compared to the collection of fossils and traditional mineral specimens, the hobby of collecting fluorescent minerals is in its infancy. Even though Sir George Stokes discovered the property of fluorescence in the early 1800s (from the blue glow of fluorite in sunlight), it was not until the 1940s that portable ultraviolet (UV) lamps became available to the public. During WWII, the United States needed the metal tungsten, which is present in the mineral scheelite. Mr Thomas S. Warren (president and founder of Ultra-Violet Products Inc.) invented a portable ultraviolet lamp to help prospectors locate deposits of this strategic metal. In doing so, not only did Mr Warren advance the commercial application of UV lights, he also made the lamps available to hobbyists.
Today, there are around eight manufacturers of ultraviolet lamps. The lamps come in all shapes and sizes, but all have a source of either short wave, mid wave or long wave UV light. You can purchase an AC lamp for home use, or a DC lamp with a 12 volt battery pack to take into the field. Collecting fluorescent minerals in daylight hours is possible, but a tarpaulin or gas grill cover is necessary if you are going to try. However, the real thrill is in night collecting, where the full effect of the UV rays can be observed without the brilliance of sunlight to obscure a mineral’s fluorescence.
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