Rhodochrosite, also known as the Inca Rose, is one of the rarest stones on the planet.
This is the next natural question, so let’s clear some things up.
Rhodochrosites are not as rare as diamonds, but they’re a close contender.
Plus, with rhodochrosite, things aren’t as clear-cut as they seem.
The only thing that’s clear is the mystery surrounding this stone.
To understand its true depth, it’s important to learn more about what rhodochrosite is.
Is Rhodochrosite Rare? (EXPLAINED)
What is Rhodochrosite?
Rhodochrosite is a pink manganese carbonate mineral.
It’s often found in the cavities and fractures of sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.
Some interesting facts about rhodochrosite include:
- Sometimes used to identify silver deposits.
- Its range of colors goes from a very light pink to a bright, blood red.
- Found in only a few locations on the entire planet and only where there are other manganese minerals.
What Does Rhodochrosite Look Like?
Rhodochrosite doesn’t have a specific appearance, except for its universal pink coloring.
This is because these stones have a variable chemical composition.
Most stones are a mixture of manganese carbonate and calcium, magnesium, and/or iron.
The different elements change the composition, hardness, weight, and color of the mineral. This changes the pink color and adds a brownish, yellowish, or grayish tint.
The composition also changes how they’re used.
Where is Rhodochrosite Found?
There is rhodochrosite on 5 of the 7 continents.
But that doesn’t mean it’s in plentiful supply. They’re found in only small pockets of these landmasses.
- Africa: The ones in South Africa are famous for their rich blood red color
- South America: The old Incan silver mines of Argentina are a great source of banded rhodochrosite.
- USA: There’s an old silver mine in Colorado that produces cherry red rhodochrosite crystals. They’re the finest in the world.
What Do Rocks Have to Do with It?
Rhodochrosite composition also depends on the type of rock it inhabits:
- Metamorphic rocks: Most of the ones found in these rocks are like veins. They travel through the rock, filling its fractures. There are other instances when they appear as stalactites and stalagmites.
- Sedimentary rocks: The stones in these rocks often form stalagmites and stalactites too. They’re known for their concentric pink banding.
What’s the Significance of Rhodochrosite’s Rarity?
All rhodochrosite stones are rare, which significantly increases their worth.
As more people learn about the beauty of these stones, the market grows.
Nowadays, the demand for certain types far outweighs the supply.
What Makes One Rhodochrosite Stone More Valuable Than Another?
The value of an individual stone depends on 3 main factors:
Color: This trait changes based on several variables. The pinkest ones contain zinc, calcium, and magnesium. However, there are instances of color changes from pink to dark red.
Clarity: Translucent rhodochrosite crystals come in attractive red and pink hues. They have Type II Clarity and are the rarest form of this stone. They have no inclusions that the naked eye can see. Hand-sized specimens can cost tens of thousands of dollars. This rating doesn’t apply to the banded, opaque rhodochrosite.
Cut: Rhodochrosite crystals are hard to cut, so there aren’t many faceted gems of this type on the market. This makes them rarer than actual rhodochrosite crystals.
Which Rhodochrosite Stones Are The Most Valuable?
Out of the 3 traits, color is the single biggest determinant of price. It’s followed by clarity for the transparent types.
Unlike most stones where the deeper colors cost more, it’s not the same here.
The stones with medium shares of red or pink are the most valuable.
The translucent stones with a medium red coloring are the most valuable of all.
Are Rhodochrosites Useful?
Usefulness is a matter of perspective.
Rhodochrosites have 3 main uses: crystal, gemstone, or ore.
For instance, it’s possible to use them as a type of manganese ore.
The issue is, it’s hard to find quantities that make this a money-saving option.
The specimens with beautiful pink coloring are used in jewelry and turned into cabochons.
These are the ones that feature banded and concentric patterns.
Their exact design depends on the type of rock miners find it in.
Miners remove the ones in metamorphic rocks and use a diamond saw to cut them into thin layers.
They make small boxes, cabochons, and other lapidary products with these types.
They cut the ones found in sedimentary rocks into slabs.
These slabs have concentric pink banding and have decorative purposes.
Does Rhodochrosite Have Faults?
Rhodochrosite has perfect cleavage in three directions and a range of 3.5 to 4 in hardness.
On the surface, these traits seem positive.
But, perfect cleavage means this stone is so soft, it’s hard to polish and cut.
Rhodochrosite’s perfect cleavage also makes it too fragile for everyday wear.
This throws jewelry favorites (bracelets and rings) out of the conversation.
Their location on the body means they are susceptible to damage.
Rhodochrosite is best suited for pendants, pins, and earrings.
These jewelry types rarely suffer much abuse.
Are There Rhodochrosite Copycats?
The rarity of these stones increases their demand. Some jewelry and gem suppliers take advantage of this.
They manufacture and sell imitation rhodochrosite beads and cabochons.
Most imitations of this stone are of good quality.
They’re made from pink and white powdered mineral material.
They’re bound with resin and swirled together.
This creates a convincing banded appearance.
Tips for Identifying A True Rhodochrosite Specimen
Rhodochrosite has a unique appearance that’s hard to confuse with other rocks.
But, high-quality imitations are usually indistinguishable from the real stone.
The only way to know for sure is to place the stone under a microscope.
There are also some instances of confusion with another pink stone named rhodonite.
Coloring and nomenclature aren’t their only similarities.
But it’s in these similarities that we’re able to tell the difference between the two.
- Manganese-rich: Rhodonite is manganese silicate and rhodochrosite is manganese carbonate.
- Banding: Some forms of opaque rhodonites have dark banding. Rhodochrosite stones have white banding instead.
- Crystalline form: Transparent rhodonites are harder than rhodochrosite. This changes their appearance significantly. They’re also easier to cut and turn into faceted gems because their hardness range is higher. It lies between 5.5 and 6.5.
The Bottom Line
Rhodochrosites are some of the rarest stones on the planet.
But, it’s their fragility that increases their worth.
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