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OUR DYNAMIC PLANET: CHAOS & BEAUTY

Earth is a dynamic planet in a state of constant change, so its rocks and minerals are perpetually created, destroyed, transported and re-formed into new generations of rocks and minerals – what geologists call the rock cycle.

These moments of creation are beautifully captured in our images, and then applied to contemporary products.

The rock cycle creates the three types of rock: igneous (formed of fire), sedimentary (settled down) and metamorphic (from the Greek to change form), but then the Earth's oceans and atmosphere combine to destroy rocks.

Igneous rocks and minerals, for example, are created at high temperatures and high pressures deep in the Earth’s crust, so are often inherently unstable in the cold, wet conditions at the surface with weather chemically breaking down their constituent minerals.

Physical processes are also at work: volcanoes destroy the land and pollute the atmosphere, ocean waves pound coastal cliffs, glaciers reduce granites to rock flour, and rivers carve vast canyons.

So each image we produce is a graphical representation of a point within this grand planetary scale cycle frozen in time. Each contains glimpses of this story played out at the molecular scale.

Some, such as the Paesina Stones, look uncannily like real landscapes, while agates are formed of chalcedony, a microcrystalline form of quartz, with the most spectacular examples created by trapped gas bubbles in basalt lavas into which ground water percolates.

We are all familiar with the complex structure of six-sided quartz crystal with its pyramid-like points or metallic cubes of pyrite - so-called Fool's Gold – but other minerals have extremely homogeneous structures, such as agates, which are structurally identical in all directions, and Mica, which forms plate-like sheets.

Then there is the multitude of phenomena – not least metals - that produce colours in minerals, such as iron and manganese in quartz, which produces the purple of amethyst, and copper in malachite, which gives it its distinctively green colour.

Tiny, finely distributed pockets of gas, liquid or solid can scatter light in a crystal structure, giving colour to moonstone and labradorite, for example. In opal, the mineral structure produces a brilliant play of colour as light is reflected and diffracted by the silica particles.

From all this miraculous chaos over billions of years, we are able through the “magic” of digital technology to produce images that present order and beauty at a molecular scale.

Typically, what constitutes a scarf is a section of a mineral smaller than one centimetre in diameter – but often invisibly small to the human eye. You are seeing the earth at a microscopic scale.

For a more comprehensive explanation of how the minerals have been formed, see Formations, Images From Rocks, Richard Weston's book about our Earth Images. You can buy a copy here at a discounted price.