Saturday, February 27, 2010

Alfredo Petrov: One of a Kind

When asked where he lives, Alfredo Petrov answers "kind of out of my suitcase," and likes to joke that he personally has kept American Airlines out of bankruptcy. " He adds: "I have my rocks, my microscopes, and my clothes scattered about homes on four continents." This makes sense for someone who deals minerals at 16 shows every year (three in Japan, two in Europe, and eleven in the United States). In addition to these shows, Alfredo and partner Frank deWit operate a mineral travel business that escorts collectors on trips to such destinations as Bolivia, Greenland, Portugal, Morocco, Spain, Switzerland, Italy and Japan.

Alfredo was born in Great Britain of a Russian father and German mother. He attended high school in Ethiopia where, as the only white student among 800 who were black, remembers himself as having been "kind of like the school pet." He began college in Beirut, Lebanon, because of its proximity to Ethiopia and ended up in the U.S., graduating with a degree in geology from San Diego State. Among other places he has since lived and worked are Japan, where he worked as a translator, and in Peekskill, New York, working as an assistant to Tony Nikischer of Mineral News. At all the shows around the world where he sets up shop, the sign announcing his presence reads, "Alfredo Petrov: Bolivia." That is where he was living and working as a geologist for the Bolivian government when he first began selling minerals internationally.

Most of the world's phosphophyllite, which numerous credible dealers refer to as "the Holy Grail of minerals," comes from Boliva, and Alfredo believes that he's supplied more than half of of all that's hit the market over the past several years. The Holy Grail tag attached itself at the end of the 1990's, when phosphophyllite had become all but extinct at the only major locality that produced it, namely the Unificado Mine in Cerro Rico near Potosi. In more recent years, after acquiring specimens from two new Bolivian localities, Alfredo became the man to see for it. He quickly points out, however, that these newer localities never produce specimens as gemmy as those from the original locality

Alfredo credits Rock Currier for bringing him to Tucson and getting him started as a mineral dealer. "Rock Currier," he says "did more than anyone to internationalize the major shows. The big shows didn't use to be international then like they are now. Then, in the late 1970's, he (Rock) started finding people in Third World countries, taught them how to be mineral dealers, and brought them here."

Most of the minerals Alfredo sells (about 80 per cent, he says) are to other dealers who resell them in stores, and on the Internet. Without exception, the selection is eclectic, diverse, and dominated by specimens that are rare and/or for one reason or another unusual. Many he has either field collected himself or obtained at shows in different parts of the world. Those at left, for instance are from Japan. The labels are in Alfredo's distinctive handwriting and come in different shapes, colors, and sizes.

Alfredo is also an avid micromounter and writes for numerous publications including Rocks and Minerals, Mineralogical Record, Mineral News, and Lapis. He is also a major player at Mindat. More than anything, he's one of a kind.


  1. Not to mention that Alfredo is very friendly and willing to share his knowledge with those who know less.

  2. That is so true. Extremely sociable, his knowledge is amazing, and he shares it everywhere.