Charoite is a rare mineral, found only in Siberia. Charoite, a captivating silicate gemstone originating from the Yakutia region of Siberia, presents a unique geological phenomenon characterized by its intricate composition, fascinating formation, and diverse applications.
Charoite is translucent lavender to purple in colour with a pearly lustre. Charoite is strictly massive in nature, and fractures are conchoidal. It has an unusual swirling, fibrous appearance, sometimes chatoyant, and that, along with its intense colour, can lead many to believe at first that it is synthetic or enhanced artificially.
Charoite mostly appears opaque in clarity but it may seem somewhat transparent in some cases Charoite’s mild to moderate chatoyancy, best seen in species with higher translucency, is one of the most desirable characteristics.
Charoite first described in 1978 and named for the Chara River.
|Charoit - Valley of the Czara River, Murunski Massif, Siberia, Russia.
What is Charoite. Photo: ExoticCrystals
How is Charoite Formed
Formed in ultramafic rocks through complex geologic processes involving potassium-rich fluids and volcanic activity. Charoite forms from calcareous deposits transformed by heat, pressure and injection of special chemicals (alkali-rich intrusions of nephline syenite). This process is known as’ contact metamorphism’ and is thought to be a common phenomenon in geology. Given that the forming mechanism is quite simple, it has never been fully understood why charoite occurrences are uncommon and limited only to the small region from which they are mined.
Though reportedly discovered in the 1940s, it was not known to most of the world until its description in 1978. It is said to be opaque and unattractive when found in the field; a fact that may have contributed to its late recognition.
Properties of Charoite
Class: Silicates, Subclass: Inosilicates
Composition: Na₄(Si₆O₁₅)(CO₃)F(OH,F)₂ – A complex silicate containing sodium, potassium, calcium, barium, strontium, and other elements. The varying amounts of these elements contribute to its color variations.
Color: Ranges from light lilac and violet to deep shades of purple, often adorned with swirling patterns of white, grey, and brown. The color distribution and intensity can vary significantly, creating unique and captivating patterns.
Luster: Vitreous to pearly – Offering a glassy shine that dances with the light, especially on polished surfaces. Some charoite exhibits a silky or satin-like luster due to its fibrous structure.
Streak: White – When scratched, the powder produced is white, regardless of the surface color.
Hardness: 5-6 on the Mohs scale – Relatively soft compared to other gemstones, requiring some care to avoid scratches or chipping. However, its hardness is sufficient for everyday wear in jewelry with proper handling.
Cleavage: Poor to good in one direction – Can break along specific planes, particularly under pressure. Careful cutting and polishing are crucial to avoid fractures.
Crystal Form: Massive, microcrystalline, or fibrous aggregates – Rarely exhibits well-defined crystals. The fibrous structure contributes to its chatoyant effect (shimmering play of light) and swirling patterns.
Density: 2.55-2.85 g/cm³ – Relatively heavy for its size due to its complex composition.
Transparency: Can be translucent to opaque – Gem-quality charoite allows light to play through the swirls, adding depth and vibrancy to its color.
Fracture: Conchoidal – Prone to smooth, curved breaks, especially along cleavages. Avoiding sudden impacts and sharp edges is crucial for maintaining its integrity.
Solubility: Insoluble in common acids and water – This makes it relatively resistant to chemical erosion and staining.
Magnetism: Non-magnetic – Does not react to magnetic fields.
Fluorescence: Weak to inert – May exhibit faint fluorescence under long-wave ultraviolet light, but not enough to be commercially significant.
Pleochroism: Weak to distinct – The color intensity can vary slightly depending on the viewing angle. This is most noticeable in the fibrous and chatoyant areas.
Refractive Index: 1.500-1.570 – Relatively high compared to other opaque gemstones, contributing to its brilliance and light play.
Best Field Indicators are color, locality and habit.
Facts About Charoite
- To this day the only source of charoite gemstones has been the Murun complex in the Sakha Republic, Siberia.
- Charoite Occurrence: In potassic feldspar metasomatites at the contact of nepheline and aegirine syenites with limestones.
- Charoite occurs in association with tinaksite and canasite.
- Charoite Name: For the Chara River, Russia, near which it was discovered.
|Cut Charoite heart-shape
Cabochons: The most common form, showcasing the swirling patterns and chatoyant effect.
Beads: Used for necklaces, bracelets, and earrings, often combined with other gemstones or metals.
Carvings: Intricate sculptures, pendants, and rings are crafted from larger pieces.
Inlays: Accents in rings, cufflinks, and other jewelry pieces.
Sculptures: Artists create intricate figures and abstract forms highlighting its natural beauty.
Bowls and Vessels: Turned and carved from solid blocks, often with polished surfaces to accentuate the swirls.
Bookends, Ornaments, and Figurines: Accent pieces for homes and offices.
Healing and Transformation: Believed to promote emotional balance, release negative energy, and foster spiritual growth.
Meditation: Used as a focus object or worn during meditation for enhanced calmness and insight.
Chakra Balancing: Associated with the crown and heart chakras, believed to facilitate spiritual connection and openheartedness.