Lily Mine, Ica Department, Peru
Miniature, 5.0 x 4.5 x 4.0 cm
Atacamite is a rare copper species, and the previous "world's best" were found in Australia prior to 1900, at two locales. This small, remote copper and gem silica mine in the dry mountains of southern Peru, though, has matched and surpassed what we all thought for 100 years to be unbeatable status of the Aussie atacamites in our major museums. Also, the Peruvian crystals have better luster! The very best of the Peruvian atacamites are therefore worthy of consideration by any collector, for beauty and importance, though the pockets vary widely by quality and size. I have pursued these for the last 5 years as the trickle has come out. I held this piece back 2 years, waiting to see what else may come out, but it seems to have fizzled into irrelevance now in terms of more great specimens of this style. For this reason, I actually went to the mine (long story!) to see myself what comes out of here, and how the veins run through. It is really not a rich mine, and the specimens we have seen are nothing short of a miracle found in what is mostly a barren, desolate mountain with few veins of mineralization (we also had to take a "shortcut" through an army base, with machine guns pointed at us as we drove by, so it is not readily accessible to a crowd of collectors and certainly not easily mined by traditional methods of big machines and explosives). It turns out to be a needle in a haystack, and these are extremely rare in the ground. This particular specimen was mined in 2014 and has the largest and fattest crystals of the species I have seen from Peru, or on any specimen even from Australia, and seems to me to be at the top of its game for both the species, and as a competition-level miniature. It is gorgeous, deep green, and complete all around 360 degrees. I regard it very highly for significance for a rare species, but it has enough beauty and luster that the value and interest is more than just intellectual. I cannot recall Aussie pieces I have seen, with such luster, either. In any case, a major specimen and probably a record-setter of a very rare and desirable copper species. This is a masterpiece of a very rare species, suitable for any competitive exhibition or top tier collection of fine specimens of more common species. Joe Budd photos.