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Realgar - February 2013 Mineral of the Month


Mineral Name: Realgar
Specimen Number: 016
Record ID: 5997
Locality Nickname: China
Region: China
Original Locality 1: China
Original Locality 2:  
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About the Collection:

The Chinese New Year is upon us this month, so here we present one of the very few Chinese specimens in the collection – a Buddha carving crafted out of the mineral realgar (arsenic sulfide, As4S4. The name is from Arabic "rahj al-gar" meaning “powder of the mine.”) The carving is about six centimeters across, and appears somewhat yellowish because light exposure eventually alters the red realgar to pararealgar, which has the same chemical formula but a different crystal structure. During the period when the Princeton collection was assembled mineral specimens from China were quite difficult to obtain, unlike today. This piece dates to at least 135 years ago, and possibly much earlier, based on the style of the accompanying label used by London dealer Bryce Wright Jr. from 1876-1878.  The purchase price at the time was 12 schillings, equivalent to about 62 U.S. dollars today. Also scrawled on the label in Wright’s handwriting is the name “Kunz,” possibly referring to noted mineralogist, gemologist, and Vice President of Tiffany and Co., George F. Kunz.  The carving was eventually obtained by Archibald MacMartin, whose family donated his collection of several thousand specimens to Princeton after his death.  If anyone reading knows more about this type of carving, we’d love to know. Contact: