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Spar Arch, early 20th century

‘Spar’ is the name given to mineral crystals with shiny, smooth surfaces often found in mines. From the late 1880s to the early 1900s, a craze developed among miners for creating shapes and sculptures from these colourful crystals, often displayed in specially made boxes.

Spar Arch, early 20th century

These spar shapes and boxes are a form of folk art, only ever really adopted by the mining community – who would have regular competitions to display their pieces. They were never adopted by higher society. For this reason, they have their own unique and sometimes elaborate style, having never been influenced by fashionable conventions of taste and beauty. They are now rare, as most of them were broken up for the value of the minerals. This spar arch includes calcite, quartz, fluorite, aragonite and sphalerite.

Image courtesy of Middlesbrough Museum Service

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