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In 2007, the Mineralogical Record published Wayne Thompson’s ground-breaking, 192-page book Ikons, Classics and Contemporary Masterpieces of Mineralogy—the first primer for aspiring collectors of world-class minerals. It contained informative chapters covering aspects of collection building, desirability factors and even investment value, and was illustrated by a Gallery of 77 photos of the finest specimens that, at one time or another, had passed through the author’s hands.

The photos and text presented in this new Ikons book (subtitled The Beauty of Fine Minerals) are intended to provide a broad understanding of world-class mineral specimens from the standpoint of beauty. This is an area of high exclusivity and high financial stakes, nearly inaccessible to most collectors. The authors give a look into that mystique, and offer some practical suggestions for collectors who aspire to building a world-class collection of their own.

The Gallery of 448 specimens of 123 species from 258 different localities is not restricted to any one dealer or collector, but is drawn from all specimens known to the authors from public and private sources worldwide. In this aspect it follows more closely in the footsteps of Peter Bancroft’s famous 1973 book, The World’s Finest Minerals and Crystals, which contained a panel of experts’ choices of 76 specimens they considered to be the finest in the world at that time. Many of those choices have been obsoleted by subsequent discoveries, which this new volume brings up to date in grand style. Also included is a selection of interesting stories about the actual discovery of specific world-class specimens—from the “front lines” of mineral collecting, as it were.

A “world-class” specimen is one which, in simplest terms, is suitable for inclusion in the world’s finest mineral collections. The designation involves some refined distinctions. Some specimens have an unforgettable visual presence, such that their images stay in the memory of the viewer. Some combine exceptional quality with important provenance and historical significance. Others, although collected too recently to be considered historical, are among the finest and most beautiful of their type. These are the “rock stars” of mineralogy, each one distinguished by exceptional quality, beauty and style, in some cases enhanced by their unique histories and provenances.

Many mineral collectors will probably never have the opportunity to own a world-class specimen. But then, neither will most of us ever own a painting by Rembrandt, DaVinci, or Van Gogh. Our inability to own them personally need not prevent us from appreciating and enjoying them, and so it is with minerals. World-class specimens are important, universally acknowledged reference points of study. The Old Masters teach us things that we could not have learned from lesser examples, and so do the greatest mineral specimens—specimens that have achieved a pinnacle of beauty only hinted at by lesser examples. This visually stunning, blockbuster of a book is dedicated to the appreciation of such objects as the ultimate expressions of mineralogy. Be prepared to be blown away.