New England Update 23 April 2021

23 April 2021

Today, April 23, is Saint George’s Day. Saint George is the patron saint of England, so English minerals are this week’s theme. Not a lot is known about Saint George, but he lived in the latter half of the third century AD and died in 303 AD during what is termed the Diocletianic Persecution, a period marking the zenith of Christian persecution throughout the Roman Empire. It is likely he was an officer in the Roman army, but having become a Christian, was executed for refusing to make a sacrifice to the pagan gods. All the more mythical embellishments, for example the slaying of a dragon, were added probably a thousand years after his death.

Despite the mineral wealth and diversity within the British Isles, mineral collecting got off to a late start compared to continental Europe. Interest was initially stirred when a young Isaac Newton decided to assemble a collection of ore minerals following his appointment as professor at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1669. The first record of an important collection was that now housed in the Ashmolean Museum in the University of Oxford, when the collections of John Tradescant Sr. and Jr. and Robert Hubert were amalgamated in 1677.

As always, we present 21 specimens in today’s update, all of which are English and include numerous classic localities and species. Here we highlight a few to intrigue and entice you to delving in a little deeper and then wander through the entire update.

We begin with a beautiful red and white Quartz Eisenkiesel from the Frizington mining district of west Cumbria, resplendent in the colours of Saint George. This amazing large cabinet specimen forms an almost 16 x 15 cm arrow-shaped plate covered with excellent, mainly double terminated stubby Quartz crystals most of which are included with smoky burgundy red Hematite in their surface layers.

Let’s continue with a few different English localities to those more frequently mentioned. We have a very rich specimen of 'Jack Straw' Cerussite from Stanhopeburn mine in Weardale. The Cerussite forms a dense interlocking mass of rod-like prismatic crystals to 3.4 cm long and is accompanied with a Sir Arthur Russell hand-written label.

Travelling south into Derbyshire and close to Ashford-in-the-Water, during the Victorian era Magpie mine produced lead, but is now famous for its superb Calcite. We have a remarkable large cabinet crystal of golden Calcite some 14.5 cm tall. Then from Burgam mine at Stiperstones in Shropshire, a fabulous bright mossy leaf green Pyromorphite.

Over the past few centuries England has produced some of the world’s best specimens of Fluorite. Today we have seven for you to enjoy and all are markedly different. The highlight is surely that from Middlehope Shield mine in Weardale, County Durham, this specimen having come from the historic discovery in autumn 1818 when the first recorded occurrence of emerald green Fluorite in Weardale was made. This magnificent cabinet specimen displays all the characteristics associated with this mine: interpenetrant twins of gemmy leafy emerald green Fluorite, some showing colour zoning; good natural daylight fluorescence; slightly bevelled, rounded edges and the distinctive arenaceous sandy limestone matrix.

The other Fluorites includes fine examples of mauve from Carn Brea mine near Redruth; various shades of green from West Pasture, Frazer’s Hush, Diana Maria and Rogerley mines, all in Weardale; purple-edged colourless-white crystals from Trollers Gill in Skyreholme Beck Valley, Yorkshire and a stunning yellow Fluorite from Hilton mine in Scordale, Cumbria. You may have spotted green Fluorite is mentioned here from Frazer’s Hush. This mine is known for its highly daylight fluorescent purple Fluorite, but occasionally good green specimens were encountered and this is one.

As a final teaser, we must give mention to some old Cornish favourites: a magnificent Quartz crystal included with Rutile from Lanterdan quarry at Tintagel; a superb Tetrahedrite with Chalcopyrite and Galena encrusting thick tabular pseudomorphs of Quartz after Baryte from Herodsfoot and a wonderous Chalcedony from Trevascus mine at Carnhell Green. This is a majestic beast containing mouth-like openings surrounded by inwardly curved Chalcedony fangs; a beast Saint George would have been proud to slay, the stuff of monster movie nightmares, but mineralogist’s dreams. Only buy it if you dare!

England is lucky to be endowed with such wonderful minerals and hopefully you will find something today which will make a significant addition to your collection. Enjoy!

Here is what you have to look forward to in next week's update:

Tuesday 27th & Friday 30th April - Native Elements


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Author: JH
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