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An exceptional fluorite specimen

Last Updated: 1st Aug 2012

An exceptional British fluorite specimen - UPDATED.



A world-class specimen of fluorite was unearthed last week from the Rogerley mine in County Durham, Northern England.

LATEST NEWS It was not possible to save the specimen as-is for a British museum for various reasons (lack of money was not the main reason), and other European museums have not yet confirmed intention to purchase, so the specimen will be returned to the US. The good news is that UK Mining Ventures are now planning to try to remove as much of the matrix as possible with a diamond saw so that the top, crystalline plate, can be rescued intact (as long as no hidden fractures disrupt this process). The aim is to exhibit this in Tucson in Feb 2013, where the theme is Fluorite. This of course gives much more time for any institution wanting to acquire the specimen to organize things.


Jolyon and Katya with the large fluorite specimen (Robert Brandstetter photo)


The Rogerley mine is worked commercially for fluorite specimens, but they have never found anything of this size and quality before. This piece, one that truly deserves the title of museum quality, is without doubt the finest fluorite specimen to have come out of Northern England for generations. It consists of a plate of gemmy green fluorite crystals exhibiting the classical strong daylight purple fluorescence that the Rogerley mine is famous for, with central ridge of larger crystals.

Although photographs do not do this piece justice, and it has to be seen to be believed, I have tried to document this as well as I can. The quality and size of this specimen conspire to make it a difficult challenge for mine operators, UK Mining Ventures, to deal with. By the middle of August the mine will close and the fluorite found this season will be shipped back to the US for preparation for sale.

This specimen is too large (around 300kg) and valuable to leave where it is, and it's also too large to send back to the US in a single piece. And, because of the high quality of the crystals on the specimen, it's highly likely the sum of the value of pieces of the specimen will be worth more than selling the specimen intact. And the proceeds of this specimen will help pay for the costs of operating the mine for the season - a very expensive operation.

Here's how the specimen was discovered and removed (photos courtesy of UK Mining Ventures):


The pocket is discovered



Further preparation shows the quality of what they have found



Ian Jones helps prepare for the recovery of the specimen



The specimen is recovered



And loaded onto a mine train


And now, some photos that I took of the specimen.

Firstly, in the mine using camera flash - the classic strong green colour is evident:


In artificial light underground


And when the specimen was moved into daylight, I took more photos:

Please note that the specimen has not yet been properly cleaned.


The specimen in daylight



Taking plenty of photos (Katya Ralph photo)



Close-up of amazing crystals on the central ridge


The areas that looks like imperfections on some of the crystal faces may be droplets of water - I tried to clean some of the faces on the close-up photos to show the difference, but the specimen was washed down prior to photography.


Close up of gemmy crystals


Finally, Katya took this interesting view with the fish-eye lens of the whole specimen.


View with the fish-eye lens.




Hopefully this specimen will be purchased by or for a museum. Having it on display in a museum would help inspire visitors and show them that great minerals are not just things dug out in the UK's industrial past, but can still be found today. Getting younger people to understand the importance of minerals and mining to our modern world is not always easy, but the natural beauty of fine mineral specimens is a very good way to start.

Jolyon Ralph - www.mindat.org





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Comments

I'm crossing my fingers!

Harjo Neutkens
26th Jul 2012 8:44pm
Hi Jolyon - Clearly a worthy cause, to which I am happy to lend my support. It would be helpful to have some feel of how realistic the fund-raising task is, because "times is 'ard" in the museum world, as you will know.

I think keeping the specimen intact (wherever it finishes up) should perhaps be the priority goal, since it is (presumably)the overall size and quality that renders it noteworthy. There are any number of fine smaller pieces of green Weardale fluorite.

If a letter of support from the Russell Society will be of assistance (once you know who you'd like it sent to), I'll be happy to oblige.

Best of luck with the quest.

Roy

Roy Starkey
26th Jul 2012 8:51pm
What do you think of trying to crowdfund it on Kickstarter or similar site. You could fund the amount needed to save it with the "sale" of small samples from the mine. I can help with ideas on how to do this, but don't have the time to do it myself. Somebody web saavy with say Wordpress or something similar can build the content and you can be up and running quickly with a target funding amount. It can become pretty viral with the number of FB users associated in the mineral community.

John Magnasco
26th Jul 2012 11:56pm
hi Jolyon - thank you first of all for documenting the extraction -it was something i had already enquired about and i believe, adds to the provenance of such a spectacular and noteworthy specimen. well done guys for getting it out in one piece - that took alot of skill! It would be very sad if, after their expertise and care it was then broken up.
I appreciate they have bills to pay too, of course....and a Rolls Royce in bits is still a Rolls Royce, right? makes me wince just thinking about it.
anything I can do to help just let me know - there are others out there who had already hilighted this cause even before the specimen was recovered.
Best of luck.


Colleen Thomson
27th Jul 2012 12:13am
I don't think a kickstarter campaign is practical given the timescales involved.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
27th Jul 2012 8:04am
All:

a movement is already quietly under way with the aim of getting this specimen into the NHM, and has the support of both the UKMV team and museum staff, and has approached some potential donors and funding sources already. The NHM folks have been up to see this piece and at the moment, are in the middle of their own internal decision making and permission-getting processes. When those are complete and we have 'official notification' that the museum wants the specimen, we can and will start fund raising etc. We dont yet have that notification, so in the meantime we simply have to sit and wait, frustrating as that may be.

If we're going to do this successfully, it's critically important that we have one coordinated 'campaign' rather than groups doing things that overlap and even potentially compete - we'll all look right idiots for example if two separate groups approach the same donor or funding agency with identical but separate requests for money.

So, I'd caution everybody not to take a blind charge at this - even when done with the best intentions it could have unintended negative consequences in other areas.

An appeal on Mindat is one of the ideas that was already in the pipeline - and something that I had already asked Jolyon to support, a couple of weeks ago - but it is highly unlikely that Mindat alone can raise the amount of money needed and therefore a Mindat appeal would need to be coordinated with other efforst that will have to run in parallel.

Rick Turner

Rick Turner
27th Jul 2012 8:06am
Our aim at the moment is to raise awareness of the issue, and hopefully encourage someone to come along and rescue the rock. Crowdsourcing donations isn't really a practical option as I've mentioned before.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
27th Jul 2012 8:30am
Rick, I appreciate your concerns about the negative consequences which could occur should different groups attempt funding. However, I'd like to see the specimen remain in Weardale, and be displayed at the Killhope center. There are plenty of wealthy folk in the North East. Buying such a specimen for the price of a second hand lamborghini would carry the kudos of naming this amazing group of crystals; for instance -

The Lord Barnard Fluorite
The Duncan Bannatyne Fluorite
The John Wade Group Fluorite

Of course, should I win the lottery tonight, on monday I'll move The Byron Weege Fluorite to Killhope. Just my tuppence h'penny's worth,
Regards,
Rog

Roger Curry
27th Jul 2012 8:48am
Howdy All,

While there is little I can do from here in Australia (apart of help spread the word) to help directly to this situation, it would be a travesty to have such a specimen destroyed and sold in pieces. It really does belong in a museum, namely the British Museum of Natural History! Then it would be available for the world to view and admire. Here's hoping this is how it ends up.

Regards Mark.


Mark Willoughby
27th Jul 2012 9:42am
How I wish I could help in a concrete fashion, Jolyon. I am astounded by the your documentation of the recovery of the specimen, and wholeheartedly wish that it should remain whole, and preferably in a British museum it should be accessible to the public - perhaps a few of them might be pushed towards wonder at the natural world, and even a wish to learn more about it. If only...

Best of luck with the campaign

Tim

Timothy Greenland
27th Jul 2012 10:20am
Amazing speciment!
Any solution that will save it from being broken into pieces (or from being trimmed to death) is good!
In the BM, in UK, in Europe or anywhere!
In France, Total often sponsorises the acquisition of major speciments, may be in the UK, some local companies could do the same if all their budget is not burned in the games!
Good luck, If no museum has the budget, a private collector will!
Valère



Valere Berlage
27th Jul 2012 10:47am
Kickstarter would clearly have been a practical option and could easily provide funding of the specimen for donation to a museum as well as funding specimen recovery operations. Unless you were talking about millions in two weeks, the time frame would be practical. Helped raise $85K for a bakery oven in 6 days with one and over $100K for an electronic sports accessory in 2 weeks. Pebble raised over $1 million in 28 hours.

Nonetheless, glad to see that the urgency has subsided and that there appears to be some money moving behind the scenes.

It would be good to save this important specimen.


John Magnasco
27th Jul 2012 4:19pm
If a museum wanted to use kickstarter to fund it, they could certainly try, but it is not our place (and would be a legal as well as a logistical nightmare) to try to do this ourselves.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
27th Jul 2012 4:46pm
Maybe a nightmare if Mindat was involved or if somehow it is illegal to use Kickstarter in the UK, but I wasn't suggesting that. If set up properly it would not be a legal or logistical nightmare. But one needs to know how to set it up properly. That is what I was offering to help with. It is not clear what you mean by "our place". It seemed like this was something that you were highlighting as a need outside of Mindat and were looking for ideas on how to save the specimen. But enough dismissals and debate. I'm happy to see that it is being saved quietly.

John Magnasco
27th Jul 2012 7:51pm
Fantastic specimen and a great job at documenting it, we wish you lots of luck keeping it intact and in a museum. Sadly we can rarely do such with Australian specimens.

Ralph Bottrill
27th Jul 2012 11:24pm
Maybe Mitt Romney can purchase it. For $5,000,000?

Steve Stuart
27th Jul 2012 11:27pm
I can't help by myself, but I hope a happy ending !

Pascal Chollet
28th Jul 2012 8:14am
Truly a Great piece and wonderful documentation. Thanks Jolyon!!!

I'm amazed at the daylight fluorescence, especially in the UK!!! Could the specimen be displayed in daylight without loosing this fluorescence? It is so wonderful that it should be kept in the dark if needs be.

Rob Woodside
28th Jul 2012 10:44pm
Jolyon you are talking about raising money etc but i dont see anywhere you mentioning exactly what the price is. If its reasonable maybe that can be done. When you fundraise you have to have a goal...so what is the goal?

James Zigras
31st Jul 2012 5:28am
One way to raise money is to raise awareness through national media outlets. Any superlative discovery (best of, largest, etc.) is eye-candy for the media. In truth, setting a minimum price (to pay for mine operations) is both reasonable and practical, but finding a museum that wants it and would be willing to do what it takes to preserve it as a "national treasure" is essential. There HAS to be a place to place it prominently on display. I saw the Mt. Antero aquamarine specimen and the Sweet Home Mine reconstructed pocket at the Denver Museum of Nature. There is precedent. I remember a successful effort in Australia to purchase an opalized Pleisosaur(?) so that it could remain in that country. Good luck to all involved!

Alan Goldstein
1st Aug 2012 12:31am
IMPORTANT

Please note this article has been updated - there has been a significant new development, the specimen will be significantly trimmed of matrix but essentially other than this transported as-is back to the US (assuming it does not split during the trimming process, which is always a danger). Then the plan is to display it at Tucson in 2013. Urgent plans for fundraising are now not needed, and museums and institutions interested in acquiring this piece can do so at a more reasonable pace.

Jolyon & Katya Ralph
1st Aug 2012 8:30am
Very good news and best of luck with your effort to preserve this extraordinary specimen. Thank you for the continued updates.

Bill Morgenstern
1st Aug 2012 7:22pm
Update on the specimen, now named "The Weardale Giant." We have successfully trimmed the matrix to the point that it can be reasonable transported. On Monday we lowered it down from the mine using a winch and have crated it for shipment back to California. We hope to have it on display at the TGMS show in Tucson next February. Photos of the recovery process can be seen on the UK Mining Ventures website. Cheers!

Jesse Fisher
14th Aug 2012 9:42pm
beautiful !!!!!!!!
Marco Pistolesi
Piombino-Li-
Italy

Marco Pistolesi (2)
14th Sep 2012 6:45pm

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