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


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



Polman Minerals Professional SW Display Case


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.



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.



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!


Remote Control of UV displays using X10 modules


Here is some additional information on using X10 modules to control UV lights. You need to use the appliance modules to control fluorescent UV lights. I prefer the three prong appliance modules since some lights have three pins on the AC power cord. An X10 lamp module will not work correctly and cannot be used to dim fluorescent lights. Basically you need to pick a house code and set it the same on all modules (switch with red circle in image below). Each light needs a different unit code (switch with black circle in image below).



X10 Appliance module – 1 per light


X10 Wireless Transceiver – only one


X10 Palmpad handheld remote control unit

The basic X10 modules needed to setup UV lights for remote control are shown above. They usually have them on sale at www.x10.com and are often available at around 50% off retail. Sales change every few days.


With the Active Home controller module and Active Home PC software seen below you can setup timers to control the lights and even add X10 motion sensors to trigger timers. X10 modules work more reliably if the controller is plugged into the same AC line as the modules. In some houses, two AC phases are used in different parts of a house and the X10 signals are not as strong from one phase to the other. The same problem occurs with AC power line computer networking modules. You can get a special 220V dryer adapter plug used for power line networks to couple the signals across one phase to the other, but they are not UL rated yet.



ActiveHome Controller module


ActiveHome PC software to program controller