The Irénée du Pont mineral collection, assembled primarily in the 1920s, was gifted to the University in 1964. Little was known about the history of this fine collection, which became the foundation of the University of Delaware Mineralogical Museum. The research of Curator Sharon Fitzgerald, recently published as a Mineralogical Record supplement (May/June 2015), has greatly enhanced our knowledge about the specimens and their provenance.
Although Mr. du Pont collected minerals from childhood, his first major purchase was a rounded, stream rolled topaz crystal weighing more than 19 pounds that he saw in Tiffany & Co. in New York. George F. Kunz, the Vice-President of Tiffany & Co. required Mr. du Pont to purchase an entire collection in order to have this crystal. That collection included emeralds, bi-color tourmalines in a fitted box, a diamond in matrix and much more. For approximately a decade, Mr. du Pont added to his collection, buying from George Kunz and from George English of Ward’s Natural Science Establishment. In addition to his love of natural crystals, du Pont’s appreciation of rarities, new finds and ore minerals reflected his background as an engineer.
Some of the specimens in this collection can be traced back more than one hundred years to previous owners. One kunzite crystal specimen, the gem variety of the mineral spodumene, can be traced back to the original discoverer of the gemstone. The fall exhibition highlights the early du Pont Collection and includes specimens whose stories have been recently discovered, including the topaz “boulder,” a rutilated quartz and two Arkansas diamonds. The Mineralogical Record supplement, which includes an illustrated catalog of the collection, can be purchased at the Museum located in Penny Hall on 255 Academy Street.
Although the Mineralogical Museum was founded with the gift of the collection of Irénée du Pont, Sr., it has grown to encompass specimens gifted or made possible by many generous donors, including Mrs. David Craven, Alvin B. Stiles and Frederick A Keidel. Because of our intimate space, we have chosen to focus on individual displays that illustrate particular mineralogical concepts or themes. Rotating exhibitions allow visitors to see new specimens.