New Scotland Update 29 March 2022

22 March 2022

OUR update today features 21 specimens from Scotland, birthplace of modern geological science.

Any list of famous Scottish geologists and mineralogists is a who’s who of the science’s pioneering figures, beginning in the eighteenth century with James Hutton. At this time, the general believe was the Earth had formed in 4004 BCE, to be precise, on 22nd October.  Hutton, a Scottish farmer, came to realise through his powerful observations and applied thinking, that natural processes occurring today, sedimentation and vulcanism for example, explain the record of the past, as preserved in the rocks, naming it the great geological cycle.

To name but a few more, most people will be familiar with Roderick Murchison, Charles Lyell, Archibald and James Geikie and Benjamin Peach.  The two outstanding amateur pioneers, Hugh Miller (1802-1856) and Elizabeth Anderson Gray (1831-1924), primarily collected fossils, but minerals were of equal interest, if encountered.  The doyen of Scottish mineralogy is, of course, Matthew Forster Heddle (1828-1897) whose two-volume classic text The Mineralogy of Scotland was published posthumously in 1901 by his one-time student, J.G. Goodchild.

Today’s selection is dominated by specimens from the Leadhills-Wanlockhead orefield, about 45 miles (72 km) southeast of Glasgow.  The villages of Leadhills and Wanlockhead are less than 2 miles apart with the orebody spanning both, hence the ore field’s name.  The first recorded mention of mining in this region was in 1239 and over the centuries the level of mining activity fluctuated considerably, eventually ending in the 1930s.  During the 1950s some investigative work was conducted, but no ore was extracted.  The district is famous for its superb secondary lead minerals and mindat lists 108 recorded species in total, of which Leadhills-Wanlockhead is the type locality to ten.  Some classic type specimens include Leadhillite, Caledonite, Scotlandite and Mattheddleite, named for Matthew Heddle.

We also feature some fine Scottish zeolites including orange Heulandite from Old Kilpatrick in Dunbartonshire; Harmotome from Strontian in the North West Highlands and Analcime from Moonen Bay on the Isle of Skye.  Scotland is rich in well crystallised zeolites, especially throughout the Tertiary Volcanic Province of western Scotland and since the 1980s, collectors have recovered many world-class specimens, especially from localities such as Moonen Bay, Sgurr nam Boc and Talisker Bay.  It all sounds very idyllic, but some of these localities are extremely difficult and dangerous to access, exposed to unpredictable Atlantic waves and currents, beneath towering 900 ft near-vertical cliffs.  Nine hundred foot high cliffs are difficult enough to descend, but it’s the return climb with a rucksack full of heavy specimens which quickly wipes the smile off your face!

Our overview kicks-off with our Leadhills-Wanlockhead selection.  Species include Leadhillite, Caledonite, Anglesite, Cerussite, Galena, Pyromorphite, Chalcopyrite, Marcasite and Sphalerite and as gangue minerals, Aragonite, Baryte, Calcite, Dolomite and Quartz.  Specimens are typically attributed to either Wanlockhead or Leadhills as, more often than not, specific mine names were not recorded when mining.  For those of you unfamiliar with this mining district, it is worth pointing out despite the close proximity of the two villages Leadhills and Wanlockhead (under two miles), the county boundary passes between them.  Hence Leadhills, Lanarkshire and Wanlockhead, Dumfriesshire may read as very different places, but are in fact the same orebody.  It takes less than five minutes to drive from one village to the other.

One of our two Leadhillites is a superb miniature dominated by a group of translucent, pastel creamy lemon Leadhillite crystals to 2 cm in a characteristic crystalline Cerussite matrix.  Leadhillite is a lead sulphate carbonate hydroxide.  On this specimens it forms platy hexagonal prisms, each of about 2 mm thick, with a greasy to pearly lustre, often displaying interference colours within the surface structure in shades of iridescent peacock pinks, blues and yellows.  Under LWUV the Leadhillite fluoresces a reasonably bright patchy lemon yellow with apricot orange tinted terminations. On the back are well-formed greenish-blue micro-crystals of Caledonite and, like Leadhillite, from its type locality.

We have two Pyromorphites, one from Wanlockhead, the other from the Laverock Hall Vein at Leadhills.  Laverock Hall Vein was an outcrop once worked just west of Leadhills village and this miniature displays lustrous, lime green crystals to around 2 mm, richly covering a Goethite-Quartz matrix, with the appearance of a moss-lined cavity.  The specimen from Wanlockhead is coated with rich druses of vibrant bright yellowish lime-green and deeper siskin-green Pyromorphite, forming up to 4 mm diameter botryoidal mounds of micro-acicular crystals.  This specimen comes with a lovely old printed and typed label, ex. Hugh G. Ford of Wall Street, New York.

Do also take a good look at two beautifully crystallised Galena specimens, again, one each from Leadhills and Wanlockhead.  Both are of completely different habit but characteristic of their locality.  The Wanlockhead specimen is from New Glencrieff Vein and is a well-formed tabular Galena crystal of lustrous, bright metallic silver grey with superb corner modifications to the octahedron.  The crystal, together with many much smaller Galena crystals, displays perfectly against a crystallized, lustrous black Sphalerite matrix with two tiny, brassy golden Chalcopyrite crystals.

These specimens are just a taster, so you have lots more to explore.  Have a hunt amongst the Leadhills-Wanlockhead suite for one which once was in Richard (Dick) Barstow’s Collection and one with an old F.H. Butler (late Talling) of London label. 

Scotland is a deceptively large country.  Those who have not visited probably don’t realise what a stunningly beautiful country it is; a land of constantly changing landscapes from the southern Lowlands to the awe-inspiring Highlands in the north-west.  Scotland contains some of the most complex geology in the world, no doubt a key driver in why so many of its people spent their lives unravelling and explaining what appears the unfathomable.  This is a great opportunity to choose one or more great Scottish pieces for your collection.  On Friday we travel south, crossing another border into Wales.

                                         

If you'd like to see a video of any of the specimens listed above then please contact us at orders@crystalclassics.co.uk and we'll be happy to assist you. We endeavour to respond to all enquires within 24 hours during weekdays, however at the weekend it might take us a little longer to respond.

 

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Author: JH
Categories: Updates

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