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Bismuthinite: January 2013 Mineral of the Month


Mineral Name: Bismuthinite
Specimen Number: 002
Record ID: 4797
Locality Nickname: Cornwall, England
Region: South West
Original Locality 1: Cornwall
Original Locality 2: England
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Large, museum-quality crystal specimens certainly are spectacular.  However, they require a lot of care, space, and especially, money.  Fortunately in the mineral world, many times the most perfect and beautiful crystals are some of the smallest.  There is actually a subset of mineral collectors that specializes in these microscopic crystals, called “micromounts,” so they can study and enjoy nature’s intricate and beautiful work without the space requirements and expense.  Additionally, many rare minerals do not form large crystals, so magnification is required to observe them.

Here is a delicate spray of slender metallic blades of bismuthinite (Bi2S3), a rare but rich source of the element bismuth, rising through a bed of snow-white quartz. An image evocative of the upcoming spring season!  The actual image is about four millimeters across, and was photographed with a Leica MZ6 microscope in the Mineral Physics Laboratory.  This specimen comes from the ancient zinc-tin-silver mines of Cornwall, which provided mineral wealth for much of Europe for centuries, dating to Roman times.  The mines are almost entirely inactive now, but this exquisite example of England’s mining heritage is preserved here in Princeton’s Gem and Mineral Collection.