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By Reviewed By Andreas Zabczyk Feb 07, 2014 Updated Jan 17, 2019

Howlite Gemstone Information

Howlite Gemstones from GemSelect - Large Image
Buy Natural Howlite from GemSelect

About Howlite - History and Introduction

Howlite was named after Henry How, who discovered it in 1868 in Nova Scotia. Henry How was a Canadian chemist, geologist and mineralogist who was told of this previously unknown mineral by gypsum quarry miners who found it hampered their mining because it is harder than gypsum. Howlite is a borate mineral, which occurs in Canada and parts of the USA. It forms as irregular nodules which can appear in the shape of a cauliflower head. Transparent howlite crystals are extremely rare and are small (the largest documented howlite crystals are 1 cm long), but the nodules can occur in masses of over 50 kilograms. Howlite has the appearance of white marble or porcelain with a sub-vitreous luster. It is opaque and white or grey with grey, black or dark brown veins running through it. Gemstone quality howlite can be interspersed by the darker matrix (which appears as the veins), or it can be matrix-free and pure white. Howlite is best known for imitating other gemstones. Due to its porous nature, howlite can absorb dye well, which means it can be sold as turquoise, red coral, or lapis lazuli. However, honest gem traders always declare any treatments.

Howlite Gemstone

Identifying Howlite

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Howlite is quite porous and because of this quality, it can be dyed to imitate similar colored stones such as turquoise, coral and lapis lazuli. However, howlite itself is generally not mimicked. Howlite is sometimes misleadingly sold as "white turquoise", or also called "the sacred buffalo stone" or "the white buffalo stone". Howlite has a similar appearance and hardness to white marble, but white marble has a low porosity compared to the porous howlite.

Howlite; Origin and Gemstone Sources

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Although howlite was discovered in Canada, most howlite now comes from California and Los Angeles, USA. Deposits have also been found in Turkey, Germany, Mexico and Russia. Rare transparent howlite crystals have only been found in two places; Tick Canyon, California and Iona, Nova Scotia.

Buying Howlite and Determining Howlite Gemstone Value

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Howlite Color

Howlite is milky white or grey, and is interspersed with black or dark brown veins. These veins are the matrix, or surrounding stone. It can also be pure white, which means that the matrix (surrounding stone) is not present in the gemstone.

Howlite Clarity and Luster

It is opaque with a sub-vitreous (glimmering) luster. Howlite also occurs in transparent crystal form, but this is extremely rare.

Howlite Cut and Shape

Howlite has indistinct cleavage, which means that it is not suitable for faceting. Howlite can be cut en cabochon, fashioned into spheres, egg shapes, ovals, pear shapes or fancy shapes, including skulls. It can also be tumbled and drilled to make beautiful beads. Howlite is an attractive ornamental stone and is often cut into globes or carved into fancy shapes, such as animal ornaments.

Howlite Treatment

Howlite is quite porous, so it is often dyed to imitate other minerals, especially turquoise. However, howlite is softer than turquoise. Due to howlite's distinctive veining, when dyed blue, it can be passed off as turquoise. This may have caused howlite to be misleadingly known as "white turquoise", "white buffalo turquoise" or "white buffalo stone". Dyed howlite is also sold as "turquenite". Howlite has also been dyed deep blue to simulate lapis lazuli, or red to imitate coral. Dyed howlite is sometimes coated with a resin to seal (and conceal) the dye and make the gemstone harder. Honest gem traders always declare any treatment. When howlite is sold as "howlite", it is typically untreated.

Howlite Gemological Properties:

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Chemical Formula: Ca2B5SiO9(OH)5 Calcium borosilicate hydroxide
Crystal Structure: Monoclinic, prismatic
Color: Milky white or grey, often dispersed with dark-brown or black veins
Hardness: 3.5 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.583 - 1.600
Density: 2.45 - 2.58
Cleavage: None
Transparency: Opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence: 0.019
Luster: Sub-vitreous
Fluorescence: Brownish-yellow

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

Howlite: Related or Similar Gemstones

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Blue Turquoise Gem
Blue Turquoise Gemstone

As mentioned above, howlite can be dyed to look like other minerals, such as turquoise, lapis lazuli or coral.

Howlite Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers

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Howlite is said to balance calcium levels and strengthen the bones and teeth. It is also thought to be a calming stone that can relieve insomnia, therefore, some insomniacs place a piece of howlite beneath their pillow to encourage restful sleep. In traditional Hindu belief systems, howlite is considered to benefit the third eye chakra, and when placed on this chakra, between the brows, it is thought to open up memories of previous lives. Howlite is a non-traditional stone for those born under the zodiacal sign of Gemini. Additionally, howlite is believed to eliminate anger and absorb negative 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 does not represent 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.

Howlite Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas

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Howlite is quite a soft substance when compared to other gemstones, but its lack of cleavage means that it is quite versatile. Howlite gems make distinctive bolo ties, also known as "bootlace ties". Spherical drilled howlite stones make attractive beaded necklaces and bracelets. Smooth tumble-finished howlite stones are also drilled and used to make necklaces and bracelets. Additionally, fancy cut or cabochon cut howlite stones make unique pendants.

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 diamonds by weight in comparison.

Famous Howlite Gemstones

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Howlite is most famous, or rather, infamous for imitating other gems, and does not yet seem to be fully appreciated in its own right. Therefore, there are no world famous howlite gemstones, to date.

Howlite Gemstone Jewelry Care and Cleaning

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How to clean your gemstonesHowlite is softer than many other gems, so it can be easily scratched. Since howlite dissolves in hydrochloric acid, harsh household chemical cleaners should be avoided. Howlite is softer than common quartz, and since ordinary dust often contains traces of quartz, simply wiping off dust can eventually lead to reduced polish and unwanted surface scratches. To clean your howlite, simply use soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewelry or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sports. Store howlite away from other gemstones to avoid scratches. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewelry box.

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