Witherite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information

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Witherite: England (1.89). Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Easy to cut but too soft and fragile for jewelry, a faceted witherite would make an unusual addition to a gem collection.

Witherite Information

Data Value
Name Witherite
Crystallography Orthorhombic. Crystals twinned to yield pseudohexagonal dipyramids; prismatic; globular, botryoidal; granular; fibrous.
Crystallographic Forms
Refractive Index 1.529-1.677
Colors Colorless, white, gray with a tinge of yellow, green, or brown.
Hardness 3-3.5
Wearability Poor
Fracture Uneven
Birefringence 0.148
Cleavage Distinct 1 direction
Dispersion Low
Luminescence See "Identifying Characteristics" below.
Luminescence Present Yes
Luminescence Type Fluorescent, Phosphorescent, UV-Long, UV-Short, X-ray Colors
Absorption Spectrum Not diagnostic.
Formula BaCO3
Pleochroism None.
Optics a = 1.529; β = 1.676; γ = 1.677. Biaxial (-), 2V = 16°.
Optic Sign Biaxial -
Etymology After William Withering, an English physician and mineralogist who first described the mineral.
Occurrence A low-temperature mineral in hydrothermal vein deposits.
Luster Vitreous to resinous.
Fracture Luster Resinous
Specific Gravity 4.27-4.79
Transparency Transparent to opaque.
witherite crystals - Illinois

Large witherites with unusual ball-like shapes composed of radial needle formations. 13.0 x 9.0 x 6.0 cm, Bethel Level, Cave-in-Rock District, Illinois, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

What is Witherite?

Witherite forms a series, as the barium (Ba) analogue, with strontianite, the strontium (Sr) analogue. Both belong to the aragonite mineral group.

Although an uncommon mineral, witherite has had numerous commercial uses.

jasperware

Manufacturers have used the mineral witherite in the production of glass, cement, paint, and other materials. In the late 18th century, Josiah Wedgwood also used witherite to produce the pottery known as jasperware. 12K Wedgwood earrings, gold border with classic sage green jasperware with white relief. Photo by Housing Works Thrift Shops. Licensed under CC By-SA 2.0.

Does Witherite Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

You’ll more likely find witherites in mineral collections, if at all, than jewelry collections. With a Mohs hardness of only 3 to 3.5 and distinct cleavage, these gems would make poor jewelry stones. Although easy to cut, witherites prove difficult to polish.

If worn as jewelry, reserve them for occasional use and make sure they don’t rest for long periods against your skin. Over time, they will react to sweat. Use protective gem settings only.

As cut jewelry stones, witherites have little to recommend them in terms of beauty or wearability. Nevertheless, faceting adds rarity and thus interest for those pursuing a gem collection of unusual specimens.

triangle-cut witherite

Custom triangle-cut witherite, 4.30 cts, 10.1 mm, Cave-in-Rock, Hardin Co., Illinois. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Is Witherite Hazardous?

Lapidaries who cut witherite should take precautions against inhaling dust from this material. Witherite (barium carbonate) is toxic if ingested.

Crystals and finished gems should pose no risk as display specimens. However, secure them from small children or pets who may be tempted to place the stones in their mouths.

Scratches on witherites may create tiny particles that could be ingested accidentally, so jewelry use presents some risk. However, protective settings should keep these stones safe for occasional wear.

Oddly enough, witherite was once used in sugar refining.

Identifying Characteristics

Witherites effervesce in acid. Please note that acid testing is a destructive test. Use this procedure only as a last resort for identification and never on a finished gem.

Witherites can fluoresce or phosphoresce blueish white. They can also show the following luminescent colors:

  • Green and yellow in shortwave (SW) ultraviolet light (England) with phosphorescence.
  • Yellowish, with phosphorescence, in longwave (LW) UV light.
  • Fluorescence in X-rays.

A large, sharp, lustrous, pseudo-hexagonal yellowish witherite crystal attached to a thin vein of yellow fluorite. The witherite shows blueish white fluorescence; the fluorite blue. This specimen, approximately 4.8 x 4.4 x 3.2 cm, come from the Minerva No. 1 Mine, Cave-in-Rock, Cave-in-Rock Sub-District, Illinois – Kentucky Fluorspar District, Hardin Co., Illinois, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Are There Synthetic Witherites?

Scientists have synthesized witherite-strontianite series crystals for mineralogical research. However, there is no known jewelry use for this material.

There are no known gemstone enhancements for witherites.

Where are Witherites Found?

The Minerva Mine in Rosiclare, Illinois produces large yellowish crystals.

In the United Kingdom, various sites — including the type locality (Brownley Hill Mine, Alston Moor, England) — produce fine crystals.

Other notable sources of crystals include the following:

  • United States: Arizona; California; Kentucky; Montana; Lockport, New York.
  • Austria; Germany; Czech Republic; France; Japan; Russia; Slovakia.
witherites - type locality

Unusually lustrous columnar witherites, 7.6 x 7.5 x 5.1 cm, Nentsberry Haggs Mine, Alston Moor District, Cumbria, England. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Stone Sizes

Lapidaries normally don’t cut witherites into cabochons, since their colors are too pale to be attractive in such a form. Faceted gems, even those under five carats, are usually more translucent than transparent.

How to Care for Witherites

Clean witherites only with warm water, mild detergent, and a soft brush, but don’t soak them. Make sure to dry them thoroughly after cleaning.

For more recommendations, consult our gemstone jewelry care guide.

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