Hematite is a metal gemstone that is very popular in beading. The main reasons are that it is sturdy, cheap, available in almost any size you want and it looks good. It looks especially amazing when combined with lighter gemstones, for example most of the quartz family.
Hematite on its own can already look very good, it really starts to shine however when you combine it with other gemstones to add color. Hematite is not something you’ll use as the focal point of an engagement ring, but for everyday use nothing can beat it in price/quality.
Hematite Properties: What is Hematite?
Hematite or haematite is an iron oxide with the same crystal structure as that of corundum (ruby and sapphire). Usually the color varies between a metallic grey and red, in fact the name hematite comes from the Greek word for blood ‘haima’.
Hematite is one of the oldest stones mined in our history. It’s likely that a hematite powder was used over 160,000 years ago.
It can be found all over the world, though particularly large or high quality deposits are found in Brazil, the UK, Germany and the USA. Amazing hematite crystals are found on Elba. Where they have been mined for thousands of years.
With a hardness of 5.5 to 6.5 on Mohs hardness scale it is suitable for use in jewelry. Hematite has no cleavage making it easy to craft carvings and statues. It exists in both a massive form and in crystal form, often right next to each other.
Types of Hematite
Kidney Hematite is a botryoidal variety and is particularly liked by mineral collectors. It looks like a mass of grapes that was pressed together and occurs in the usual metallic grey and red colors, though brownish green specimens can be found.
Hematite roses, hematite crosses, iron roses and iron crosses. They all are a name for the same variety, where rounded crystals are formed in such a way that they can look like a metal rose.
Specular hematite or specularite is formed by a mass of hematite flakes or small crystals. It can be quite fragile and is almost exclusively sold to mineral collectors.
Rainbow hematite is a trade name for a type of foliated specular hematite. High quality specimens will look like they are covered with oil and can be found in Minas Gerais in Brazil.
Important!: Magnetic hematite is not a natural material though it is often sold as such. For more information you can look at the buying guide further down the page.
The uses of hematite are almost limitless as it is the primary ore used in the production of iron and steel.
Ground-up it is used as a pigment in paintings but also for rouge and other makeup.
Aside from that it is used in jewelry and sculptures on a large scale.
How to Take Care of Your Hematite Gemstones
Though it doesn’t have exceptional hardness hematite is a very durable gemstone. Here are a few tips to avoid common mistakes:
- It’s best to clean it with warm water, soap and perhaps a soft brush. More is often not needed which is fortunate as many jewelry cleaners contain ammonia and chlorine that could damage your hematite jewelry. Be sure to dry it with a soft cloth afterwards and let it air for a few minutes before storing it.
- A jewelry steam cleaner or an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner should not be used. Some hematite simulants can be quite magnetic and this could cause damage to your jewelry cleaning machine. On top of that it can be porous which means that ultrasonic waves could damage it.
- Only put on your hematite jewelry after you’ve used your hairspray, deodorant, perfume and such. Frequent use of these products can leave a residue of chemicals on the stone and hematite can react badly to a number of them.
- Rust can form on hematite so store it in a dry place. Don’t be afraid that a little rain will destroy your jewelry though, just don’t keep it on your sink or in the bathroom for days on end.
- Store it separate from other gemstones and jewelry as a number of faceted gemstones can scratch and dent it.
Hematite Buying Guide
Hematite is found all over the world in large quantities making this one of the cheaper gemstones you can find. Most however is used for beads or sold in rough mineral form to collectors.
The only hematite you see as the centerpiece of jewelry is rainbow hematite or hematite that is carved or polished into something more suitable.
Enhancements, imitations and synthetics
Gemstone treatments are not known for hematite. No synthetics are known either, however a large amount of imitations are sold. All hematite sold under the trade names of magnetic hematite, hemalike, (magnetic) hematine or hemalyke is not a natural stone.
They are imitations that are very hard to recognize.If you simply want a good looking stone you can buy it everywhere. However if you only want a natural gemstone make sure you only buy from a reputable dealer who practices full disclosure.
The 4 C’s
Color is not that important for the price of hematite compared to other gemstones. Usually it has the same metallic grey to black color and which color you buy is simply a matter of taste. The exception on this rule are the varieties that display more colors such as rainbow hematite. For these stones the more pronounced the colors and contrast the more they are worth.
Cut and clarity hardly matter, as it can be cut or polished into any shape you want. Clarity doesn’t matter as it is an opaque gemstone (not transparent). An exception are mineral specimens where hematite is mixed with other minerals that can form transparent crystals. This only concerns those who are building a mineral collection though.
Carat is the most important for the price of hematite, however it simply is not comparable to other gemstones where larger means a higher price per carat, like benitoite for example. Hematite is found in all sizes, so the price per carat stays roughly the same almost regardless of size.
Price of hematite
Natural good quality hematite sells for roughly $2-$3 per carat. Prices of beads can be even lower than that. Though very cheap keep in mind that it has a high density and carat is a measure of weight not size. Hematite is usually between 25-50% heavier than most other gemstones of the same size.
Prices of other varieties such as rainbow hematite and specularite vary a lot. Some of it can be just as cheap as normal hematite while others can be far more expensive.
Where should I buy hematite?
Hematite gemstones can be bought in many places. The amount of hematite jewelry sold online is simply staggering. Many local shops that sell beads or handmade jewelry sell it as well. Which is great if you prefer to see a piece of jewelry in person before buying it.
It is very important however that you carefully look at the wording of the sales pitch. Imitations are sold in many places. Many dealers do not disclose that you are dealing with an imitation or are not aware of this themselves. In the end you are paying the price for a natural hematite for something that should be even cheaper. Any product with the trade names mentioned under imitations or things like ‘hematite colored beads’ should be seen as imitations.
When in doubt ask the dealer about it and when you get a reply that is not to your liking (or no reply at all) simply look elsewhere. There are plenty of other places selling this gemstone.