With light to medium dark purple colors and swirling patterns, charoite is one of the few gemstones so distinctive that a gemologist can make a sight identification with confidence. No other material is likely to be mistaken for it.
A bargain gemstone, even the highest quality charoite pieces cost a few dollars a carat, at most. If you look for a lovely pattern, pleasing colors, a good polish, and an appealing shape, you can't go wrong. A silky, slight to moderate chatoyant glow will add value to a piece.
The International Gem Society (IGS) has a list of businesses offering gemstone appraisal services.
|Crystallography||Monoclinic; crystals thin, acicular (i.e., fibrous).|
|Refractive Index||1.550 - 1.559|
|Colors||Lilac to violet, in various shades|
|Hardness||5 - 6|
|Specific Gravity||2.54 - 2.78|
|Cleavage||Fair to good.|
|Transparency||Translucent to opaque.|
|Phenomena||Some stones show a chatoyant glow.|
|Formula||K(Ca,Na)2Si4 O10(OH,F)· H2O|
|Optics||a = 1.550; β = 1.553; γ = 1.559. Biaxial (+).|
|Etymology||After the Chara River area, Russia, the sole source of this gemstone.|
|Occurrence||Nepheline and aegirine-bearing synenites contacting limestones; charoite rock occurs in metasomatic bodies at the contact.|
Like lapis lazuli, the gemstone we call charoite is actually a rock. However, it’s almost purely composed of the mineral charoite. This dominant mineral gives this material its distinctive range of purple colors, which can vary even within a single specimen. Its characteristic swirling pattern is due to its fibrous crystals arrayed in complex, interlocking patterns. The mix of other minerals includes prismatic orange tinaksite crystals, pale greenish grey microcline feldspar, and greenish black aegirine-augite crystals. As a result, this is a unique, highly ornamental rock. Due to this mixture, charoite also produces scenic stones, pieces that show so-called “natural pictures” that may resemble landscapes or even objects.
To say that the mineral charoite is a silicate of complex composition is an understatement. For example, one mineralogical source describes it as a hydrated potassium, sodium, calcium, barium, strontium, silicate hydroxyfluoride!
“Lilac stone” was first discovered in the 1940s in the Chara River area in the Sakha Republic, Russia. In the 1970s, this gem entered Western markets as charoite. It made an impact immediately. Traditional lapidaries could make cabochons from the material, while carvers could make decorative objects. Since charoite can be a massive material, these objects may even include bookends, vases, and goblets. Metaphysically inclined gem enthusiasts attribute a long list of healing and spiritual properties to the stone.
The only source for this striking gemstone remains the Chara River area in the Murun Massif, Northwest Aldan, Sakha Republic, Russia.
Charoite forms from limestone due to the process of contact metamorphism. Since this is a relatively common geological phenomenon, why its distribution is so limited is unclear. Apparently, the particular limestone and intrusive rocks in this area had unique chemical properties.
Carvers can fashion objects a foot or more in size from available large blocks.
Although reasonably tough with a hardness between 5 and 6, charoites make poor ring stones. However, most other jewelry uses are safe. Due to the material’s heat sensitivity and fair to good cleavage, avoid mechanical cleaning such as steam or ultrasonic processes. Instead, use a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water for cleaning. Consult our gemstone jewelry cleaning guide for more recommendations.