Sphalerite Gemstone

Sphalerite Gemstone

The name Sphalerite is derived from the Greek word SPHALEROS which means ‘Deceitful’ as the opaque varieties of Sphalerite are often confused with Galena which is a lead ore. Sphalerite is also known as Blende and Zinc Blende, from the German word for ‘Blind,’ alluding to the fact the Sphalerite does not produce lead. [Note, Ruby Blende are the Sphalerite with red hues].

Fire dispersion in gemstones is the phenomenon in which a flashy spectrum of colors is exhibited when the gemstone is turned. Gemstones such as Diamond, Zircon, Demantoid Garnet, Sphene are renowned for their dispersion. However, it is the rare and lesser-known Sphalerite that displays a dispersion of fire that is three times greater than that of diamond. Yet, due to its very low hardness, it remains mainly a collector's gemstone.

Sphalerite is of a zinc sulphide chemical composition that characteristically contains iron. A high content of iron usually renders the stone opaque and black. This particular black, iron rich variety of sphalerite is called Marmatite.

The rare Sphalerite gemstone quality crystal is transparent with a low iron content. It occurs naturally in yellowish to honey brown, red, orange, colorless or green colors. Sphalerite gives off a yellow-orange, red fluorescence.

The colorless Sphalerite is extremely rare. Sphalerite for the most part is pale yellow to deep fiery orange. The light-colored gemstones exhibit the greatest flashes of color or fire dispersion.

Sphalerite hardness of only 3.5 to 4 on the Mohs scale makes it relatively a soft gemstone, about the same as fluorite. Making it not apt for rings. Nonetheless, it is one of the denser gems, similar to Sapphire and Ruby with a specific gravity of 3.90 to 4.10. It also has a very high refractive index of 2.368 to 2.371, very close to diamond which is 2.417, and significantly higher than Zircon [1.810 to 2.024], and Spessartite Garnet [1.790 to 1.820] and Sapphire [1.762 - 1.788].
Sphalerite is one of the rare gemstones that have an adamantine (diamond-like) luster.
It occurs in a cubic; tetrahedral crystal structure similar to the diamond. It also occurs with a perfect cleavage, and with inclusions.
Sphalerite can be identified by its yellow, orange colors; also, by its greasy adamantine luster. That is to say, it shines like a diamond. By its magical flashes of color and also its high density. It also has a perfect cleavage in six directions. And if Sphalerite is powdered, if gives off a sulphureous odor.

Two most important deposits of gemstone quality Sphalerite can be found in the Chivera mine in Sonora, Mexico and in the Picos de Europa Mine, near Santander on Spain's northern coast. Other Sphalerite sources are found in Namibia and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Canada, Zaire and in the United States.

Sphalerite is always faceted in order to maximize its fire and brilliance. It is usually shaped into octagons, trillions, rounds, and ovals, pears and cushions.

Synthetic Sphalerite is sold on the gemstone market. Natural sphalerite though rare, can also be found.

Similar colored gemstones that can be confused with Sphalerite are colored Chrysoberyl, Cassiterite, Scheelite, Sinhalite, Topaz, Tourmaline, Idocrase, Zircon and colorless Diamond.

Sphalerite, Wurtzite and Matraite all share the same chemical composition but differ in crystal structure. For example, Wurzite occurs in a hexagonal crystal structure, whereas Matraite's crystals are shaped like pyramids.

Sphalerite's yellow, orange and red colors are connected with the life force of the sun, also with power and vitality. The red color denotes sexual potency and is a creativity color. It is believed that Sphalerite has the ability to help the wearer recover quickly from illnesses. It is a powerful crystal for protection against exhaustion, fatigue and infection.

Sphalerite is the non-traditional gemstone for those born under the zodiacal sign of Gemini.

Care has to be taken when cleaning Sphalerite. Do not wipe it with a cloth because household dust contains Quartz which has a Mohs hardness of 7, and thus, it may scratch your beautiful Sphalerite. Use mild soapy water and a soft cloth instead. Rinse well of all residue and do not expose it to excessive heat and household chemicals.

Store it away from other gemstones. It is best to wrap it in a soft cloth or place it in a fabric-lined jewelry box.