Historic Ores

Last update: 9 December 2017

This gallery displays a selection of ores, i.e. rock and mineral specimens of economic value, as well as scientific/educational specimens and mining memorabilia, deaccessioned from collections of historical importance (including also catalogues of metallurgical collections and libraries). In contrast with the Gallery of Historic Crystals, which focuses on aesthetic minerals, the present gallery is devoted to the ore extraction and processing phases as illustrated by study specimens in pre-1970 collections.

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Beryl from Madagascar, Jean Béhier collection, mining, beryllium extraction, historic ore with label

1. The A.L. Flagg collection of ores
First half of the 20th century
Arizona, USA

Bauxite drill core section from Arkansas formerly from the Frank L. Hess (1871-1955) and Arthur L. Flagg (1883-1961) collections.

See also: Glasses from the A.L. Flagg collection

Ore extraction & processing viewed from selected specimens of the Flagg collection

Arthur Leonard Flagg (1883-1961) was a mining engineer with a keen interest in minerals from Arizona. Few mineralogists or collectors could sight-identify hand specimens as rapidly and accurately as could Flagg, affectionately known throughout the country as "Mr. Rockhound" (Wilson, 2017). Here are presented selected ore specimens from his collection, deaccessioned in the early 2010s by the Flagg Mineral Foundation: some tin extracted from Cassiterite from Flagg's student years (1906) at Brown University [1], a Bauxite core from the Arkansas field, obtained from F.L. Hess of the U.S. Bureau of Mines [2], a rare example of tin ore before and after processing from Durango, Mexico, where Flagg worked as mine examiner in 1908-1911 [3], and finally some Thenardite and Gaylussite fragments from the Potash Trona Salts, California [4].

Figures (A.L. Flagg): [1] Tin lab. sample | [2] Bauxite core, Arkansas (F.L. Hess /) | [3] Wood tin & tin bar, Durango | [4] Thenardite & Gaylussite, Trona (Potash Trona Salts /)

Herbert Clark Hoover library collection of mining and metallurgy, Kuhner 1980, limited edition, translation of Agricola's De Re Metallica
John Percy metallurgical collection, South Kensington Museum, collection catalogue 1892

3. J.R. Gregory's educational collections
c. 1866-1895
London, Great Britain

Systematic Great Britain rock collection of one hundred specimens, in antique wooden box with two trays, arranged by famous mineral dealer James R. Gregory (1832-1899).

Summary coming later

Figures (J.R. Gregory): [1] Rock collection (see labels 001-050; 051-100) | [2] Mineral collection

letter purchase import of graphite plumbago Travancore, Ceylon, Benjamin Collins Brodie, John Forbes Royle, 19th century

4. Ore specimens in early mineral collections
Early 19th century
Western Europe

Massive stannite fragment from the type locality of Wheal Rock, St Agnes, Cornwall, part of the Joseph Neeld (1789-1856) collection (pre 1828).

See also: Early mineral specimens

Historic ore specimens in early mineral collections

The earliest surviving ore specimens are two small chiseled fragments of native silver from Schennberg dating back to 1477 (part of the "Silver Table", in a museum in Dresden, Germany). However most minerals and ores alike from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance have long lost their original pedigrees. It is interesting to note that mineral and ore collections from the turn of the 19th century and which have survived to this day (although now dispersed) were the ones which had a quiet history, forgotten in attics in family estates for centuries! Examples include the Sir Robert Ferguson (1769-1840) and Joseph Neeld (1789-1856) collections, the latter including some ore specimens [1].

Figures: [1] Stannite, Wheal Rock (J. Neeld / Gregory, Bottley & Lloyd)

Georgius Agricola, De Re Metallica woodcuts,