Copper – Day 15 of the Mineral Advent Calendar

This holiday season, why not get a mineral every day instead of chocolate? Today’s mineral is Copper find out more about it below..

It’s the 15th of December and you know what that means… THERE ARE ONLY 10 MORE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS!!!!! So an important question remains to be asked. Have you got your Christmas lights up yet?

Are your Christmas lights up yet? They should be by now!

Are your Christmas lights up yet? They should be by now!

You should do, and if you do by now your house shold be strung with copper. Copper?! I hear you say? Yes, copper, it’s the wire that helps your lights sparkle so gorgeously! So today’s mineral for the advent is copper! And not only is it a mineral, but a metal too – a really important one.

Gorgrous Copper!

Gorgrous Copper!

Copper:
Chemical formula: Cu
Colour: Copper-red. Tarnishes to black or green in air.
System: Isoclinic
Hardness (Mohs): 2½ – 3
Can you find it in the UK? Yes

There are many locations you can find copper across the UK! Map is from the MinDat website.

There are many locations you can find copper across the UK! Map is from the MinDat website.

You can find Copper in the UK, in fact up until a few decades ago it was commercially mined in this country. Check out locations across the southwest, Devon and Cornwall in particular, the northwest and Scotland for some prime copper hunting locations! However, if you end up in one of these locations be careful in any sites that could have old mining structures – they might not always be marked!

For more information about Copper please visit the MinDat website.

Spodumene – Day 14 of the Mineral Advent Calendar

This holiday season, why not get a mineral every day instead of chocolate? Today’s mineral is Spodumene find out more about it below..

So you spent the weekend searching the shops for that perfect gift, or wrapping and decorating presents to go under the tree. But there is one thing that you should not forget to buy before the big day and that is batteries. There is NOTHING more frustrating than getting an awesome toy or gadget as a gift and not being able to play with it RIGHT AWAY! So whether you are buying for yourself or a loved one, adult or child, make sure you are all stocked up on batteries!

Uh oh - looks like I'm running low on batteries!!

Uh oh – looks like I’m running low on batteries!!

But in order to make those essential items function you need lithium – you probably knew that already, as many battery manufacturers make a big deal about their lithium batteries and how long they last, but you probably didn’t know that you get lithium from a beautiful mineral called Spodumene. Spodumene comes in several different colours and when gem quality is often given other names, like Kunzite. This often happens to some minerals to make it seem like there is more diversity than there actually is, so beware of new exciting names for gemstones – some of them are even made up by the retailers!!

This is a lovely pinkish coloured crystal of Spodumene and if gem quality, could be called Kunzite as well. Image is from Wikipedia.

This is a lovely pinkish coloured crystal of Spodumene and, if gem quality, could be called Kunzite as well. Image is from Wikipedia.

Spodumene:
Chemical formula: LiAlSi2O6
Colour: Colourless, yellow, light green, emerald-green, pink to violet, purple, white, gray
System: Monoclinic
Hardness (Mohs): 6½ – 7
Can you find it in the UK? Yes

The location of Spodumene mineral in the UK according to the MinDat Website.

The location of Spodumene mineral in the UK according to the MinDat Website.

You can find Spodumene in the UK, but it is pretty rare, in fact only one location (in Devon) is registered on the MinDat website. If you know of any others, as always, please let me know in the comments!

For more information about Spodumene please visit the MinDat website.

Sphalerite – Day 13 of the Mineral Advent Calendar

This holiday season, why not get a mineral every day instead of chocolate? Today’s mineral is Sphalerite find out more about it below..

As we move towards the 25th of December, the number of shopping days decreases – and you might be out searching for the perfect gift! If you decide you want a more modern gift than yesterday’s Uranium Glass, you might decide to get a fancy new touchscreen device, but they are dependant on a lot of minerals, metals and elements to make them work!

There are lots of different touchscreen devices now - but they all need indium! Image is from wikipedia.

There are lots of different touchscreen devices now – but they all need indium! Image is from wikipedia.

One of the most important of these is a rare earth element (REE) called Indium, which you can find in the zinc ore mineral, Sphalerite. This is part of the same group of economically important elements as Neodymium (from Day 2 – Monazite) Without sphalerite (and therefore indium) your touchscreen device would just be another phone or computer!

A geogrous Sphalerite photo taken by Chinellato Matteo from Chinellatophoto.com, avaliable on the MinDat website.

A geogrous Sphalerite photo taken by Chinellato Matteo from Chinellatophoto.com, avaliable on the MinDat website.

Sphalerite:
Chemical formula: ZnS
Colour: Yellow, light to dark brown, black, red-brown, colourless, light blue. green
System: Isometric
Hardness (Mohs): 3½ – 4
Can you find it in the UK? Yes

The locations you can find Sphalerite in the UK.

The locations you can find Sphalerite in the UK.

You can find Sphalerite in several locations in the UK, across Scotland, England and Wales, including two of the most popular areas to find minerals of all types, Cornwall and Cumbria. Perhaps if you are still struggling for a gift you could take a loved one on a mineral hunting trip to one of these locations – I’m sure they would love it! Just ask my family!

I guess even my family can't be excited by rocks and fossils ALL the time!

I guess even my family can’t be excited by rocks and fossils ALL the time!

On second thoughts maybe don’t ask my family…..!

For more information about Sphalerite please visit the MinDat website.

Uraninite – Day 12 of the Mineral Advent Calendar

This holiday season, why not get a mineral every day instead of chocolate? Today’s mineral is Uraninite find out more about it below..

As we move towards the 25th of December, the number of shopping days decreases – and you might be out searching for the perfect gift! Sticking with the vintage holidays you might decide to get a vintage festive gift for a friend or loved one and when shopping in antiques stores or vintage fairs there is one thing that is often hard to miss, and that is the lurid yellow-green glassware often called Vaseline Glass (due to it’s similarity to the jelly).

One of the key giveaways about Vaseline Glass (or Uranium Glass) is that it is a bright yellow-green and fluoresces in UV light (image from 1st glass 1st things).

One of the key giveaways about Vaseline Glass (or Uranium Glass) is that it is a bright yellow-green and fluoresces in UV light (image from 1st glass 1st things).

However the interesting thing about this glass and the reason it is such a bright colour, is that it was made with the radioactive element uranium (leading to it’s other name – Uranium Glass), and the uranium came from the mineral Uraninite (also called Pitchblende). Don’t worry – the level of radioactivity is so low that it is generally considered harmless, and some people love to collect this glass for it’s historical value – so it could turn out to be an interesting talking point as a gift for that vintage lover in your life!

 

Bright yellow Uraninite from Wikipedia

Lovely yellow-green Uraninite from Wikipedia

 Uraninite:

Chemical formula: UO2
Colour: Black, brownish-black, greyish, greenish; green-gray (thin fragments)
System: Isometric
Hardness (Mohs): 5 – 6
Can you find it in the UK? Yes

You can find Uraninite in a few locations across the UK, but it is more often found in it's grey-black form.

You can find Uraninite in a few locations across the UK, but it is more often found in it’s grey-black form (from the MinDat website)

Although the radioactive element of Uraninite is not generally often high enough to be dangerous, it is always wise to take precautions with any radioactive mineral. To find out more about the safe handling of radioactive minerals please check this site!

For more information about Uraninite please visit the MinDat website.

Silver – Day 11 of the Mineral Advent Calendar

This holiday season, why not get a mineral every day instead of chocolate? Today’s mineral is Silver find out more about it below..

Back on the vintage theme, if you decorated your tree you probably used tinsel, but instead of the multi-coloured garlands we think of today, until fairly recently, tinsel was the thin strands of shiny material you would drape all over the branches like hair!

This metal tinsel was probably made from lead, but in the 1600's tinsel was made from actual silver! This image is from Motherboard.

This metal tinsel was probably made from lead, but in the 1600’s tinsel was made from actual silver! This image is from Motherboard (originally from Ebay, but the listing has gone).

Using tinsel to decorate has been something that we have been doing for hundreds of years, but instead of the plastic types we think of today, tinsel used to be made of thin metal strips – and back in the 1600’s when tinsel was first used, it used to be made of actual silver (obviously this wasn’t decoration for the masses). And you can see, why – it’s very tinsel-ly just naturally. Though I imagine it tarnished pretty fast!

This silver is very tinsel-like. The photo was taken by Ian Jones.

This silver is very tinsel-like. The photo was taken by Ian Jones.

 Silver:

Chemical formula: Ag
Colour: Er, silver?!
System: Isometric
Hardness (Mohs): 2½ – 3
Can you find it in the UK? Yes

Locations for Silver in the UK from the MinDat Website - again visit the website for much more detailed information.

Locations for Silver in the UK from the MinDat Website – again visit the website for much more detailed information.

You can find Silver in the UK, though usually in very small amounts. It tarnishes out to a black-grey and is often found in places where other commercial minerals (like lead) have been mined, for instance in Cornwall, Wales or Cumbria.

For more information about Silver please visit the MinDat website.