Lead minerals

The Prestige Exhibit in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines in 2019



An emblematic specimen of our museum: wulfenite (lead molybdate) from Red Cloud Mine, La Paz Co., Arizona. Exceptional loan for the exhibition "Lead Minerals", this wulfenite is present in the permanent exhibition of our museum.


At the Salon Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, several temporary exhibitions are presented. This year, the mineral exhibition was covering the theme "LEAD MINERALS". Our Mineralogy Museum participated again this year, and presented about 70 minerals.




The curator, Alain Martaud, presents the temporary exhibition:

Lead was associated with the God Saturn during Antiquity and the alchemists of the Middle Ages wanted to transmute this dull gray metal into brilliant gold. For lack of gold, silver was extracted from these ores, a source of great wealth…

Today the use of lead is not as intensive anymore in the industry and it shows a sharp decline because of its toxicity. Yet for 7,000 years it has been used on a daily basis. Its secular mining is so numerous that it represents, thanks to the work of archaeologists, a remarkable history, science, and technology heritage. Its almost systematic association with other metals gives rise to a multitude of deposits that delight the metallogenists, geologists that specialize in the study of metal deposits. In nature, lead combines with many metals and chemical elements that give a great range of minerals, nearly 427, taking on various appearances, sometimes very colorful and spectacular. Bright cubes of galena, notched wheels of bournonite, black hair of boulangerite will face the orange wulfenite tablets, the turf-looking pyromorphite, the fragile reticulated cerussites, all genuine crystallographic prodigies. The red of vanadinite will contrast to the deep blue of linarite….

Let’s finish on one of the mineralogy Grail: the cumengeite; it was brought back during the 19th century by a French colonel stationed in the depths of the Mexican desert.
Lead minerals are particularly popular among connoisseurs; they are highly rated and very much in demand.
A whole world to explore…

An exhibition realized thanks to the loans of European mineralogical museums and to private collectors.

One of the alleys of the Prestige Exhibit dedicated to "Lead minerals" this year in Sainte-Marie. Shot taken before the opening to the public.





While part of the exhibition was devoted to the vision of lead minerals by museums and private collectors, the other was used to illustrate the historic and current locations in which lead minerals are mined. It is in this section that the minerals of our collection were present.

Display cases of lead minerals from the Americas, Africa and Australia.



Display case of the "Lead Minerals in Africa".


Cerussite on matrix from Tsumeb, Namibia. This lead carbonate is particularly appreciated by collectors because it often displays twins, and sometimes shows transparency, such as for this specimen from our museum. In addition, it has a high dispersion that naturally gives it its exceptional fires.

Same cerussite from Tsumeb, with a closer look on the crystals: heart-shape twin and reticular crystals.


Mimetite, lead arsenate, is expressed here in magnificent yellow crystals on white matrix. Another good example of minerals from Tsumeb, Namibia.


Wulfenite (lead molybdate) from Djebel Mahser, Morocco, which was displayed during the exhibition "Lead Minerals" in Sainte-Marie.


Superb and well-crystallized nadorite (lead antimoniate) from Djebl Nador (type locality), Algeria.



"Lead Minerals from the Americas" display case.

Imposing specimen of wulfenite on matrix from the Red Cloud mine, La Paz Co., Arizona. A less known specimen of our collection, and yet, what a beauty!


Boleite presented during the exhibition in Sainte-Marie. It comes from Boleo, Baja California in Mexico, and most likely is the largest, most perfect (shape, color) crystal of boleite ever found.


Cumengeite (donated by Edouard Cumenge) on display during the "Lead Minerals" exhibit in Sainte-Marie.



Colorful showcase with lead minerals from Asia (such as the Chinese green pyromorphite) and Australia (such as the red-orange crocoite for example).


Wulfenite from Iran, donated by Christophe Gobin, was on display in the "Lead Minerals from Asia" case (see previous picture, bottom row, middle-left). Small sample but incredible orange-red color, with a surprising contrast with the creamy yellow matrix.



Showcase dedicated to lead minerals found in Europe (France aside). In the center, sits our hydrocerussite from England, just below our dufrénoysite from Switzerland and just above our phosgenite from Italy (with, on the left side of it, a beautiful English bournonite).


Hydrocerussite (hydrated lead carbonate) lepisphere from Mereahead Quarry, Somerset, England, in an open cavity. At the bottom of the photo, an incredible dufrénoysite (lead sulfosalt) from Binntal, Valais, Switzerland.


Extraordinary phosgenite specimen, because of its size, shape, transparency and overall aesthetics. Our Italian confreres envy us this magnificent specimen from Monteponi, Sardinia.


On display during the Prestige Exhibit in Sainte-Marie, this bright green pyromorphite from Cumbria, England, is stunning!





French lead minerals were presented in 6 display cases: 1- Vosges Massif, 2 Alpes, Provence and Pyrenees, 3- Armorican Massif, 4- North Central Massif, 5- South Central Massif, 6- East Central Massif. Here, an example of some showcases and our minerals on display.

Display case: "Lead Minerals from the East of the French Central Massif".


Galena from La Combe, Bas-en-Basset, Haute-Loire, in the East of the French Central Massif display case.


Pyromorphite from St-Salvy-de-la-Balme, Tarn, France, on display in the South Central Massif.


Cerussite from Les Malines, St-Laurent-le-Minier, Gard, France, in the South Central Massif display case.


Pyromorphite from Chaillac, Indre, France, on display in the North Central Massif showcase.


Display of Lead Minerals from the Armorican Massif (West of France).


Display case showing lead minerals from the Alps, Provence and Pyrenees.


Galena associated with bournonite from the La Mure Mine, Isère, France, in the Alps showcase.


On top of the display cases of lead minerals by localities, two other showcases were very interesting. One on the primary and secondary minerals of lead, and the second on Alchemy.

Primary and secondary lead minerals.

From the display case above, some minerals from our collection were presented, including this German bournonite and Spanish freieslebenite.

"Alchemy", or "on the possibility of transforming lead into gold".



And finally, a photo taken during the installation of one of our showcases, with a superb green pyromorphite from El Horcajo, Spain, an impressive galena on fluorite from Cumbria, England, and our famous red wulfenite from from Red Cloud mine, Arizona.





Because in Sainte-Marie, it's not all about the show!

Street in the "Mineral show" in Sainte-Marie.


The theater is this way! The meeting point in Sainte-Marie also hosts the most "prestigious" minerals as its same says it.


The popular place of the show: the steps of the theater. But at this time of the morning, the sun comes directly on the building, and despite the fact that it was still early on in the morning, this year was really hot: 25 ° C at night, and up to 39 ° C in the afternoon.


Booths being set up in the streets of the mineral show.


Outside of the show, the Town Hall and one of Sainte-Marie churches.


The "Place de la Fleur" square in Sainte-Marie.


Another small church in Sainte-Marie.


The famous Place Foch, just outside of the mineral show, on the way to the gem show.


The small river La Lièpvrette crosses the picturest town of Sainte-Marie.



Let's finish like we began, with our most famous specimen in the exhibit: Red Cloud Wulfenite (ex Vésignié collection).


All photos by E. Gaillou, copyright Musée de Minéralogie MINES ParisTech.


Lead minerals temporary exhibit - Mines Paris - PSL

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