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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk Jan 22, 2014 Updated Jan 17, 2019

Hemimorphite Gemstone Information

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About Hemimorphite - History and Introduction

Hemimorphite is an extremely rare gem-quality form of zinc silicate, once referred to as 'calamine'. Although 'calamine' is no longer used to refer to the gemstone as of recent times, it is still used in reference to 'calamine lotion', a pharmaceutical product composed of zinc and iron oxide used to relieve itching and minor skin irritations. Hemimorphite is closely associated with smithsonite, another rare collector's gem. For many years, because of their close resemblance to one another, hemimorphite and smithsonite were grouped together as 'calamine'. It wan't until 1803 they were discovered to be two distinctively different minerals by James Smithson, mineralogist of the Smithsonian Institute.

Hemimorphite is an important zinc ore and has been mined from the upper sections of zinc ores foryears. In fact, over half of its composition is metallic zinc. Its name originates from the Greek words 'hemi' and 'morph', which respectively translate as 'half-shape'. The unique name refers to its unusual hemimorphic crystal forms, which feature asymmetrical axial crystal end-points. One end of each crystal is rather blunt, dominated by a pedion (a single face), while the other is pointed and pyramidal.

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Identifying Hemimorphite

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Hemimorphite can be identified by its distinct composition and unique crystal structure. Hemimorphite can be composed of over fifty percent zinc. Hemimorphite is a zinc silicate, whilst smithsonite is a zinc carbonate; zinc silicate (hemimorphite) is considered rarer than zinc carbonate (smithsonite). Gemologically, it has a refractive index of 1.614 to 1.636 and a density or specific gravity of 3.30 to 3.50. Its hardness is 5 on the Mohs scale, similar to opal and turquoise. Hemimorphite may also be distinguished from other similar materials by its unique pyroelectric (charge released by temperature change) and piezoelectric (voltage produced by mechanical pressure) properties.

Hemimorphite Origin and Sources

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Hemimorphite can be found in many areas of the world, but very few deposits yield gemstone quality materials. Some of the most significant deposits are from Vieille Montagne, Belgium and Aachen, Germany.

Other notable origins include Algeria, Australia, Austria, England, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Russia (Siberia), Thailand, the Congo, Namibia, Madagascar and the United States, including Pennsylvania, Montana, Colorado and New Mexico.

Buying Hemimorphite

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Hemimorphite Color

Hemimorphite can occur in various tones of blue, green and colorless (white). Most gemstones are blue to blue-green, and look similar to chrysocolla or turquoise. The most desirable color is sky to Swiss blue, which is reminiscent of Paraiba tourmaline. Hemimorphite often exhibits bands of blue with white streaks, and it may also be found interspersed by a dark matrix (the surrounding material).

Hemimorphite Clarity and Luster

Gem quality hemimorphite typically ranges from transparent to translucent in clarity. Lower grade materials are opaque and have no gemstone value. Hemimorphite often exhibits some mottling and blue-white banding. Some stones may also be included with a dark matrix. When polished, hemimorphite exhibits an attractive vitreous to diamond-like adamantine luster.

Hemimorphite Cut and Shape

Hemimorphite can be a difficult for many lapidaries to work, because of its brittle tenacity, perfect cleavage and its resistance to good polish. It is most often cut en cabochon into shapes that maximize the most carat weight, typically ovals, pears and cushions. Although gem quality material is very scarce, finished gemstones are typically quite large, often weighing 5 carats or more. Hemimorphite is typically cut for collectors only, but is sometimes used for rare and exotic jewelry designs. Hemimorphite too small for cutting is often traded in drusy form. Hemimorphite drusy is also a popular material highly sought-after by gem and mineral collectors.

Hemimorphite Treatment

Hemimorphite is not known to be treated or enhanced in any way.

Hemimorphite Gemological Properties:

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Chemical Formula: Zn4Si2O7(OH)2·H2O - Hydrous basic zinc silicate
Crystal Structure: Orthorhombic; tabular
Color: Blue, green, colorless
Hardness: 5 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.614 to 1.636
Density: 3.30 to 3.50
Cleavage: Perfect
Transparency: Transparent to opaque
Double Refraction +0.022
Luster: Vitreous, adamantine
Fluorescence: Weak

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.

Hemimorphite: Related or Similar Gemstones:

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Smithsonite Cabochon
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Hemimorphite is very closely associated with smithsonite. In fact, for many years, they were thought to be the same mineral, calamine. It was later discovered that calamine was actually two distinct minerals; hemimorphite and smithsonite.

There are a variety of other gemstones that are similar to hemimorphite with regard to color and luster, including chrysocolla, smithsonite and turquoise. Hemimorphite may also form as a by-product of sphalerite during oxidation.

Hemimorphite - Metaphysical and Crystal Healing Properties

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Hemimorphite is thought to be a stone of empathy. It is believed to help communicate feelings and inner emotions. It is said to help mend damaged relationships. Hemimorphite encourages love and compassion in those who wear it. It is closely associated with the zodiacal sign of Libra and is believed to best benefit the heart, crown and third eye chakras. It can encourage inner strength and psychic visions.

Physically, hemimorphite is thought to be able to alleviate hormonal headaches, and ulcer-related pain. It is sometimes used for weight-loss since it is a stone that is thought to provide energy.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and is not the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.

Hemimorphite Jewelry Ideas

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Hemimorphite is one the rarer and lesser-known gems. Thus, it is primarily a collector's stone and not often used for jewelry. It is also rather soft and fragile for most types of jewelry, although it does have roughly the same hardness as opal or turquoise, both of which are quite often used for jewelry designs. Hemimorphite should be set into well-protected mountings and limited to earrings, pendants, pins or brooches. Hemimorphite could be worn as a cabochon ring, but only with great care and as occasional wear.

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.

Hemimorphite Gemstone and Jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top

How to clean your gemstonesHemimorphite is rather soft and brittle. It also exhibits perfect cleavage which means it can be easily split by a single blow. Due to its softness, it can be easily scratched by other harder gems and in turn, it can easily scratch any softer materials as well. Do not use any harsh chemicals or detergents when cleaning your stones and avoid spraying perfume or hairspray on your gemstones. Like most gemstones, it is best to avoid the use of ultrasonic cleaners and steamers. You can wipe down your stones down using a plain soft cloth or brush and warm soapy water. Always be sure to rinse well to remove any soapy residue.

Always remove gems and jewelry prior to exercising, playing sports or performing household chores. When storing hemimorphite, store it separately from other gems and jewelry. It is best to wrap it in a soft cloth and place it inside a fabric-lined jewelry box for extra protection.

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