Mineral collection

A specimen of the turquoise variety called Henwoodite, named after William Jory Henwood (1805-1875) from West Phoenix Mine, Linkinhorne, Cornwall

A variety of turquoise called Henwoodite, from West Phoenix Mine, Linkinhorne, Cornwall

 

The Museum’s mineral collection is one of the most important and comprehensive collections of its type in the world. It contains about 185,000 specimens and, besides a small number of specialised regional and historical collections, is organised on a species-systematic basis.

The mineralogical collections at the Museum comprise separate collections of minerals, gems, rocks, meteorites and ores.

The mineral and gem collections are a central focus for research activities for the mineral sciences group.

The collections have their origins in the early curiosity cabinets of the 18th Century but greatly expanded through intense collecting and purchasing periods in the 19th and 20th Centuries. The registered collection contains almost 200,000 mineral entries and around 5,000 gems, with thousands more kept for destructive research or teaching.

The mineral collection is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world and with its long history is perhaps, in culmination, the most scientifically studied mineral collection in existence.

It was built not only to showcase examples of each mineral species, but also to document the variation within a single species of crystal form, mineral assemblage and different source locations.

This collection-building ethos is no longer practical today, but growth continues in key areas with several hundred samples being added to the collection each year.

Highlights of the collection include the Scientific Types collection, the Arthur Russell Collection of British Minerals, the Ashcroft Swiss Collection and the Pain and Matthews Collections of Gemstones. 

Countries of origin

Worldwide coverage.

Looking for a specimen?

The mineral collection is being digitised

Principal Curator, Minerals

Mike Rumsey

Curator, Minerals and Gemstones

Robin Hansen

Any questions?

If you would like to use any specimens for research, please get in touch

Accessing the collections

Scientists and collections management specialists can visit the collections and borrow specimens for research.

Collections management

Our duty is to provide a safe and secure environment for all of our collections.

Collections on the move

We have set out on an ambitious programme to develop a new science and digitisation centre. As we prepare for the move, access to some collections will be affected. 

Find out more and sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on changes to collections access, relevant news and opportunities to get involved.