Minerals of Scotland

An Introductory Guide to Collector Minerals of
Cornwall, Devon

Cornwall & Devon - Introduction - Historical Background
Classic Minerals & Specimens - Southern England

including photographs of
Arsenopyrite - Cassiterite - Celestite - Chalcocite - Connellite - Chalcopyrite/ Tetrahedrite/ Galena - Liroconite - Ludlamite - Pyrite/ Marcasite
Olivenite - Phosgenite - Quartz - Strunzite


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Minerals of Cornwall & Devon
A Collector's Introduction & History

CASSITERITE - United Downs Mine, Gwennap, Cornwall.
Crystals to 5mms on killas matrix with limonite and quartz (area: c.10x8mms).

Closure of the South Crofty Mine near Camborne in the late 1990s, brought Cornish mining to an end. As is so often the case, it was driven out by economics, rather than by ore exhaustion.

Earlier, Wheal Jane, near Truro, had produced excellent ludlamite specimens (type locality for the mineral) and the Geevor Mine, chalcocite specimens, before both mines succumbed to market forces.

It was the tail-end of around 300 years of ore extraction and of collector-grade specimens from active mines exploiting the metalliferous mineralizations associated with the Cornish granitic batholith.

The region retains its proud, mining tradition: Camborne is the centre for the School of Mines. Evidence of mining is manifested by the wheal houses that pepper much of the Cornish landscape.

The best specimens have probably been mined - now in collections and museums around the world - or still remain in the bowels of the earth, awaiting an unlikely extraction...

But it's not all doom and gloom! The region has a vast amount of tailings and dumps and the prospect of tungsten mining at Hemerdon, near Plympton, as recently announced (2008) may give future collectors something to pick over...

Many dumps are forgotten and/or overgrown, lost to the expansions of modern living or are all too often well-picked over by collectors.

Nonetheless, they occasionally yield the rare, the interesting and/ or unusual - though perhaps not always in hand specimen size.

Examples include Penberthy Croft Mine, St. Hilary, Cornwall, which yielded some excellent, bayldonite crystals and other rare mineral species and more recently some superb botallackite specimens comprising of rich drusy crystal aggregates of well-formed crystals.

Recently, good specimens of scorodite, arsenopyrite, barite and allophane have been recovered from sites in Devon.

The deposits of China-Clay also produce, on occasions, an interesting array of common and rare species.

A major, primary export resource for the region and the UK, these are centred around St. Austell, with its unique and distinctive landscape created by the mining operations and the "reclaimed for Nature" landscaping projects.

CONNELLITE & Malachite
Wheal Gorland, St. Day, Cornwall.
Blue acicular connellite crystals with balls of green malachite.

CHALCOCITE - Carn Brea Mine, Redruth, Cornwall.
Crystal to 7mms showing composite growths.

OLIVENITE - Wheal Gorland, St. Day, Cornwall. (view: 10x6mms).

ARSENOPYRITE - Bedford Consols, Tavistock, Devon.
Intergrown and twinned crystals to 6mms.

BARITE - Sidmouth, Devon.
Elongated, tabular honey-coloured xtls, from a recent find.

Tin & Much More...

Cornwall and tin are synonymous and although cassiterite is an essential species in all Cornish collections, other common and very rare mineral species are also strongly represented.

By merely mentioning a mineral species, Cornwall may regularly spring to mind. Several mines are noted for distinctive suites or assemblages of minerals.

The famous copper arsenates, including liroconite, clinoclase, ceruleite, cornubite, cornwallite, as well as the associated species of scorodite, pharmacosiderite, cuprite and chenevixite from Wheal Gorland is one example.

Classic Localities,
Famous Specimens

The mines and mineral localities recorded in the region are almost endless and several have passed into the annals for the superb specimens they have produced during their period of activity.

Some individual specimens have also claimed their own fame. These include the amazing siderite/ fluorite/ quartz pseudo/epimorph specimen from the Virtuous Lady Mine in Devon.

And from Cornwall, similar examples include the largest-known liroconite crystal from Wheal Gorland and the "sailboat" chalcocite specimen from the Levant Mine, St. Just. This latter example was voted by some as the world's most aesthetic specimen.

Type Localities
& Rare Minerals

The region is the type locality for a fair number of minerals and many of these are regarded as rare mineral species.

Such examples include liroconite, chalcophyllite, cuprite and bournonite.

In Devon, the native gold occurence of Hope's Nose, Torbay - now within a nature reserve area - (ie- no collecting!)
is also a notable and famous mineral locality.

Apart from the delicate specimens of gold it has produced, rare platinum and selenium minerals have also been recorded at the location.

LIROCONITE - Wheal Gorland, Gwennap, Cornwall.
Tabular crystals to 1 mm.

with Bournonite - Herodsfoot Mine, Lanreath, Cornwall.
Tetrahedrite crystals to 12mms.

STRUNZITE - Gravel Hill Mine, Perranzabuloe, Cornwall.
An uncommon, iron phosphate species - acicular, "star-burst", radiating sprays to c 2 mms.

LUDLAMITE - Wheal Jane, Kea, Truro, Cornwall.
Type locality for the species. Tabular, parallel groups to 4 mms.

(outwith Cornwall & Devon

The geology of the south coast of England, eastward of Cornwall and Devon, lends itself more to the fossil collector. This perhaps counter-balances the profusion of minerals in the south-west extreme in Cornwall and Devon.

Nevertheless, the area is not without some deposits of note and has its type locality species also. There are a few occurences in the Mendip Hills area and an occasional find can be made along the south coast, mainly in Sussex and Kent.

PHOSGENITE - Daymer Beach, Padstow, Cornwall.
A 3mm tabular crystal on limonite.

The classic celestite deposit at Yate, near Bristol is one notable mineral occurence. Another noteworthy occurence in this general region is the marcasite-crystal formed pyrite specimens found at Climping Beach, near Littlehampton, in Sussex.

Also in Sussex, one finds the type locality for the unusual species, aluminite. The type locality is located near Peacehaven.

In Kent, typical sedimentary occurences of gypsum, barite and pyrite are also of collector interest.

Deserving special mention are the rare species found in the Mendip Hills in Somerset, such as diaboleite and mendipite.

Mereheadite, parkinsonite and the more recently described new mineral species, symesite, also have their type locality in the area, at Merehead Quarry.

The Mendip area also yields interesting specimens of some of the more common mineral species. Dulcote "picture stone" or polished agate is well-known and interesting specimens of goethite, quartz and calcite can also be found at the locality.

QUARTZ - Dulcote Quarry, Wells, Mendip Hills, Somerset.
Quartz crystals to 15mm with interesting surface trigonal growth markings, acicular inclusions & spherules of GOETHITE (iron oxide) and a protruding needly goethite crystal (top rear left of main crystal)..

CELESTITE - Yate, Chipping Sodbury, Gloucs., Avon.
Tabular, colourless crystals to over 2cms. (spec. 6x6 cms).

PYRITE/ MARCASITE - Climping Beach, Littlehampton, Sussex.
Crystal groups forming ball-like aggregates. (spec: 11x10 cms).

References / Further Reading (of the more recent and accessible literature)

Minerals of Cornwall & Devon. P.G. Embrey & R.F. Symes.
(British Museum Natural History/ Mineralogical Record publication, 1987). Highly recommended!

Magazines/ Journals
Mineralogical Record,
vol. 18, no.1 - Gold - Special Issue - 2. Hope's Nose, Torbay, England. (1987)
vol. 24, no.4 - Cornwall's Famous Mines (P. Bancroft & S. Weller). (1993)
vol. 27, no.4 - Famous Mineral Localities: The Higher Pitts Mine, Mendip Hills, Somerset, England, (P.S. Burr). (1996)
vol. 43, no.4 - Special Issue - The Herodsfoot Mine, Lanreath, Cornwall, (Roy E. Starkey) (2012).

UK Journal of Mines & Minerals (UKJMM)
vol 14 - pp 21-33- The Minerals of the China Clay Pits, (S. Weiss). (an updated English translation of a Lapis Magazine article). (1994)
vol 18 - pp 17-32- The Royal Cornwall Museum, (R. Penhallurick). (1997)
vol 19 - pp 18-23- Ting Tang Mine, (I. Bruce & D. Aubrey-Jones). (1998)
vol 20 - pp 7-37- Famous Mineral Localities: Penberthy Croft Mine, St. Hilary, Cornwall, England. (J. Betterton). (2000)
vol 23 - pp 27-35 - Barite & Supposed Celestine from the Triassic Mudstone of Sidmouth, Devon. (K.D. Corrie & D. I. Green) (2003).

Minerals of Scotland