faceted witherite - Englandfaceted witherite - England

Witherite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information

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

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

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

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Witherite Value

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.

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.
  • witherite and fluorite - white light
  • witherite and fluorite - UV light

    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.

    Joel E. Arem, Ph.D., FGA

    Dr. Joel E. Arem has more than 60 years of experience in the world of gems and minerals. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Mineralogy from Harvard University, he has published numerous books that are still among the most widely used references and guidebooks on crystals, gems and minerals in the world.

    Co-founder and President of numerous organizations, Dr. Arem has enjoyed a lifelong career in mineralogy and gemology. He has been a Smithsonian scientist and Curator, a consultant to many well-known companies and institutions, and a prolific author and speaker. Although his main activities have been as a gem cutter and dealer, his focus has always been education. joelarem.com

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