Hematite Gemstone Information
About Hematite - History and Introduction
Hematite is a gemstone form of iron oxide. It is the principal ore of iron and one of the few gemstones that exhibits a metallic luster. Like most other gemstones with a metallic luster, hematite is remarkably dense and possesses an extremely high refractive index. In fact, its specific gravity and refractive index is much higher than that of corundum, zircon and even diamond. Its name, 'hematite', is derived from the Greek word for blood, (though it should not be confused with 'bloodstone", which is chalcedony quartz) since its color is red when thinly sliced or powdered. Its color lends it well to industrial use as a red pigment, though nowadays, it is often substituted by cheaper materials.
When highly polished, hematite can sometimes appear like polished silver. As a gemstone in aggregate form, hematite is always opaque and typically occurs with blackish-gray color. However, in thin crystals, it is actually transparent and exhibits a reddish to brown color; this red-brown color can also be seen in specimens of the gem mentioned above, known as bloodstone; chalcedony quartz. The 'drops of blood' visible in this quartz bloodstone are owed to traces of iron oxide, typically hematite. Some other polished stones also exhibit spots of rust-like color due to their iron composition.
Identifying Hematite Back to Top
Hematite is a very distinct gem with a very unique luster. It is nearly impossible to confuse it with any other type of stone. Hematite is one of the densest gemstones available, comparable to that of pyrite (fool's gold). When cut and polished, its color is shiny and metallic, but when unworked, it is red to brown-red. Hematite crystallizes in the trigonal system, forming with the same crystal structure as corundum (sapphire and ruby). It is harder than pure iron, with a hardness ranging from 5.50 to 6.50 on the Mohs scale, which is similar to opal or turquoise. Hematite is often confused with 'hematine', a magnetic imitation form of hematite. Natural hematite is not usually magnetic, but it can be magnetized by a process of heating and cooling while attached to a strong magnet.
Hematite Origin and Sources Back to Top
Hematite can be found in numerous localities around the world. Some of the more significant sources include Minas Gerais, Brazil; Cumbria, England and Elba, Italy.
Morroco, South Africa, Bangladesh, China, New Zealand, the Czech Republic and the United States (Minnesota, Michigan, Arizona and New York) are also known to produce fine quality hematite.
Hematite has been mined from the island of Elba since the time of the ancient Etruscans. A NASA spacecraft has also discovered hematite on Mars.
Buying Hematite Back to Top
Hematite Gemological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.
Hematite: Related or Similar Gemstones: Back to Top
Hematite is very similar to a variety of different gemstones, but technically remains unrelated. Some similar gems include pyrite and marcasite, which both share hematite's distinctive metallic luster. Hematite is one of many forms of iron oxide. Iron oxide is often found as the coloring agent for many of today's popular gemstones including bloodstone, garnet, ruby and spinel. Iron oxide is also the chemical make-up of the surrounding rock matrix of a variety of gemstones including boulder opal and tiger's eye matrix.
There are a few specific gemstone varieties of hematite, although gemologically they are not considered to be distinct species from regular hematite. Some of the more popular trade names include rainbow hematite, an iridescent form of hematite; titano-hematite, a titanium-rich hematite; and specularite, an aggregate form, which exhibits an attractive glistening luster when rotated.
Hematite is also commonly associated with other minerals, including pyrite, marcasite, calcite and albite.
Hematite - Metaphysical and Crystal Healing Properties Back to Top
Hematite was used as red chalk for some of the earliest writing in human history. The first use of hematite is estimated to have been around 164,000 years ago. Red chalk mines dating back to 5000 BC have been found in Poland and Hungary. Hematite gemstones are thought to be very powerful healing stones. They are primarily used for alleviating blood-related disorders, especially when combined with the powers of bloodstone, one of the most popular healing stones available today.
Hematite is thought to stimulate the absorption of iron and in turn, improve the supply and circulation of oxygen in the body. Hematite is also used for the relief of fever and pain from cramps. It is considered to be a grounding stone that has a cooling and calming effect. Mentally, it is thought to help calm the mind and clear the way for enhanced focus and concentration. Hematite is also an important stone for Chinese 'feng shui'. In feng shui practice, hematite is used for its protective force and for its ability to energize its wearer. Overall, hematite is an excellent gemstone for mental, physical and spiritual healing.
Hematite Jewelry Ideas Back to Top
During the Victorian era, hematite was very popular throughout Europe, particularly for mourning jewelry. It was often used in decorative art and for the making of intaglio etchings. Today, hematite remains popular for ornamental purposes and jewelry design, especially for bracelets and necklaces. Although it is not considerably hard, it is actually quite durable due to its lack of cleavage. Its silvery, titanium-like look and feel makes it ideal for many men's jewelry designs, including sleek and classy cuff-links and tie-tacks.
Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamond by weight in comparison.
Hematite Gemstone and Jewelry Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Hematite is rather soft and it also has a brittle tenacity. Caring for hematite should be similar to that of opal or apatite. Avoid the use of steamers and ultrasonic cleaners. Do not use any harsh chemicals or cleaning fluid, especially bleach or acid. You can clean hematite using warm soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove any soapy residue. Always remove any jewelry when engaging in vigorous physical activity, such as exercise, sports or household chores.
When storing hematite, it is best to store it separately from other gems and jewelry. If possible, wrap it in a soft cloth, or place it in a fabric-lined jewelry box.
- First Published: January-22-2014
- Last Updated: June-04-2014
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