Rocks & Minerals



Gems & Minerals

The Barron Collection: This collection consists primarily of minerals and a smaller number of faceted and cabochon-cut gemstones.  The minerals in this collection were acquired by Colonel Elbert M. Barron, a professional trader in minerals and an officer in the Republic of Texas army. Colonel Barron bequeathed his collection to the University of Texas at Austin. Wulfenite, mimetite, vanadinite, endlichite, and descloizite, all of which are formed through the oxidation of lead ores, are particularly well represented in the collection. He also collected an interesting selection of agates (The E.M. Barron Agate Collection). Take a virtual tour of the E. M. Barron Exhibit of Minerals and Gem Collections (PDF).

The Vargas Collection: This collection including thirty-nine faceted gemstones was donated by Glenn and Martha Vargas of Thermal, California. Most of the gemstones in this collection are semi-precious minerals, such as tourmaline, quartz, or Mexican cherry opal. Glenn and Martha Vargas were mineral collectors and lapidarians (individuals expert at cutting and polishing gemstones), and it was they who faceted the gemstones in this collection. They have written five books on the faceting of gemstones and have taught numerous students at the University of Texas at Austin the fine art of lapidary. Click here for a searchable database of photos and descriptions of the more than 6300 minerals, gems and gemstones in this collection.

Rock and Mineral Research Collection: This collection consists of rock and mineral specimens collected for research purposes by scientists at the Texas Memorial Museum, the Bureau of Economic Geology, and the Department of Geological Sciences in the Jackson School of Geosciences.  This collection consists primarily of rocks collected as part of early geological mapping of Texas along with theses and dissertation collections.

The Education Collection: This is a systematic mineral collection classified according to atomic composition and structure, including several thousand mineral specimens and a few rocks, collected in large part by museum staff. Glen Evans was a major contributor to the collection during his tenure at the Texas Memorial Museum. It includes a large number of well-formed calcite and gypsum crystals from caves in Brewster and other Texas counties, and fluorite from Eagle Mountain (one of the sources of fluorine used by the allies during the Second World War).

Basement Collection

Basement rocks are igneous and metamorphic rocks, largely Precambrian in age. They form part of the continental crust and are often deeply buried by younger sedimentary rocks.

“Buried basement rocks of the United States of America and Canada” was a study completed by a group of geologists in 1964. It was headed by the late William R. Muehlberger (Jackson School of Geosciences).

Rock samples, mineral separations and thin sections used to complete the study are held in this repository.

Building Stones

A small collection of building stones was gathered by the Bureau of Economic Geology in the 1940s. It was part of their research to find economic minerals in the state and to select suitable building materials. The slabs remain in the collection.

Other Rocks

These collections include the following:

The Von Streeruwitz and William F. Cummins specimens from the Dumble Third Geological Survey of Texas

W. B. Phillips specimens from the Museum of Economic Geology, many of which were exhibited at the St. Louis Exposition

The Bureau of Economic Geology mapping voucher specimens.

Texas Memorial Museum specimens, many of which were exhibited at the Texas Centennial Exhibition.

Robert Moore Placer Gravels from Alaska and elsewhere.

Theses and dissertations samples largely derived from studies at the University of Texas at Austin.