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Crystal Mountains - Minerals of the Cairngorms


The fourth of the recent series of British Mineralogy Publications on specific geographic areas of British geology, this latest book presents a comprehensive account of the geological background and historical context of the most famous Scottish mineral and gem-prospecting locations.

Presented in 11 main sections, the volume concentrates on the principal mineral species of the Cairngorms National Park and adjacent areas of NE Scotland. Introduced with an overview of the tectonic setting and igneous geology of the Cairngorms, the mineralogy and occurrences of the main mineral groups (smoky quartz or ‘cairngorm’, beryl and topaz) are described in detail, with a general account of the associated subordinate mineral species encountered within the National Park. Each mineral group is lavishly illustrated with numerous full-colour photographs of the more significant specimens (many previously unpublished), and extensively supplemented with images of the spectacular upland scenery and landscapes they are located within. The volume also documents the associated social histories involved in ‘winning’ the minerals, chronicling the gruelling (and sometimes perilous) endeavours of individual collectors. The important public and private collections (local, national and Royal!) and the processing (lapidaries and jewellers) of the gemstones are also described. An interesting bonus to this mineralogical legacy is a section summarising the connection the area had with the UK’s military technological development during WW2, outlining the research into the physical science and engineering applications of synthetic quartz (used as a material to improve the reliability of oscillators in RAF radio-transmitting and receiving equipment) that was partly inspired and informed by ‘cairngorm’ specimens collected in the area.

The author has produced a painstaking research account of his subject: a definitive work achieved by enthusiastic effort. Thoroughly researched and authoritative, the various contributions to the book project of well-over 200 individuals are acknowledged by the author. In summary, this reviewer found the volume to be a well-balanced, detailed and entertaining read, and is recommended. Affordable and accessible, Crystal Mountains is anticipated to become a valuable resource to researchers in British mineralogy, gemmologists and mineral collectors. Reference to the volume will undoubtedly enhance any trip to the Cairngorms National Park for all visitors who have an interest in Scottish geology and mineralogy, social history or the photography / art of dramatic natural landscapes.

Reviewed by Mark Griffin


Roy E. Starkey. British Mineralogy Publications. 2014. ISBN 978-0-9930182-1-3. Sbk. 178pp. List Price: £25.00,