Geology receives world-class mineral collection

  • World-class collection
    World-class collection
    Geologist Brent Owens holds a specimen from the Dimitri B. Georgiadis Mineral Collection.
    Photo by Alla Herman

The William & Mary Department of Geology has acquired a world-class mineral collection that geologists say will be a valuable resource in the department for many years.

Professor Brent Owens of the geology department was contacted about donating the collection by Dimitri Georgiadis, a Greek immigrant and mineral enthusiast, who had an interest in rocks since he was a young boy.

While living in Memphis, Georgiadis often met with a friend and colleague named Dorothy Sturm. After showing her a rock he found on a trip to Colombia, Georgiadis was led into a secret room in Sturm’s home.

“She opened the door and it was a room full of minerals. There were lights—a fantastic collection. I lost my mind.” said Georgiadis. “So I said, ‘Let’s make a deal. The time will come that you will want to dispose of this. Give me the first option of refusal.’”

In 1970, Sturm decided it was time to let go of her collection, and contacted Georgiadis. Sturm’s one request was that the collection not be sold off piecemeal. Georgiadis accepted, and purchased the collection. The collection went with Georgiadis on moves to Toronto, Mexico, the Caribbean coast and finally Virginia. Georgiadis originally paid $70,000 for the collection of 115 minerals. Today it contains more than 500 specimens, and is appraised at $514,000.

Georgiadis says he decided to donate the collection to William & Mary because he wanted to show his appreciation for what this country has done for him and because he wanted to help others.

“I would like it to be part of the educational process of a university. I always heard a lot about William & Mary,” said Georgiadis.

Specimens from all over

Owens says the collection ranges from some of the more common minerals to gemstones to specimens with unique crystal shapes. The minerals in the collection come from places all over the globe, including Brazil, Romania, South Africa, Italy, Switzerland, Madagascar and Mount Kilimanjaro. Some notable minerals in the collection include rhodochrosites, rubies, emeralds and Owens’ personal favorite—a watermelon tourmaline. Also included are aquamarine, quartz, beryl, tanzanite and topaz.

“I thought it might be somebody pulling out a couple of boxes of rocks from under his bed,” said Owens, “but I went to the donor’s house, and not knowing at all what to expect, I was flabbergasted. My jaw, I’m sure, literally dropped. I was impressed by the number, the diversity and the really high quality of the samples.”

Having the collection displayed in the classroom where students are learning about minerals means they will be put to good use. Owens says when he is teaching about minerals in his lab, he can use the various specimens  to illustrate different features being taught in class.

Beauty and utility

“It’s a chance for students to see first hand what some of these things look like. When I’m teaching about minerals, I can point to such-and-such mineral in the case and say, ‘Here’s a wonderful example of whatever feature I happen to be talking about.’” said Owens.

After Owens first saw the collection, he discussed the donation with the rest of the faculty in the geology department. Owens said everyone was shocked when they saw it.

“You don’t have to be a geologist to appreciate the beauty,” said Owens, “The colors are every color in the rainbow, and visually it’s quite a stunning thing. There’s something inherently quite pleasing about the collection.”

Faculty and students of the geology department held a Feb. 16 reception to celebrate and commemorate the generous donation of the Dimitri B. Georgiadis Mineral Collection to the College. Georgiadis was guest of honor. Other attendees included William & Mary President Taylor Reveley, Provost Michael Halleran and Dean of Arts & Sciences Gene Tracy.

Anyone interested in viewing the Georgiadis Mineral Collection should contact Owens to make arrangements.