New British Update 01 July 2022

1 July 2022

WE mark the end of this week and the beginning of July with another round-up of British minerals; this time all from England, save for a fine, rare-coloured Pyromorphite from Wanlockhead in southern Scotland. Amongst the minerals today there are no rare species, yet when rarity is measured in terms of quality or seldom-encountered localities, then I think we come up trumps.

As you well know by now, I often begin these updates with a little introduction lending background to perhaps a certain country, mining region or species. Inspired by a rather fabulous Cornish Bournonite we feature today, got me thinking about papers, articles and indeed books on the subject. By happy coincidence I noticed today, July 1st, 2022, marks ten years since the July-August 2012 edition of The Mineralogical Record was published, featuring the magnificent 76 page write-up on Herodsfoot mine at Lanreath in Cornwall, the mine famous for its world-class Bournonite, discovered in the late 1850s. And yes, it is ten years ago, can you believe? Ten years which seem to have flown-by in a flash! This article was researched, mainly photographed and written by Roy Starkey, the now well-known author of numerous articles and three outstanding books.

Here at Crystal Classics we stock all three; Crystal Mountains: Minerals of the Cairngorms; Minerals of the English Midlands and now, hot from the press, Making it Mine: Sir Arthur Russell and his Mineral Collection. All three are exceptional, but Roy’s latest offering is surely his magnum opus (to date); a cover-to-cover cornucopia of enthralling facts, history and technical information covering Sir Arthur Russell’s life and collection of British and Irish minerals.

Sir Arthur Edward Ian Montagu Russell, 6th Baronet (1878-1964), is now widely regarded as the doyen of British mineralogy, having meticulously built a collection second to none. Roy’s countless hours (although knowing Roy, he will have both counted and carefully recorded the hours, have no doubt!) photographing hundreds of specimens from the collection, now housed in the Natural History Museum (London), lavishly illustrate the carefully researched text. The end product is a book which will surely become one of the cornerstones of British and Irish topographic mineralogy. I think it’s probably there already judging form the unprecedented buzz resounding from the mineral community both here and abroad.

Following this review, I now hope to be offered not just one, but two Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers with my coffee the next time I call-in on the Starkey’s! Jesting aside, it is a book essential to any collector even remotely interested in minerals from the British Isles. If you would like to purchase a copy of this or either of Roy’s other books, just contact us here at Crystal Classics and we’ll dispatch immediately.

Following all of this we had better kick-off our round-up with said Bournonite. This excellent miniature captures the true essence of a Herodsfoot specimen, displaying a large Bournonite crystal with a great cog-wheel profile, surrounded by drusy light milky-grey Quartz crystals.

The Fe-Mn-Mg phosphate, Ludlamite is another Cornish classic, first discovered during the 1800s in Wheal Jane, a mine close to Truro, Cornwall’s only city. This small cabinet specimen (possibly a large miniature) has a rich, 24 x 10 mm area containing well-crystallised, translucent, apple green Ludlamite (up to 8 mm) sitting on tan-coloured, terminated Quartz crystals. Another interesting specimen from this mine is a Cronstedtite with Cacoxenite on Quartz. A single greyish, terminated Quartz crystal has one side covered with 1 to 3 mm black Cronstedtite crystals dusted with micro-spherules of apricot-tan Cacoxenite. Please note; I seriously mean micro-spherules, estimated at about 0.1 mm in diameter. Although small, it’s a lovely example of these species from Wheal Jane.

As already advertised, Crystal Classics marketed the Mike Brooke Collection a couple of months ago which contained a fine suite of Geevor Calcites. Throughout Geevor’s last period of operation, Mike maintained a close partnership with its miners, so having the pick of top-quality specimens. This miniature is one of pure delight. Calcite crystals of a delicate peachy-apricot are aesthetically scattered over a surface of jet black, sooty Goethite, itself coating tiny lenticular Calcite blades. The combination of its colour and underlying topography gives the Goethite an uncanny blackness; an intensity I can only liken to graphine black, whose albedo approaches zero. The peachy Calcite crystals looks magnificent set against this background.

Other Cornish beauties include purple-violet Fluorite crystals modified to the tetrahexahedral habit (aka four-faced cube) from Trevaunance mine at St. Agnes; a Blister Copper (Chalcopyrite) from Wheal Basset in Illogan; stunning deep maroon octahedral Cuprite crystals and a magnificent Olivenite, both from Wheal Gorland and blood red Chalcotrichite from Wheal Phoenix at Minions near to Linkinhorne. This Chalcotrichite (the acicular form of Cuprite) may not be the best or richest of Cornish specimens, but it is one that exudes history and age, obviously originating form a very early collection based on its appearance and accompanying (very) old copperplate handwritten label. It’s rather charming in an old fashioned way.

With the end in sight I had better move further afield, so let’s go the whole-hog and visit Wanlockhead, a mining district (together with Leadhills) for which I have a distinct soft spot! This large miniature displays rich druses of vibrant, bright yellowish lime-green and deeper siskin-green Pyromorphite draped over a gnarled, vuggy limonitic matrix. This most sought-after colour and habit of Pyromorphite from Wanlockhead is now rarely encountered; this specimen is accompanied with a nice, old printed and typed label, ex. Hugh G. Ford of Wall Street, New York.

Make sure you look at the Smithsonite pseudomorph after Calcite, now thought to be from Derbyshire (based on an almost identical specimen in the Ludlam Collection in the NHM, London) and a superb large cabinet of light moss green Pyromorphite from Burgham mine close to Stiperstones in Shropshire.

I’ll conclude, rather indulgently, by returning to Cornwall because the superbly crystallised Native Copper from Relistian mine, Gwinear, is a must-see! Such crystallised coppers are a trademark of Relistian. This small miniature, measuring 3.5 cm long, is composed entirely of excellent Native Copper crystals exhibiting several crystal habits including spinel twins. Its patina is mainly that of copper-tinged milk chocolate brown, although this does grade to darker shades. It’s well worth looking at and it costs nothing to window-shop. On the other hand…

So that’s just about all angels covered for today: our fine selection of 21 British specimens; a Herodsfoot literary anniversary; Mr Starkey’s stunning new book and extra biscuit-based snacks when I next drive north! Enjoy looking and reading through today’s specimens, any of which, should you make a purchase, will not disappoint. PT

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

Tuesday 5th July & Friday 8th July - World


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Author: JH, PT
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