Charoite Properties Meaning and Photos
Introduction to the Mineral Charoite
Charoite is a rock forming mineral first discovered in 1948 by geologist Vladimir Ditmar. It was another twenty years before the site where it was found was revisited by geologists and only then was it fully investigated.
Charoite was found in Yakutia also known as the Republic of Sakha, an area of more than three million square kilometres in Russia's Far East (Siberia). The world's only mine is the Sirenevy Kamen deposit which lies close to the Chara River Valley after which it's believed to have been named. Some argue the name comes from the Russian word 'charovat' meaning to charm, bewitch, wonder or magical in reference to the stone's appearance. Another rare mineral called eudialyte can also be found in this area.
Unique and wonderfully distinctive, charoite was only classified as a mineral in its own right in 1977. It was named officially a year later in 1978. Prior to this it was virtually unknown outside of Russia.
When polished, charoite can exhibit lilac to rich purple colour along with beautiful swirling patterns. Some stones can be very slightly chatoyant. Shades of black white and orange may also be present and are associated with aegirine-augite, feldspar and tinaksite. Other minerals including microcline, apophyllite, fedorite and canasite have also been found in some charoite.
Despite being more readily available now than it once was, charoite is still relatively rare . Finding larger quantities and fine grade material can be particularly challenging. It's believed there's almost no gem-grade material left available to mine. The mine's remote location makes access extremely difficult especially for heavy machinery. For this reason the Republic of Sakha has limited the amount of charoite that can be mined each year to one hundred tons.
Once charoite became known to the outside world it quickly captured the attention of collectors and enthusiasts. Before long it was being widely used as a lapidary material.
Charoite grades 5 to 6 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness.
The stone at the top of our page is on display in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington D.C. The piece in our second photo is in London's Natural History Museum. Photos (Stone Mania ©) are clickable and redirect to the original non-compressed image.