Pyrite spheres from Austria

Reported by Johannes Ruef

General information

When it comes to Central Europe there are not many productive localities left that are not well known to the mineralogical community yet. One cannot say that every stone has been turned yet (the beauty of our passion!), but the chances for many more productive localities with unique specimens are getting rather small. It comes as a surprise that exactly such a unique site has never really been brought to international attention: We managed to gather some specimen of what so far remained known primarily to local collectors: The highly glossy pyrite spheres of Hohenems in Vorarlberg (Austria).

About the locality

While some good finds were made in the 1980s, the local quarry, the main location for high quality specimen, focused work on non-productive strata afterwards. It was 10 years ago that work resumed in more interesting sectors again and for some years a few really good finds were made. Sadly the quarry is close to being depleted and the chances of new finds are close to zero already.

The quarry started works already in the year 1610 and features a quite peculiar geological setting: The logical sequence of the geological strata has been inversed, resulting in the older geological layers being on top of the younger rock. The one that is most interesting to mineral collectors is labelled “Seewerkalk”, a dark kind of limestone. This host rock of the pyrite spheres is rather homogenous and probably underwent lots of pressure, making it hard and compact.

The finds

The pyrite spheres can be up to 8 cm big and show exceptional quality, sometimes highly glossy on the outside. It is difficult to retrieve undamaged big spheres, but when they break in half they show a magnificent sun-like structure. The surface of the spheres can differ from completely smooth to an interesting cubic texture, sometimes showing a big range of colours because of tarnish. The tarnish is natural due to the specimens being close to the surface for some 30 years or more, making the fresh and most glossy Pyrites the most sought-after pieces. The contrast to the dark host rock is spectacular and the pieces can bring to mind the famous Pyrite Cubes from Navajun, just that here the Pyrite is round and spherical.

The most important factor to find good specimens was to be the first to visit the site after a new blast has been made. I was lucky enough to find some top specimen myself about 10 years ago. After moderate success for many years, one rainy day I found a spot with traces of a damaged pyrite sphere in the wall, and without much expectations I started to work the hard limestone. Unlike Navajun the pyrite spheres in Hohenems don´t occur in rich layers, usually there are single spheres with no further pyrite around. Exceptionally though there are clusters of pyrite spheres, and on that day I was lucky enough that after removing the first broken pyrite, a fresh and complete pyrite appeared some cm behind the first one. After a lot of chiselling I was able to retrieve the complete piece with some host rock attached. To my surprise another pyrite sphere appeared where the first specimen was separated from the wall, and after that even more pyrites kept appearing! After some hours of work I managed to retrieve around 20 highly glossy pyrite spheres from an area of maybe 1 x 0.5 x 0.1 meter. Some of them got detached from the host rock while excavating (which happens quite easily), but I managed to recover one or two highly aesthetic pieces with multiple pyrite spheres on host rock. I am very proud about these pieces and they will remain in my collection (never sell your soul – only people who experienced the same will understand).

Our offer

While my find was one of the better ones in the area, one of my friends was even luckier: He regularly was tipped off about fresh blasts by one of the workers of the quarry (probably against a crate of beer or a bottle of Schnapps, old style!), making his collection very impressive and extensive. We were able to handpick the best pieces of this vast collection, which enables us to offer a fine selection of this very special kind of spherical pyrite here. Since this is a locality of aesthetic high-quality specimens close to my hometown I am very happy to present it here and maybe make it better known to international collectors. If there are any questions regarding the pieces please drop a message, we are happy to provide more information.

Click here for the available specimens from this location.

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