Display Techniques

For effective display of fluorescent minerals, you will need darkness and a nonfluorescent setting.

For showing them at home, darkness is easily obtained.   But gem & mineral shows and such generally do not allow you to shut off the lights.   Short of setting up a tent in the exhibit hall, or getting space in an adjoining room where lights can be turned off, you need a mostly opaque box with some sort of viewing port.   It helps the exhibit if the viewer can see the minerals under shortwave UV, longwave UV, and visible light in turn.   This can be done with a timer that turns on first one then another lamp, or by providing switches or buttons for the viewer to select lamps with.

For public or prolonged displays, the person viewing the display should be protected from shortwave UV.   Ordinary types of glass will stop shortwave UV almost completely, so placing glass between specimen and viewer (not between specimen and lamp!) should be sufficient.   Take notice of which side of the glass is fluorescent and face it away from the UV light when shortwave UV is used.

A nonfluorescent background (including labels) is also needed to avoid 'competition' for the mineral fluorescence.   Bleached or brightly colored fabrics and papers, many plastics, and even some woods will fluoresce.   Black things (including minerals) rarely fluoresce; dull black fabric or paper, or wood painted dull black will generally be best.   Black is also good at minimizing the effects of any stray visible light that leaks in.

The white rectangular cardboard jewelry boxes with cotton that often come with bought specimens are usually fluorescent (both box and cotton).   Try spray-painting the boxes black and wrapping the cotton in a piece of black cloth.   These in turn are kept in black-painted flat boxes.  This allows one to simply open the flat box and shine a UV lamp on the specimens.


Re: Display Techniques - LW UV LED strip lighting for displays

Has anyone else tried some of the new LW UV LED strip lights for a display?

Here is my first attempt using a 10x14 shadow box case from a hobby store ($40) with two low-cost ($8) PC 12VDC UV LED light strips:

Shadow box display case with two UV LED strips added

LW minerals added and case cover closed

The LED wavelength is a bit different than a typical LW UV light and there are some changes in the color response. It is small enough that you can hang it on the wall and with the LEDs you can leave it on all of the time.  I posted more info at http://users.ece.gatech.edu/~hamblen/uvminerals/UVLEDDisplay.htm

Re: Display Techniques - Professional Display Case

Here are a couple of commercial display cases setup for fluorescent mineral displays. Are there others available?

Polman Minerals Display Case

Polman minerals has a new display case setup for displaying fluoresecent minerals.

UVTools SW Display Case

UVTools also offers two sizes of SW Display cases.


Re: Display Techniques

After getting my new WTC 60W lw/95W sw lamp and installing it in my newly flat black painted display cabinet, I was quite pleased initially.  Then I realized the blackness of the cabinet was being lightened (into dark grey) by the close proximity of the lamp.  The shadows created by the rocks were darker than the rest of the cabinet.

So I tried using a blacker background. Namely: charcoal briquets (the plain ones, no mesquite flavoring).  For blackness, they are amazing!

They are so black under shortwave that they make the "black" cabinet seem light grey by contrast.  Because the contrast is so much greater, I'm seeing fluorescence in a little ruby that I thought didn't fluoresce at all when sitting on flat black paint or black velvet.

Now I've just got to figure out how to make the diplay not resemble a mineralogical barbeque.



Re: Display Techniques

A follow up.   I took some briquets and soaked them in a bucket of water for a few days.  This allowed all kinds of stuff to float to the surface where it was removed.  After the water was "clear", the briquets had dissolved into  a spongy powdery substance.  After letting the powder dry out I applied it to a wall surface by "gluing" it on the wood with a heavy wet coat of flat black paint.  Just coat the surface with the paint and liberally dust it with the charcoal powder.  It dries to an extemely dark and non reflective surface, which greatly enhances the contrast for the less than bright minerals.


Be careful with the charcoal powder though, as it is flammable in its powdered form.

Re: Display Techniques

I know this post is a bit old, but maybe it will help some people out with their own display case builds.

I too had the problem that the black backgroud of my box fluoressed a bit, even though it was painted with satin black paint.

I realized that the satin was a bit of the problem as well, it still reflects and the background needs to be more matte. I tried black velvet and that works ok, its just that it works like a magnet to dust and most dust fluoresces...so that didn't worked too well either. The charcoal powder gave me an idea: chalkboard paint.

I gave it a try and the result is a true black background with virtually no reflection.

So if you're going to paint your box, use chalkboard paint :)


Re: Display Techniques


Redhat here, new to the board.

I've found an interesting background for UV fluorescing stuff is copper.

The copper reflection in UV can be darkend by roughing it with sandpaper.  Its not pure black but the deep purple can be interesting.



Re: Display Techniques, Portable Display Case Any Designs?

Does anyone have a good design for a portable display case that can easily be knocked down and put back together for a temporary use like a school classroom?

Re: Display Techniques, Portable Display Case Any Designs?

Front view of UV display stand built using parts from a plastic shelf unit.

I built one using parts from a black plastic storage shelf unit from Lowes. The bottom surface is made of thin black soft craft foam sheets from a hobby/crafts/arts store. It also cushions the rocks a bit and prevents scratches on the surface. It provides a nice dark surface and is easy to clean.


Stand flipped on the side to show the lights and outlet strip on back.

I used black Nylon cable ties to attach the lights, an outlet strip, and hide the excess wires. No holes to drill and nothing to paint. Initial assembly took only an hour once I had the parts.


The initial test of the display with a couple rocks and the removable sides attached.

It also has a remote control feature using X10 control modules. The black foam core board sides attach with sticky back Velco for use in rooms that are not dark. It all breaks down easy and fits in a car.

I found the black foam sheets and black foam core boards at Hobby Lobby. They also come in handy for permanent UV displays.

X10 Appliance Module

The plugin X10 appliance modules can be used for remote or timed control of UV lights along with a wireless controller and handheld remote control unit. I also use them on my permanent display setup.

X10 Handheld Remote

Have instructions and more photos at the end of this web page:



Re: Anyone know Edwin Skidmore UV lite maker in 1940s

I have a 1940s Quartzlite made by Edwin Skidmore of Mountainside, Westfield, N.J. who made and marketed his own Quartzlite UV lamps (I have one that has #141 on the name plate).  He was apparently quite a colorful guy, a bit eccentric to say the least,  who also sold fluorescent rocks and traveled around seting up mineral displays for other collectors in the 40s thru 1960s.  He may have been the one to market "the river of life"  very bright green Willemite phosphorescent vein  in rocks from N.J. mines he promoted with the lights he sold.  If anyone know's any stories about this fellow that would help to separate the fact from the fiction I would love to hear from you.   You can also privately email me at [email protected] if you wish to remain anonymous.

Don's picture

Re: Anyone know Edwin Skidmore UV lite maker in 1940s

The name Edwin Skidmore is vagely familiar, but I cannot say for sure that I remember it.  Do you have a photo of one of his UV lights?

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