Sphalerite is the main ore mineral for zinc, and although relatively common, finding it in commercial amounts is somewhat rarer. The zinc will give the mineral a yellow or red hue, but iron can replace the zinc in the atomic structure, making the crystals black. Rarely, cobalt finds its way into the structure, and produces green crystals.
Although sphalerite is a relatively soft mineral, it can be cut (faceted) into attractive gems, which are used for mineral displays.
This specimen comes from the area around Quatsino, a small boat-accessible community near the northern end of Vancouver Island in BC. The exact source is unknown, but it probably comes from one of several small historic mines in the area, including the Yreka, Benson Lake or Merry Widow mines, all within about 30 km of the town.
Quatsino was settled by Norwegian farmers in the late 1800s. Served by a monthly freight service from Victoria, the small community quickly built its own post office, church, general store, hotel, wharf and one-room school. Aside from farming, local industry was mainly in local canneries and saw mills, as well as a few small mines. Small-scale surface and underground mining took place in the area from the early 1900s to the late 1960s, mainly producing copper, silver and gold from skarn-type mineral deposits. Companies are still exploring the area today using methods like geological mapping, soil sampling and geophysical surveys.
Store: Pacific Museum of the Earth, University of British Columbia
Collection: Sutton-Thompson Collection
Accession #: PME 215
Primary Mineral: Sphalerite
Site Locality: –
Location: Quatsino, British Columbia
Special Features: n/a