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A stone that can be easily confused with a live flower

Joint project of St.-Petersburg Mining museum and Forpost Nord-West.
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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

This stone is the official symbol of the American state of Colorado. However, its appearance is more like a flower than a mineral.

The Greek name of rhodochrosite is translated as “stone with the color of a rose.” At the same time, rhodochrosite looks like a delicate plant, not only in color, but also in its natural pattern.

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Фото © https://www.mcdougallminerals.com

The ancient Incas believed that the stone was indurated blood of ancestors, so they treated it with special respect. Often, beads made of mineral decorated the neck of a leader and his wife. That is why the name "Inca Rose" stuck to rhodochrosite.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

It is no surprise that one of the most famous and unique deposits of rhodochrosite is located on the area that once was under the rule of the Inca Empire; now it belongs to the Argentine province of Catamarca. Here are caves filled with reddish-brown stalactites, completely unsightly at first glance. However, it is just a crust, inside of which rhodochrosite hides. As it turned out later, the groundwater of those places is saturated with manganese, and for this reason, the excrescences were formed not from the usual calcite, but from rhodochrosite. Some of them are more than half a meter in diameter and three meters long.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

In Mongolia, rhodochrosite is called the stone of love. In the capital city of Ulan Bator, even the interior of one of the palaces of the wedding is decorated with this stone.

Since ancient times, people have used rhodochrosite as an ornamental material. All sorts of decorative elements were made from it, such as vases, boxes and statuettes. However, it became popular relatively recently, when, in the middle of the 20th century, craftsmen found and adequate cut for a fragile mineral. After that, it became an extremely sought-after gem in the jewelry world.

In the east, rhodochrosite balls were used for facial massage. Thus, it was supposed to get rid of wrinkles and increase the elasticity of the skin.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

Rhodochrosite does not belong to rare stones, although there are not so many deposits where collection samples could be found. The market value for a mineral can range from a few US dollars to tens of thousands per carat. Everything depends on the appearance. Some samples are more valuable than gold.

The most picturesque are the minerals from Argentina and the United States. In the state of Colorado, at the end of the 18th century, large-scale silver mining was carried out, and rhodochrosite was a by-product mineral of no particular attention paid to. Over time, the mine ran out of the precious metal and was abandoned for almost fifty years. An American collector remembered about the deposit and decided to restore the once flourishing production. Prospecting work for rhodochrosite samples continued throughout the year. Soon, the researchers were lucky to find more than two hundred collectible samples of the mineral. Subsequent finds were even more amazing: for example, individual crystals of rhodochrosite reached a length of almost eight centimeters. At an exhibition in Denver, where the man presented his findings, the samples of rhodochrosite caused a sensation. Collectors and dealers lined up long before the official start of the exhibition to purchase a unique product.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей

One of the most famous pieces of rhodochrosite in the world, Alma Queen, was found right at this mine. You can see it at the Natural History Museum in Houston. The ten-centimeter specimen is considered the most photogenic and beautiful in the world.

Rhodochrosite is praized by collectors for its interesting shapes and formations, for example, ring patterns or growths in the form of delicate roses. Throughout the history of using the stone, there have been several attempts to create a high-quality imitation of the mineral. However, the artificial color was significantly inferior to the natural shade both in expressiveness and in durability.

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Фото © Форпост Северо-Запад / Горный музей