Displaying Fluorescent Minerals

Once you have a collection of fluorescent minerals you will want to display it. Here are some ideas for setting up a home display. When placing fluorescent minerals in a display, try to place the brighter specimens further away from the UV light to balance out the brightness.

LW Displays

       Lower cost and smaller lights than MW and SW

       Can use low cost “black lights”

       Can be setup as under cabinet lights in a standard display case

       Don’t have to worry about replacing expensive filters

       LW can penetrate a glass shelf

       New bright LED UV Lights are now available instead of the older fluorescent tube style



LW display setup as under cabinet lighting in a standard display case. Uses six 24-inch $10 black light fixtures from Wal-Mart.



SW and MW Displays

       Not a bad idea to have glass in a permanent display case to filter out SW UV especially if the SW light is always on. This is done in museums. Long term exposure to SW UV will bleach out fabrics and cause sunburn just like direct sunlight.

       Some people have used setups similar to aquariums and even used old aquariums. Also want a room without bright sunlight.


UVTools has a SW UV Display Case & Light



Tazour Family MW and SW Display in an Aquarium



Polman Minerals Professional SW UV Display Case


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A shadow box with hidden LW UV LED strips


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Unused Fireplace with the new LED LW UV lights

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UV display in an entire room with black walls and shelves




Building a Portable Display Setup for Fluorescent Minerals

       Nice for shows and talks to groups

       Normal white, LW, SW, and MW UV lights

       Stand uses parts from a plastic storage shelf unit  (from Home Depot or Lowes) and nylon cable ties for quick assembly

       AC outlet strip with X10 plug in control modules used for remote control

       Foam sheets and foam board from an art supply or hobby store can be used for black out material


Front View of stand with Black Foam Sheets on Table

The black foam sheets are used a bit like shelf paper. They cushion the rocks a bit, avoid scratching the surface, and provide a dark background for the display. They can be taped together for a larger area and are fairly easy to clean off. Long term the sheets would also prevent the SW UV from bleaching out the surface you place the display on. You could also use another shelf for the bottom surface, but it might make it a bit harder to break down and transport.



Stand flipped over on the side showing lights mounted to vented shelf with black nylon cable ties.


Once you have all of the parts, assembly will only take about an hour. I found a black plastic shelf unit at Home Depot that had five shelves and each shelf is 18 by 36 inches. I used one of the shelves and one set of plastic tubes for the display. The remaining four shelves will still build a slightly shorter shelf unit that you might be able to use elsewhere at home. In addition to my MW and SW lights, I added a low cost “blacklight” (LW) and normal fluorescent light that I found at Wal-Mart for around $10 each. For a LW only display, you might even consider using two “blacklights” to make it brighter.

Attach the lights to the shelf using black nylon cables ties. Run the cable ties through the slots in the shelf and around the lights as needed. If you get a shelf unit with solid shelves, you will likely need to drill some holes to mount everything, so I prefer the vented shelves. Some UV lights might have a chain you could use. It takes quite a few ties to secure the lights, AC outlet strips, and to secure and hide all of the AC line cords, so get a big bag. Cut off the excess ties using a wire cutter. Cable ties should be about 10 inches long or longer. If your ties are too short, you can always chain a couple together to make a longer tie.





Foam board top and sides attached to stand with sticky back Velcro.

The setup above is handy for demos in areas that are not very dark. For example, if you have a demo during the day in a room with windows even turning off the lights will not make it very dark. Large sheets of black foam board can be found at just about any art and hobby store (Hobby Lobby) along with sticky back Velcro. Wal-Mart has precut sticky back Velcro squares in small packs. It is handy to have a large flat surface and a metal straight edge when cutting the foam board to size with a razor blade knife or rotary cutter. There is a large shop light in front and right above the display, so the room has quite of bit of light, but the fluorescent minerals are still visible. I also found a couple of black decorator wood shelves at Bed, Bath and Beyond that are used to elevate the back row of minerals about four inches.

It all breaks down and can fit in any car and be easily transported. Since it is all plastic, it does not weigh much more that the lights. I leave the lights attached to the shelf when moving it all. If needed, you can remove the top and side form board that is attached with Velcro and pull the black plastic tubes (legs) out of the shelf to break it down for transport. Be careful when moving it, you don’t want to break a SW filter!


View of the back side showing the AC outlet strip used to plug in all of the lights. 

The optional white plug in X10 appliance modules allow wireless remote control of the lights using a handheld wireless controller. They are often found on sale at www.x10.com. Using other X10 devices, it is also possible to build a timer or motion detector setup to control the lights. If you decide to use the X10 control modules, you will need a bit more spacing between the plugs on the AC outlet strip. X10 devices have become a bit dated and newer alternatives are available.


Automation of UV Lighting Displays

MW and SW UV lights and filters can burn out over time, generate ozone, cause sunburn, and fade fabric. They typically are not left on for long periods of time to prolong the life of UV display lights. It is likely you want both normal lighting with several UV lights and perhaps even with different UV wavelengths. There will be lots of lights to switch on/off manually!

It is possible these days to control all of the lights and add time delay routines with smart home devices like Amazon Echo along with Wi-Fi smart plugs and outlets. Motion sensors, phones, or voice can be used for control

With smart Wi Fi wall plugs and Amazon Echo or Google Home devices it is easy to setup timer routines and voice control of UV lighting displays.


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