New British Update 02 August 2022

2 August 2022

HERE we are in August already and as alluded to last Friday, we have two themes this week; today the British Isles and Ireland and on Friday, a selection fit for an imminent white wedding! All will be revealed this Friday, both mineral and wedding-wise!

Suffice it to say the selection will be mainly white worldwide minerals (including the UK) plus accessory colours chosen for the big day itself. However, today we remain within the bounds of the British Isles and Ireland and I personally think it’s a super selection with lots of inherent interest. Just as well considering I chose it!

For all our followers passionate about the mineralogy of Britain and Ireland, be sure to tune in to tomorrow’s (August 3) Mineral Talks LIVE, the monthly Zoom live interview series hosted by BlueCap Productions’ Bryan Swoboda as this month’s guest is Roy Starkey, internationally respected British mineral collector, researcher and author. You will need to pre-register, but this is done in a few seconds via the link - I have found it’s best to copy and paste this into your browser’s address bar rather than click on this embedded text.

For those of you interested in historic specimens we have a Cassiterite with a superb history. The specimen is from Polgooth mine, just a little south-west of St Austell in Cornwall; a mine which was already well established by 1720. Our first recorded owner of this specimen was Henry C. Jennings (1731-1819). His collection was purchased by mineral dealer Henry Heuland (1778-1856) who famously held well-documented mineral auctions in London over many years in the first half of the nineteenth century. At one held in 1816, this specimen appeared as Lot 100 and was bought by the famous British collector Isaac Walker (1793-1853) for 1/- (one shilling). Walker’s handwritten label accompanies the specimen and it’s various codes convey hidden detail: the capital letter ‘H’ indicates is came from a Heuland auction; 1816 is the year purchased and the single dot ‘.’ in the bottom left corner is Walker’s code for 1/- (one shilling). There were twenty shilling in one pound (£1). This, together with many other Isaac Walker specimens, was eventually bought by dealer Dr F. Krantz of Bonn.

Leaping from the old to the (relatively) new, we include a rather gorgeous green and lavender Fluorite from Larkin's quarry in Connemara, County Galway, Ireland. Larkin's quarry remained a totally unknown mineral locality until 2016 when blasting exposed magnificently mineralised veins of remarkable Fluorite, propelling the locality to an instant modern classic! The quarry exploits the Shannapheasteen Granite Pluton and has produced magnificent specimens in purples, blues and greens of various hues and complex habits. This small cabinet specimen of vibrant light lime green and watery lavender-blue Fluorite is composed of three intergrown cubes, the largest measuring 4.5 cm on edge.

One British classic and much sought-after species is Phosgenite, a lead chlorocarbonate, first discovered at Wirksworth near Cromford in Derbyshire, Cromford being recorded as the type locality. This specimen was originally labelled Wirksworth and is attributed to Bage mine. A slab of Baryte, termed ‘Cawk’ by Derbyshire miners, and Galena veinstone matrix has its upper surface covered with naturally etched, rough octahedral Galena crystals, partly pseudomorphed by granular Cerussite. There are also sharp pseudomorphs of Galena after dagger-shaped crystals of Anglesite and muddy pale green cellular Pyromorphite. In the centre of the specimen is a large, transparent and quite gemmy, lustrous crystal of tabular Phosgenite measuring to 1.7 cm.

Returning to Fluorite, this selection includes several other famous localities all very different in appearance; Cambokeels, Heights, Rogerley and Florence mines and beneath one of the Cornish Siderites is a core of pale blue Fluorite. The Heights specimen is a curious miniature of interpenetrant twinned Fluorite crystals attached to a Calcite stalactite. Gemmy, leaf green Fluorite crystals to 1.2 cm on edge sit on the stalactite whose remaining surfaces are encrusted with tiny pale green Fluorite cubes up to just 2 mm on edge. I initially wondered if the matrix was a crinoid stem, but close inspection shows no evidence for this.

Our two Calcite’s are also classics; a heart twin from Gillfoot mine at Egremont, Cumbria and a choice cluster of double terminated crystals from Millclose mine in South Darley, close to Matlock in Derbyshire. Gillfoot mine appears to have been the most prolific source of the west Cumbrian heart-twinned Calcites, although these were relatively late to the Victorian collecting scene. Interestingly, Cumbrian Calcite twins are not mentioned in Greg and Lettsom's Manual of the Mineralogy of Great Britain and Ireland, published in 1858, so were obviously first discovered after this date. It is well documented the majority of these iconic twins were gathered-up and sold by the dealer John Graves (1842-1928) of Frizington, whose terraced house is still occupied to this day but, sadly, not by a mineral dealer! The standard cost of such specimens appears to have been set between 1/- and £1, although this was a considerable sum in the late nineteenth century, the male average UK annual salary in 1885 being £42 and 12 shilling (£3 11s 0d per month).

May I draw your attention to a Baryte with Dolomite from the Frizington mining district of west Cumbria. This is from the recently purchased Mike Brooke Collection for which there has been enormous interest. This splendid blue and deep red Baryte crystal is partly encrusted with creamy Dolomite crystals. The Baryte measures 9.5 cm long and grades from opaque teal blue to gemmy teal through one side of the termination. The face of this same side is tinged deep blood red by Hematite and displays good zoning. The Baryte’s entire surface is glassy and lustrous, making for a very fine display specimen.

I’ll close with mention of two Cornish Siderites. For some reason I have a weakness for these, especially those from the Camborne-Illogan-Redruth mining district. The first, from South Crofty mine, was collected in 1967. One of the many labels accompanying this specimen is obviously that of the miner who recovered and sold it, and provides great detail as to just where it was found: 4th Lode, 360 Fathom Level, midway between Robinsons and Cooks shafts, South Crofty mine. ‘Cooks’ is short for New Cook’s Kitchen shaft. This small cabinet specimen is a beauty, its display face totally encrusted with large (typically 1 to 1.5 cm wide) yet thin lenticular Siderite blades, peppered with occasional brassy Chalcopyrite crystals plus Quartz and Fluorite. This is the specimen already mentioned with a core of massive pale blue Fluorite, mixed with granular Quartz and Cassiterite.

The Siderite from Tincroft mine at Illogan, between Camborne and Redruth, forms small lenticular, translucent grey crystals to a few millimetres, creating a rich drusy coating over terminated Quartz crystals to about 1 cm tall. The opposite half of the display face is dominated by much larger Quartz crystals, coloured dull apricot orange by included Hematite.

There may well be no rare mineral species amongst today’s selection, but there are many very special localities, some with minerals rare for a particular mine; for example, a Chalcotrichite (acicular Cuprite) from Bedford United mine in Devon.

Why not pour yourself a refreshing drink and enjoy a leisurely closer inspection of today’s assortment under the guise of working hard to enhance your collection. We’ll return on Friday with the sound of wedding bells less than 24 hours away and, no doubt, a little healthy panic already setting in amongst the bride’s camp! That’s me in trouble now. PT.


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We return to West Springfield, Massachusetts for the East Coast Gem, Mineral & Fossil Show which takes place on Friday, August 12 through to Sunday, August 14. Admission for the show is $10.00 (Under 13 free with adult) and Crystal Classics will be located at space 129 in the shows retail section. Doors open 10am-6pm on Friday and Saturday and 10am-5pm for the Sunday.


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Author: JH, PT
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