Although aesthetically magnificent wulfenite crystals are often too thin, soft, and sensitive to cut for jewelry, rare faceted pieces are greatly prized by collectors. The red of wulfenite, especially from the Red Cloud Mine in Arizona, is one of the richest colors in nature.
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Wulfenite and stolzite form a mineral series, as the molybdenum (Mo) and tungsten (W) analogues, respectively.
Many localities across the globe produce wulfenites. However, cuttable material is very rare, indeed. Individual crystals usually have a tabular structure. As a result, they’re frequently too thin to find a fragment suitable for cutting. Should a faceter acquire a suitable piece, even more challenges await. These beautiful gems combine very low hardness with sensitivities to both heat and vibration. Although not well suited for jewelry use, faceted pieces, as well as crystals, make stunning collector’s gems.
Red wulfenites over 1 carat and yellowish or orange stones over 2 carats are extremely scarce. The only larger stones come from Namibian (Tsumeb) material. However, this locality produced very few facetable gems very infrequently. Thus, faceters have cut very few stones from this source.
Occasionally, U.S. localities produce crystals both thick and transparent enough for faceting. These include, most notably, the Red Cloud Mine and the Seventy-Nine Mine in Arizona as well as other sources. Some of these crystals have yielded gems up to about 5 carats.
Tsumeb, Namibia has produced crystals several inches across. This material has yielded faceted gems over 50 carats in size.
With a hardness of 2.5 to 3, knives and copper coins could scratch wulfenites. (By comparison, household dust, which contains silicon quartz, has a hardness of 7). You’re more likely to find wulfenites in mineral collections than in jewelry collections. Treat any specimens delicately.