Where did they all go?
Its hard to work out why, after so many years collecting fluorite, I should still find it hard to claim to have a decent piece. The truth of the matter is that the best Weardale fluorites all came out years ago, and the classic, deep fluorescent blue specimens were all produced by mines that are inaccessible at best. True, Blackdene, Cammock Eals, Greenlaws, Stanhopeburn, and other mines in the area produced some amazing pieces, and I have some of these. Heights mine, a grotty, dangerous set of collapsing old workings produced some good material too - the piece illustrated here is my best piece - but the pieces in old collections from Boltsburn will never be rivalled.
This specimen is one of my finest - it was lying thickly covered in mud in a small cavity in ironstone that was so hard it broke the tips off chisels. After a week of hammering (yes - a week to get this out!) I finally recovered this, and a number of others. It's from the West Crosscut, Heights Mine, Weardale. The big crystal is water clear, flawless, and measures 3.5 cm on edge. The colour zoning of this piece is extraordinary even for Weardale standards. It is hard to convey the true colour with photography.
Turquoise coloured fluorite...
From the same cavity, this crystal dropped out. It has an incredible turquoise blue colour which I have never seen before or again from the Weardale.
Heights - underground...
The workings were actually quite safe, if you dodged the huge slabs hanging from the roof. The pillars were chock - full of specimens, but the country rock was a steel-hard ironstone, which had a habit of snapping the tips off chisels.
And then there was Boltsburn ...
3 and a half MILES of flatworkings, full of cavities - and its still there - under a lot of water. The worlds finest fluorites came from here.. This one is over a foot across with crystals four inches on edge..
Boltsburn Mine, Weardale, Co. Durham. 12" free floating slab of crystals up to 4" across. Ex Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences.
Peter Ward collection.
This was something of a phenomenon. We would watch the ore conveyor coming out of the decline, and when you saw the unmistakable sparkle of quartz and deep blue fluorite, mixed together, you knew they were into another run of cavities. Specimens came from mine-workers, watchmen, managers, and even from the ore stockpiles! On my first visit there with my mum as a child of about 11 years age, the manager had an enormous mass of dark purple crystals on the floor in the office. If I could carry it down the stairs outside, I could have it. I got it down the stairs despite the fact that it took two miners to carry it back! He did give me some nice peices though....
This piece continues my love affair with big, single crystals that stand up and say 'I want to be counted!' The big crystal on top is exactly 2 inches square by 1 inch deep.