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Updated: Sep 19, 2020

When I was little, my mother whom was a Thai Chinese told me a story about an old headstone in her local cemetery in Bangkok that glows in the dark. She said it had been part of a legend for many years and people thought that it was haunted. I had the same believe for long but until one night when my father asked me to meet him in his office, the mystery revealed! There’s a small room in my father’s office that was kept locked as he used to keep all of his private, most precious collections in the room. Inside the room were shelves of crystals and rocks that began to glow in vivid pink, oranges, yellow, purple and blue when a button was pushed and ultraviolet lights turned on. “How cool is that?” I said. From that night, I know it might have some sort of fluorescent minerals in the headstone that causes the glow. And yes, not haunted LOL :D

How Many Minerals Fluoresce and What Makes Them Glow?

Many specimens do not fluoresce and only about 15% of minerals in the world fluoresce, yes it’s a rarity! Fluorescence occurs when impurities known as “activators” are present within the mineral, such as molybdenum, manganese and tungsten. However, some impurities could deter the fluorescence in minerals for example iron and copper, the “quencher”. Well too much of anything is good for nothing and the same applies to specimens, too. An overdose of activators like manganese can keep the good fluorescer Calcite from lighting up.

Scheelite (Tungsten) with Muscovite from Mt. Xueboarding (Pingwu Beryl Mine), Sichuan, China

Calcite "Flowers" on Smoky Quartz from Huanggang Mine, Inner Mongolia

The phenomenon of fluorescence is named after Fluorite as it glows and the word fluorescent comes from the Latin fluere “to flow”. Some minerals are known to exhibit multiple colors of fluorescence in a single specimen, here are some good examples:

Calcite on Fluorite with Pyrite from Yaogangxian Mine

Phantom Fluorite on Calcite from Shangbao Mine, Leiyang Co., Hengyang, Hunan, China

Fluorite with Quartz, Pyrite and Calcite from Yaogangxian Mine

Calcite on Quartz with Fluorite from Yaogangxian Mine

“Arrow” Calcite from Qinglong Mine

Some specimens have a strong enough fluorescence ability that the glow persists even when the UV light is turned off. Only a few minerals have this level of fluorescence and I have recently discovered a species in my office – the “Arrow” Calcite from Qinglong Mine. Take a look at the video below:

Calcite from The Daye Copper Mine

Fluorite gives us a good idea of the surprises that await in the fluorescent mineral world, but what about Calcite? Are they to be ignored? Of course not! Calcite are one of my favorite minerals especially those from the Daye Copper Mine, as they all glow in a vivid pinkish orange color!

Salmon-Pink DT Dogtooth Calcite on Matrix from Daye Copper Mine

(My Father's Large Cabinet Collection)

White Dogtooth Calcite on Calcite from Daye Copper Mine

Intense Pink Dogtooth Calcite on Matrix from Daye Copper Mine

Light Salmon-Pink Dogtooth Calcite from Daye Copper Mine

Green Calcite on DT Dogtooth Calcite with Pyrite from Daye Copper Mine

What’s miraculous about all this is there’s no practical reason why crystals and rocks should glow. The beauty of fluorescent minerals inspired people in a way resembling the twinkling stars. And for a moment, it takes our breath away.

“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”

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