Marco Campos-Venuti

The author, born in 1965, is a volcanologist with a PhD, has produced numerous scientific publications and was the founder and editor of the Rivista Gemmologica Italiana.

He has thoroughly studied the genesis of agate and jasper and is probably the most prominent scientist in the world on this subject. Since childhood he has been a passionate collector of stones, and has always been curious to investigate their origin, amassing an important collection of minerals, mostly agates and jaspers.

His first major discovery was that the microcrystalline varieties of silica are produced by aggregation into polymers and not by following the laws of traditional crystallography. This implies that between the diluted solution and the final solid the silica passes through a colloidal gel/sol phase with characteristic properties.

The first consequence is that in the crystallization of polymers, the presence of water is the most important parameter and therefore the succession of wet-dry cycles is the basis of all the numerous structures present in agates and jaspers. These cycles are nothing but the seasons and therefore the counting of certain structures such as the bands of agates or the circles of orbed jaspers allow us to calculate the development times of the structure.

The second consequence is that these processes obviously involve low temperatures, since the gels, being rich in water, are unstable above the boiling temperature. Although most scholars still associate these materials with postmagmatic processes. The low temperatures and the frequent association with hydrothermal springs suggested to the author the possibility of an association with extremophile bacterial faunas.

From here the author began to develop his research on bacterial biomineralization in the deep biosphere, identifying numerous contexts associated with minerals and crystals in which bacterial biofilms develop.

The presence of life in agates, quartz, jaspers and many other minerals has led to the discovery of new ecosystems for life, previously unknown to science. It is a real revolution in the earth sciences, in biology and microbiology.

For this reason the book “Biominerals” has developed from the initial project of a descriptive text on inclusions in agates, to a long manual that deals with very different minerals and creates a new classification system of microbialites in the deep biosphere based on the available space. Numerous mineral samples that fill the display cases of mineralogy museums around the world will have to be reviewed and reclassified thanks to this new model.

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