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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|Crystallography||Orthorhombic. Crystals twinned to yield pseudohexagonal dipyramids; prismatic; globular, botryoidal; granular; fibrous.|
|Colors||Colorless, white, gray with a tinge of yellow, green, or brown.|
|Luster||Vitreous to resinous.|
|Cleavage||Distinct 1 direction|
|Luminescence||See "Identifying Characteristics" below.|
|Transparency||Opaque to transparent|
|Absorption Spectrum||Not diagnostic.|
|Optics||a = 1.529; β = 1.676; γ = 1.677. Biaxial (-), 2V = 16°.|
|Etymology||After William Withering, an English physician and mineralogist who first described the mineral.|
|Occurrence||A low-temperature mineral in hydrothermal vein deposits.|
Although an uncommon mineral, witherite has had numerous commercial uses. However, as cut gems, witherites have little to recommend them by way of beauty or wearability. Nevertheless, faceting adds rarity and thus interest for those pursuing a gem collection of unusual specimens.
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. (Also, note the information on this material’s toxicity in the “Care” section below).
Witherites can fluoresce or phosphoresce bluish white. They can also show the following:
- Green and yellow in shortwave (SW) ultraviolet light (England) with phosphorescence.
- Yellowish, with phosphorescence, in longwave (LW) UV light.
- Fluoresces in X-rays.
A large, sharp, lustrous, pseudo-hexagonal yellowish witherite crystal attached to a thin vein of yellow fluorite. The witherite shows bluish white fluorescence; the fluorite blue. These crystals, 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.
No known enhancements.
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.
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 5 carats, are usually more translucent than transparent.
You’ll more likely find witherites, if at all, in mineral collections than jewelry collections. With a hardness of only 3 to 3.5 and distinct cleavage, these would make poor jewelry stones. Although easy to cut, witherites prove difficult to polish. If worn, 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.
Lapidaries who cut witherite should take precautions against inhaling dust from this material. Witherite (barium carbonate) is toxic if ingested. Finished gems and crystals, however, should pose no risk. (Oddly enough, witherite was once used in sugar refining).
For cleaning recommendations, consult our gemstone jewelry care guide.