Shigaite: A Rare Gem Discovered in the U.P.
“Rural Voices” shares cultural, educational, economic and artistic views of people who have lived and thrived in the Upper Peninsula. Each of our authors in Rural Voices may be living here in the U.P. or living someplace around the globe, but the U.P. is an important part of who they are and what their beliefs and values are today. Rural Voices wants to share the voices of our neighbors and friends about life and experiences in the UP.
The U.P. has unique bragging rights in the world of geology, as it is one of the few places in the world where a very rare crystal has been found: a magnesium sulfite compound called Shigaite.
Shigaite has only been identified in four other mines around the world–Australia, Canada, Japan, and South Africa.
According to Mineralogy of Michigan (Heinrich & Robinson, 2004), a specimen was discovered in the Bengal Mine in Stambaugh, Iron County, in 1951.
It was found 118 feet below ground by an ordinary miner, and was unidentifiable at the time. It was Brian Greenlund, the son of that miner, who made the connection classifying it as Shigaite after its official discovery in Japan in 1985.
The Shigaite gem is made up of small hexagonal crystals and can be yellow, orange, red, brown or black in color. Greenlund’s Shigaite sample is on display at Michigan Tech’s A.E. Seaman Mineral Museum.
A brand-new rock and mineral exhibit is underway at the Iron County Historical Museum, and it will feature more information about this and other minerals from Michigan.
Greenlund is being heavily consulted on the project to ensure accuracy of the information and determine best practices. The museum’s collection, however, is incomplete. Any rock hounds or collectors who would like to loan or donate a Michigan rock or mineral is welcome to contact the Iron County Historical Museum.
You can visit our website at https://ironcountymuseum.org.
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