Ural’s gems in Mining museum collection

Published: Kurguzova A.V., Checheleva O. E.//Scientific reports on Recourses Issues. Vol.1 -2011 — 20-22pp

The history of Saint-Petersburg State Mining University and the Mining museum are closely linked. Mining University and the Mining museum were established on the 21st of October 1773 by decree of Catherine the Great. The first name given to the Mining University was “Gornoye uchilishe”, which means, “Mining school”. In 1804, the University was renamed as “Gornyui kadetskii korpus”, which means, “Mining military school”. Outstanding scientists, professors of Mining University, have been creating the mining collection for years, and some of their names are: I.M. Renovanz, P.I. Meder, D.I. Sokolov, N.I. Koksharov, P.I. Eremeev, E.S. Fedorov, A.K. Boldurev, V.V. Chernyuch, D.P. Grigoriev, I.I. Schafranivskii, S.A. Rudenko [3]. Now the collection at the Mining museum is one of the greatest in the world and the funds are increasing.

The first name of the Museum was “Mineral Cabinet,” and it was located in a hall of columns, constructed specially for the Mineral Cabinet. The hall of columns is just one of the Museum’s halls. Unfortunately, we don’t know for sure what the collection was like at the beginning. It is considered that the first description of the collection was “Catalog of Collection”, which was written by I.M. Renovanz from 1774 to 1798, but this catalog was not saved. Probably, at that time, the collection was interesting and representative of the research of that time. The King of Sweden, Gustav III, visited the Museum in 1773, and he was excited by the collection; he presented 202 samples of Swedish minerals and ores. The present was one of the first large Museum arrivals [8].

In 1787, the Mineral Cabinet bought academician E.G. Laksman’s collection. The collection included 8741 samples of foreign and Siberian ores. In 1801, a student and future director of Gornoye uchilishe, A.F. Deryabin, gifted to the Museum 3000 samples of minerals. In 1802, the museum bought Forster’s collection, which included 1150 samples. However, at the beginning of the 19th century, leaders of the museum noted that the main parts of the collection were foreign samples, so in 1803, Berg College wrote a special direction for Russian factories and plants to send ores and minerals to the Mining museum [8]; the official history of Russian ore collection starts at that moment. In February 1804, the director of Ekaterinburg’s factories (Ural), I.F. German, sent Ural minerals to the museum– 60 samples with a special description, “Register of samples from mines near by villages Murzinka and Schaitanka, bought for Mining school” [8]. 

A.F. Deryabin, director of Mining Military School, organized a special expedition for the collection of Ural and Siberia samples in 1811. This expedition took place from 1814-1819, and it gave nearly 50 000 samples to the Museum. 

In 1816, imperator Alexander I contributed to the Mineral Cabinet Hermitage Collection; it consisted of 4143 samples. In 1816, gold nuggets from Berezovsk placers (Ural) came to the Museum. Directors of Mining Military School, E.I. Mechnikov (1817-1824) and E.V. Karneev (1824-1834), appropriated a large quantity of funds for buying new samples. 

Between 1811 and 1829, the Mineral Cabinet bought 72 478 samples. In 1829, special direction was given to the directors of mining plants; they had to make mineral cabinets in every plant. Moreover, the cabinets had to write an inventory of collections and send it to the Mining museum. After that, the Mining museum could order samples if they were needed. In 1833, the museum received such inventory from the Miass and Kuvshinsk plants (Ural). In 1847, the museum bought a collection that belonged to Earl L.A. Perovskii, Minister of the Interior. Perovskii’s collection consisted of 555 samples and cost a large sum of money for that time, 32 000 rubles.

In 1892, the mineralogical department received, as a gift, a mineralogical collection of Duke N.M. Lechtenbergskii. Lechtenbergskii’s collection consisted of more than 1000 samples [8].

In the 19th century, research workers of the museum wrote and published descriptions of the museum collection (see D. I. Sokolov, 1830 [7]; V.V. Nefed’ev, 1871 [5]; M.P. Melnikov, 1898 [4]). Currently, all the books are saved at the main library of Mining University, and it is of interest not only for Mining University, but also in general for mining engineering in Russia. 

In 1921, ten expeditions were organized to increase funds. These expeditions went to the Ural region, Siberia, Archangeksk, Donetsk, and Central Russia. In the beginning of the 20th century, the Museum increased funds thanks to state owned industries [8].

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to reconstruct the exact history of specific samples, and in such cases, only the periods of time can be estimated. There are many Ural gems in the museum collection, and it has a long and rich history.  

Ural’s Beryls in the Mining Museum Collection.

The first beryl deposit in Russia, “Izumrudnyue kopi”, was discovered in 1831 in the Urals.  Samples from this deposit were delivered to the museum. In 1848, the mineralogical collection had the richest collection of Russian emeralds. The main share of this collection was from L.A. Perovskii’s collection, from 1847. The first part of L.A.Perovskii’s collection consisted of Ural and Transbaikalia minerals – aurum, amethysts, corundum, aquamarines, cupper’s ores, topazes, zircons, and emeralds. 210 samples were in this collection and 115 of them were emeralds. The second part of L.A.Perovskii’s collection consisted of Russian and foreign samples; this part included 345 samples, and 139 of them were emeralds [8].

One of the most notable beryl in the collection is aquamarine, which were gifted to the museum by imperator Nikholay I in 1829. The length of the crystal is 27 cm, the diameter is 5 cm, and the weight is 2.5 kg. The Emerald was found near Alabaschka village. V.V. Nefed’ev [5] described it “it’s crystal of green color, hexagonal prism, with roughness and hollows”.

Another beryl from the collection is a pale-pink crystal with smooth grains, ingrown in a mass of lepidolite and albite. This pink beryl was found near Schaitanka village.

A.E. Kupffer [2] described a remarkable beryl from the collection, “heliodor with spear-shaped forms”. The heliodor was found near the Aduya River, between the villages of Murzinka and Schaitanka.

Ural’s Topazes in the Mining Museum Collection.

A considerable portion of topazes entered the Museum with the above-mentioned Duke Lechtenbergskii (1892) and Earl Perovskii (1847) collections. H.I. Kokscharov, Russian scientist, wrote a special monograph [1] about Russian topazes in the Mining Museum collection. Kokscharov’s monograph described the crystallomorphology and habitus of 130 samples.  

 Another rare sample in the collection is a bluish topaz crystal weighing 2.3 kg; it was found at Murzunka village. A remarkable, bright-azure topaz, weighing 300 g, was found in 1821 near Murzinka village. The priest, Starzev, gifted this crystal to imperator Alexander I [6].

Ural’s Malachite in the Mining Museum Collection.

Widespread malachite extraction started in the Urals in 1810, then excavation of Mednorudyanskoe deposits begun.  For example, in 1810, 16 tons of malachite were excavated. The malachite industry flourished after big findings of malachite in 1825. Ural’s malachite was used for producing large wares (columns, vases, and bowls). There were many malachite deposites in the Urals, but Mednorudyanskoe and Gumeschenskoe were the only deposits of practical importance [9].

As previously mentioned, in the beginning of the 20th century, the museum saw an increase in funds thanks to state-owned industries and nationalized property of mansions. In this way, in 1920, Alexey Denisov-Uralskii’s property was nationalized. Alexey Denisov-Uralskii was a famous painter and expert collector of gems. Around 10 000 samples of minerals, showcases and cabinets were nationalized. 640 kg of malachite and magnetite were taken from the storehouse “Beshoz”, which belonged to the famous Ural plant owner Demidovyu [8].

The most impressive exhibit of malachite is a block weighing 1504 kg. This malachite block is the biggest in the world. Empress Catherine the Great gifted the block to the museum in 1787. One side of the block is polished to show the wonderful texture and color of the mineral. At present, the malachite block stands in a specially constructed malachite chamber [4]. 


1. H.I. Kokscharov, Catalog of Russian topazes from Mining museum in Saint-Petersburg. Saint-Petersburg, 1866

2. A.E. Kupffer, Mineralogical collection of Mining museum. Saint-Petersburg, 1911

3. V.S. Litvinenko, Paschkevich N.V., Polyarnaya Z.A.. Mining museum, Saint-Petersburg mining institute, 2008

4. M.P. Mel’nikov Museum guide for Mining museum, Saint-Petersburg, 1898

5. V.V. Nefed’ev Short description of mineralogical collection of Mining museum, Saint-Petersburg, 1871

6. M.I. Pyulyaev Gems, it’s features, deposits and using. Saint-Petersburg 1888

7. D.I. Sokolov, Historical description of Mining military school, Saint-Petersburg  1830

8. The oldest mineralogical museums of USSR, Moscow, 1898