Name and Deposits
Rhodonite has a wide variety of red hues. So much so, that it begins and ends at the opposite poles of black and white. This mineral is known for its bright pink color. “Rhodonite comes from the ancient Greek ῥόδον, which means “rose.
It is also known by its other name, eagle. This is the name given to the Urals rhodonite, with a number of peculiarities. The chemical composition of the “classic” rhodonite is manganese silicate with rare iron, calcium, or zinc substitutions. But the composition of the orlec rock is much richer: rhodonite proper, rhodochrosite (bright pink), spessartine (manganese garnet, yellow-brown, light), and boustamite (manganese silicate, brown, fibrous). These color differences create a unique, rich and colorful palette, for which the Ural rhodonite is valued above the stones from other deposits. This is the stone that will be discussed in this article.
Apart from the Urals, rhodonite is also mined in India, North America (Mantana, California), on Salt Spring Island, and in Australia (Broken Hill).
Types of rhodonite and its physical properties
Its Mohs hardness is between 5.5 and 6.5. Its luster is glassy, but on the cleavage surfaces it is almost pearly.
Almost all rhodonite varieties have a mirror-like polish, and the monochromatic varieties are translucent in plates up to 1.5 cm thick.
- homogeneous ruby (orlec)
- homogeneous pink
- veined-spotted (including banded)
The use of rhodonite in arts and crafts
This is how the Soviet mineralogist Alexander Fersman, a mineralogist and geochemist, spoke of rhodonite:
“There is a wonderful stone in our country which we have the right to be proud of and which has not yet been sufficiently appreciated by our faceting and decorative art.”
Nevertheless, the mineral belongs to the semi-precious ornamental stones of the first order. Neighboring it are jade, lapis lazuli, sodalite, amazonite, labradorite, vesuvian, malachite, aventurine, quartzite, smoky quartz, rock crystal, agate, jasper, Jewel and rose quartz.
Rhodonite is used in mosaics, for decoration of interiors and exteriors, as well as for creation of household items and souvenirs: caskets, candelabras, goblets, ashtrays and vases.
Rhodonite jewelry reached its peak of popularity in the mid-19th century. The reason is the special love of the imperial family for this mineral. The Yekaterinburg factory was regularly receiving orders for jewelry and household items. There is a little incident with these orders.
At the end of the 1860s, a monolith of nearly 48 tonnes of orlets was discovered in Malosedelnikovsky. When Maria Alexandrovna heard about it, she ordered the ornaments for the Winter Palace. The ceilings of the factory failed already on the second floor! The stone crumbled down, broke through the floor of the first floor and went deep into the ground, where it lay for many years.
The love of the Empress was remembered after her death. The sarcophagus was carved for her from the fallen monolith according to the design of the artist A. Huhne in 1905. It is considered the largest piece of rhodonite and weighs about 7 tons.
Similarly to jasper, rhodonite is used as the main accent piece with minimal decorative elements. This makes it different from jade, chrysoprase, carnelian or chalcedony.