New Native Elements Update 27 April 2021

27 April 2021

WE are going back to basics this week by looking at Native Elements, the fundamental building blocks of all matter, minerals included!

An element is a pure substance which is indivisible. There are 94 naturally occurring elements found on Earth ranging from Hydrogen through to Plutonium. All elements above Plutonium in the periodic table, another 24 beginning with Americium, have been artificially produced in nuclear reactors. The Native Elements are always the first group represented in a systematic collection and there are a surprising number which do occur naturally on Earth, so remaining unaltered by chemical reaction.

Many mineral collectors (and chemists) like to create a representative layout of the periodic table in a drawer, box, coffee table or wall display in which a sample of each element is displayed in its appropriate position. This is far from easy to achieve, for gases must be contained in sealed glass phials and among the 94 elements, many are so corrosive (fluorine for example) and toxic (strongly radioactive elements) that symbols need to be substituted for the real thing. Some elements are impossible to obtain, astatine for example, as is it calculated at any given moment only a few grammes exist within the entire Earth.

Our selection this week includes many fine specimens of Native Gold (Au) and Silver (Ag), some of the Silvers occurring as choice pseudomorphs. Other native metals include Platinum (Pt) and Copper (Cu) and even a Mercury (Hg) amalgam with silver. Non-metals include Carbon (C) in the form of Diamond and Sulphur (S).

Our range of Native Coppers include specimens from Russia, Cornwall (England) and a historic piece from Lake Superior surrounding the shoreline of Keweenaw County in Upper Michigan. And talking of historic pieces, they don’t get more historic than an amazing (and beautiful) section of a wooden pit prop (aka mine prop) dating back 2,500 years to Classical Greek times from the Mavrovouni mine in Cyprus. The wood is remarkably well preserved with the majority of Native Copper has been deposited within the outwardly radiating medullary rays, perpendicular to the annual growth rings.

Native Golds are to be found from Roşia Montană and Baia de Arieş in Romania; the 16 to 1 and Eagle's Nest mines in California and Beresowsk in Russia. And our variety of Native Silver specimens span from Santiago Alto mine in Bolivia; Příbram in the Czech Republic; Eisleben, Germany and to Arqueros in Chile.

Our representation of the element Carbon is a superb lustrous colourless diamond measuring to a little over 5mm in Kimberlite matrix. Diamond is a polymorph of Carbon, its other natural mineral forms being Chaoite, Graphite and Lonsdaleite. Buckminsterfullerene does occur naturally, but as far as I know, only outside of Earth, in stars, planetary nebulae and the interstellar medium.

Let’s round up today’s section with a Native Sulphur from the Machów mine in Poland. Bright canary yellow Native Sulphur forms small crystals and granular infillings between the roots of fine Celestine crystals, the natural form of strontium sulphate.

The Native Elements underpin all known mineral species, so form a great core from which to expand a more diverse collection. It is also interesting to examine the natural metallic elements and ponder on their close proximities in the periodic table, yet their very different properties. For example, why out of the 82 natural metals are 80 different shades of silver except for gold and copper? And why when gold and mercury differ in atomic number by only one, is one solid and one liquid at room temperature?

Enjoy looking through our Native Elements and hopefully you will spot that must have specimen for your own collection.


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Author: JH
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