|Favorite Fluorescent Website LINKS
The Thomas S. Warren Museum of Fluorescence was founded in 1999 to better share the wonders of
fluorescence with the public and to serve as an educational facility for teachers of science and technology. The
museum is on the same grounds as, and is part of, the Sterling Hill Mining Museum and is managed by the same
The Sterling Hill Mining Museum The industrial complex that was once the Sterling Hill zinc mine is now open
to the public as the Sterling Hill Mining Museum. http://www.sterlinghill.org/
The Franklin Mineral Museum A fascinating nature, history and science center just one hour's drive from New
York City. http://www.franklinmineralmuseum.com/
|Ultra-Violet (UV) lights for viewing fluorescent minerals.
If you have ever been to a museum or rock display you have probably seen a fluorescent minerals display cabinet with
brilliant red, green and other colors of rocks and minerals that seem to be as bright as neon lighting! These displays show
rocks and minerals that you might just walk past without even noticing them....that is....untill you shine an Ultra-Violet light
on them that makes them explode with color. This is a very special natural occurance of minerals that respond to UV
lighting. They are not radio-active, and will not harm you...they just glow, kind of like the 4th of July glow sticks.
The biggest problem with collecting fluorescent minerals is finding a UV light to display your minerals and rocks.
Traditionally, UV lights are VERY EXPENSIVE!
|We built a fluorescent display in a four foot long store counter
cabinet. We installed 2 each Raytech Model LS-218CB
Longwave/Shortwave light fixtures (currently selling for $750.00 each
at http://www.gemworld.com/Ultraviolet.asp) in it to evenly illuminate
our fluorescent display specimens. Everyone who visits us wants to
see our fluorescent mineral display. Chris changes the specimens
from time to time but the famous "New Jersey Glow" is always a
brilliant favorite of the viewers!
|We later needed handheld lights for field use. We procured the battery operated 9W Way too Cool triple wave light
SW/MW/LW (254/312/368 nm) from Bill Gardner (who designed and builds these lights) at
http://fluorescents.com/index.html. We also bought the battery pack and charger for this. He currently sells this light
model 9SML-12 for $480.00. We later bought the 120 volt AC model 9SML-110 (currnetly selling for $430.00) and a
viewing box specially made for these way too cool lights to use at rock and mineral shows. As you can see, we have
several thousand dollars invested in Ultra-Violet lights.
|The restrictive costs of getting into fluorescent minerals has stopped many collectors from having a Fluorescent collection. For
years we have been looking for inexpensive lights of decent quality to sell on our website. We have found a couple of lights that
are great for first time beginners and beginning field searchers that are affordable and do a nice job displaying fluorescent
minerals. We hope this helps you get started! It's an exciting division in the rock and mineral world!
|Ultraviolet light is generally considered to be from 200 nm to 400 nm. As you can see from the chart above, 400nm is barely
UV, and is right on the border of the visible light spectrum. Longwave UV light is the wavelength that blacklight bulbs
produce. They typically operate in the range of 370 to 410 nm. Blacklights skirt the end of ultraviolet and the beginning of
visible purple light. Although some fluorescent minerals may show some color under blacklight, it is normally not going to be
a decent representation of the fluorescent colors that can be seen under SW-MW-LW ultraviolet light.
The majority of fluorescent minerals show best under shortwave (UV-C), with some showing well under midwave (UV-B) and
a few show well under Long wave (UV-A). The brilliance of the colors is also dependent upon the power output of the light
and the controlled area around the specimen being viewed. The higher the wattage of the light, the more brilliant the colors
will be. The shorter the wavelength is the stronger the color seen. If the specimen is viewed in a controlled space, that is with
minimal visible light, the better the colors will appear. That is why Fluorescent displays are best seen in a display cabinet
with flat black interiors in a low light area. We use a small flat black box with a triple wave way too cool high intensity UV light
on the top. The box is totally contained except for a small viewing port we use to take our fluorescent photos.
|Shown on the left is our ultra-violet photo and viewing box. It is
painted flat black and has a black cloth drop over the front for
placing fluorescent specimens in the box. Mounting on top of the
box is a foam gasket sealed opening for our triple wave "Way
Too Cool" ultra-violet light. There is also a viewing port which we
use to photograph our Fluorescent specimens. We use our
Nikon Coolpix L1 digital camera and take all photos under our
"Way Too Cool" 13W SW-MW-LW light or under our Raytech
Model LS-218CB Longwave/Shortwave light fixtures shown on
the right. The quality of your fluorescent color is directly related to
the quality and strength of your UV Light
|Safety precautions must be taken when using ultraviolet lights.
Improper use of these lights can result in damage to your eyes and skin. You should never look directly at the short-wave
or mid-wave light sources. Exposing your skin to ultra-violet light can result in sunburn. If the exposure is for prolonged
periods of time it can result in skin cancer. The damage which usually occurs from short-wave ultra-violet (SWUV) light to
the eyes is that the corneas get sunburned. Your eyes will feel raw and irritated like there is sand in your eyes. The outer
layer of your cornea will peel just like sunburn to your skin does. Exposure to mid-wave ultraviolet (MWUV) light can burn
the retinas. Of the three different wave lengths the long-wave ultra-violet (LWUV) is the least harmful. Depending upon
how closely the wave length is to the mid-wave length, long-wave exposure may have the same results as exposure to
mid-wave ultraviolet light. We heard there has been a study that indicates children under the age of twelve may develop
macular degeneration of the retinas later in life due to exposure to long wave fluorescent lights.
Keep in mind that the light being reflected off the fluorescent minerals is still strong enough to cause damage, as well. To
prevent problems from using ultraviolet lamps and displaying fluorescent minerals, it is important to display and view
fluorescent items behind UV blocking safety glasses or behind UV blocking Plexiglas. Regular glass will not work. To
determine if your glasses or Plexiglas blocks the UV rays place your glasses or the plastic over part of the mineral and
shine the UV light over the mineral and plastic. The portion of the rock directly below the plastic should remain dark it the
plastic is blocking the UV light. The rest of the rock should fluoresce normally. With this UV blocking material placed
between the UV lighted mineral and your eyes, you will be able to see the beautiful fluorescent colors safely, without
doing any damage to your eyes.
The fluorescent light units which we highly recommend are manufactured by "Way Too Cool." Way Too Cool
is a Phoenix based company started by Mr. Bill Gardner in 1998. He holds multiple degrees including an AS in
engineering and a BA in geology specializing in mineralogy. Bill's intensive research into ultraviolet lamps, filters and
electrical components has produced one of the finest lines of ultraviolet lamps for the mineral hobby. He wanted to get
the most from his lights for the money just as you do.
In 1996, Bill and 5 other people started collecting minerals at the Purple Passion Mine. For the first year, the focus was
hunting for good specimens of wulfenite and they dug a shaft about 55 feet deep into the mineralized vein. Although they
found many interesting specimens, they never did find high value wulfenite specimens and one by one the other
collectors dropped out. However, around 1997, Steve from Michigan bought some wulfenite specimens and asked if any
of the material was fluorescent. They borrowed a UV lamp fixture to find out. When he saw the material fluorescing
brilliant red, green, blue, and white it changed his life.
Fluorescent minerals are very hard to sell without UV lamp fixtures and vice versa. UV lamp fixtures are expensive…
there is no doubt about that. Bill is committed to customer satisfaction. He is constantly researching the most cost
effective ways to bring fluorescent lamp fixtures to the mineral collecting world. From UV lamp fixtures for new rock
hounds and museums to everyone in between, Way Too Cool LLC has a lamp for you!
Most fluorescent lights allow for 92% of the UV light to pass through the bulb which tapers off evenly over the life of the
bulb to about 53% at the end of the bulb's life.
"Way Too Cool" lights start out allowing about 88% (4% less than the other lights) of the UV light to pass through the bulb
at the beginning and tapers off to about 80% at the end of life.
While other bulbs may outperform "Way Too Cool" units for the first 20% of their life, they fall short for the remaining 80%
of the bulb life where they are lower performing. With an average life of about 10,000 hours, having 8,000 hours of an
under-performing bulb is not a very good deal. Of course the life of a unit is affected by many variables, some of which
are: how many hours the unit is run, how many times the unit is turned off and on (50,000 times are estimated for "Way
Too Cool" units), whether the unit is allowed to overheat (which can substantially shorten the unit life - larger units have
fans to minimize this issue).
How do you choose the right light for your needs? Several factors determine this.
1) The size of the display usually dictates the wattage to be used
2) which types of minerals are being displayed
3) budget for the light and display is also an issue.
Let's look at the issue of price first. A FMS member once told me that fluorescent mineral displays are much like fish
tanks. The cost and amount of work for salt water fish is about ten times more than for fresh water fish. That cost factor
applies to the difference between short and long wave fluorescent mineral displays as well.
For long wave minerals you may get by with a black light positioned within twelve to eighteen inches of your specimens.
The cost of that type of light should range in the under $100.00 bracket. A decent shortwave lamp to work at the same
distance from your specimens will range in the $500.00 plus bracket. If you are setting up a display case where your light
will be 12-18 inches from your specimens a 36 watt light may be enough. (We use a pair of 15W lights in our display
case) If your display color brightness and intensity seems weak, you will probably need a stronger light.
Rules of thumb for larger displays with the lights farther from the specimens…
- If the distance from the light is from 18-30 inches from your specimens, try a 60 watt light.
- If the distance from the light is 36 inches or more from your specimens, try a 95 watt light.
-Remember the greater the wattage the greater the cost.
Let's look at the issue of what types of minerals are being displayed
Different minerals perform differently under different lights. Most fluorescent minerals display well under shortwave UV-C
light. A lesser amount of minerals will display well under midwave UV-B and a smaller number will display well under UV-
There are many minerals that display even better under more than one ultra-violet wavelength. Many Arizona fluorescent
specimens will show well under SW-MW and LW lights, sometimes even more exciting under multiple wavelengths at the
same time. Some minerals show different colors under different wavelengths. Some Mexican calcites will fluoresce a
blue-white under shortwave, yellow under midwave, and hot pink under longwave. If you don't have SW-MW-LW available
to check out different mineral specimens you won't know what you may be missing.
Some minerals will fluoresce better than others under the same light. If you have some specimens which fluoresce very
well, you may want to move them farther from the light and move the lesser performing specimens closer to the light to
balance the intensity of the display.