Fluorite so colorful? Well, as pure Fluorite (or Calcium Fluoride, CaF2)
is colorless and clear, some mechanism must exist to pose visible color throughout its
crystal matrix. Pure fluorite (CaF2), made of the elements calcium
(Ca) and fluorine (F), is colorless. The various colors result from tiny amounts of other
elements substituting for the calcium in the crystalline structure.[i] This is
the simplest explanation.
A more complex
geochemistry has been debated over the last century: The cause of color in fluorite
has been studied and debated for almost 100 years. Several enduring theories have
arisen for some of the numerous colors in which fluorite occurs. These include electron
transitions on structural defect centers, specifically Frenkel defects,
impurity-associated defect centers (i.e. REE coordinated F centers), and impurity ions,
such as divalent REE, themselves .[ii] Such rare and
sometimes radioactive constituents are referred to as REE, or Rare Earth Elements.
analysis has shown that certain Pennsylvania purple fluorite consists of CaF2
with iron oxide as a trace element: Ca 50.87%, F 49.20%, and Fe2O3 (trace amounts),
totaling 100.07%. A study of the green variety shares near identical results:
Ca 50.91%, F 49.00%, and Fe2O3 (trace amounts), totaling 99.91%.[iii]
No radioactive components are shown present.
Iron oxide is
a known chromophore or coloring agent in minerals. Mostly transition
metals on the Periodic Table of
Elements comprise natures arsenal of coloring agents. Ferrous iron (Fe2+)
promotes green coloration.[iv]
In some cases the color is attributable to appreciable amounts of an element, such
as iron, that has a strong pigmenting power. Also, [t]he ions of certain
elements are strongly light-absorbing and their presence in small, even trace, amounts may
cause the mineral to be deeply colored. Chief among these elements known as
chromophores are: Fe, Mn, Cu, Cr, Co, Ni, and V. (p. 190)[v]
structure is the real key to understanding this phenomenon. Sometimes the radiation
of RREs contribute to widen the range of coloration.[vi]
Most purple fluorite found on our fieldtrips in PA has been either massive or
This author would
argue that our local purple Fluorite consists of Calcium Fluoride with no rare earth
element (REE) believed to act as either chromophore or activator towards
fluorescence, as upon UV lamping, the specimens did not fluoresce. One
test for [p]urple fluorite found in association with radioactive minerals becomes
colourless on heating above about 175°C [347°F]
purple fluorite can be an indicator of the presence of uranium[viii],
this is not yet proved to the authors satisfaction in quarries we visited in
southeastern Pennsylvania. And since, iron oxide is not known to activate
fluorescence; therefore, with only visible color to contend with, the producing agent of
its purple color is, most likely, iron oxide. So, our search for the perfect purple
fluorite crystal leads us to search for locations containing iron oxide.
Of all the
minerals our club has collected on recent field trips, which has the most color
variations? That would be Fluorite, of course; it is a favorite of collectors
worldwide. Okay, so where do we search for fluorite locally?
The Fluorite that we know from nearby
Pennsylvania is usually purple, based upon our experience. Also small crystals of
colorless, white, green, blue, or yellow have been found.[ix]
Fluorite has been noted
in numerous places throughout the State [of
Pennsylvania], especially in calcite or dolomite veins in the limestones. Most of it
is purple, but the light green variety has also been found.[x]
cubes on pink dolomite saddles, Kurtz Quarry (Photo by Ken Casey ©2004)
In essence, the
best places to look for good crystals are in Pennsylvania limestone quarries. As it
is known that the application of water to crystals can dull their luster, the freshest
specimens, protected from the rain, are found in active quarries. Also, we need to
scour the map to locate typical assemblages of hydrothermal deposits. These fluorite
associations include: calcite, dolomite, pyrite, limonite (pseudomorphs after pyrite, or
iron oxide), quartz, and sometimes barite and sphalerite. These are
places that we have visited on recent field trips.
Past Field Trips
We also find
green fluorite in New Hampshire at the Wise Mine (NEFTA fieldtrips). Specimens in
all colors of the rainbow can be found as near as the Midwestern U. S., and as far as
China. In fact, this mineral can be found on all seven continents, even Antarctica![xi] Bobs Fluorite Gallery lists
specimens and pictures from all six, but our southernmost landmass.
U. S. Occurrences
locales to visit (with permission, of course) follow. Some require club membership
or participation in a field trip alliance, like NEFTA, to collect there. Whereas,
some mine owners may charge a fee per visit or quantity of material collected. Here,
we provide links to the organizations sponsoring such trips, or have reported on the
highly prized occurrences after which we seek.
William Wise Mine, Westmoreland, New
Hampshire (superb green octahedrons)
Ballard Mine, Sweetwater, Tennessee and
Elmwood, TN area (gray, green & purple cubes)
Fluorite Mine, Cady Mountains (Afton
Canyon area) located about 50 miles east of Barstow, California (green)
Purple Passion Mine, Wickenburg, Arizona
Monarch Mine, Wickenburg, AZ on BLM land
(green & purple octahedrons up to 2 inches)
Bluffton Stone Company Quarry, Bluffton,
Allen County, Ohio (purple, brown, pink, clear, white, yellow, gold, brown, brownish
black) cubes or trisoctahedrons, with phantoms)
To view a listing of world famous
fluorite sites by color:
U. S. Commercial Fluorite Mining
& Industrial Uses
ranks as an important commercial mineral. It is used as flux in steel-making,
glass-making, enameling, as well as uranium production and the manufacture of hydrofluoric
acid (HF). The Midwestern United States boasts viable deposits. Four western
states have also supported its extraction: Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, and Utah.
Today, very little, if any, U. S. fluorite mining is going on. The last and largest
domestic fluorspar mine closed in 1995, leaving tailings for future collection.
The Kentucky-Illinois fluorspar area once was ranked first in the United States in
the production of fluorite.[xii]
Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS) (Cave-in-Rock, Rosiclaire Maps)
Fluorite: Minerva Mine # 1, Cave in Rock, Illinois (5.5x5x3 cm) Photo: Isaias
Bluish cubes of fluorite with rich purple zones and minor black spots of hydrocarbons.
Important mines in
Rosiclaire and Cave-in-Rock, Illinois were part of this famous mining district. In
fact, in 1965, the states General Assembly made Fluorite the official Illinois state
Today, an historical marker stands near the famous Rosiclaire site, erected on June
3, 1995.[xiv] For
us collectors, we can note that some deep purple fluorite found here does fluoresce, and
can still be collected.
World Famous Locales
As fluorite occurs so
frequently in deposits, and was mined since early Roman Empire times, locations developed
around the globe are too many to mention within the scope of this article. Since we
are mainly focused on finding the perfect specimens, I will allude to only some of the
worlds most famous locales. I have listed links to several academic,
commercial, and collectors galleries for you to explore within and at the end of
There are many
famous collection locations for Fluorite around the world. Most notable locales
exist in the U. S., England, Spain, Italy, China, and France. The original hotspot
for collectable fluorites is in the United Kingdom. In England, Cumberland,
Derbyshire, Durham, and mines in Saxony have shown the most promising specimens. For
example, the Rogerley Mine in Weardale, England has historically supplied collectors for
over 150 years. Specimens from this locale are bright green and fluoresce blue in
Whether you would just
like to view and study these phenomenal collections, purchase them at a local rock, gem
& mineral show, or plan a travel adventure for self-collecting, here are a few
resources, organized by major locale:
Spain boasts at
least two major collection locales for purple: Asturias and La Vescias.
Italy offers superb
violet cubes from Cagliaris Is Murvonis Mine, and light green cubes hail from the Su
China has light and deep
green octahedrons, and colorless, and purple cubes from Hunan Province.
some hearty, pink octahedrons from the Argentiere Massif, Mount Blanc, Chamonix.
Exotic Antarctic Fluorite
author has yet to find a specimen or photo of fluorite from this snow-covered continent,
literature abounds, alluding to its existence. Some observations are based on
satellite and geophysical surveys, others by mining companies exploring for resources.
deposits have even been explored. The sediments of the Tarn Flat [Antarctica]
lake derive from local materials, modified in silicate fraction and enriched in calcite
Even the USGS lists Fluorite in its Commodity Inventory of Antarctica.[xvii]
Credits: (L. to R.): NSF, National Geographic Society, Lynn Teo Samarski
(NSF), Ann Parks Hawthorne (NSF)
never been any commercial mining in Antarctica, there are no current plans to mine
Antarctica and mining is currently completely banned by the Antarctic Treaty. There are no
known future plans by any of the Antarctic Treaty nations to reverse this decision.[xviii]
here is prohibited. Some lucky few of us might join a geologic expedition in the
future. To our Junior Members (and the rest of us, young-at-heart), finding
well-preserved fluorite crystals on Antarctica, may rival your desire to search for life
on Mars. If you wish, I hope you get to do both, one day.
For the future,
you will need a map or guide. Here is one theory of exploration that can lead you to
at least geologically analogous sites on four nearby continents:
set forward by David Leach of the USGS uses the process of Continental Drift as proof.
In that Australia was once connected to Antarctica (as part of the ancient
supercontinent, Pangea), geologies of the formerly joined landmasses must be similar.
And that, The series of intense tectonic events associated with the
assimilation of Pangea in Devonian to Permian time account for at least 71% of total MVT
Pb-Zn metal that have been mined to date.[xix] Also, These deposits account
for the bulk of the world's resources for lead and zinc together with significant
resources of Ag, Ge, Co, fluorite, and barite and Ni (the largest resource for Ni in the
U.S. is in the old lead-belt MVT district of Missouri).[xx]
one finds fluorite at the connective boundary in Australia, another may find it at its
corresponding boundary in Antarctica. The same goes for the southern tip of South
America, the African coast, and India, as well.
mined, purple fluorite does exist there. I would imagine that legally procuring a
specimen or even a photo would be a grand achievement. As the world is full of this
spectacular mineral, one could spend decades combing our planet for specimens, and
relegate oneself to dreaming of the day toward participating in a grand expedition to this
Courtesy of the
University of Texas
Fluorescence and Theories
collecting rainbow specimens from exotic locales, is the phenomenal
performance of these specimens in the privacy or your own home, museum, or
rock show (in person and online). That action is fluorescence. It
is the amazing, seemingly supernatural, glow exhibited by certain fluorites upon
lamping by an ultraviolet light source.
We have two
major choices at lighting: one, the sun, and two, a specialty UV lamp. Our number
one choice is free, but limited to exciting a scant few specimens from locations such as
England. Our number two choice costs a few dollars, but delivers the freedom to view
in brightly glowing color any fluorescing fluorite we would have the desire to make glow.
Early Roman metallurgists (BCE/AD), nor the Renaissance chemists of 1549 AD[xxi], knew to use fluorites
fluorescent properties. They only utilized its property of ease of flow
under heat, making the mineral perform as flux [Latin, fluere, to flow] in their
credited with this discovery was the British scientist Sir George Gabriel Stokes. In
about 1851, he noted that certain English fluorites glowed bright blue in sunlight.
He coined the term fluorescence after the minerals name in a paper of
He published on
Stokes Law in 1852. Sometimes referred to as Stokes shift, the law holds that the
wavelength of fluorescent light is always greater than the wavelength of the exciting
Like Sir Isaac Newton, Stokes was an advocate of light study and optics. He
has laid some immense groundwork for our modern, mathematical understanding of our
© 2004 Photo by Chris Thorsten
Specimen from Franklin, NJ under UV Light
Fluorite (variety "chlorophane") - FL blue-green, SW
Fluorapatite - FL peach-orange, SW
Willemite - FL green, SW
Now, how does this apply to our purple fluorite specimens? Well, it is the play of
color that excites most students, scientists, and hobbyists. It seems as magic to
illuminate a fluorite cube with an invisible beam of light and observe a bright emanation
of dayglow colors; especially, if the emanating color is different from the
daylight color of ones specimen. Without its discovery, we would only marvel
at the myriad hues we observe in daylightif that is not enough!
To proceed, let
us properly define our application of fluorescence. Fluorescence in minerals
is the result of bombarding the mineral with invisible ultra-violet light waves. This
releases visible light waves (photons) of different wave lengths (colors) from the
There are two major delineations of UV light for our model: longwave and shortwave.
A collector can purchase, borrow, or share a dedicated UV lamp that may one or two
outputs, covered by a purple glass, known as Woods glass. Each output will
produce either a longwave, or a shortwave light. A minerals fluorescence may
behave differently under each wavelength.
Most simply, for
our purposes, [f]luorite fluoresces best under the long wave U. V. light. This
usually produces a blue light. In our long wave case the green fluorite fluoresces
Many Fluorites fluoresce a
blue-violet color due to traces of europium; this is usually best under longwave UV.
Fluorite also fluoresces green, yellow, red, and white. Some will fluoresce one color
under short-wave, a second color under longwave, and even a third phosphorescence. Other
activators in Fluorite include Yttrium, Samarium, and some organic impurities.[xxvii] For example,
[f]luorite from Weardale fluoresces brightly purple while fluorite from Derbyshire
Certain electrons in the
mineral absorb the energy from these sources and jump to a higher energy state. The
fluorescent light is emitted when those electrons jump down to a lower energy state and
emit a light of their own.[xxix]
Sometimes the fluorite will glow for several seconds after the UV lamp is turned
off. This bonus light is termed phosphorescence.
application we can further enjoy our perfect specimen!
addition to discovering the cause of color, geologists have also linked the particular
impurities or trace elements to particular colors of light emitted by exposure to
ultraviolet light (fluorescence), and to certain associations with desired metal sulfide
ores to be mined commercially. In fact, a fluorides paragenesis (or conditions
of creation) can be linked to this effect. The fluorescent effects are gauged by
prospectors as indicators of the geochemistry of the minerals to be mined.
is not the desired mineral to be mined in commercial quantities, even as a gangue mineral
can be used as clue to the presence of desired metal sulfide ores. [G]angue
and ore minerals in many instances are genetically related. For example, the
presence of a dark purple fluorite may indicate the availability of uranium, lead, or zinc
ore bodies nearby.[xxx]
mineralogists, Ganzeyev and Sotskov, stated in a 1976 article on the composition of their
native fluorites that: Overall, the trace REE's encountered in the highest
concentrations were ytterbium (Yb), cerium (Ce), samarium (Sm), and lanthanum (La), in
that order. Also found in fluorite were europium, terbium, lutetium, and strontium (not a
REE, but tested for anyway).[xxxi] And that
the amounts of trace REE's
corresponded with the conditions under which the fluorite crystallized.[xxxii]
Quarries in our area that have purple Fluorite
clubs interest leads us more toward the collection of crystal specimens, rather than
the raw geology that has created them, a basic understanding of the natural processes that
govern their formation can aid us in prospecting for the finest specimens. For
example, by finding even a bit of massive purple fluorite running in a vein of white
calcite from a southeastern Pennsylvania limestone quarry, we can ascertain that a
possible association of other desirable minerals could be close by. Various pink and
white dolomite saddles, multi-faceted clear calcite crystals, and even some cubes of
pyrite perched upon the two could be the vug-find of the day, if one searches with
As a matter of
fact, we discovered a bonanza of such finds at our November 20, 2004 fieldtrip to Kurtz
Quarry in Denver, PA. Bob, Karissa, Joe, John, Tim, Guy and Wendy reaped the
benefits of a basic geologic knowledge of the quarry. Eric and Jake found the nicest
pyrite/calcite vein Ive seen in awhile!
Fluorite in calcite
vein, Franklin, NJ (Photo by Ken Casey ©2004)
Other Pennsylvania quarries offer similar possibilities. In 2004, we have visited a
few: the Kurtz Quarry in Denver, the
Binkley-Ober Quarry in East
Petersburg, PA, Meckleys Quarry
in Mandata, and a NEFTA trip to Doylestown, PA.
Known locations of others are: Oak Hall Quarry, College Township, PA and the Ormrod
Quarries of Heidelberg Cement. Our VP of Fieldtrips, Bob Asreen, is working to setup
an excursion to Martin Limestones Burkholder Quarry in Lancaster County. The Nittany Mineralogical Society has reported finds of
some handsome fluorites there. This is just in our own backyard!
a common, visible crystal structure with such minerals as Pyrite. It
crystallizes in the Isometric System and usually forms cubes, octahedrons (less likely),
and rarely dodecahedrons (12-sided figures). Often nature combines the forms into
twinned, interpenetrating cubes, or cubes with their corners modified. One could
speculate that since iron pyrite (FeS2) forms cubes like our predominantly
purple fluorite (with trace amounts of iron oxide) that fluorites tendency toward
forming cubes in our local area would be worthy of investigation.
For more on Fluorite, see: http://www.mindat.org/min-1576.html.
fieldtrips, we have found mainly purple cubes, measuring about 1-5 mm. It is
possible, that upon future adventures, we will come across larger, green cubes for
Once You Have Them
One you have
them, what next? Well, there are many means of enjoying and sharing your most
excellent specimen of fluorite. The first thing is to prepare your crystals for
viewing. That is best done with a very soft-haired brush, as fluorite scratches
easily (Mohs Hardness Scale
of 4). Though insoluble in water at temperatures collectors use, brushing with water
can dull the luster of the crystal faces, Im told by fellow collectors. Or,
soak them in water and dish soap for a few days.[xxxiii]
The use of acids is ill advised.
up to you. You can display it at home, show it at our next club meeting, or junior
members and teachers could show it as an educational tool. Trading or selling your
specimen is entirely up to you. And, if you deem yourself generous enough to give it
away or donate to a school or museum, you reap the intrinsic rewards of sharing.
Some folks go
one step further, and process their finds into stonework or jewelry, using lapidary
techniques. Being relatively soft, fluorite takes shaping and polishing easy enough.
Though somewhat fragile, it makes for brilliant cut stones, vases and vessels,
spheres, and most popularly today, beads.
Once you have
collected the perfect specimen of fluorite, you may never go back to the ordinary, less
colored and less-photoactive minerals. Thanks for joining me on our adventure.
If you are in the neighborhood, drop by one of our meetings to discuss this article and
more. (We meet the second Monday of every month, except July and August.)
Until we can meet upon the frozen shores of Antarctica, Happy Rockhounding to you on every
Antarctica Photo Credits (L. to R.): Lynn Teo Samarski (NSF), Bert
Stay tuned for an
Fluorite and Fluorescence: A Colorfully In-Depth Look
Stay tuned for the follow-up article: Fluorites of Antarctica: An Unspoiled Treasure
Museums & Galleries
Smithsonian Institutions Janet Annenberg Hooker Hall of
Geology, Gems and Minerals Virtual Tour (Their site is under construction)
World Famous Locales
UK Mining Ventures, England
Illinois State Geological Survey
Geobit 4: FluoriteIllinois State Mineral, November 7, 2003, ISGS.
January 5, 2005
Wright, C. L., and Rakovan, J. COLOR, ITS CAUSE, AND RELATION
TO REE CHEMISTRY AND
PARAGENESIS OF FLUORITES FROM THE HANSONBURG MINING DISTRICT IN BINGHAM,
NM Eleventh Annual V. M. Goldschmidt Conference (2001): 1 page. 3 Jan. 2005
Miller, Benjamin L. Lehigh County
Pennsylvania Geology & Geography, Fourth Series Bulletin C39. Pennsylvania Department
of Internal Affairs, Topographic and Geologic Survey: 1941. Lehigh University
Digital Library, PA. 2 Jan. 2005
Aber, Susan Ward Course
Lecture: GO 340 Gemstones & Gemology: Visual Properties.
Emporia State University. 28 Dec. 2004. 30 Dec. 2004
Hurlbut, Jr., Cornelius, and Klein,
Cornelis, Manual of Mineralogy (after James D. Dana), 19th
edition, London: Longman Group Limited, 1976.
Bean, Rachel Course Lab: Geology
202a: Mineralogy: Lab 3: Mineral Colors. Bowdoin College.
Due: 4 Feb. 2003. 22 Dec. 2004
Deer, W. A., Howie, R. A., and
Zussman, J. An Introduction to the Rock Forming Minerals.
London: Longman Group Limited, 1976.
Hagemann, Steffen Geology 364:
Ore Genesis Lecture Notes: Hydrothermal Alteration
Systematics. 2001. 2 Jan. 2005
Barnes, John H. Rocks and Minerals
of Pennsylvania, Education Series 1, 4th series.
Harrisburg: Pennsylvania Geological Survey, 2004
Read, Stephen E., Cooper, Alan F., and Walker, Nicholas W.
Geochemistry and U-Pb
geochronology of the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian Koettlitz Glacier Alkaline Province, Royal
Society Range, Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica. Geology Department, University
of Otago, New Zealand, Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences, Dunedin, New
Zealand. 20 Nov. 2002. 30 Dec. 2004
Rocks and Minerals of
Kentucky: Fluorite. Kentucky Geological Survey, University of
Kentucky, Lexington, KY. 30 Dec. 2004
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Specimen #M255. Mt. Lily Gems,
BERTELLE, M., LEOTTA G., CALOGERO,
S., Universitą di Venezia, Venezia, Italy;
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OF THE LAKE OF TARN FLAT (ANTARCTICA). 28 Dec. 2004
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Mining and Oil. 27 Dec. 2004. 30 Dec. 2004
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base-metal deposits. U. S. Geological Survey, USGS
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England, UK. 20 Dec. 2004
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America, Inc.), Johnson, Ian D., Parry-Hill, Matthew J.,Flynn,
Brian O., and Davidson, Michael W. (National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, The Florida
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4 Jan. 2005
Photo, Graphic & Literary
grateful thanks to:
Dick Nelson (c/o IC Minerals)
Isaias Casanova, IC Minerals
Eric Greene, Treasure Mountain Mining
& eBay store
Chris Thorsten, CR Scientific and at Chris's Mineral Collecting Page
Karissa Hendershot, President, Delaware
The National Geographic Society,
(through the NSF)
The National Science Foundation
Lynn Teo Samarski, Ann Parks Hawthorne, Bert Rowell
for Geophysics, University of Texas (Pangea)
Illinois State Geological Survey (ISGS)
(Cave-in-Rock, Rosiclaire Maps)
© 2005 All contributions to this
article are covered under the copyright protection of this article
and by separate and several copyright protection(s), and are to be used for the sole
purposes of enjoying this scholarly article. They are used gratefully with express
written permission of the
authors, save for generally-accepted scholarly quotes, short in nature, deemed legal to
with the appropriate citation and credit.
Reproduction of this article must be
obtained by express written permission of the author,
Kenneth B. Casey, for his contributions, authoring, photos, and graphics. Use of all
credited materials requires permission of each contributor separately.
Cornelius Hurlbut, Jr. and Cornelis Klein, Manual of Mineralogy (after James D.
Dana), 19th edition, London: Longman Group Limited, 1976, p. 190.
W. A. Deer, R. A. Howie, and J. Zussman, An Introduction to the Rock Forming
Minerals. London: Longman Group Limited, 1976, p. 512.
[xi] Stephen E.
Read, Alan F. Cooper, and Nicholas W. Walker, Geochemistry
and U-Pb geochronology of the Neoproterozoic-Cambrian Koettlitz Glacier Alkaline
Province, Royal Society Range, Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica. Geology
Department, University of Otago, New Zealand, Institute of Geological and Nuclear
Sciences, Dunedin, New Zealand. 20 Nov. 2002, pp. 1, 5.
[xxx] Hagemann, 2 Jan. 2005.
[xxxii] Thorsten, February-March 2003.