TREASURES mined in the Durham Dales will be returning to the region for the first time since the 1940s this weekend.

Dozens of mineral specimens hewn from the hills surrounding Weardale will be displayed at The North Pennines Mineral Expo in St. John’s Chapel Town Hall tomorrow (Saturday, July 29) and Sunday (July 30).

The specimens, now kept at the Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, were collected about 80 years ago and are among the most beautiful to have been found in Weardale.

The first North Pennines Mineral Expo is being organised by mineral enthusiast Enrico Rinaldi and his partner Felicity Murphy and is believed to be the first of its kind to be held in the Dale for many years.

It follows an upsurge of interest in the mineral specimens and the mines of the area.

Mr Rinaldi organises a similar event in his Italian hometown of Perticara, itself an old mining town with a similar historical and cultural background to Weardale.

He said he was excited to celebrate the mining and minerals of the area and give something back to the community, adding: “We will have mineral dealers from across the UK and a photography competition, music, local food and a fantastic selection of Weardale fluorites which haven’t been displayed in the area since their excavation.

“We look forward to seeing lots of you over the weekend too.”

For hundreds of years, miners sought lead in the hills of Weardale and produced vast quantities of specimens of fluorite with yellow, purple, blue and green crystals which were used to decorate mantelpieces, windowsills and gardens.

The lead mines gradually ran out of lead but mining revived in the latter half of the 20th Century when fluorite was mined to be used for steelworks.

These days, the mines are worked to obtain world class mineral specimens for which there is universal demand as Weardale fluorites are considered prized possessions by collectors.

The Expo is open from 9am to 5pm both days and entry is free. There will also be fun and education activities for children, and collectors can bring along their own specimen to be examined by mineral experts.