New British Update 11 February 2022

11 February 2022

OUR update today is Britain and Ireland and of the 21 specimens we have assembled, 18 are miniatures, some perhaps just marginally over. Although the lion’s share are from England we do have two lovely Galena specimens, one from Ireland and one from Scotland, both very characteristic of their famous localities.

As nearly always, Cornwall features strongly, then we cover various counties including Derbyshire, Durham, Cumbria and Yorkshire. There are also three localities which I don’t think we have ever featured before, Porthgwarra in Cornwall, Pikedaw-Grizedales in Yorkshire and Rose Rake in Derbyshire. Although perhaps not that showy, there are some specimens which add depth, interest and even kudos to a specialised collection, for example one of the now famous axe-head twinned Calcite crystals from Bonsall Moor and a charming glass phial containing 13 pieces of alluvial Cassiterite, known as Steam Tin, from Tregoss Moor near St. Dennis in Cornwall. For all fans of Cassiterite, and we know there are many, we include two other Cornish localities, specimens both pervaded with crystals.

Looking a little closer, let’s begin with the aforementioned Galena. That from Scotland is from the New Glencrieff Vein at Wanlockhead, a bright metallic elongated cuboid crystal measuring to 2.2 cm with corners modified to the octahedron. This dominates the specimen and is surrounded by many much smaller but similarly modified regular cubic crystals, all sat on a lustrous black Sphalerite matrix. A little brassy Chalcopyrite just adds to its overall fabulous aesthetic. The Galena from Ireland is, you’ve already guessed, from Mogul mine in the Silvermines District of County Tipperary. These specimens never fail to please and this intergrown cluster of bright metallic silver dodecahedral crystals certainly ticks this box. The largest crystal is over 3 cm wide and across the base adhere tiny creamy lemon Dolomite and sub-millimetre golden Pyrite crystals.

Next to our three new localities, let’s work from north to south. The Pikedaw-Grizedales Veins near Craven in North Yorkshire have produced this Azurite which varies from light to mid azure blue and covers a light grey matrix of granular Smithsonite. Rose Rake is a locality adjacent to Cromford in Derbyshire, a rake being a mining term for a mineralised vein. During an underground reconnoitre, this unusual and attractive delicate lemon yellow Hydrozincite Cave Pearl was recovered. It is formed in the shape of an egg due to rotation in one direction only, controlled by the flow of an underground stream. From northern England we jump almost to Land’s End at the very southwest tip of Cornwall. Although no mining took place in Porthgwarra Cove, between Land’s End and Porthcurno, miners did excavate two tunnels, one to allow farmers to drive their horses and carts down to the beach to collect seaweed for use as fertilizer and another in which freshly caught shellfish could be stored before being taken to market. From these excavations we have a small yet beautiful lustrous black botryoidal Goethite, a real one-off specimen, I think!

If you like to own specimens which feature in publications, then a rather gorgeous Pyromorphite with Goethite might be for you. Collected from the Roughton Gill South Lode on Iron Crag, at the head of Roughton Gill in Cumbria, botryoidal, stalactitic plumes of lustrous black Goethite (or possibly manganese-oxides) project up from a solid block of similar material forming the matrix. The columns are surrounded and partly overgrown by light lime green bundles of acicular Pyromorphite crystals. The juxtaposition of such totally opposing textures and colours make for a striking specimen. This seriously good miniature is featured in the UK Journal of Mines & Minerals (Minerals of Northern England special 2002 edition), issue number 22, p. 19.

A quick whizz around Cornwall also reveals a museum quality Olivenite from Wheal Gorland; Native Bismuth from Wheal Sparnon; Chalcophyllite, again Wheal Gorland; Fluorapatite from Megiliggar Rocks; Hematite on Quartz from Wheal Cock at Botallack and a Langite from its type locality at Fowey Consols. The two crystallised Cassiterites mentioned earlier are from Level 6 at Wheal Pendarves, Camborne and Balleswidden mine at St Just.

The Langite is worthy of further mention as it is known this specimen passed through the hands of Cornwall’s most famous mineral dealer, Richard Talling (1820-1883). Talling famously sold from a corner shop in Lostwithiel named the “Fancy Repository”. This shop can still be visited today but sadly no longer sells minerals! Of the five labels accompanying this specimen, the three oldest are probably not in Talling’s hand writing, although one does bear the price 2/6, suggesting this was a stock label. The price tag of 2/6 (read “two and six”) refers to two shillings and six pence, a fare amount of money in, say, the mid nineteenth century. This specimen is No. 5 in a batch Talling sold to brothers Joseph and Randolph Clay of Philadelphia.

So there you have it, hopefully you too find this a rather interesting selection of specimens old and new from around Britain and Ireland. There are many more I’ve not mentioned which appear in today’s montage of 21 photos. Click anyone to jump to more information and extra photographs, all helping to make your decision of whether to buy or not to buy, that is the question. Enjoy and we hope you have a terrific weekend, preferably one involving lots of minerals! PT

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

Tuesday 15th February & Friday 18th February - Europe


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Author: JH
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