The Russian Mineralogy Owes to This Stone
One of the most valuable discoveries that have ever happened to Russian mineralogy is crocoite, one of the world's most beautiful minerals, the Ural's jewel. Crocoite was the first new mineral species to have been discovered in Russia. And its find actually gave a start to the development of mineralogy in the country.
Crocoite, or lead chromate, is an orange-coloured mineral that was initially discovered near Ekaterinburg. The stone's greatest asset is indeed its unusual beauty with which it amazed mineralogists who found it. The mineral's name comes from the Greek κρόκος (krokos), which translates as 'saffron'. To be fair, both the stone and spice have a similar colour, and the spice is derived from the flower of crocus, which is astonishingly beautiful itself.
Johann Gottlob Lehmann, a German mineralogist and geologist, was the one who discovered that crocoite was a source of lead, another valuable metal. If ground and mixed with oil, the mineral turns into vibrant and bright paint. Three centuries ago, people preferred mostly yellow pigment. It was quite expensive, and as a result, the Russian discovery assumed even more importance. Another element, the humankind was previously unaware of, - chromium - was discovered only sometime later. In nature, chromium is rarely found in conjunction with lead, and this is what makes this mineral so highly-valued.
As the news about the newly-discovered mineral spread across the country, Russian people went to attribute various healing properties to it. Herbalists thought crocoite could cure female infertility and have a positive impact on the reproductive system as a whole. The stone could not, however, compete with precious gems, due to being very fragile. This does not stop collectors though, with many of them dreaming of getting their hands on a crocoite's sample, or - ideally - few specimens coming from different deposits.
The most expensive crocoite is mined in Tasmania. Its crystals can reach up to forty centimetres in length. There was also a mine in Germany where eight-centimetre long crystals were being extracted. The production was put to a stop at the end of the 20th century. With time, underground waters led to deposit submerging, and crocoite reserves got flooded. The manufacturer, as a consequence, ceased to operate.
As the durability of crocoite is rather low, there are very few items made of it on the market. The fragile mineral is short-lived and loses its original appearance quickly. Under direct sunlight, it becomes discoloured and pale and then transforms into a powder. Hence the excessive prices for jewellery with this stone.