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January-February 2013

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Connoisseur's Choice: Fluorite Elmwood Mine, Carthage, Smith County, Tennessee

Regular readers of this column will note that fluorite has already been covered in a previous installment (Cook 1998). However, because the featured mineral for the 2013 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is fluorite and because the previous column stressed one aspect of fluorite's paragenesis, a renewed and expanded look at fluorite was thought to be in order. This is a well-deserved look, as fluorite is one of the three most commonly found minerals in any collection (museum or private), the other two species being quartz and calcite. The reason that these species have such a wide representation in collections is due to the variety of geologic environments in which they occur, the large range of associated minerals, and the veritable rainbow of colors and forms that they display. Fluorite's popularity among collectors is based on these criteria and also on the fact that its crystals run the gamut of sizes, from microscopic to tens of centimeters across. As collectors, we find it difficult to see these wonderful specimens of fluorite doing anything but gracing our displays; however, fluorite is a more utilitarian mineral than most collectors realize, as will be discussed later.

Paul W. Pohwat is the collection manager (minerals) in the Division of Mineralogy at the National Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian Institution).

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