Pietro Sigismund

by Antonio Costa

Pietro Sigismund.

There is a mention as far back in history as Pliny the Elder (in 77 AD ) of the green stone extracted in the province of Sondrio and used to cook food (soapstone).
Then, sporadic news appeared of stones and minerals found in the province.

In 1834, a first treatise on the geo-minerological aspects of the province of Sondrio was published in Milan (Medical Statistics Topography of the Province of Sondrio), a study by Lodovico Balardini, a vet from Morbegno.

However, it was not until almost the end of the nineteenth century that more reliable research and studies appeared on the minerals present in our valleys.
A major contribution, which gave him the title of "forerunner of the mineral prospectors in Valtellina and Valchiavenna”, was made by Pietro Sigismund (1874-1962).
He was the first to dedicate his leisure time to search for minerals in our province and to establish the first links with the major minerologists and with the universities. In doing so, he made the first discoveries and the first scientific analyses, which made the province of Sondrio, and the Valmalenco in particular, internationally well-known.

Pietro Sigismund was a tradesman, owner of a shop in Milan. He came to the Valtellina for the first time in 1894 to Sondalo, where he met don Nicolo’ Zacaria, a scholar and collector of minerals of the area. They began to search together.

When he arrived by chance in the Valmalenco, he was particularly struck by the beauty of the area and by the presence of so many types of minerals.
He fell in love with the place to the extent that he built himself a home in Chiesa Valmalenco as a base for his searches. It was to be his refuge for all the spare time left by his business.

He continued his search until, at the age of 80, after 60 years of searching, an accident left him paralised and unable to move.
Nevertheless, he continued his dedication to minerals and collected notes and studies, which would constitute the foundation for mineralogical research to continue in the valley, thanks to his precise indication of the places and their respective altitudes.
After the age of 70, he was accompanied in his searches by friends from the hamlet of Sasso, by the Lotti and Dell’Andrino families and others.
Luigi Magistretti, Carlo Maria Gramaccioli, Fulvio Grazioli and Guiscardo Guicciardi also joined him.
Thanks to them. Valmalenco and the province of Sondrio became renowned throughout the world for the presence of beautiful, very rare and occasionally unique minerals.

The ill-fated day of the death of Pietro Sigismund, 10 July 1962, was one of great sadness for Chiesa Valmalenco and for the entire Valtellina.
It marked the disappearance of a man and scholar, who had given so much to our mountains.
In 1971, the Municipality of Chiesa named a new road and later, in 1976, the new Middle High School after him.

On his death, the first Mineral Collection of the Valmalenco and Valtellina, preserved in Milan and consisting of approximately 1700 pieces, was given to the Museum of the ”Institut für Kristallographie und Petrographie della Eitgenossiche Technische Hochschule” (Polytechnic) in Zurich.

Today, the second collection stored in the Valmalenco, recently catalogued by the Istituto Valtellinese di Mineralogia [Valtellina Institute of Minerology], is kept in the exhibition room of the Service Centre (TECA) in Chiesa Valmalenco.

Pietro Sigismund at the age of 80.

Scientific notes on the research by Pietro Sigismund

Minerals discovered for the first time in the world and in Italy by Pietro Sigismund

Artinite (1902)
Discovered for the first time in the world by Sigismund on Mount Motta and studied by Prof. Brugnatelli.
Named Artinite in honour of Prof. Ettore Artini from the Politecnico in Milan.

Nesquehonite (1921)
Discovered for the first time in Italy by Sigismund and Artini on Mount Motta in the Valmalenco.

Morenosite (1930)
Discovered by Sigismund for the first time in Italy on Pizzo Pradaccio in the Valmalenco,

Works published by Pietro Sigismund

  • 1901 - I minerali del Comune di Sondalo (highly recommended by the Gazzetta di Torino, by the Rivista Italiana di Scienze Naturali, by Hermann Creder of the Regio Istituto Sassone di Geologia di Lipsia, by Prof. Groth of the Istituto di Cristallografia e Mineralogia dell’Università di Monaco di Baviera.
  • 1946 - Due interessanti paragenesi della Magnetite in Valmalenco.
  • 1947 - Granato e Vesuvianite in Valmalenco.
  • 1949 - Perovskite in Valmalenco.
  • 1949 - Titanclinohumite, Olivina e Ripidolite in Valmalenco.
  • 1953 - Article published in the magazine “Valtellina e Valchiavenna” of the Chamber of Commerce of Sondrio entitled “I Minerali Valtellinesi”.

Works on Pietro Sigismund and his Collections

Two volumes have been published on the research by Pietro Sigismund and his Collection.

The first entitled I minerali Valtellinesi nella raccolta di Pietro Sigismund was written by Prof. Carlo Maria Gramaccioli, using the precise, detailed notes taken from Pietro Sigismund. Edited in Milan in 1962.

The second entitled da Chiesa Valmalenco… written by his daughter, Carla Cecchi Sigismund, on the thirtieth anniversary of the death of her father.

All the notes given on Pietro Sigismund were taken from the two volumes mentioned above.