Rhodochrosite: The Inca Rose Gemstone
Rhodochrosite is easily suitable for high quality jewelry when properly polished or cut.
Unfortunately usually when you see this mineral for sale it’s as cheap rhodochrosite beads, though this has been changing somewhat in recent years.
If you are looking for a good looking gemstone to make beads or to buy a new necklace, rhodochrosite is an excellent choice.
What is Rhodochrosite?
Rhodochrosite is a carbonate mineral that is usually found in a color between pink and red, though other colors like yellow or brown are possible if the crystal is ‘contaminated’.
The red or pink color is caused by the presence of manganese in the mineral. The name rhodochrosite is derived from the Greek for rose-colored.
It is quite rare in a crystal form and usually it is found along with calcite and siderite. With which it forms larger rocks that show bands of white and pink colors. This is the type of rhodochrosite you see most often used as beads or in pendants and necklaces.
The rhodochrosite banded material can be found in a large number of countries, but in its crystal form it is far more rare.
High quality rhodochrosite crystals are only found in these locations: Romania (where the first described specimen was found in 1813), Hungary, Argentina, South Africa and the USA.
So rare are these minerals that Colorado, where some of the finest rhodochrosite minerals have been found, named it their official state mineral in 2002.
Despite being used as a gemstone rhodochrosite is a quite soft mineral. It only scores 3.5 to 4 on Mohs scale of hardness and has perfect cleavage making it extremely difficult to cut. Which leads to its very limited availability as a faceted gemstone.
Most rhodochrosite that is being mined today is not used for decoration, but as a manganese ore. This manganese is mostly used for the production of stainless steel or aluminum.
Rhodochrosite Meaning and Rhodochrosite Healing Properties
It was already in use by the Inca’s who believed that is was the blood of their former rules that turned to stone. Hence it is sometimes seen under the name ‘Inca Rose’ or ‘Rosa del Inca’.
They attributed certain metaphysical properties to it and today rhodochrosite healing is popular in gemstone therapy.
Because of its pink color it is mostly associated with love, compassion and intuition. The healing properties are focused on blood; blood circulation, blood pressure and organs.
In ancient times it was the Virgo birthstone. Though in the more modern birthstone system it has no place.
Taking Care of Your Rhodochrosite Gemstones
Great care should be taken of this gemstone, it’s low hardness as well as perfect cleavage in its crystal form means that it can scratch and chip easily. Here are a few simple guidelines:
- Clean it with lukewarm water and a mild soap, only clean it with a soft brush if needed and be sure to dry it completely with a soft cloth before storing it.
- Store it away from any other jewelry, its very low hardness means that it can be scratched by almost every other gemstone. In fact even some jewelry can scratch it like steel and platinum.
- Do not use a steam or ultrasonic jewelry cleaner for this gemstone, they will probably work fine, but it is better to be safe than sorry when dealing with your rhodochrosite jewelry.
Despite these warnings it can still be worn every day, especially in a cabochon form, you just need to be a bit more careful when cleaning and storing it.
Rhodochrosite Buying Guide
In its massive form, which can be seen to the right, rhodochrosite is fairly cheap, usually selling for just $2-$3 per carat even for high quality polished stones.
This makes it ideal for beading. Because it is fairly cheap, imitations are rare and the characteristic bands make fakes easy to spot.
When you want to buy rhodochrosite in its crystal form more care should be taken. Not only is it more expensive it is easier to imitate as well. To avoid nasty surprises when you get your gemstone identified be sure to buy from reputable dealers.
Rhodochrosite crystals are rare, particularly as a faceted gemstone. So you might need to shop around before you can even find a place that sells it. Your local jeweler or jewelry chain will never have it in stock, some might not even know it exists in a crystal form!
Your best bet is to buy a loose gemstone and get it set in a piece of jewelry. I would advise against buying a rough crystal, cutting is extremely difficult which makes the process expensive and success is not guaranteed.
Keep in mind however that most rhodochrosite on the market today is a pink color and usually slightly to heavily included. Even with these drawbacks they sell for close to $100 per carat. Rhodochrosite that leans to a red color and is eye clean or better is extremely rare and, if you can even find it, will likely sell for far more than that.
If you insist on buying it in faceted form, and I don’t blame you, it is probably best if you get it set in a pair of rhodochrosite earrings. They are unlikely to be scratched and you don’t need large crystals to get a good effect.
I would advise against buying a rhodochrosite ring as it can be damaged too easily. A rhodochrosite pendant is a far better choice. It will be very expensive if you intend to get a faceted gemstone for it though. A polished banded rhodochrosite however will look amazing and can be had for as little as $50.
Faceted rhodochrosite gemstones might be hard to acquire, but its soft pinkish red color makes it worth the effort. Its competitors morganite and kunzite will for most people be a better choice however. They are cheaper, have a higher clarity and can be found in larger sizes.