New British Miniatures and Thumbnails Update 22 April 2022

22 April 2022

THIS Friday’s theme is British Miniatures and Thumbnails, which could also be entitled Small is Beautiful.

Miniature and thumbnail specimens are popular sizes from which to build many a modern collection, if only for constraining the space the collection occupies. Spare space for enjoying hobbies in modern houses or apartments is often at a premium. This may result from an actual lack of physical space or limits imposed by non-mineral collecting partners as to how much a collection is allowed to expand throughout the house – not that I have any knowledge of this situation, you understand!

Smaller specimens can also put less pressure on the wallet, allowing more collectors to enjoy and appreciate the perfection of crystals and rare species, albeit at a smaller scale. Micromounts are even smaller, where a tiny specimen (much less than thumbnail) is, traditionally, mounted on a tiny pedestal contained in a small specimen box, although mineral tack seems to have largely overtaken the pedestal bit of this. Micromounts take up the least space of any collection, allowing thousands of specimens to be systematically housed in a single draw unit. We do have one micromount in today’s selection, an Andrewsite from Phoenix United Mines in Cornwall.

So what else have we got to offer today? Well, doing a quick count, nine from Cornwall, three each from Devon, Cumbria and Somerset, two from County Durham and all on its own, just one from Leicestershire. As you know, Crystal Classics is based in Somerset, so where better a place to kick-off.

Somerset is quite a large county containing many terrific mineral localities, but Queen of all has to be Torr Works quarry, still a massive operating quarry just east of Shepton Mallet near the village of Cranmore. Mineral collectors usually refer to this quarry as Merehead quarry, its former name and the name still used for its railway depot. From here we have a beautiful and fine example of glassy reticulated Cerussite and the extremely rare minerals Nasonite and Parkinsonite. Nasonite, first found at Franklin, New Jersey, occurs at Torr Works as very rare, vivid blue crystals, while Parkinsonite is characteristically considered letter-box scarlet, yet can also be a purplish red. Both of these large thumbnails contain very small amount of said species, but that is typical for such rare material. Parkinsonite is named for British collector and dealer, Reginald F.D. Parkinson (1928-1993) who ran a mineral specimen business nearby. He, together with his son Christopher, collected and sent the first specimens to the Natural History Museum (London) for analysis who found it to be a new species.

Between the counties of Somerset and Cornwall is Devon. From Devon we have an excellent Ferberite pseudomorph after Scheelite from Hemerdon mine at Sparkwell near to Plympton; dendritic crystalline Native Gold from Hope’s Nose at Torquay and a cube of Pyrite from a very old collection, from the famous Virtuous Lady mine at Buckland Monachorum.

Heading down into Cornwall you will find a terrific selection of miniature and thumbnails, of which I will just mention a few. Chywoon quarry close to Falmouth produced wonderful and highly characteristic specimens from its pegmatite pockets and from here we have a sharply formed octahedral Fluorite crystal coated in a thin white film of either Chalcedony (as labelled) or what some consider to be amorphous Fluorite. One of my favourites today is a beautiful Wood Tin from Goss Moor at St Dennis, a little north of St Austell. Wood Tin is a fibrous variety of Cassiterite and the larger of the two pieces (sold together) is exquisite, its radial fibrous structure producing both a silky texture and lustre. It is a perfect example of very fine quality Wood Tin and will make an important contribution to any Cornish collection.

Others in our Cornish selection include a Pyromorphite from Wheal Alfred; Clinoclase with Olivenite from Wheal Gorland; an branching Bornite of organic appearance from the Camborne-Redruth mining district and said Andrewsite, from Phoenix United. As you will likely know, Andrewsite is now a discredited species, being a compound of Rockbridgeite and Hentschelite with minor Chalcosiderite. However, it remains one of the must have Cornish species due to its aesthetic and historic connotations and was famously featured on the cover of Peter Embrey and Bob Symes 1987 book, Minerals of Cornwall and Devon. 1987!!! That’s now 35 years ago and it feels only like yesterday!

Two other Cornish specimens which have to be mentioned are a Chalcophyllite from Wheal Unity and a Cassiterite pseudomorphing Carlsbad twinned Orthoclase from Wheal Coats. Chalcophyllite often becomes dehydrated over the years, so losing its vibrant colour, but not so in this case! Excellent nested books and hexagonal plates of deep bluish emerald green Chalcophyllite pervade vugs and large pore spaces in a dark gossan veinstone matrix. Richly crystallised patches occur on both the front and back of this miniature, the choice is yours as to which is side is best displayed. You will be well aware Wheal Coates’ pseudomorphs can range from almost entirely Orthoclase speckled with pinhead patches of Cassiterite to complete Cassiterite replacements, this charming small miniature being the latter.

Our Leicestershire miniature is a group of Galena crystals from, the still operational, Cloud Hill quarry at Breedon on the Hill; a quarry which has become a modern classic. This miniature was collected from a mineralised cavern (speleothem) exposed in the quarry face in September 2007. Representing Cumbria we have a Calcite from the Frizington-Egremont iron mining district; Baryte replacing Witherite from Nentsberry Haggs mine on Alston Moor and a lovely pumpkin orange Campylite, the barrel shaped variety of Mimetite, from Dry Gill mine in the Caldbeck Fells.

This just leaves County Durham with an apple green Fluorite from West Pasture mine near Stanhope and a beautiful 9.4 carat faceted emerald green Fluorite from Frazer's Hush mine at Rookhope in Weardale. Although most mineral collectors probably don’t collect faceted material, there is no doubt such a stone, displayed next to a crystallised specimen from the same locality, looks fantastic.

The weekend is here already, hopefully providing some quality time in which to explore today’s selection in much greater detail and maybe pick out a few tasty morsels for your British collection. If any opposition is voiced as to new additions taking up even more room, you can successfully argue they are just little ones today! Enjoy. PT

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

Tuesday 26th April & Friday 29th April - Europe


If you'd like to see a video of any of the specimens listed above then please contact us at 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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