New British Update 29 October 2021

14 October 2021

OUR British specimens perfectly accompany this week’s Halloween theme because the list of British writers of some of the most spine-chilling ghost and horror stories is long and illustrious.

Names which immediately spring to mind include Bram Stoker (Dracula), Mary Shelley (Frankenstein), M.R. James (Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad), Robert Louis Stevenson (Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) and Charles Dickens (No. 1 Branch Line: The Signal-Man).  Following on from Tuesday we offer you a spellbinding mix of ghostly greens, wraithish whites and spectral silvers, all of witch (sorry) will haunt you as all good minerals should!  Gather-up courage and let’s embark on a tour of British specimens from mines where even sprites, spriggans and hobgoblins dare not tread!

Spriggans were thought to dwell in Cornish mines, so we’ll begin in this most famous of mining counties.  The large cabinet specimen of wax-melt Chalcedony from Trevascus mine in the parish of Gwinear really is quite specter-like, composed of interlaced delicate stalactites of translucent-opaque creamy tan Chalcedony.  It has a lovely translucency with often a bubbly structure incorporated within the tentacle-like glassy branches.  Progressing to a ghoulish green, the Olivenite from Wheal Gorland is a beauty with a display face of roughly 5 x 5 cm covered in a sparkling druse of lustrous Olivenite crystals.  Also from Cornwall, do take a look at a lovely old-time Chalcocite labelled Redruthite, its original name, from the Washington A. Roebling Collection.  There is also a fine Native Copper from the St. Just mining district near to Land’s End and a Cuprite with Native Copper from Gwennap parish.

Still in the southwest of England, we have a small miniature from the famous Torr Works quarry (aka Merehead quarry) in Somerset displaying the rare oxychloride minerals Chloroxiphite, Mendipite, Diaboleite and Paralaurionite.

Remaining with rare minerals but moving up-country to Yorkshire, from the Boulby mine at Loftus (close to Staithes and Whitby) we have a pumpkin coloured Volkovskite dusted with white to pale lemon-yellow delicate clusters of Szaibélyite.  This large cabinet specimen is accompanied with its exact location from Panel 848 in this mine, which extends far out beneath the North Sea at a depth of around 1100 m.

Wales is represented by a splendid Millerite on ironstone from Coed-Ely Colliery in Rhondda Cynon Taf, about 25 km northwest of Cardiff.  Delicate acicular needles of Millerite project out above the Siderite-lined vug with crystals measuring to 2 cm long as lustrous, silvery siskin green needles in two distinct diverging sprays.  Our warning with this specimen is not of a supernatural nature but simply, think before you handle it, as a wrongly placed finger could crush the projecting needles.  Coed-Ely Colliery was the most famous of all the Millerite-producing coal mines in South Wales, but sadly closed in November 1986.

Scotland has many famous haunted houses, castles and battlefields.  No doubt many a reader will be familiar with the likes of Glencoe and Culloden, and the castles at Edinburgh, Eilean Donan and Stirling; all places only the most daring should visit this Halloween!  I would much prefer the shivers of delight delivered by our two specimens from the Leadhills-Wanlockhead mining district.  From the Leadhills side of the ore field we have a lovely Leadhillite with Caledonite, Leadhills being the type locality for both species.  Transparent, highly lustrous pseudo-hexagonal Leadhillite crystals richly line part of a 3.5 x 2.5 cm vug in a brecciated veinstone matrix.  Several fine crystals also sit outside the vug and typically measure to 5 mm between flats.  To complete this fine specimen, turquoise blue Caledonite crystals are also scattered along one side of the vug plus a few inside it.

Also from Leadhills is a characteristic Galena.  The part-crystal is a cuboctahedron of a semi-lustrous lead grey measuring 3.7 cm at its widest point and 5.5 cm wide overall.  The crystal displays attractive surface growth patterns, those on the upper face looking like billowing stacked clouds and is accompanied with a fully intact, if somewhat crumpled, Francis H. Butler label which dates from between 1884 and 1887.

Other specimens which must be mentioned include a Phosgenite on Galena and Baryte from Bage mine in Derbyshire; Witherite with Alstonite from Fallowfield mine, Northumberland; Fluorites from Allenheads mine (Northumberland), Cambokeels mine (County Durham) and a stunning zingy apple-green specimen from West Pasture mine in Weardale.

Finally, we must tell you about today’s two fabulous Cumbrian Baryte specimens.  One of the delights of the quite limited range of minerals from the iron mines of west Cumbria in northwest England is that they adopt so many habits and combinations, their variation in aesthetics is endless. One is an 11 x 12 cm dome of lustrous cream Dolomite crystals overgrown by excellent Baryte crystals and a druse of terminated tiny candy-pink Calcite crystals.  The largest Baryte crystal measures 7 cm wide and stands over 5 cm tall above the Baryte and Calcite in which its base is nestled.  This particular crystal is a uniform 1 cm thick and forms a pseudo-octahedral prism of golden tan with a jagged crystallised cap of translucent milky to colourless Baryte.

The other Cumbria Baryte is one of great contrast to the latter, comprising of two slender, 8.5 cm long smoky blue, double terminated Baryte crystals forming a wide V-shaped ex-matrix specimen with attractive overgrowths of Dolomite, Calcite and Hematite.  It is accompanied with an old handwritten and stamped William Weigand (Berlin W.) label and a Lidstrom’s (Prineville, Oregon) label.  The latter states it is from the Carl Bosch Collection.

So there you have it, a winning combination of classic British minerals along with classic British ghost stories.   I would recommend sampling a little of both to induce spine-tingling shivers of ghostly terror and mineralogical delight!  Enjoy our update and any Halloween festivities, such you indulge, and we’ll be back next Tuesday, providing all ghouls, ghosts and goblins are kept at bay!

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

Tuesday 2nd November - Africa

Friday 5th November - South America


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Author: JH
Categories: Updates

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