No other precious stone better illustrates the phrase ‘hidden gem’ than charoite. It first shined as a crystal of value and interest in the 1970s. Take into consideration the gold rush of the previous century and the mining industry of the 20th, and it will soon be clear to everyone that charoite was, on all accounts, a late bloomer.
The gem proved to be a master of deception as well. How else could it have passed unnoticed until so recently? Miners had ignored it for centuries. And who can blame them? The stone is said to be, at first glance, opaque and ordinary in appearance.
Despite carving an impression of ‘just another rock’ on the eye, a closer analysis reveals a rare mineral. So rare, the only place you can find it is at the end of the world, where men are few and wild beasts many.
Charoite. The Stone of the Siberian mines
One Place to Store the World’s Charoite Reserves
Chara River flows for 850 kilometers around the mountains of Eastern Siberia. This region is rich in raw materials. The soil contains large reserves of oil, diamonds, cash, tin, coal, tungsten, gold and silver. The Sakha land is the source of 99 percent of all Russian diamonds and over 25 percent of the diamonds mined in the world. The blood diamonds of Siberia.
In these parts, in the 1940s, the Russian government ordered a rail tunnel to be constructed. Thus, charoite was found. Here, and nowhere else, did this rare mineral make its appearance.
It paid Russia out of debt and decorated the basements of houses in Budapest, the Hungarian capital before anyone found out how truly unique charoite is.
How Does Charoite Look Like on the Inside?
The name isn’t exactly sugar on the tongue. Its appearance gave charoite its name. In Russian, ‘chary’ or ‘magic’. The title ‘Charoite Jade’ is a trade name for the gem being used as a decorative stone.
No other material can live up to the riot of purple nuances that swirl inside a charoite stone- at least not one that it’s nature made.
Ebbs and flows of translucent lavender and deep purple, lilac and light violet wash the color palette, and the gem’s fibrous appearance can deceive anyone into thinking the stone is synthetic or the colors enhanced in a lab.
This is due to the internal structure of the charoite. In the making process, syenite intrudes into and alters the gem’s deposits producing a complex silicate of potassium, calcium, barium, silicon, oxygen and hydrogen. And wait, there’s more.
Gemologists have also found traces of microcline feldspar, augite, and tinaksite. This unusual crowding of elements gives way to the exhibition of colors.
The swirling, feather-like patterns are due to charoite and the result of mingling crystals. The streaks of green and black are the work of art of tinaksite, while the aegerine impurities brush a taint of orange on the canvas of the stone.
Simply put, this Siberian gem is limestone mixed with a bunch of other tongue-twisting elements. Like lapis lazuli, the gem we call “charoite” is actually a rock of many minerals including charoite.
The process is known in scientific circles as contact metamorphism. It’s relatively common, which begs the questions: Why then is charoite only found in one region of the world? Why hasn’t the stone spread to other parts where rocks like lapis lazuli are to be found in greater amount?
One chip of the answer might be traced to the particularities of the limestone in this area, which has unique chemical properties that might explain for the dazzling purple in the mix.
Charoite- A Stone of Many Faces
Due to the mixed materials in its composition, the gem is highly popular for scenic stones. It’s a tough rock, and most suitable for goblets, vases, and bookends.
Its pearly luster and high levels of chatoyancy- also known as the cat’s eye, it defines the stone’s malleable appearance, the charoite may be used in rings and bracelets, but not to the extent other gemstone can. Its softness makes it more adequate for other type of jewelry.
As a precious stone, ‘the charm’ is moderately tough with a hardness between 5 to 6 on Mohs scale. It’s somehow sensitive to heat. For this reason, ultrasonic processes and steam cleaning are unwise. If you want to clean it, choose slow, but safe. A soft brush, warm water, and a mild cleaning substance will do the trick.
So what should you be looking for when you’re charoite shopping?
When it comes to appearance, and as we mentioned several times before, this is a one of a kind stone. Fortunately for you, in this case, rarity does not add to value. Charoite is, for all accounts and purposes, a bargain on the international gem trading market.
A low price does not imply a low quality. You can even find premium quality jewelry for under $100.
Just look for that silky texture of violet, a lovely fibrous pattern, a good polish, and the shape of your choice, and you’ll hit gold. Or charoite. If you spot some chatoyancy in there, you can be sure that is the trait that drives the price up.
Since its introduction to the gem market almost half a century ago, the stone has gained in popularity. That alone, combined with the scarce natural reserves, means the global supply is dwindling. Some say the Siberian mines will soon follow the fates of rare ammolite and tanzanite, and will soon be emptied out of charoite.
The Charoite Metaphysical Properties
Not only did charoite leave a crowd of aficionado marketers and lapidaries in its wake, it also sparked the interest of metaphysical gem enthusiasts.
They immediately set out to list some of the gem’s healing attributes. It is said the stone increases self-esteem and spiritual growth.
Anyone who lives in fear of bad things happening, or thinks he/she is a target for calamities to strike, can wear charoite to avert such dangers and turn them into positive intuition.
Charoite is also thought to be the Prozac of stones. It soothes the nerves and has a special effect on those with ADHD, Asperger’s syndrome, and autism.
Unfortunately, since charoite is a newcomer on the scene, the lore usually webbing around such precious stones did not have time to thread a story around this one. The next generation will be the story-teller this time.