Tinstone

Now remember, the rocks with chunks that look like silvery black metal crystals... that's what we're looking for. And the more crystals, the better. It's the crystals that we're after.
— Prospector to his young adult son somewhere in the mountains
While iron ore is probably the most important metallic ore extracted from the mountains of Cartyrion, it is not the only one. Iron and Steel are important, but so are Bronze and Pewter to the various economies around the world. Neither of these alloys are possible without Tin, and for this reason, places in the mountains where deposits of tin ores can be found become the targets of mining booms that rival any gold rush one cares to recall. The Commonspeech name for the most common ore of Tin found in the mountains of Cartyrion is simply "Tinstone", and the southern portion of the Iron Mountain range is rich with high-grade deposits of this valuable ore.

Properties

Material Characteristics

Tinstone itself is a black crystalline material that has, at times, been used as a semi-precious gemstone. Large crystals can be cut into desirable gemstone shapes. In nature, these crystals are usually found embedded into deposits of granite, basalt, diorite, or other igneous rocks.

History & Usage

History

Dwarves have known about Tinstone since the earliest of their delving and mining days. After the Humans were Awakened, and they began to interact with the Dwarves, the knowledge of this ore and the correct manner of processing it was passed along to the Humans as well. This was at a time long ago when the Dwarves still guarded their secrets regarding iron, steel, and adamantite carefully, but the were not so concerned about permitting other Folk to have access to copper and bronze for tools.

The First Kingdom established tin mines in the northwesternmost reaches of the Iron Mountains, west of the the Dwarven Crystal Delve. Deposits were also found in the the northern portions of the Eastern Basin Wall range, but the deposits there were small and the mines exhausted quickly.

There was always speculation that there must be Tinstone deposits in the mountains that ringed the Feywood, but these regions were never sufficiently developed by Humans or Dwarves to find out -- at least not until the city of Karnstown was established many years after the Great Strive. In the year 2105CR, prospectors from Karnstown were exploring the mountains west of the city in search of iron deposits when they encountered an extremely rich deposit of Tinstone.

The spot is now the location of the mining hamlet of Stannilode, and still produces a significant portion of the tin currently being mined by Humans. Almost every resident of the hamlet is employed either mining the tinstone, smelting it into tin ingots, or operating one of the few support businesses in the village (the general store, the assay office, and the two taverns). Every resident is a member of the Karnstown Mining Cooperative which provides organization, but also provides a means for the Karn family to siphon 55% of all profits off the top of the entire tin operation.
Cassiterite.webp
Nearly pure Tinstone crystal formation
Appearance
The pure ore appears as octohedral crystals of a deep reddish brown to black. Crystals are opaque with a metallic luster; fresh fractures may have a greasy appearance. Rarely, yellow or clear crystals are found; these are reserved for gemstone use.
Hardness
Crystals are capable of scratching/marring feldspar. Quartz crystals will scratch or mar tinstone crystal surfaces
Processing Temperatures
Roasting is done at temperatures enough to heat iron to a dark orange color (1100oF, or 590oC)
Smelting is done at temperatures enough to heat iron to a bright yellow, but not quite white color (2450oF, or 1340oC)
Known Mines/Ore Deposits
The mountains surrounding the hamlet of Stannilode at the western edge of the Feywood are the largest known surface-accesible deposit site today. First Kingdom still operates mines in the extreme northwest reaches of the Iron Mountains. It is suspected that several of the Dwarven Delves also contain sizable deposits of tinstone deep underground.

Refinement

Rocks bearing tinstone crystals are first broken and crushed to remove as much of the rocky substrate as possible. Once the relatively pure tinstone crystals have been separated, they are placed into a crucible made of a special ceramic and slowly heated in a bellows-driven furnace to drive off some of the impurities in the ore. This requires a slow heating process and a long "hold time" at just below the temperature at which the crystals begin to melt. If this process is rushed, the resulting tin will contain impurities that may render it unfit for future use.

Once this preliminary "roast" is complete, charcoal is added and the temperature of the forge increased. As the crystals start to melt, the material will react with the charcoal and create a bubbling gaseous byproduct which can be dangerous to the smelters if care is not taken to vent it away from the furnace. Once the bubbling stops, the result is a crucible containing purified liquid tin.

The liquid tin is usually poured out into ingot molds made of sand. Occasionally other customized forms may be poured instead. Once in ingot form, the tin can be combined in the future with copper ingots to make bronze, or with lead ingots to make pewter.

Manufacturing & Products

Pure tin can be used to make decorative objects, but these products tend to be brittle. By far the most frequent uses for tin are to alloy them with other metals to form bronze or pewter. Bronze can be cast into all sorts of shapes ranging from sword blades to statues; pewter is commonly used for inexpensive plates and tankards.

Hazards

Apart from the expected hazards of dealing with high temperature furnaces and molten metals, the smelting process for tin can produce an undetectable gas that is capable of suffocating the smeltery workers if it is kept in a contained area. Proper smelteries are well ventilated to prevent this.

The tin itself is not hazardous, but there are some sages that believe prolonged use of pewters made by alloying tin and lead can lead to eventual madness.  

Credits

Image of Tinstone (Cassiterite) by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com under creative commons license CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Tokens and Character images, including side panel fey images, made by RPGDinosaurBob using HeroForge®
Banner image by RPGDinosaurBob using Flowscape on Steam.
Side panel forest images by Free-Photos from Pixabay


Cover image: The Inn from the Bridge over Daphinia's Stream by RPGDinosaurBob (with Flowscape)

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