Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Geo-Shopping!: Golden Rhodonite

My coworkers at the bead shop are like those little cartoon consciences that show up on your shoulders...only they're always the kind with horns and pitchforks! After a lot of persuasion and convincing, I picked up the last strand we had of Golden Rhodonite.

Golden Rhodonite

I'm not sure if Golden Rhodonite is an IMA-approved name, but that's the name on the tag and it yields hits elsewhere.

Like agates, rhodonite is a silicate, meaning it's comprised primarily of silicon dioxide. It's not as abundant or as all-encompassing as the various agates, however; rhodonite wasn't even discovered until 1819, while agates are so old that they were named by the ancient Greek Theophrastus in 300 - 400 C.E.! And while you can have many different varieties of agates, rhodonite is one (and only one) specific mineral.


Rhodonite is formed when hot fluids rich in other minerals are injected into pre-existing porous rocks. The name derives from the Greek word "rhodos," meaning rosy, in reference to the stone's distinctive pink color (which comes from the manganese content of the mineral). The dark gray and black inclusions occur as a result of partial replacement from other elements (iron, magnesium).

In some occasions—most notably in Argentinian mines—sulfur mixes in with the iron replacement, creating iron pyrite in some of the iron inclusions. These samples are what are referred to as Golden Rhodonite.

Very rarely, rhodonite crystallizes, maintaining its distinctive rosy-pink coloration. This is fairly unusual, however; a sample less than 2 inches across will easily fetch a price with three digits.

Rhodonite crystals

Rhodonite quickly gained a certain level of prestige. The distinctive opaque pink of rhodonite is often used in jewelry, and it also used in gemstone carving. Both Massachusetts and the former Soviet Union, having naturally-occurring rhodonite deposits, adopted rhodonite as their official gemstones. And while the T in Boston is rather unattractive, Moscow's world-renowned metro stations are covered in beautiful rhodonite tiles.

Mayakovskaya station on the Moscow Metro

Rhodonite is a fun stone to work with. Its unique color helps fill weird gaps in gemstone color palettes and makes for exquisite, feminine jewelry. The warm flashes in Golden Rhodonite are singular and eye-catching. The whole rock goes particularly well with hematite:

rhodonite euler's number
Euler's Number: Golden Rhodonite

I'm making a limited number of pieces with these guys—the source on these, my boss tells me, was something she'll be unable to get again—but I am definitely keeping one for myself. It would make a great accent bead in a viking knit bracelet.

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