All About The Fluorescent Rocks of Sterling Hill Mine

by Kayla Mutchler
Sterling Hill Mining Museum

Ogdensburg, New Jersey may be a smaller town, but it is also home to one of the state’s most treasured landmarks. You can trek 1,300 feet into the Sterling Hill Mining Museum and learn all about the history of the location while witnessing the utmost beauty of the site’s central icon: the glowing zinc ores. 

Zinc use and mining date back to 10th century B.C. brass-making. It is estimated that mining at the Sterling Hill Mine began prior to 1739. With over 200 years of scientific research on this mine’s zinc, the mineral’s origin has only recently been discovered, dating to approximately 1.3 billion years ago. 

Now, over 350 mineral species have been discovered at the Sterling Hill and Franklin mines, which is a world record for such a small area. Approximately 90 of the minerals are fluorescent and over 24 are entirely unique to this site. 

Inside the Mine

While inside, visitors will take a guided walking tour on the first level of the mine. You’ll stop around the mine to learn about equipment, what the work was like, geology, history, and more. Visitors can even see the mineshaft station and galleries dating back to the 1830s. 

While trekking through the mine, you will come across the Rainbow Tunnel. It is considered one of their best exhibits, where the zinc ore is particularly fluorescent while exposed to ultraviolet light. The arch above the deposits even resembles a rainbow! You’ll see colors such as red, green, yellow, blue, and more.


There are also multiple exhibits located in the museum, such as the Warren Museum of Fluorescence. Upon entering, visitors will walk into a color wall, which is a 16-foot wall-covering display featuring 100 fluorescent minerals. Each mineral varies in size, reaching up to three feet and weighing more than 100 pounds. You can even touch some of the displays––and when you do, you’ll glow, too!

At another exhibit, the Zobel Hall Museum, there’s even more to explore. Prior to becoming a display, the building was a changing house for the miners and has even kept some of the original amenities such as lockers. Now, the building hosts plenty of sights: one being the Oreck Mineral Display. This gallery is worth millions of dollars, as it displays some of the finest minerals local to NJ, as well as from around the world. 

There is also another fluorescent display Inside Zobel Hall Museum, which gives visitors a sample of what is located in the other museum. In this room, visitors will learn why the Franklin mine is considered the “Fluorescent Mineral Capital of the World.”

The final exhibit features a 10-foot-long periodic table of elements. Each of its cubbies hosts the actual element in its proper placement, an ore from which the element is found, and an example of something made out of each element. This display is the largest and most complete in the world. 

More to Do

If you like to collect, you’ll want to check out the mine run dump area. You can find minerals from all over the world to take home. There is also a sluice mining area, which is similar to panning for gold. You can purchase bags of sand that are filled with fossils, gems, and minerals and sift through them to see what you got. 

There is even an observatory open to the public; however, it is closed due to COVID-19. Make sure to also check out the gift shop and snack bar so you can take a souvenir home and grab a bite to eat. 

The Sterling Hill Mining Museum is open Thursday through Saturday with tours at 1 p.m. Reservations are required at least five days in advance. 

Have you ever been to the Sterling Hill Mining Museum? Tell us in the comments below.

Main photo by @sterlinghillminingmuseum

About the Author/s

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Kayla is a senior communication major at the University of New Haven. When she's not writing, she's keeping up on the latest pop culture news, listening to music, and cooking.

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