2018, Summit Cleft, Weisseck, Etched Fluorite

 

In the fall of 2018 I was largely finished with my efforts in the Summit Cleft to locate skeletonized fluorites. Especially during the two previous years, I had concentrated on the search for this special type of beautiful fluorite and systematically worked up the site. It took many visits to learn where I could find the most beautiful pieces. Most of the time I was on my own and spent the whole day searching in the Summit Cleft. On other days I was out with various collector friends whom I had infected with my enthusiasm for these fluorites. These are fluorites etched by external influences. But among us collectors they are known as skeletonized fluorites. This report is representative of the many tours devoted to this type of fluorite.

In September the picture changes on the mountains in Lungau: the grass changes color from green to golden brown. The blackberry leaves turn entire landscapes a dark red, and the larches acquire golden needles. It is said that the Lungau has a particularly beautiful “golden autumn”.  Without so many hikers as in the summer, the mountains greet autumn visitors with a tranquil quietness. This is also the time for stable high-pressure weather situations that rewards the early hiker to the summit with a clear view due to the cool air and a sea of fog just below.

On this day I was on the way up very early in order to have enough time for the search for fluorite.

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Most of the ascent entailed walking in dense fog; the sun first appeared in the higher elevations.

On this still very cool and damp early morning, the damp grass quickly resulted in wet shoes and  lower part of my pants. A slightly subdued mood accompanied the dense fog as I hiked upwards; a particularly quiet stretch with very limited visibility. As I ascended towards the upper regions, the nebulous clouds were gradually getting lighter; at times the sphere of the sun could be seen and even a patch of blue sky. Soon I reached the upper limit of the fog and anticipated sunshine and a spectacular view of mountain peaks above a sea of clouds. On this day I was lucky enough to experience a rare phenomenon: a "glory". In the upper area of the fog cover, where the sun was already coming through a little, my shadow was surrounded by a spherical rainbow, and in the outer area another one that was no longer shining as intensely. Most of the time this impressive spectacle only lasts a few seconds, but on this day I was particularly lucky because I had enough time to take a few photos of it.

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A rare spectacle: a "glory" is a light phenomenon caused by backscattering of light from finely distributed, spherical drops such as fog or clouds. A round, bright area surrounds the shadow of the observer. The observer's head is in the middle of the bright area. This gives an impression similar to that of the saints in icons. The bright area is separated from the surroundings by a colored ring of light
(cf. https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glorie)

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This sight was so impressive, it alone made the very early trip worthwhile

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Above the blanket of fog.

The warming sun invited me to take a break and enjoy this overwhelming experience. The phenomenon of spherical rainbows continued to have an intense effect. The joy over this spectacle was great and indescribable. At this moment I felt free and carefree. Everyday life was far away and insignificant. That day I sat at this spot for an unusually long time and enjoyed the view, the peace and the warmth.

Eventually I remembered why I was there and continued my ascent in search of rainbow-like fluorites. The rest of the way was no longer strenuous. After about half an hour I had reached the entrance of the summit cleft. I prepared myself for entry. Equipped with a helmet, light and tools, I crawled into the interior of the mountain. First the eyes had to get used to the darkness, then I recognized the familiar areas in the entrance area of the Summit Cleft.

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View from the third cavern in the Summit Cleft towards the upper exit

I had reached the third cavern of the Summit Cleft through the upper entrance. This was the largest chamber and it was here that most of the fluorite had settled. The nappe was originally crystallized with large fluorites. The fluorite could reach an edge-length of more than 10 cm. Many fluorites had fallen from the ceiling long ago and lay on the floor among larger limestone, rubble and clay. This cavity in particular had been combed very intensively in recent years. But all collectors had focused on the fluorite cubes and ignored the skeletal fragments. The ground has been dug up several times by collectors over the years. The image of the great cavern kept changing because the rubble was once stored on this side. After a while, digging started again and the rubble was again moved around. The multiple digging up of the rubble resulted in the rubble having "inflated" in volume. This was clearly noticeable by the fact that there was now much less space in the 3rd cavern than at the time the Summit Cleft was discovered.

Through the many years of inspections on this cleft I had a great advantage. I knew exactly where which fluorites had been found. Memories of previous discoveries immediately came to life when I worked on a specific area in the large cavern. This advantage worked in my favor that day, because I knew exactly where I wanted to start my search and started digging at this point.

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Area in the third cavern with potential opportunities for finding etched fluorites

Already during the digging, isolated pieces of fluorite came to light that looked suspicious. I put all the pieces aside for a closer look later. I systematically worked my way deeper and deeper into the ground. The hole dug was big enough for me to sit in and still have enough room to work deeper. At a depth of about one meter the rubble changed. There was a lot more washed-in clay here and that meant I got to the original cleft floor. That was a very good sign because I could then hope to get to an untouched area. I continued my work with renewed energy. Now I just had to find the right spot where fluorite had deposited. Time passed and meanwhile I had been digging for more than four hours without getting the desired result. Every time I found a few pieces of fluorite in the rubble and thought that at last I had found the right spot, I ended up empty handed. The hole kept getting deeper and I still didn't hit the rock at the bottom. In one corner of my hole I was able to find several good pieces of fluorite. So I started to continue my work in this direction. That was the right decision, because now more and more fluorite was coming to light. Since the fluorite pieces were covered by clay, it was difficult to judge which ones were “winners”. With the help of the headlamp I could at least see the translucent color. I preferred the multicolored pieces with the colors purple, blue, and green. I put all the pieces that seemed appropriate to me in a pile. I put the single-colored pieces in an extra pile so I could take them with me if I could handle some extra weight.

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With the help of a headlamp I could see color – the shape also looked promising – so this piece was coming home with me

I continued to work in the place for some time. The heap had grown considerably by now. I noticed that my strength and concentration was gradually fading. So I finished my digging. After a short pause, I began sorting out the pile with the better pieces again and carefully packing the pieces. This work also required a longer time. In the past, I hadn't sorted out the pieces so precisely when I was looking, and accordingly there were many unusable pieces among them. With the precise control, I was able to increase my hit rate significantly. In this way, too, a considerable weight came together. I only sporadically looked through the second pile and only took a few of those pieces with me. With two full sacks I crawled out of the Summit Cleft. The backpack was packed outside. In the late afternoon I started my descent with a considerable weight. I wasn't home until 8 p.m. A long and exhausting day, but also combined with many beautiful impressions!

 

A few days later, I cleaned and sorted the pieces. Only then could the find be properly assessed. Despite careful sorting in the cleft, an average of 70 to 80 percent of the find was unusable due to damage, bad color or poor formation. The quality of the remainder varied greatly. On average, I can say that there was at least one beautiful piece on each tour that went into my collection. I gave away many inferior pieces. But what I demanded of specimens had also grown over time. Some of the basic requirements for a beautiful piece were color play, no damage, and a beautiful etch with excellent luster. A special feature of these fluorites is the change of color when the piece is moved or rotated. This is due to the zonal color structure. I love moving these pieces and watching the colors change with lighting; that is what makes them so special.

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I found this piece in 2008 during an excavation for fluorite in the third cavern. It was my first etched fluorite from the Summit Cleft. I liked the multifaceted, shiny surface and the delicate play of colors of green and blue so much that I started looking for these pieces. In all the years of searching, however, I could not find a similar piece. This piece is evenly etched all around. The transparency is excellent. A crystal structure is no longer recognizable. Due to the quality and beautiful color, this piece triggered my passion to find similar pieces, 5.1 x 4 x 3 cm

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My favorite piece of this type of fluorite: The piece is very intensively etched all around - a crystal surface is almost no longer recognizable. Excellent luster and very nice colour, 5.2 x 4.7 x 4.5 cm

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The same piece in side view, 5.2 x 4.7 x 4.5 cm

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Another favorite piece: fluorite with beautiful etched structures and excellent shine, 8 x 5.7 x 4.4 cm

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This piece has no more crystal faces, 4.9 x 2.6 x 2 cm

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An excellent fluorite with an intense blue color when viewed from the front, beautiful etched structures and deep etched crevices, collection: Robert Marc Friedman,7 x 5.3 x 3.8 cm

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A piece with bright colors and beautiful etched structures, 7 x 5.5 x 3.8 cm

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This piece shows a fantastic intense play of colors and excellent etched structures in the side view, 6.3 x 5.5 x 2.8 cm

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With an edge length of exactly 10 cm, this piece is one of the largest skeletonized fluorites that I have in my collection, 10.5 x 7 x 5.3 cm

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Bright fluorite with excellent etched structures and beautiful color composition, 5.3 x 3 x 2.5 cm

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Another piece with fantastic intense play of colors and excellent etched structures, side view, 5.3 x 4 x 2.9 cm