The United Kingdom may not be the first country that comes to mind when one thinks of gemstones, but it holds a fascinating array of minerals and stones with unique qualities, rich history, and intriguing lore. From the rugged coasts of Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, let's explore the gemstones that can be found in the UK and the stories they carry.
Blue John Fluorite
Where It's Found: The Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern in Derbyshire, England.
Qualities: Blue John is a beautiful and rare variety of fluorite with bands of purple-blue or yellowish colour. It has a hardness of 4 on the Mohs scale, which makes it relatively soft and suitable for ornamental use rather than everyday jewellery.
History and Lore: Blue John was discovered during the Roman times and used for ornamental purposes. It's said that the Romans believed fluorite to be crystallized light.
Where It's Found: Found on the beaches of Scotland, particularly around the regions of Fife and Angus.
Qualities: Scottish agate, also known as "Scotch Pebble," comes in a variety of patterns and colors, including red, orange, and brown. It's a type of chalcedony with a hardness of 6.5 to 7, making it ideal for jewellery that withstands daily wear.
History and Lore: Agates were believed to render the wearer invisible and were thus very popular in Scottish jewellery in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Where It's Found: Along the Yorkshire coast, notably around the town of Whitby.
Qualities: Jet is a type of lignite, a precursor to coal, and is known for its intense black color and lightweight nature. It has a Mohs hardness of 2.5 to 4. It's quite easy to carve but not very durable.
History and Lore: Jet has been used since the Bronze Age for jewellery and reached peak popularity during the Victorian era as mourning jewellery, following the death of Prince Albert.
Where It's Found: Garnets can be found in various locations in Scotland and are typically of the almandine variety.
Qualities: Almandine garnets are typically deep red and quite hard, around 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, which makes them suitable for everyday jewellery.
History and Lore: Garnets have been used as gemstones since the Bronze Age. They are historically associated with protection and were believed to keep the wearer safe during travel.
Where It's Found: Varieties of quartz, including amethyst, can be found in Scotland.
Qualities: Quartz is one of the most common minerals in the Earth's crust and comes in many varieties. It has a hardness of 7 on the Mohs scale.
History and Lore: Scottish amethyst is said to have been formed by the tears of Scottish Highlanders, and it is considered a stone of protection and clarity.
The gemstones found in the UK may not have the same commercial value as those found in more traditional gem-producing countries, but they are no less cherished. Each stone tells a part of the rich geological and cultural tapestry of the British Isles, from the ancient Roman times to the present day. Whether set in a piece of fine jewellery or kept in its natural state as a collector's item, these gems are a testament to the natural beauty found within the UK's landscapes.