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January-February 2009

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The Odd Fluorite Crystal Points

From the Elmwood Mine, Smith County, Tennessee

Numerous mysteries surround the diverse forms of mineral crystals. To most people who do not collect minerals or have not studied them, virtually all crystals are mysterious. With rare exceptions, none of us has witnessed natural crystals growing, so we probably never will fully understand how they came to be the way they are. During the past few centuries, though, scientists have given us lots of important information about crystal growth. Much of what they have learned has been from observing crystals that were grown in the laboratory. These studies and experiments help us to figure out many crystal idiosyncrasies, but there are still those crystals that defy easy explanation. Take, for example, the pointed fluorite crystal parts from the Elmwood zinc mine, near Carthage, in Smith County, western Tennessee. Actually, when considering just the loose points themselves, as shown in figure 1, the challenge does not seem intimidating. They look as though they are the remnants of the etching, or the dissolving away, of most of what were once much larger fluorite crystals. Few would argue with this conclusion. The points tend to be single units, continuously gemmy throughout, so much so that many very large fluorite gems have been cut from them (fig. 3). The conical portions of the points, beneath the cap, are decidedly etched in appearance, so there is no problem in interpreting them.
John S. White, a consulting editor of Rocks & Minerals, operates Kustos, a museum/collector consulting business.

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