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Staurolite is a red brown to black, mostly opaque, mineral with a white streak. A special property of staurolite is that it often occurs twinned in a characteristic cross-shape. In handsamples, macroscopically visible staurolite crystals are of prismatic shape, they are often larger than the surrounding minerals. Staurolite is one of the index minerals that are used to estimate the temperature, depth, and pressure at which a rock undergoes metamorphism, it's not usually used in jewelry making.
The name is derived from the Greek STAUROS for cross and LITHOS for stone in reference to the common twinning. The staurolite is also known as a "Fairy Stone" due to a Virginian legend about the origin of the stone's curious shape. The Fairy Stone State Park in Patrick County, Virginia, is named for this stone, which can be found there. It is the official state mineral of the U.S. state of Georgia and is also to be found in the Lepontine Alps in Switzerland.
The Legend of the Fairy Stone says, Many hundreds of years before Chief Powhatan's reign, fairies were dancing around a spring of water, playing with naiads and wood nymphs, when an elfin messenger arrived from a city far away. He brought news of the death of Christ. When these creatures of the forest heard the story of the crucifixion, they wept. As their tears fell upon the earth, they crystallized to form beautiful crosses.
For many years people held these little crosses in superstitious awe, firm in the belief that they protected the wearer against witchcraft, sickness, accidents and disaster. Fairy stones are staurolite, a combination of silica, iron and aluminum. Staurolite crystallizes at 60 or 90 degree angles, hence the stone's cross-like structure. Found only in rocks once subjected to great heat and pressure, the mineral was formed long, long ago, during the rise of the Appalachian Mountains. The stones are most commonly shaped like St. Andrew's cross, an "X" or saltire, but "T" shaped Roman crosses and square Maltese crosses are the most sought-after. The rare staurolite stones are found elsewhere but not in such abundance as at Fairy Stone State Park in Virginia.