This is the first time the World Institute of Minerals has held its Expo in the Principality of Monaco. 60 exhibitors from Pakistan, Morocco, Spain, Madagascar, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Mexico and also Monaco share their passion and offer real wonders: crystals from around the world, infinitely colourful minerals, shells, jewellery, fascinating precious stones and rare gems, fossils dating back 500 million years (giant ammonites, dinosaur bones, reptiles etc ..), carved and polished stones (spheres and statuettes), and meteorites.
There are good reasons to visit Mineral Expo MONACO other than marvel at this fabulous diversity of stones with multiple shapes and colours, whose sparkles illuminate the Espace Charenton. Understand the history and origin of the stones, how they are extracted, carved and mounted in jewellery. Experts will be happy to identify your own stones without charge. And it’s the festive season, what better opportunity than to find original Christmas gifts for your loved ones.
Visit and take the kids. It is an educational goldmine, surprisingly rich in natural stimulation for children. You will find both you and your kids exposed to a journey through the world’s continents. If you have played a game on the computer “Where in the world is Carmen SanDiego”, then you will find MINERAL EXPO MONACO is a delightful non-digital, and more natural way of doing the same thing. Rare crystal formations from Brazil, slightly scary centipede fossils from Morocco, dinosaur bones from the Western Sahara, superb aesthetic crafted objects d’art made from minerals from India, rare gems from Mozambique and Kenya; the geographical journey continues almost endlessly. And it’s not just geography that teases our brains but the historical displays are a magnet for the children, too, including prehistoric tools and weapons, Stone Age axes and arrows and literally “out of this world” the opportunity to explore outer-space via meteorites from Mars or the moon.
What is comforting and different about the experience offered by this Expo is that everything is on a human scale. The learning is playful and almost by stealth, because it is fun for the curious. Do you ever find yourself overwhelmed at the Louvre or at the British Museum. Not so at the Mineral Expo Monaco.
With or without children the EXPO is a must to visit because there you will find world class exhibits that it is almost impossible to see elsewhere. HelloMonaco talked to a charming couple from Belgium who were experts in Prehistory and Primitive Art. We were first attracted to their display because of an unusual collection of large well preserved, almost fossilized skeletal remains of exotic African beasts such as rhinoceros and wild boar. Each piece stood out aesthetically and we talked to Michel Van Den Dries about his clientele. He does a thriving business with architects who seek out unique pieces for interior decoration. Just about anyone interested in exotic collectibles would enjoy spending time here. Then there are serious collectors who seek out the best items from his selection of prehistoric tools and weapons. Prehistory is his passion. Go to the EXPO just to share the enthusiasm of the presenters. They will tell you their stories – it is enjoyable theatre in itself. It turns out he collected fossils as a boy and just followed his natural instinct for collecting. He and his wife concentrate on about 6 EXPOS each year and that is it. That is their life; even on holiday they go find more rare items to take to expos. It is a good life, good enough to bring up two children, one of whom has become a fashion photographer but prefers to collect beautiful women to photograph rather than prehistoric objects, his wife told HelloMonaco while laughing. Go for the camaraderie. You will enjoy talking to these special people – their enthusiasm rubs off.
HelloMonaco sought out Jean Marie Hahn, one of the organisers. We asked him to guide us to his favourite part of the EXPO. “Come with me”, he said, “I will show you the best display of mineral objet d’art it is possible to see, the very best quality from the number one dealer in France.” And he introduced us to Francoise and Gilles Barras-Gautier. Their display is stunning; each piece has a unique beauty, each rare mineral shape then crafted to produce these quite large pieces of mineral sculptured art. And it is only at top EXPOS that they present. You cannot see or buy these pieces elsewhere.
Good things come in threes, and so HelloMonaco sought out one more exhibiter to interview. And we came across Igor de Castro whose family own a mine in Brazil. Show us the item of which you are most proud, we asked. And Igor rose to the challenge holding up a large rare white quartz crystalline mass attractively shaped like the outline of a map of Brazil. How much craftmanship went into that we wanted to know as Igor responded, “no, no it is unique, it is rare, it has not been cut, it is completely natural”.
Meeting the people and discussing their life’s work is as enjoyable as seeing the extraordinary displays themselves. Go and talk with them – it’s fun. Buy if you wish but the human experiences are priceless in themselves and you will return home full of stories to share with your friends.
It is impossible not to pass things that are exotic, strange and wonderful, even as you leave – a fossilized collection of centipedes from Morocco (a little scary), a rare collection of tourmalines on display from Topazes Imperiales, the list is varied and almost endless. We at HelloMonaco feel we need to come back again to see more.
Spend a second day perhaps – at 6 euros it is an experience not to be missed.