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fluoriteFluorite specimen from the Rogerly Mine, England.  Photographed by and for sale at http://www.treasuremountainmining.com

I should have known more about this week’s stone, considering it tends to contain my favorite colors (aqua and purple).  Fluorite is a rarity in jewelry because of its soft nature (4 Mohs) and a penchant for fragmenting, but it is considered the most popular mineral in the collector’s trade.

purplefluoritePurple fluorite cubes.  Photo by R.Weller at Cochise College.

You can find fluorite of about every color of the rainbow, along with clear and black, due to the presence of trace elements, but fluorites are most known for electric turquoise and violet hues.  The fun doesn’t end there, because many of the stones fluoresce in a variety of colors, and in fact the term “fluorescence” was created to describe this phenomenon of glowing under different kinds of light.  Fluorite also lent its name to its constitutive element, fluorine, as fluorite is made of calcium fluoride (CaF2).  Fluorite likes to grow in the shape of cubes and related structures (octahedrons, dodecahedrons, etc), adding to their appeal.  You have probably seen cute fluorites in museum gift shops, and usually someone has chipped away at the natural fracture lines within the crystals to get the pretty shapes.

fluorite3Fluorite.  Photo by arbyreed: http://www.flickr.com/people/19779889@N00

Fluorite melts easily, and it has been used for many years as flux for refining steel.  You can also find fluorite in odd places like cookware enamel and precision optics because of its low dispersion of light.  Fluorite is common worldwide, but it is mined mainly in Switzerland, Australia, Germany, the US, China, and Mexico.  The largest American deposits are in Illinois where fluorite is the state mineral.  Fluorite is believed to increase concentration, reasoning, and decision-making ability, and heal a hurting heart.