Magnesite vs Howlite: What Are They, And What’s The Difference?

Telling the difference between Magnesite from Howlite can be difficult.

In this article, we are going to explain the differences between these two rocks to further help you understand their similarities, differences, and why they are often mistaken for one another.

Magnesite vs Howlite (EXPLAINED)

What Is Magnesite?

Magnesite is a mineral found in carbonate rocks that are also rich in magnesium.

This mineral is named because of its main component – magnesium carbonate.

This mineral has a chalky and porous texture.

It normally is white with brown or grayish veins, though you can sometimes find pieces with transparent crystal.

The crystal form of Magnesite is rare.

In its raw form, the mineral is used in the chemical and steel industries on occasion, but it is most commonly used for lapidary work.

For example, it is a favorite for tumbled stones and bead-making.

It isn’t considered one of the most durable materials, though. It only has a hardness level of 4 to 5 Mohs.

Because of its porous texture, Magnesite is often dyed blue so that it can be sold as turquoise instead. Its porous material will readily absorb the bright blue dye, whereas the web light veins remain so that the stone itself looks like turquoise.

What Is Howlite?

Howlite is a unique borate mineral gemstone.

Its scientific name is silico-boro-calcite, otherwise known as White Buffalo Turquoise.

It grows in irregular nodules that are called cauliflower heads.

To an untrained eye, this stone can look like marble or porcelain because it has an opaque white color with black or dark brown veins.

Similar to Magnesite, Howlite has a porous texture with a hardness level of 3.5 Mohs.

For perspective, this is the same hardness rating as a copper penny.

It is hard to scratch it with your fingernail, but it can get scuffed easily.

In order for this stone to be used on everyday items, it must be stabilized first.

The white, porous surface makes Howlite another great stone to pass off as turquoise in jewelry.

In its original form, it is often used for beads and cabochons.

These beads are often used in fine jewelry and ornaments, but they are sometimes used for meditation as well.

The Similarities Between Magnesite and Howlite

On the surface, these stone types are very similar.

Here are the main similarities between Magnesite and Howlite.


If you take a quick glance at these two stones, they can be next to impossible to tell apart.

Both have a white exterior with dark veins.

Although the white coloration is not always identical, they are similar enough that they might look identical to the untrained eye.


Both of these stones are incredibly porous.

This means that they can easily absorb moisture and tint.

This explains why both stones are often used in beadwork.

They can easily be dyed to turn into whatever color the creator wants them to be.


Magnesite and Howlite are often used for the same jobs.

Most commonly, they are used in beadwork and are sometimes even passed off as turquoise.

Their similar uses are because of their porous nature and how easily they can be carved.

The Differences Between Magnesite and Howlite

Even though there are a lot of similarities between Magnesite and Howlite, the similarities are primarily surface level.

If you take a close eye at the structure of the stones, you can easily see how different they are.

Here are some examples of differences between Magnesite and Howlite.


Even though these stones both have a similar white texture, you can take a closer look at the tint and physical appearance of the stones to tell them apart.

Magnesite is often dull with a chalky appearance.

The white stone will have a gray, yellow, or brown tint. In crystal form, it looks glasslike.

In comparison, Howlite is opaque with distinct black veins.


Neither Magnesite nor Howlite is known for its durability, but Magnesite is the stronger of the two.

It can have a hardness level from 4 to 4.5, whereas Howlite does not get higher than 3.5 Mohs.

This explains why Magnesite is occasionally used in the steel industry, whereas Howlite is not.


If you put Magnesite and Howlite underneath black light, you will see that they have different fluorescent colors.

Magnesite will look greenish-blue, while Howlite looks brownish-yellow.

Cleavage Grade

The cleavage grade of these stones in their crystal forms is different.

The cleavage grade refers to the lines that the crystal will break along, just like the grains on wood.

While Magnesite has perfect grade cleavage, Howlite has none at all.

Refractive Index

The refraction of the stones is different as well.

Magnesite has a refraction RI of 1.509-1.700, while Howlite has 1.583-1.608.

Why Are Magnesite and Howlite Easily Confused?

The main reason why Magnesite and Howlite are usually confused is that they have similar appearances.

They both have a white surface with black, gray, or brown veins.

To an untrained eye, it makes sense that the two stones are confused.

To make matters even more confusing, both stones are porous and not very durable.

Even though the hardness of these two stones is different enough that they aren’t used exactly the same, it can be difficult to tell the difference just by looking and inspecting the stone with your own eyes.

Furthermore, the task of telling the difference between Magnesite and Howlite will require a sort of science experiment.

You will need UV light, an understanding of Moh rating, a refractometer, and other similar tools.

Since most individuals don’t care to test stones in this way, they go based on their eyesight, which can be deceiving in the case of these rocks.


On the surface, it can be difficult to tell the difference between Magnesite and Howlite stones.

However, a closer look clearly shows that these two minerals are easily distinguished from one another.

Even though it may take a bit more effort to distinguish between the two minerals, your findings will confirm exactly what mineral you are dealing with.

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Magnesite vs Howlite