UArizona Gem and Mineral Museum unveils rare specimen donated by renowned collector
The specimen of the mineral stibnite was extracted in 2003 from the Wuling Mine in southeastern China and is exceptionally rare for its size, intricacy and quality.

By Emily Litvack, Office of Research, Innovation & Impact
Jan. 25, 2024

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a big chunk of the mineral stibnite sitting in a well lit display case
At 39.5 inches long, 16.5 inches wide and 17 inches thick, the stibnite specimen is exceptionally rare for its size, intricacy and quality. Only a handful of such specimens exist in the world, all of which were extracted from the Wuling Mine in the early 2000s, according to appraisers. Chris Richards/University of Arizona

A massive specimen of the rare mineral stibnite, donated by Robert Lavinsky, a world-renowned mineral collector, science education advocate and longtime supporter of the University of Arizona, was unveiled today at the UArizona Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum.

Extracted in 2003 from the Wuling Mine in the Jiangxi province in southeastern China, the specimen is now part of the museum's permanent collection and on display for public viewing. The unveiling coincides with the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show, the largest gem show in the world.

Stibnite – which is opaque and metallic gray with long spearlike prismatic crystals – is a compound of antimony and sulfur originating roughly 130 million years ago.

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a detailed close-up of silver, metallic stibnite crystals
Stibnite, a compound of antimony and sulfur that originated roughly 130 million years ago, has a storied history that spans centuries and societies. As early as 3,100 B.C., ancient Egyptians used powdered stibnite for eyeshadow and to treat eye infections. Chris Richards/University of Arizona

The mineral has a storied history that spans centuries and societies. As early as 3,100 B.C., ancient Egyptians powdered stibnite to use as eyeshadow and to treat eye infections. In ancient Rome, stibnite was associated with Pluto, ruler of the underworld. Later, the Prophet Muhammad claimed stibnite cleared one's vision and promoted hair growth. By 1832, French mineralogist François Sulpice Beudant officially named the mineral "stibnite," derived from the Latin word "stibium," meaning antimony.

Stibnite is brittle and soft, scoring only 2 out of 10 on the Mohs hardness scale, which mineralogists use to grade the relative hardness of minerals. Because of this, stibnite crystals are not often found intact.

The specimen donated by Lavinsky – which is 39.5 inches long, 16.5 inches wide and 17 inches thick – is exceptionally rare for its size, intricacy and quality. Only a handful of such specimens exist in the world, all of which were extracted from the Wuling Mine in the early 2000s, according to appraisers.

"I am incredibly thankful to Dr. Lavinsky," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "His generous donation of the incredible stibnite piece places the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum at the forefront of global mineral exhibits and boosts the museum's ability to provide a unique opportunity for individuals of all ages to engage with the history and importance of minerals."

Lavinsky is the owner, founder and president of The Arkenstone, an online purveyor of minerals, and of the Dallas Mineral Collecting Symposium. He is a mineral dealer, collector and consultant who works with museums and private collectors around the world. He has been actively involved in mineral education and has made significant donations to various institutions, including the Smithsonian Institution, the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas, musums in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, California, and numerous museums in China.

In recognition of Lavinsky's contributions to the field, a rare copper mineral from South Africa is named  "lavinskyite" in his honor.

In addition to donating a stibnite to UArizona, Lavinsky has donated one to the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale University.

"Both Yale and the University of Arizona share my vision of a 'beauty first' approach to education, displaying valuable specimens of minerals as inspirational works of natural art," Lavinsky said. "As a lifelong collector, it is an honor to make this joint donation to two such worthy museums and to share the inspiration and awe that these specimens evoke in me."

"The rare and intricate beauty and geological significance of this stibnite specimen serve as a powerful educational tool, fostering curiosity and exploration in the fields of geology, chemistry and natural history," said Violetta Wolf, director of the Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum.

"What an incredible addition to the mineral collection at the Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum," said John-Paul Roczniak, president and CEO of the University of Arizona Foundation. "Thank you to Dr. Lavinsky and others who have made significant gifts to the museum's collection. The Alfie is a treasure of a facility, and an incredible point of pride for the university and Tucson community."

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Nick Prevenas

Director, Media Relations, University Communications

Violetta Wolf

Alfie Norville Gem and Mineral Museum