The name rhodochrosite comes from the Greek words 'rhodon' and 'chroma' meaning 'rose' and 'colour'. A distinctive stone that's usually quite easy to identify, it's often characterised with white streaks or concentric bands. Well formed translucent crystals are extremely rare and highly sought after, their colour can vary from raspberry red to various shades of pink. Although the colour of rhodochrosite is caused by impurities of manganese, calcium and iron are also often present.
Rhodochrosite became popular as an ornamental stone during the 1930's after the discovery of some fine grade material in Argentina but it was another ten years before it really took off and started being used as a gemstone. It has been mined in the Capillitas mine in north eastern Argentina since the times of the Incas and this is the only place in the world where gigantic stalactites have been found. Measuring up to half a metre in diameter and three metres in length, the inner colour is only revealed once the stalactite has been cut. Being situated at a height of 10,000 to 11,500 feet makes access to the mine extremely challenging hence mining the rhodochrosite is no easy task. Exceptionally beautiful deep crimson red coloured crystals have been found in Capillitas some of which rival gems from other world renowned localities.
The Sweet Home Mine in Colorado has produced some of the finest rhodochrosite ever to have been discovered. Opened in 1873 it was originally a silver mine albeit not a very successful one but by the late 1800's many of the rhodochrosite specimens which had been brought out were on display in museum collections. The Sweet Home mine closed as a silver mine in 1893 but reopened in the 1920's solely for the purpose of mining rhodochrosite. Some of the most beautiful crystals ever to have been found were subsequently mined here but the mine is now once again closed. For a period of about ten years during the 1990's it produced countless extraordinary specimens. Rhodochrosite that's associated with the Sweet Home Mine is revered by mineral collectors around the world.
The Denver Natural History museum is home to the Alma King, the largest crystal ever to have been found. Believed to be thirty million years old it was discovered in the Sweet Home Mine in August 1992. Rhodochrosite was named as the state mineral of Colorado in 2002.
In the world of crystal healing rhodochrosite has the ability to relieve all areas of the body that store tension and stress. It's said to provide love and balance on all levels and is a crystal that encourages the truth about yourself and others with a loving awareness.
Rhodochrosite can be found in a number of places worldwide including Peru, Poland, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, U.S.A and Namibia. It's a relatively soft stone which grades 3½ to 4 on Mohs scale of mineral hardness so must be handled with great care.
The rhodochrosite exhibits in our photos are housed in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C. Photos were taken by Stone Mania and are copyright protected ©