Ken and Lynda Dinneen are Lapidary Artists and Rock Hounds Ken is a Lapidary, Lynda has taught Jewellery Design, Silversmithing, and Lapidary Art, as well leading many mining and

Rock Hounding tours in and around the western United States. Ken and Lynda work from their studio on the east flank of the Central Oregon Cascade Mountains in Sisters, Oregon.

In 1803, chemist Smithson Tennant was busy dissolving crude platinium in a horrifically strong acid called ‘Royal Water’ or ‘King’s Water’, when he noticed bits of another metallic substance in his vial and Voila! Osmium was discovered in London that day.

A hard, brittle, bluish-grey and apparently stinky substance.... hence the name ‘Osmium’ from the Greek, ‘smell’.

OK, time out for a second!

If you are reading this article, then it is a good bet that you read last month’s article on copper. If so, you will remember my saying that Great Britain is about 1/2 the size of the state of California in the US. In that, Great Britain staggers the imagination at the sheer volume of resources regarding mining and minerals and the resulting industry, innovation, trade, education, thought, medicine and on and on, adding to the living standards of the World.

This blessed isle is truly amazing and here once

again, is an element discovered in England, that even now is not fully appreciated. Meaning that there is so much room for discovery in the field of exploration, medicine and chemistry regarding Osmium, that anyone inclined toward research and innovation have lots of options for study.

Osmium Cluster

Now here I must say that chemistry is not my ‘thing’. In fact, it is all I can do to keep my eyes from rolling up in my head and floating away with the fairies when we get on to periodic tables and

element symbols! However, I do know the importance of

discovery and the importance of chemistry, even if it is not my personal passion. I also know that not all rocks are meant to be gathered by the handful and shown to friends and family. This one, especially, since it is highly toxic and absorbs through

Osmium crystals

the skin quite readily. Yikes! In fact, in our shop, there are many rocks containing minerals that we simply will not cut because they are just too dangerous. Now, back to Osmium...

Osmium Massive

This element shows up when processing copper, platinum and nickel ores. One of the very cool uses of Osmium is in the criminal forensic science of fingerprinting. That is a study in itself!

Osmium from the Urals, Russia ©DAKOTA MATRIX

Osmium can be altered to a soluable form as a chloride, tetroxide, nitrate, and acetate. It can be used to stain biological (the fat) samples in preparation for microscopy studies. It has been used for the space shuttle, catalysts, medical implements, writing pen nibs, all manner of stuff and even in some trials for cancer treatments. There is much more to discover here! For now...

Enjoy the changing of the seasons and until next time. Happy Hounding!

w Lynda Dinneen

Thank you to everyone who

came into our exhibition at the Kirkgate Centre.


Cockermouth was a ‘town of smells’ at that time! The case was not proven, so the company continued to trade.

There were lots of interesting conversations and queries, which we will follow up. One of the displays at the exhibition concerned Derwent Mills, established by Jonathan Harris and later home to Miller’s shoe factory. We had a query concerning the building that was, until the move to the Cockermouth Hospital on Isel Road, home to the Derwent Medical Practice. What was that building used for in the time of Miller’s and indeed, prior to that? Please get in touch if you can provide any useful information, so we can pass it on.

Many people may be unaware that Derwent Mills also housed a fertilizer factory; the Bradford Fertilizer Company processed blood and the site was fondly known as the ‘blood factory’. In 1940, because of the constant complaints about foul smells coming from the factory, the Town Council refused to renew its licence. Newspaper articles of the time do not make easy reading, with references to eight barrels of blood that went ‘rancid’, causing a dreadful stench. The company suggested that the smell must come from another part of town, since


Miller’s came to Cockermouth from Great Yarmouth in 1940, bringing with them plant and machinery and about 200 key workers. In the 1960s, they were producing around 70,000 pairs of shoes, sandals, indoor footwear and slippers per week and exporting to countries including the USA. At its peak, it employed more than 1,100 people in Cockermouth, so a major employer. One of our pictures shows Miller’s sewing room: were you one of the people in that picture? Were you a worker at the factory and can you describe the kind of work you did there? The other picture shows

Derwent Mills

Derwent Mills in 1953, decorated for the Coronation. The factory closed its doors in 1990 and the famous Fred Dibnah arrived in Cockermouth to demolish the 250 foot chimney, despite attempts by local youngsters to get in there first; they had attempted to light the bonfire set in place by Fred but the fire was extinguished and Fred duly brought the chimney down on 7th November 1992.

Please get in touch if you have any memories of working at Derwent Mills, or with any queries.

Gloria Edwards

Telephone: 01900 823966


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