John A. Jones - Collector Profile

16 November 2018

Collector Profile
John A. Jones


John A. Jones


John Jones was born in 1936 in Kegworth, Derbyshire and still lives there today.  He studied at Loughborough College and worked as an engineer, toolmaker and toolroom foreman with Slack and Parr Ltd., a precision engineering company specialising in textile engineering. John and his wife Shirley are very well known within all the British mineral and mine research groups and societies. John is a highly skilled photographer and is an Associate of The Royal Photographic Society (ARPS), specialising in wild orchids, lichens and alpine plants.  Through this work and an extensive programme of lectures and presentations he is also highly respected within wildlife, botanical and photographic circles. 

Mineral collecting

John first became interested in minerals and mineral collecting in 1962, when he tried pitching his tent on the spoil heap of the Ecton Copper mine in the Manifold Valley of Shropshire.  He recalls "the pegs wouldn't go in!" but on investigating the reason, found some excellent specimens!!  This serendipitous incident was to alter his entire life and today John is regarded as one of the top mineral collectors in the UK.

Primarily a field collector, most of John’s collection is self-collected, although many fine specimens were also bought and traded for self-collected material. John is what one would term a “serious field collector”, in that he made collecting trips on a very regular basis, often underground, to both well documented mines and those requiring digging out and new exploration work.  It is strongly rumoured there is not a hole in the entirety of Derbyshire he has not been down!

His lifetime of highly successful collecting was also enhanced in that the 1960's, 70's and even the 1980's are now regarded as golden years for collecting; due to open access and a greater abundance of high-grade material. As we moved into the 1990's, many mine sites were becoming less rewarding due to continuous collecting and many becoming inaccessible because of restrictions imposed by health and safety regulations in mines and quarries and legislation which bans collecting; for example, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

Having always lived in Derbyshire, John’s collection is naturally rich in specimens from this historic mining district, together with nearby counties like Staffordshire, Shropshire and Leicestershire.

Farther afield from the Midlands region, John collected extensively in Cornwall and with the aid of various good contacts, made numerous fine additions to his collection.

One such contact was a Shift Boss at Wheal Jane, an old mine at Baldhu, near to Truro, that was reworked between 1969 and 1992.  When visiting the mine John was permitted to go underground for an entire shift to collect but was always warned to ensure he was ready and waiting to return "to grass" at the end of the shift otherwise he would have to remain underground for the entire next shift!  John also built a good suite of specimens from the South Crofty mine at Pool, between Redruth and Camborne, which included many unusual and scientifically significant specimens of familiar species, but of rare form or mineralogical association.

A very good friend of John’s was the late Maurice Grigg, whom many collectors will remember with great affection and respect.  Maurice worked his entire life in the Cornish china clay industry and had access to most of the many operating pits around St. Austell.  Through this close friendship, John formed a significant sub-collection of very-fine minerals associated with the St. Austell Granite Complex, including several magnificent smoky quartz groups with sceptred crystals.

Mineral and Mining Societies

The Russell Society: The Russell Society (RS) is a British society for both amateur and professional mineralogists interested in the study and recording of British Topographical Mineralogy. It is named in honour of Sir Arthur Russell, 6th Baronet (30 November 1878 - 24 February 1964), probably the most important private collector of British minerals of all time.

Together with Dr Bob King, Dr Roger Harker (of Lythe Minerals, Leicester), Michael E. Smith, Joan Plummer and many others, John was one of the founding members of the Society in October 1972. He has been a central Branch Committee member from 1972 to the present day and held the position of President for the term 1981-1983. John taught Geology and Mineralogy at WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) evening classes at Glenfield and Groby in Leicester between 1971 and 1978 with many of his students being early members of the Russell Society.

To mark the twentieth anniversary of the Society in 1992, the Russell Medal was inaugurated for exceptional contributions to mineralogy and in 2003 John was jointly awarded this with Colin Sparrow by Prof. Alan Dyer.

Wirksworth Mines Research Group: The WMRG was formed in the early 1980s by a small group who came together because of their common interest in old mine workings and their exploration, mine artefacts and the mining history of this area of Derbyshire. After exploring and surveying many local mines, the attention of the group was focused on Bage Mine in Bolehill near Wirksworth.

Some of the projects John has been, and remains, involved with (both RS and WMRG) include:

Auctions, Lectures and Publications

Over the years John has helped organise several auctions to sell-on the mineral collections of other collectors.  Notably John acted as auctioneer at four of the most famous of these, all now enshrined in British mineral collecting legend and events for which people still ask, “were you at that?”  Many readers will well recall some or all of these:

Since 1988 John has been a regular speaker to geological societies, natural history societies, wildlife trusts, photographic societies and other groups across the Midlands and enjoys doing so to this day.  In total he has clocked-up an amazing 350 such lectures including topics entitled "Underground in Derbyshire’s Old Metal Mines" and "Life in the Darkness" the latter looking at wildlife in the old mine workings.  In addition to this impressive record, he has delivered his presentation “The Wild Orchids of Derbyshire” some 235 times! Some of John’s many publications are noted further below.

The John Jones Mineral Collection

Visitors to John’s house will remember his mineral collection being housed in several double drawer cabinets, plus a display case of worldwide minerals. All the cabinet drawers were numbered and labelled, and the specimens arranged by locality.  Impressive suites were built, especially from the mines in which John undertook Russell Society and Wirksworth Group project work; Golconda and Bage mines in particular.

Around 15 of John's specimens feature in Roy Starkey’s book Minerals of the English Midlands, published in September 2018.  From this brief snapshot, the quality and often rarity of the specimens stands out and images include beautiful sawn pseudo-stalactitic baryte sections from the Portway Mine on Dirtlow Rake, Derbyshire and very fine aurichalcite from Golconda mine at Hopton.

Venturing away from his usual stamping ground, the Cornish section of the collection is particularly rich in high quality minerals associated with the china clay pits of the St. Austell district.  Many fine specimens also cover the Land’s End and Camborne-Redruth mining districts, including the famous arsenate secondaries of the St. Day area. John’s collection includes some very fine Wheal Jane material self-collected during its period of operation under RTZ (Rio Tinto Zinc).

John also did a lot of research and collecting in mid-Wales, culminating in the publication of the book "The Mines and Minerals of Mid-Wales", jointly written with Nigel Moreton (Jones and Moreton, 1977). Consequently, the collection contains many interesting location pieces from Wales.

Localities well-represented in John's collection are noted in the following table:

Dispersal of Collection

Like so many collectors, John’s family has no particular interest in minerals, so in 2018 he sold the collection to Ian Bruce at Crystal Classics Fine Minerals in Somerset.  The collection will first be made available to collectors at the Crystal Classics Winter Open Day, on Saturday 24th November 2018; an opportunity to obtain some very fine specimens from a very fine collector.

Selected Publications:

Ford, T. and Jones, J.A. (2006) Black baryte from Derbyshire in Mercian Geologist. Vol. 16, No. 4.  pp. 276-277.

Jones, J.A. and Moreton, N.J.M. (1977) The Mines and Minerals of Mid-Wales (North Cardigan and West Montgomery).  Published by the Authors.

Jones, J.A., (1982) Mineralogy of Bage Mine in Bulletin of the Peak District Mines Historical Society. Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 260-261.

Jones, J.A., (2008) The Big Hole of Starkholmes in Mercian Geologist.  Vol. 17, No. 1, pp. 19-22.

Jones, J.A., (2010) The Golconda Mine Orebody in Mercian Geologist. Vol. 17, No. 3, pp. 203-205.


Galena with Sphalerite and Fluorite Baryte Stalactite section
Millclose Mine, South Darley, Matlock Dirtlow Rake, Castleton
Derbyshire, England Derbyshire, England
4.6 x 4.4 x 1.5 cm 4.1 x 2.9 x 2.1 cm
Ex. John A. Jones Collection Ex. John A. Jones Collection


Sincere thanks go to John Jones, Chris Jewson, Roy Starkey and Ian Bruce for various pieces of background information.

Written by: Philip G. Taylor, Crystal Classics Fine Minerals Ltd.

Images copyright: Philip G. Taylor (J.A.J., taken at the Trevor Bridges mineral auction, 2016); Crystal Classics Fine Minerals Ltd. (mineral specimens).

Author: SC, PT & HS
Categories: Mineralogical Articles, News & Information

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