Thursday, September 6, 2007

Charoite Delight

I love Charoite. What is Charoite you ask?

"It has the appearance of purple marble, but really defies simply looks unnaturally beautiful."

Charoite is a gorgeous and rare stone, originating in Russia. Discovered by the west in the late 1970s, it was officially found in the late 1940s by a Soviet Geologist in the remote Chara Valley (Aldan, Russia). Due to the wild nature of Siberia it wasn't until the 1960s before more attention was given to the deposit and in the 70s the stone was finally mined and introduced to the market.

Because the only deposit ever found exists in such a remote location it is difficult to obtain Charoite. According to the Russian language Wikipedia (kindly translated for me by Zoya of My Lovely Beads), "the limit of charoite mining is set by 100,000 kilograms a year" and apparently is only supposed to be released in 'worked' form. In other words, no "raw" or rough Charoite is supposed to be released. "Supposed to be" is the key phrase there. Prohibitions like that rarely work. Even my grandfather has a few slabs of unworked Charoite. (He says it's very hard to work with and the one cab I saw in his collection was cracked.)

I have some amazing Charoite beads that I treasure. I've seen plenty of unattractive Charoite, but finding beads with swirls and brilliance is tough.

Another wonderful source says that one of the reasons for the scarcity is simply the lack of workable time in the year. The area is Siberia after all! There's only so many months when the weather will permit mining.

There are two different stories on how this stone was named. One, the most plausible to me, is that it is named after the Charo River where it was found. The other, more fanciful, story is that it is named after it's magical impression - "Chary" in Russian means charms or magic. It does look vaguely magical when it has great swirls.

And even though I don't believe in anything like magic, I love this quote: "It survived great trauma, rains, winds, heat and cold, only to become more beautiful over time."

Other Interesting Resources:

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