This specimen is Cassiterite in Quartz. Cassiterite is a tin oxide metal that forms in thin crystals which can have a beautiful lustre. Quartz is made of silicon dioxide, also known as silica, and is one of the most common minerals on earth.
Cassiterite has been a fundamental source of tin ore for humans throughout history, including today. Tin is an important metal that has a wide variety of human uses in different areas, from dying fabric, to making mirrors, and their most well-known use ‘tin’ cans. Tin cans are primarily made of steel and are coated with tin in order to take advantage of tin’s property of being non-corroding. This is a massive step in the history of food preservation. Tinned food first reached Australia in 1815 with early settlers, and it began to be manufactured here in the 1840s. It was incredibly popular, and was a highly exported product, which would be a contributing factor to the ‘tin mining boom’ of the early 1880s.
This specimen was collected at Jingellic, New South Wales, in about 1852. Although the Goldfields of the 1800s are much more well-known, tin mines existed alongside the gold mines which began in the mid 19th century and extended almost one hundred years, to the mid 20th century. Specimens like this would have been used as evidence to justify tin mining operations in the region as an investment.
This specimen is part of a larger collection of geological and mineral specimens collected from around Australia (and some parts of the world) and donated to the Burke Museum between 1868-1880. A large percentage of these specimens were collected in Victoria as part of the Geological Survey of Victoria that begun in 1852 (in response to the Gold Rush) to study and map the geology of Victoria. Collecting geological specimens was an important part of mapping and understanding the scientific makeup of the earth. Many of these specimens were sent to research and collecting organisations across Australia, including the Burke Museum, to educate and encourage further study.
The Geological Survey of Victoria was headed by British geologist, Alfred Richard Cecil Selwyn (1824-1902), who was responsible for issuing over 60 geological maps during his 17 years as director. These maps were all hand-drawn and coloured and became the benchmark for accuracy for geological mapping. Collecting geological specimens was an important part of mapping and understanding the scientific makeup of the earth. Many of these specimens were sent to research and collecting organisations across Australia, including the Burke Museum, to educate and encourage further study.
A fist-sized solid geological specimen made on one half of tin oxide, which is dark grey, and on the other side of silica, which is brown and cream.