Wenshan Mine, Wenshan County, Yunnan Province, China

Dimensions (H x W x D)

21 x 18 x 16 cm


1.619 kg

Description & Provenance

This is a calcite specimen made up of small, colorless, reticulating crystals that have taken shape as an unusual, beautiful, and highly interpretive structure. The specimen is anchored by a platelike matrix (host rock) from which small formations (made up of stacked crystals that resemble pillars) shoot up like a cityscape. The tallest of them serves as a stem that balances a complex network of crystals that have formed in a concave, basin-like shape. As though defying gravity, this outward blossom of crystals is impressive and nearly the same width as the entire matrix. This strange and beautiful shape is incredibly evocative, earning the specimen a few nicknames including, “The Wine Glass,” “The Martini (with an olive)”, “The Holy Grail,” and “The Tornado.” Everyone who sees it gasps at the impossibility of its form. Likely having formed ‘upside-down’ from how we have presented it here and submerged in element-rich fluid, it is as geologically intriguing as it is interpretive. Adding to its visual appeal are lovely details, such as the identifiable layering of the crystals, making them resemble strata on an exposed cliff face, or the tiny, pointed, scalenohedral crystal terminations around the edge of the “glass” (a salted rim, perhaps?). These fine points add a textural element to the piece and invite exploration. There is even a small, secondary formation perched atop the primary one, adding an element of whimsy. Were this all not enough, the calcite has a gorgeous translucence that allows light to pass through, heightening its likeness to wind, ice or glass. Rare and mesmeric, it is an excellent example of how even well-known mineral species can surprise and delight us with unexpected formations.

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