Ye Olde English Spar Boxes – a Hobby Revived!

June 24, 2019
Lesley Andrews

During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a popular pastime among the mining population of Northern England was the construction of spar boxes. These were used to decorate their homes, and also to sell to make some extra money. Spar boxes were made up of various crystals (spar is the old name for a crystalline mineral) which were collected by the miners working in the lead and iron mines of the north Pennines and Lakeland areas.

My first encounter with spar boxes in 2002 was a surprise, since by then I was a professional mineralogist from Scotland with a Cumbrian mother, and I had never heard of this fascinating use for crystals! I was visiting the old Killhope Mine Museum in Weardale and in their small site museum I found one large spar box and also a display of six spar boxes and columns.


Killhope Lead Mine


A typical spar box on display in 2002


Various columns and pyramids

Spar boxes were produced in a number of shapes and sizes. These included wood-framed glass cases - from those small enough to hang on the wall to large cupboards – some were constructed as columns or pyramids and later enclosed within a glass tank or dome.

Common minerals used in spar boxes were green and purple fluorite, quartz, specularite, aragonite, dolomite, pyrite and galena. In the larger boxes entire mineral-bearing vugs or cavities taken from the mine could be displayed.

 

Specularite and quartz from Cumbria



Aragonite cluster

Children learning how to make spar boxes.
Photowww.killhope.org.uk

References: http://www.thingsmagazine.net/text/t17/sparboxes.htm

Thank you also to Emma Stewart from Killhope Mine Museum (www.killhope.org.uk)

Photos were Lesley’s, unless otherwise noted.

 

Rhodochrosites

May 24, 2019

Duncan Miller





These are the rhodochrosites (presumably from Hotazel) that I have been faceting, on and off, for the past two months. The ‘pink’ stones (on the left) are 0,65 ct; 0,68 ct; 1,46 ct; and 0,96 ct.  The ‘red’ stones (on the right) are 1,39 ct; 1,66 ct; and 1,71 ct. The rough was acquired more than twenty years ago as a small batch of broken and half-finished stones. A recent article about faceted rhodochrosite in The Journal of Gemmology inspired me to try to resurrect them...


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WHO CUT THAT STONE, OR WHAT IS A GEM CUTTER WORTH?

May 24, 2019
Duncan Miller

The photograph here is of a magnificent 164,11 ct spodumene (variety kunzite) in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution, USA (https://geogallery.si.edu/10002906/spodumene-var-kunzite).


The accompanying text credits the mine at which it was found (in 2010 at the Oceanview Mine in Pala, California), the funds with which it was acquired (Tiffany & Co. Foundation endowment in 2012), and the photographer (Greg Polley). So who cut this stone? This is like acknowledging the ar...


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FACETIPS A simple Emerald Cut

May 9, 2019

Duncan Miller

The Emerald Cut is not a meetpoint design so cutting stones with repeatable proportions and facet widths involves guesswork. The following sequence for cutting pavilion and crown avoids most of the guesswork and enables you to cut pairs or sets of matched stones. This sequence is modified from FACET DESIGN Vol. 4 by Robert Long & Norman Steel, in turn based partly on FACETING FOR AMATEURS by Glenn & Martha Vargas. This example uses 5° steps for the three pavilion tiers, but you ...


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WHAT IS A PSEUDOMORPH, AN EPIMORPH OR A PARAMORPH?

May 9, 2019

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudomorph:

In mineralogy, a pseudomorph is a mineral or mineral compound that appears in an atypical form (crystal system), resulting from a substitution process in which the appearance and dimensions remain constant, but the original mineral is replaced by another. The name literally means "false form". Terminology for pseudomorphs is "replacer after original", as in brookite after rutile.

paramorph (also called allomorph) is a mineral chan...


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Phlogging a dead horse?

May 9, 2019
Jo Wicht

Many of you are aware of my obsession with Blue Lace Agate, both from a lapidary point of view and with stones from the mine, as well as my curiosity as to how the mineral was possibly formed. Any new information that I come across, be it a new specimen or comment, has to be investigated. Recently it was Marco Campos-Venuti’s new book (Banded Agates: a genetic approach (2018) www.agatesandjaspers.com) which set me off on the trail again because it has a chapter on Lace Agates. Marco...


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UNUSUAL CRYSTAL HABITS

March 25, 2019

By Peter Rosewarne

Sifting through my collection in order to catalogue and assess specimens more fully has got me thinking more about some of their mineralogical and crystallographic properties. Why are some examples of the same mineral one colour and others another? Why are some stubby and others prismatic? What crystal system do they each belong to? What is ilvaite or axinite or vivianite?

I’m fascinated by the interesting habits that some minerals exhibit which in many cases don’t see...


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FACETIP – QUARTZ

February 21, 2019

By Duncan Miller

(This is a follow-up to a previous article on faceting quartz, to be found with other faceting articles on the club’s website http://ctminsoc.org.za/articles/category/Faceting.) 

Every faceter knows quartz, those great big glassy-looking chunks that seem to cry out to be turned into doorknobs. Or pretty, golden ‘citrine’ that can cut brilliant yellow stones. Or glowing, dark purple amethyst with seductive blue flashes, dreamy rose quartz, or rutilated quartz with geom...


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SOME MUSINGS ON SELLING A MINERAL COLLECTION FROM SOUTH AFRICA

February 21, 2019

By Peter Rosewarne

   

Having built-up a mineral collection the question arises, at some stage, as to what to do with it looking to the future. Options include do nothing (and continue to get enjoyment out of looking at and handling the specimens) and let someone else worry about it when you’re gone (i.e. throw it away), give it away, donate it to an institution (probably unwise in SA or anywhere probably), or sell it. This article looks at some aspects of the pricing and selling process ba...


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FACETIP – TOPAZ

January 19, 2019

By Duncan Miller

Topaz is a rather under-rated gemstone. This perhaps it due to the fact that pure, colourless topaz is relatively plentiful. Much of it is irradiated and then heat-treated to produce various intensities of bright blue. Natural blue topaz tends to be much paler, although dark blue stones do occur naturally. These are rare and hence more valuable. Natural topaz occurs in a wide variety of colours, including light green, yellow, orange and pink. The famous orangey-pink topaz fr...


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