The Original Specimens of Kunzite
Lawrence H. Conklin
2 West 46 Street
New York, NY 10036
The following article was originally printed in the May-June 1988 issue of Matrix magazine as part of their series on historic mineral specimens.
It is generally assumed that the first specimens of kunzite were sent to George Kunz and Tiffany by Frederick M. Sickler from his White Queen mining claim in 1903. Kunz lost no time in supplying pieces to Charles Baskerville who then named the new pink variety of spodumene "kunzite" in Kunz's honor.
The Original Specimens of Kunzite from the personal collection of the late Charles Baskerville who named the mineral after Geo. Frederick Kunz. Gem Expert. D. T. O'C. " Spodumene variety Kunzite, White Queen mine, Pala, San Diego Co., California. Label in the hand of Daniel T. O'Connell former professor of Geology at City College of New York. These wonderful specimens are currently in the outstanding collection of New York Mineralogical Club member, Alexander Acevedo, collector of important American gems. Photo by Wendell Wilson.
In 1952, during my sophomore year at the City College of New York, my professor Kurt E. Lowe, showed me a cut prism of kunzite that had been the property of Charles Baskerville, a City College chemistry professor, and had been used in the original determination and naming of that species back in 1903.
The specimens depicted here are more examples of this "type" material from Baskerville's collection. The label is in the hand of Daniel T. O'Connell, and is initialed by him. O'Connell probably never met Baskerville (who died in 1922), as he arrived on the C.C.N.Y. scene in 1928.
However, he recognized the importance of these specimens, and saw to it that their history was not lost.
In a letter from Charles Baskerville to George F. Kunz, dated November 24, 1903, Baskerville states-"Perhaps it may be necessary for me to have a little more of the kunzite. I prefer the colored pieces, the small refuse from the cutting will answer." Those "small refuse" pieces are also here.
When and how they left City College is not clear, but they were in the famous O. Ivan Lee collection, thence to John Albanese, a dealer from New Jersey and finally went to Clifford Frondel and the Harvard Mineralogical Museum, before coming into the hands of the writer.
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