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Howlite is a silicate mineral; it was discovered near Windsor, Nova Scotia in 1868 by Henry How (1828-1879), a Canadian chemist, geologist, and mineralogist. How was alerted to the unknown mineral by miners in a gypsum quarry, who found it to be a nuisance. He called the new mineral silico-boro-calcite; it was given the name howlite by James Dwight Dana shortly thereafter.
The most common form of howlite is irregular nodules, sometimes resembling cauliflower. Crystals of howlite are rare, having been found in only a couple localities worldwide. Crystals were first reported from Tick Canyon, California, and later at Iona, Nova Scotia. Crystals reach a maximum size of about 1 cm, they are colorless, white or brown and are often translucent or transparent. The nodules are white with fine gray or black veins in an erratic, often web-like pattern, opaque with a sub-vitreous luster.
Howlite is commonly used to make decorative objects such as small carvings or jewelry components. Because of its porous texture, howlite can be easily dyed to imitate other minerals, especially turquoise because of the superficial similarity of the veining patterns. The dyed howlite (or magnesite) is marketed as turquenite. Howlite is also sold in its natural state, sometimes under the misleading trade names of "white turquoise" or "white buffalo turquoise," or the derived name "white buffalo stone."
Though howlite is softer that turquoise, the two stones are nearly identical, and some claim that even jewelers have difficulty telling them apart in absence of ultra-violet (UV) testing. In UV tests, howlite often appears to give off colored fluorescent glows. It also dissolves quickly in hydrochloric acid without causing bubbling, something turquoise will not do.