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Rhodochrosite (whose name is derived from the Greek word meaning rose-colored) is a very attractive mineral with an absolutely one-of-a-kind, beautiful color, its ornamental and display qualities make it a very popular mineral. The color of a single crystal can just astound the observer with its vivid pink-rose color that seems to be transmitted out of the crystal as if lit from within. Impure specimens can more often be shades of pink to pale brown, the streak is white, it is transparent to translucent.
Identification of rhodochrosite is fairly easy despite a few similarly colored minerals such as rhodonite. Rhodonite is harder and has different cleavage; but perhaps the best distinguishing factor is its lack of reaction to acids.
It was first described in 1813 in reference to a sample from Cavnic, Maramures, present-day Romania. According to Dimitrescu and Radulescu, 1966 and to Papp, 1997, this mineral was described for the first time in Sacaramb, Romania, not in Cavnic, Romania.
There are many localities for rhodochrosite that are of great reknown. Beyond a doubt, the best locality for rhodochrosite is the Sweet Home Mine in Colorado. It is unmatched for its superb rhodochrosite crystals that exhibit the best features of the species; a fine bright rose color and sharp well formed crystals. Some specimens from here are quite large and of world class distinction.
Other localities have produced some fine specimens as well. Catamarca, Argentina has an old inca silver mine that has produced fine stalatitic examples of rhodochrosite. There are many Peruvian rhodochrosite localities that have produced a number of good specimens. These crystals are usually paler in color than other specimens, but are accented by interesting minerals. Beautiful examples of rhodochrosite crystals are also found in Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada, and in N'Chwanging Mine, Hotazel, South Africa.
In a massive form rhodochrosite pink and white bands are extremely attractive, cut cross-sections reveal concentric bands of light and dark rose colored layers. Quality banded specimens are often used for decorative stones and jewelry. It is often carved into figurines and tubular stalactitic forms are sliced into circles with concentric bands that are truly unique in the mineral kingdom. Fine crystals are sometimes cut into gemstones, but rhodochrosite softness and brittleness limit it as a gemstone for everyday use, therefore rhodochrosite is rarely found faceted in jewelry.
Colorado officially named rhodochrosite as its state mineral in 2002 based on a proposal by a local high school (Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colorado). The reason for this lies in the fact that while the mineral is found worldwide, large red crystals are found only in a few places on earth, and some of the best specimens have been found in the Sweet Home Mine near Alma, Colorado.