then returned in 2008, when he set up at the old Executive Inn. Since then, he has dropped out of sight, and today few crystals are available from anyone.
6 mm 2.6 carat twinned platinum crystals with gold
The Konder Massif is a perfect circular intrusion, about 8 kilometers (5 miles) in diameter, with a huge crater in the center that is thought to have been formed either by the impact of a meteorite or by an ancient volcano. The central part of the massif is a weathered depression or basin surrounded by a circular ridge. Streams flow inward from the rim, joining to form the Konder River, which flows through a gap on the north side of the massif. These streams contain placer deposits of platinum crystals, nuggets and grains, plus gold and other platinum minerals. Some of the crystals are very sharp, while others show minimal rounding on the edges and corners. The minimal wear on the crystals suggests that they did not travel far from their source. The crystals are thought to have weathered out of matrix in the rim of the massif.
Satellite photo of the Konder Massif taken by the
AVNIR satellite in January, 1997
Native platinum is seldom pure. It is usually associated with minute amounts of iron, gold, copper, and nickel, and may also contain the rare metals iridium, osmium, rhodium, and palladium. SEM analysis shows that the Konder platinum crystals are exceptionally pure. Some crystals were proved to be pure platinum; others were 89% platinum, mixed with small amounts of palladium, iron, copper, nickel, and antimony. Platinum crystals are cubic, and frequently have rounded corners or may be distorted. These crystals may form penetration twins. Rarely, the platinum crystals are found with a coating mainly consisting of gold (76%), with silver, palladium and copper in small percentages. The crystals with gold coatings are extremely scarce.
4 mm 1.4 carat gold coated twinned platinum crystals
5 mm 3.1 carat gold coated twinned platinum crystals
Platinum crystals from the Konder Massif are the finest that have ever been found. Never prolific, the source for these appears to have been depleted, as they are increasingly scarce on today's market. Native-element collectors who have not picked up one of these world's-finest platinum specimens should think about making their move soon.
6 mm 3.6 carat twinned platinum crystals