Just like Bette Davis, Rhodonite is the official gem of Massachusetts. Its name is derived from the Greek word “Rhodon” meaning rose. It was discovered in the 17th century and for several years it was considered the national stone of Russia.
Its uses vary from cameos to beautiful jewellery. Its pink body colour has a vitreous lustre and the gem is distinguished by black veins called dendrites, which form patterns across the main body. Very rarely, transparent Rhodonite is found which is exceedingly fragile and greatly prized by collectors.
As the stone is usually opaque, it is commonly cut as cabochons or into beads. It has also been claimed to have specific therapeutic qualities, promoting relaxation and the soothing of the nervous system. It is said to aid self-worth and imbue confidence in romantic matters.
As well as being discovered in Massachusetts and Russia, the gem has also been found in Sweden and Australia.
I recently acquired a small parcel of Rhodonite from a very good friend of mine. He informed me that when he received the rough material he tried to have it faceted in Bangkok, but unfortunately because the gemstone was very brittle, too many pieces were damaged. He then sent it to a cutting house in China and then tried one of our cutting houses in Jaipur. Unfortunately, time after time the Lapidarists were damaging too many stones. Then, as a last resort, he sent the rough material to Brazil, where an expert in cutting Kyanite (this gem is extremely difficult to cut as it is polymorphic – meaning that it has different hardness across its different axis) and at last was able to cabochon cut the gemstone with an acceptable amount of breakages. The big trick for the Lapidarist was knowing at which angle to make the all important first cut.
Don’t worry about the gem once it has been faceted though. Although this glorious pink gemstone is brittle and difficult to cut, once the cut has been achieved its hardness of 6 to 6.5 on the mohs scale makes it durable.