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Fluorescent rocks subject of Friends of the Kibler School program

  • ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Jim Simpson brought part of his rock collection to the Kibler School for its Three Thursdays program.
    ELSA KERSCHNER/TIMES NEWS Jim Simpson brought part of his rock collection to the Kibler School for its Three Thursdays program.
Published August 04. 2011 05:01PM

Jim Simpson brought a portion of his collection of fluorescent rocks to the Kibler School for the final Three Thursdays program. He attended Kibler School as a classmate of Roy Christman, lived near Graver's Orchard, and is now a resident of Valley Forge. He graduated from Palmerton High School.

Simpson began collecting rocks when he was 10 years old.

The fluorescents look like any other rock until he shines an ultraviolet light on them. What you see is reflected light, he said.

The first rock, mostly white, shows orange, green, purple and red under ultraviolet light. He made his own lights and said the most expensive part is a filter that eliminates visible light.

Many of his stones come from Franklin, N.J. The mine supplied ore to New Jersey Zinc Company. Most people associate green and red with franklinite, but franklinite doesn't fluoresce, said Simpson.

At one time he thought yellow and blue meant dioxide but found it is not.

Fluorescense got its name from fluorite in England. He buys and sells rocks and said a rock with both red and green is the most valuable.

There are short wave and long wave ultraviolet lights. The long wave is not as bright when it fluoresces. It is also safer because it can be looked at without damaging the eyes.

If a hand is under a short wave light for a couple minutes it will sunburn. The eyes can go blind but usually that will go away in a day.

The sun is the most powerful ultraviolet light. If it wasn't for the atmosphere acting as a filter, no life would have developed on earth. Ultraviolet light is known for its germ-killing effect.

When willemite is found it means there are zinc deposits. Other minerals will be found in the same area. Although first found at Franklin, no one named it until the people of Belgium named it after their King William.

Simpson said collectors of fluorescent rocks are the lunatic fringe of rock collecting.

His are powerful lamps and he will take them to an area where fluorescent rocks may be found and shine it on the ground till something shines.

In Canada there is a 10-acre zinc dump. The valuable ore has all been taken out, so he sets up a generator and looks for rocks.

"Collecting is easy if you only want bright and pretty," he said.

Just before Halloween there is an Ultraviolation show in Bucks County. Windows will be blacked out every half hour and then the lights will be turned off for a half hour.

Its theme is "If your rock doesn't glow, this show's not for you."

Franklin is known as the fluorescent capital of the world. The ore was imported to Palmerton and, after years of smelting, the entire landscape is covered with zinc.

He said Pennsylvania fluorescents are not as spectacular as those from New Jersey other areas. Since he buys and sells he looks for the bright colors. One Pennsylvania site he mentioned is near Perkiomenville which "has a vein that fluoresces very nicely."

Uranium in a rock is green. There are some jewels such as rubies and certain diamonds that fluoresce.

Simpson said he did not want to sell his collection so he went to Franklin and got a bucketful of rocks. The first one sold for $83. He wanted to give it to the buyer as a gift but the man said "No. If I let you do it, you do a disservice for the person who bid $82."

The most expensive he ever sold, an amount he would not give except to say it was huge, was from a mine that was one point better than anything at Franklin or Sterling Hill, also in New Jersey and a supplier to New Jersey Zinc, had. He regrets having sold it. The person who bought it calls it his "Grammie rock" because he bought it with an inheritance.

Most are not dangerous. He has one radioactive rock that he keeps in the back of his cabinet.

There were tunnels somewhere between Jim Thorpe and Nesquehoning that had fluorescent rocks. They were taken to Weissport, but he did not know what happened beyond that.

People crowded around to see the rocks which, without the lights, were just plain rocks, and then went out under the trees for a wine and cheese reception.

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