Say hello to Charoite, a gemstone that's as unusual as it is fascinating! This unique gemstone is only found in Russia. With a complex chemical makeup, Charoite is certainly a gem to reckon with. When you lay your eyes on it, you'll notice that it has a unique visual appeal that looks a lot like marble. It showcases a rich purple colour streaked with grey, white, and black specks, and sometimes, you'll even see gold-coloured inclusions of a mineral called tinaksite.
But here's the catch: you'll only see this remarkable mix of colours when the stone is polished. Now, you might think that because of its unique look and lustre, Charoite must be a common pick for jewellery. However, it's quite a soft gemstone that scratches easily, so it must be handled with a lot of care. Nevertheless, its uniqueness and rarity make it an appealing choice for those who appreciate the beauty of nature's rare offerings.
Charoite, named after the Chara River in the Sakha Republic, Siberia, is also commonly known in trade circles as 'charoite jade' or 'lilac stone.' It's worth noting, however, that it's not jade nor is it specifically lilac in colour, so these names can be misleading. There's a wide array of purple gemstones, but none can match the distinct swirling patterns of charoite, making it quite unmistakable.
Charoite is most commonly recognised for its breathtaking range of colours, predominantly showcasing shades of lavender-purple. However, this primary colour is often intermixed with streaks of black, grey, white, and occasionally, gold-coloured inclusions of tinaksite. It's important to note that these beautiful hues and the swirling pattern seen in charoite are entirely natural, not a result of any enhancements or treatments.
Charoite hails from a single location worldwide - the vicinity of the Chara River in the Sakha Republic, Siberia, Russia. This exclusivity makes it an intriguing and fairly rare gemstone to acquire.
Charoite falls into the silicate mineral category with a complex chemical structure. Its official scientific name is hydrated potassium sodium calcium barium strontium silicate hydroxide fluoride. Quite a mouthful, isn't it?
Charoite was only discovered in the 1940s and wasn't known to the world until its official description was published in 1978. Its late recognition could be due to its relatively opaque and unattractive appearance in the field, transforming dramatically only when polished. Charoite, although heat sensitive and relatively soft, is often used to create decorative objects due to its mesmerising patterns and colours. Bookends, vases, and even goblets can be crafted from this unique gemstone!
Due to its limited geographical source, charoite is considered fairly rare. Despite its rarity, it's quite affordable. The price of charoite is largely determined by its colour intensity and the presence of chatoyancy.
The quality of charoite is evaluated primarily on the intensity of its colour and the distinctness of its swirling pattern. Translucent specimens exhibiting chatoyancy are the most prized, although these are rarer than the more common opaque variants.
There were no known treatments or enhancements used on charoite to alter its appearance or colour.
While there are no known synthetic or lab-created charoites, a few manufactured materials have surfaced on the market intending to simulate its unique appearance. However, these can be detected with further testing. Also, dyed massive beryl with intergrown quartz might sometimes be misrepresented as charoite.
Given its heat sensitivity and relative softness, charoite should be handled and cleaned with care. It's recommended to avoid mechanical cleaning methods like steam or ultrasonic processes. Instead, opt for a mild detergent and warm water, using a soft brush for gentle cleaning.
Charoite can sometimes be confused with sugilite, another purple gemstone, which can also contain black and white inclusions. However, sugilite lacks the characteristic swirling pattern and chatoyant effect found in charoite.
There were no closely related gemstones to charoite in terms of composition. Charoite stands alone in its unique combination of colours and patterns.