Rhodochrosite is another relative newcomer to the trade, having been on the market only since 1940. It can be distinguished by its glorious colour, which is summed up by its alternative name – raspberryspar.
Gem-quality transparent rhodochrosite crystals have a vivid pink colour. They can be faceted, despite their softness, but are normally bought by collectors as they are rare. The translucent form of rhodochrosite is more suited to jewelry work. It comes in watermelon pink to grapefruit pink – the aggregate structure of the material really does create the appearance of grapefruit flesh! Opaque rhodochrosite usually has distinct banding in shades of rose-pink, red and white, which can be serrated, straight or curved in a pattern of alternating colours.
Rhodochrosite has a vitreous to pearly/resinous lustre, depending on the type of material and the finish. Clean stones are rare; veils and planes of fingerprintlike inclusions frequently occur, together with inclusions of black manganese. While the oldest mines producing pink-and-white banded rhodochrosite are in Argentina, the prime commercial source of gem-quality material is the Sweet Home mine in Colorado.
Treatments and Imitations
- It is possible that individual lapidaries have tried treating rhodochrosite. The material could be impregnated with a polymer resin to make the stone more durable and less brittle.
- Rhodochrosite could be confused with other natural gemstones such as rhodonite, tugtupite and fire opal. Dyed banded calcite is the only known imitation, but it is softer than rhodochrosite.
The pink-and-white banded form of rhodochrosite is in abundant supply and inexpensive. Better, gem-quality beads and cabochons are more expensive as the material is rarer.
Working with rhodochrosite
- Pink and black accessories became fashionable for a while in the 1950s and the jewelry designers of that time used a combination of pink gem-quaky rhodochrosite and black onyx in necklaces and bracelets. Rhodochrosite would have been very new to the market at that point.
- Rhodochrosite reacts to acids, so any contact with chemicals should be avoided. It is best not to use ultrasonic and steam cleaners, just in case the material has been stabilized or impregnated.
- Rhodochrosite has a conchoidal, non-uniform fracture and perfect cleavage in three directions, forming a rhombohedron. It is a soft material, but the colour is so glorious that it would be a shame not to use it as a jewelry stone. A fine-grained rock, it is tough enough to be carved, sliced into slabs, cut as cabochons or formed into beads. There are jewellers in the United States and Europe who are currently using rhodochrosite in their earring and pendant designs. The cabochon form removes some of the risk factor as it is less prone to breaking than a faceted stone.