Magical minerals

Inside the Mining and Ranching building, Angels Camp Museum

You may remember a couple of weeks ago I published a post about the California State Mining Museum in Mariposa and mentioned that I wished I could find a mineral museum nearer to where I live. Well, it just so happens that I did find a very nice if small collection of minerals from various places around the world on view at the Angels Camp Museum in Calaveras County. They were displayed in glass cases, and I used my phone to shoot pictures of a few of them as it was easier to avoid the glare/reflections by putting the lens right against the glass. I don’t know very much about minerals, but they certainly can be very beautiful and fascinating to look at.

Talc by coincidence recently showed up in one of my crossword puzzles with the clue “One on the Mohs scale;” after filling in the answer I Googled and read a bit about the Mohs scale, so I managed to learn something new that day!

Periclase, a major component of the earth’s mantle, has a similar chemical structure to halite, AKA rock salt, which is a type of halide (see below).

Quartz and calcite, two very different minerals, are commonly found together in limestone veins. Calcite is quite soft, while quartz is right up there on the Mohs scale at 7 out of 10.

Amethyst is a beautiful and very familiar mineral — especially to those born in February! It’s actually a violet form of quartz as well as a semiprecious stone. The name “amethyst” was derived from the Greek words for “not intoxicated.” In ancient times, people believed that an amethyst cup or amulet would protect the wearer from getting drunk. And now that I’ve typed the word “amethyst” a few times, I believe I shouldn’t have any more trouble remembering how to spell it!

I was attracted to this halide specimen by the fact that it looks like a large snowball (albeit in this photo a slightly blurry one). The chemistry gets a bit confusing for me here, but halides are a class of chemical compounds that contain salt-forming elements such as fluorine or chlorine.  Aside from halite, they tend to be very rare and may be water soluble.

Stay tuned for more minerals to come!

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