Hematite is perhaps one of the most recognizable minerals in existence. As the mineral form of iron oxide, it comes in several different colors, ranging from steel gray to red or reddish brown. It is renowned for its distinctive metallic luster.
Hematite is one of several iron oxides with a rust-red streak. It is actually harder than iron, but it is very brittle. Some hematite contains titanium inclusions. It tends to be found in areas with mineral hot springs as it precipitates out of water. It can also occur in standing still water.
Occasionally it may form without any water at all. In these situations, it usually is the result of volcanic activity or soil weathering. Intriguingly enough, hematite spherules have been discovered on Mars. These spherules may indicate a watery past on the planet.
The name “hematite” comes from the Greek word for “blood.” This is a reference to the red color which hematite sometimes forms in. The appearance of hematite can vary quite a bit. Sometimes it forms on a quartz matrix and you may see translucent reddish crystals. Most times, however, hematite is opaque.
It may appear as a dull brownish or grayish rock, or as one with a shiny metallic sheen. Oftentimes, you will see shiny metallic masses with rust-red streaks. Hematite is quite dense and heavy. On the Mohs scale of hardness, it is only a 5-6.
WELL-KNOWN VARIETIES OF HEMATITE
Bloodstone. This is perhaps the best known variety of hematite. It actually can refer to two different types of stones. One is a form of dark green or blue chalcedony which includes a number of reddish or brownish spots. The spots are iron oxide impurities, usually hematite. Sometimes the name “bloodstone” also refers to a form of gray hematite which includes brownish or reddish spots.
Iron Rose. This type of hematite is named for the shape of its formation. An iron rose consists of a number of flat hexagonal planes of hematite which are joined together in such a way as to resemble a rose. An example can be seen below.
Kidney Ore. This refers to globular forms of hematite.
Paint Ore. Red or brown masses of hematite are known as “paint ore.”
Titano-hematite. This is a form of hematite which contains significant amounts of titanium.
Specularite. This type of hematite includes numerous tiny intergrown hexagonal plates. These plates cause the stone to glimmer as you turn it in your hand, producing a mesmerizing effect akin to a starry night sky.
Rainbow hematite. This is an iridescent form of hematite. In its raw form, it is incredibly brittle.
Historically, hematite has been used as a pigment and as chalk—more on this later in the section on history. Today, it is used mostly to create jewelry. Hematite jewelry first rose to prominence during the Victorian era, and has remained quite popular ever since.
Hematite is very popular for jewelry because it is inexpensive and has such a unique beauty to it. Many people enjoy the reflective quality of the stone as well as its weight. Hematite can easily be carved into interesting shapes. While it is often set in metal for pendants, earrings, and rings, it may sometimes be carved into actual ring shapes.