Charming Charoite

During the last Cowichan Valley Visions Art Tour, we discovered one rare mineral that can be found only in Russia. Silversmith Michele Heath introduced us to the unique stone charoite.

The name ‘charoite’ derives from the Chara River, Russia, near which it was discovered.

Michele Heath’s work

This rare stone has complex wiry pattern and uneven colour with inclusions of various colors: white, lilac, lavender, and even brown. Charoite has over 100 varieties with slightly different patterns and colours.

Coincidently or not, the Russian word for ‘charm, magic, spell, incantation’ also sounds similar to name of this unique gem. From Proto-Slavic *čarъ ча́ры • (čáry): witchcraft, magic, incantation, sorcery, spell, charm

The first charoite was discovered in 1948 in Yakutia on the watershed of the Chara river by the Russian geologist V. Ditmar.

The charoite deposit was discovered by Y. Alekseev and Y. Rogov only in 1973 when building Baikal–Amur Mainline, in the Murun massif, between the Chara and Olekma Rivers, southwest of Olekminsk, Yakutia, Russia.

In search for i’ts match Y. Rogov was sent to France to compare this newly discovered mineral with the specimens from the collection of the Louvre, which at that time was considered a complete collection of rocks from around the world. It turned out that none of the geologists had seen a stone like the charoite. Charoite contains a total of 40 rare trace elements and minerals, some of which were even unknown until then. The age of the mineral in the Russian deposit is about 107 million years.

There is a legend that Rogov was offered a good price to sell charoite but he refused. In 1977 charoite was officially registered.

Due to a rapidly depleting reserve of the stone the state imposed a restriction on its production protecting its resources. Accessibility to charoite and it’s mining is also difficult due to extreme cold conditions at the top of the mountain in an earthquake-prone area. The price of charoite is rapidly rising.

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