Cerussite D.50674 Click to enlarge image
Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia. 16 x 8 x 16.8 cm. D.50674. Albert Chapman Collection. Image: Carl Bento
© Australian Museum

This statuesque group of cerussite crystals has been an icon of our mineral collection for over 90 years. Its long, bladed crystals, like miniature swords, form a striking lattice pattern called ‘reticulated’, giving it great aesthetic appeal. Its chemical composition is lead carbonate, and its high lead content gives the crystals a brilliant sparkle and a high density.

Specimen details

  • Origin

    BHP Block 14 Mine, Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia

  • Size

    33 x 27 x 12 cm

  • Date

    Collected before 1930 and registered 1933

  • Collection number


  • On display

    Featured in the Westpac Long Gallery

This is the best cerussite specimen with the longest crystals of its type in the world, reaching up to 28.7 cm. It is difficult to collect intact examples of such crystal groups because they are fragile and difficult to remove.

This specimen is part of the magnificent collection assembled by the management of the BHP Block 14 Mine at Broken Hill after its closure and donated to the Australian Museum in 1933 via its manager, Mr F Voss-Smith. The collection was transported to Sydney by rail in wooden boxes and, despite the long journey and the fragility of the crystals, none of the specimens were damaged. It was one of the finest bequests ever made to the Museum.

Cerussite. BHP Block 14 Mine, Broken Hill, New South Wales, Australia. 33 x 27 x 12 cm. Collected before 1930. Registered 1933, D.32152. Image: John Fields
© Australian Museum

It featured in a 1973 book by Dr Peter Bancroft called The World’s Finest Minerals and Crystals and was considered one of the best crystal groups of any species in existence. It had been nominated for the book by Albert Chapman. The nominators used seven selection criteria: crystal perfection, matrix specimen, aesthetics, association, colour, lustre and size. This cerussite scored highly for all criteria. This magnificent specimen was chosen by Australia Post for a prestamped envelope design to celebrate the Centenary of Broken Hill in 1983.

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