Hemimorphite Through the Ages
Hemimorphite which is a zinc silicate and smithsonite which is a zinc carbonate were once believed to be the same mineral. This was because of the similarity in their external appearance.
For this reason until the early 1800's both were known as calamine.
The British chemist and mineralogist James Smithson then discovered from a chemical and crystallography perspective both were quite distinct. It was then confirmed they were two different minerals.
The zinc carbonate was later renamed smithsonite after James Smithson. Hemimorphite came from the Greek words 'hēmi' meaning 'half' and 'morphē' meaning 'form' in reference to the stone's hemimorphism. A mineral that's hemimorphic has a different crystal habit at opposite ends of the same crystal.
The Roman author, naturalist and natural philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about hemimorphite and referred to it as 'galmei'. Other ancient writers referred to it as cadmia which is an oxide of zinc.
The name calamine came from the corrupted Greek word cadmia. German geologist and mineralogist Gustav Kenngott [1818-1897] renamed it albeit unofficially, hemimorphite.
American clergyman and mineral dealer Ebenezer Seymour described it in 1868 following studies of samples from Romania. The obsolete name calamine remained in use until the 1930's.
A Few More Facts
Hemimorphite has moderate hardness, is brittle and has a maze of hairline fractures. These characteristics make it extremely difficult to cut. For this reason when used as a gemstone it tends to be polished as a cabochon.
Blue hemimorphite can resemble the mineral turquoise or is sometimes mistaken for larimar. This material has started being marketed as "Chinese larimar". WE've recently heard of people buying what they believe to be larimar only to then receive hemimorphite.
Although in its purest form hemimorphite is white or colourless it can also be found in blue, green and grey. The variation in colour is due to trace elements of copper and iron.
Hemimorphite grades 4.5 to 5 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness. It's known to occasionally fluoresce blue under shortwave ultraviolet light.
It can be found in several counries around the world including on the Belgian-German border, Poland, USA, North Africa, Thailand, Sardinia, Siberia, Austria, Namibia, Spain, Australia and England.
Some of the finest material which includes colourless and transparent gemmy crystals come from Mexico.
When used for its metaphysical properties hemimorphite enhances self-esteem and self-respect. It facilitates personal evolvement, protects against malice and brings joy and creativity. It's said to bring luck and will encourage inner strength in order to live a happy and creative life.
Our hemimorphite photos are courtesy of Ron Wolf. Both are clickable and redirect to the original non-compressed image.