Charoite is a violet or purple gemstone that usually shows swirling bands of white, peach or grey.
The colors of this gemstone can be so striking that many people believe it is enhanced or dyed when they see it for the first time.
Despite its amazing looks, cheapness and availability in almost any size this violet or purple gemstone is not all that popular.
Perhaps it will become more popular in the future. After all it has only been known for several decades, which is fairly short in the world of gemstones.
What is Charoite?
Charoite despite looking deceptively rocklike is in fact a rare mineral with a complex chemical formula. Its main components are calcium, phosphorus and sodium, though other elements can be present.
The patterns and colors of charoite are so unique that this is one of the few gemstones that can be identified with (almost) complete certainty, without using any tools.
It only occurs in a massive mineral form without any crystal faces showing. This means that you can only buy this stone in rough form or cut en cabochon or in a polished or carved form.
Most of this mineral is made into charoite beads. Faceted charoite can be found, however this can be considered a marketing ploy. Faceting doesn’t really do anything for charoite at all.
Rumor has it that it was discovered in 1940, however it took until 1978 until it was properly described. Making this one of the most recent gemstone discoveries. Charoite is a geological oddity and is only found in a single location in the world, the Sakha Republic in Russia (leading to the often used name Russian Charoite). Fortunately large deposits were formed and it is quite easy to mine making charoite fairly cheap.
The name charoite is derived from the Chara River which is near the place where it was first found. Charoite has a good hardness of 5 to 6 on Mohs hardness scale and shows a silky or pearly luster. Some pieces can show chatoyancy, the famous cat’s eye effect.
Taking Care of Your Charoite Gemstones
Charoite is fairly easy to care for if you follow the simple steps listed below:
- Cleaning should be done with warm water, soap or a mild detergent and a soft brush. Just like most other gemstones. Be sure to dry it afterwards with a soft cloth.
- Avoid using a jewelry steam cleaner or an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. While especially the ultrasonic cleaner should work fine, the stone could be damaged if certain inclusions are present.
- Charoite is slightly sensitive to heat, so it is best to keep it away from heat sources. For example when cooking or poking around in the fireplace, the sudden temperature changes could weaken it.
Charoite Buying Guide
Here are a few things that you should know before you buy a piece of this beautiful gemstone. The main thing as always is to buy it from a dealer that you trust.
Sites like Ebay may tempt you with their extremely low prices. Chances are that you are not buying a real charoite gemstone however. Or when you are you might not be getting the quality or size you expected.
Synthetic charoite does not exist, for two simple reasons: it is extremely hard to synthesize and on top of that it is hardly worth the effort because of its low price. Imitations exist but they are usually very poor imitations. Pretty much the only thing that can beat charoite price wise is a dyed rock.
The most important of the charoite properties regarding price is its color. A deep purple color with swirling white or gray bands fetch the highest price.
Clarity is not important as the stone is translucent. The only thing to look for are imperfections or fractures. Cut can be discounted as well and you should simply choose the shape you like most.
Carat, unlike many other gemstones, is not really much of a concern either. Charoite can be found in almost any size, even in sizes you wouldn’t dream of using in a piece of charoite jewelry.
You might need to shop around a bit to get this gemstone in the shape, quality and size you want. Getting a larger stone recut is an option, if you really can’t find the stone you’d like to buy. Be aware however that even if charoite itself is quite cheap, the labor involved in getting a quality recut or polish usually is not.
Though there are many charoite rings on the market my advice would be to buy a charoite pendant or necklace instead. Not only will the color and swirling bands be more visible in the larger charoite you can use in those, they are also less likely to be damaged. Rings can be worn of course, as you can see in the picture at the start of this article, but you simply need to be a bit more careful.
Charoite Meaning and Charoite Healing Properties
For those who believe in it charoite stones offer protection from negative energy. Sometimes even replacing them with more positive energy. Most of its power is focused on helping with anxiety and fear, making it easier to cope with changes outside of one’s control.