1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Fluor-spar

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FLUOR-SPAR, native calcium fluoride (CaF2), known also as Fluorite or simply Fluor. In France it is called fluorine, whilst the term fluor is applied to the element (F). All these terms, from the Lat. fluere, “to flow,” recall the fact that the spar is useful as a flux in certain metallurgical operations. (Cf. its Ger. name Flussspat or Fluss.)

Fluor-spar crystallizes in the cubic system, commonly in cubes, either alone or combined with the octahedron, rhombic dodecahedron, four-faced cube, &c. The four-faced cube has been called the fluoroid. In fig. 1, a is the cube (100), a' the rhombic dodecahedron (110), and f the four-faced cube (310). Fig. 2 shows a characteristic twin of interpenetrant cubes. The crystals are sometimes polysynthetic, a large octahedron, e.g., being built up of small cubes. The faces are often etched or corroded. Cleavage is nearly always perfect, parallel to the octahedron.


Britannica Flor-spar Cube.png Britannica Flor-spar Interpenetrant Cubes.png
Fig. 1. Fig. 2.


Fluor-spar has a hardness of 4, so that it is scratched by a knife, though not so readily as calcite. Its specific gravity is about 3.2. The colour is very variable, and often beautiful, but the mineral is too soft for personal decoration, though it forms a handsome material for vases, &c. In some fluor-spar the colour is disposed in bands, regularly following the contour of the crystal. As the colour is usually expelled, or much altered, by heat, it is believed to be due to an organic pigment, and the presence of hydrocarbons has been detected in many specimens by G. Wyrouboff, and other observers. H. W. Morse (Proc. Amer. Acad., 1906, p. 587) obtained carbon monoxide and dioxide, hydrogen and nitrogen and small quantities of oxygen from Weardale specimens by heating. He concluded that the gases are due to the decomposition of an organic colouring matter, which has, however, no connexion with the fluorescence or thermo-luminescence of the mineral. Certain crystals from Cumberland are beautifully fluorescent, appearing purple with a bluish internal haziness by reflected light, and greenish by transmitted light. Fluor-spar, though cubic, sometimes exhibits weak double refraction, probably due to internal tension. Many kinds of fluor-spar are thermo-luminescent, i.e. they glow on exposure to a moderate heat, and the name of chlorophane has been given to a variety which exhibits a green glow. The mineral also phosphoresces under the Röntgen rays. Cavities containing liquid occasionally occur in crystals of fluor-spar, notably in the greasy green cubes of Weardale in Durham. A dark violet fluor-spar from Wölsendorf in Bavaria, evolves an odour of ozone when struck, and has been called antozonite. Ozone is also emitted by a violet fluor-spar from Quincié, dep. Rhône, France. In both cases the spar evolves free fluorine, which ozonizes the air.

Fluor-spar is largely employed by the metallurgist, especially in lead-smelting, and in the production of ferro-silicon and ferro-manganese. It is also used in iron and brass foundries, and has been found useful as a flux for certain gold-ores and in the reduction of aluminium. It is used as a source of hydrofluoric acid, which it evolves when heated with sulphuric acid. The mineral is also used in the production of opal glass and enamel ware. In consequence of its low refractive and dispersive power, colourless pellucid fluor-spar is valuable in the construction of apochromatic lenses, but this variety is rare. The dark violet fluor-spar of Derbyshire, known locally as “Blue John,” is prized for ornamental purposes. It occurs almost exclusively at Tray Cliff, near Castleton. The dark purple spar, called by the workmen “bull beef,” may be changed, by heat, to a rich amethystine tint. Being very brittle, the spar is rather difficult to work on the lathe, and is often toughened by means of resin. F. Corsi, the eminent Italian antiquary, held that fluor-spar was the material of the famous murrhine vases.

Fluor-spar is a mineral of very wide distribution. Some of the finest crystals occur in the lead-veins of the Carboniferous Limestone series in the north of England, especially at Weardale, Allendale and Alston Moor. It is also found in the lead and copper-mines of Cornwall and S. Devon, notably near Liskeard, where fine crystals have been found, with faces of the six-faced octahedron replacing the corners of the cube. In Cornwall fluor-spar is known to the miners as “cann.” Fine yellow fluor-spar occurs in some of the Saxon mines, and beautiful rose-red octahedra are found in the Alps, near Göschenen. Many localities in the United States yield fluor-spar, and it is worked commercially in a few places, notably at Rosiclare in southern Illinois.