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A Stone for Adventurers

Joint project of St.-Petersburg Mining museum and Forpost Nord-West.
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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

This stone's name originates from the Italian 'a ventura' meaning 'by chance'. As the legend says, a workman from Murano, one of the larger islands in the Venetian lagoon, let some copper fillings fall into a molten mass of metal. Upon its solidifying, the result of an accident looked like a piece of glass with unusual sparkling inclusions. That kind of glass was given the name 'avventurino' (in Italian) or 'aventurine glass' (in English). The mineral in question is, in turn, somewhat similar by appearance to the accidentally discovered glass and has the same lustre, hence the stone's name aventurine that came from the Murano glass.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Before the 19th century, aventurine glass was rather cheap. And even now, two centuries on, there is a risk of buying an imitation - a similar-looking fake made of glass instead of a rare jewel item with aventurine.

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Фото © pixabay.com

When the gold fever took place in the US, miners seeking for precious metals started carrying a piece of the mineral on them in the hope of the stone helping to find large deposits. Aventurine was a sort of a landmark for gold diggers who believed the rock could lead them to nature's treasures. Indeed, aventurine had no connection with the precious metal whatsoever. If a gold deposit was by accident discovered, that was a mere coincidence.

The most significant discovery of aventurine in Russia happened in the middle of the 19th century. Massive aventurine blocks were found in the Taganai range of the Ural Mountains. Later a unique vase exhibited at the Hermitage Museum was carved from them.

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Фото © ok.ru/shedevrym

The search team discovered mineral blocks weighing over 12 tons each. On learning of the find, superiors of the Ekaterinburg Imperial Lapidary Factory decided to make vases out of blocks. It took several years to complete the work, albeit the cup and and leg were being cut separately. More than 85% of the original rock mass ended up in waste, and yet despite that, the vase is impressively huge, while its weight is nearly four tons.

The aventurine vase had to be ready by the official opening of the New Hermitage, one of the buildings in the museum complex. Therefore, an urgent task of delivering the workpiece to St. Petersburg needed to be solved. A final solution was to ship the vase by water as it turned out to be the only way to keep it safe during transportation. In the end, the vessel found its place within the Hermitage's collections some 18 years after the discovery of unique blocks in the Ural and several thousand kilometres away from that place. The exhibit as of now remains in the Museum.

Interestingly enough, there are no records of the exact location of the find. Moreover, no mining activities ever took place nearby the already mentioned mining range. Some researchers, however, mention location coordinates corresponding to the territory wherein the Taganay National Park situated nowadays. In their works, they claim "the mineral literally lies underfoot", and aventurine is actually widely known there, but more as goldstone or 'taganaite' (in Russian: «таганаит»).

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Aventurine samples found in Russia are usually creamy white, orange or goldish, pink, maroon, and lilacky. The rarest specimens are rocks of blue and black colours resembling in their appearance the starry night sky. Deposits of dark-blue and black aventurine are gradually depleting. Consequently, stones of such colours are more expensive than other varieties. It is worth noting that spangles inside the real sample should be dim and sober in tone, spread out randomly, although at times limited to one side only.

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Фото © mineralpro.ru