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apatite

Rough apatite. Item for sale through prettyrock.com

I think the approaching spring has made me seek out cheerful pastels again, and I found an interesting story in apatite, a mineral that is literally part of all of us and linked to maintaining life on this planet.

Collectors like apatite because it likes to form large, impressive crystals. Apatite’s color range also does not disappoint as it fills the spectrum, from rusty reddish browns to striking, electric blues.  This is in part because apatite refers to a group of related minerals.  The most common of these is fluorapatite, which has a chemical formula of Ca5(PO4)3F.  I was actually having trouble finding images that were clearly apatite, and that is part of its story as well.  Apatite comes from the Greek word for “deceit” because it can look like so many other minerals.

apatite2Tumbled apatite. Item for sale at Illuminations Crystals Jewelry and Gifts.

Apatite can be found in igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rock, and is the most common phosphate-bearing mineral.  Apatite is essentially calcium phosphate, with different trace elements tacked on.  While reading about apatite’s different species, I kept having the word “hydroxyapatite” pop up in my head.  It took me a while to realize it was my medical knowledge tapping at the back of my consciousness: hydroxyapatite forms the inorganic component of our bones, which makes up half of the weight of bone.  This means we are all carrying around 10 lbs of hydroxyapatite (or similar calcium phosphate species).  It is neat to think our foundations are made of microscopic crystals.

In addition to our personal needs for the stone, apatite has historically been mined to make fertilizer, on account of its high phosphorous and calcium levels.  Apatite is brittle and soft at 5 Mohs, meaning it is best suited to earrings and jewelry pieces that do not take a lot of wear.  Major gem sources of apatite include Mexico, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka, but the stone is found worldwide.

Due to its connection with our bones, apatite is believed to alleviate pain from arthritis, and is thought to give heightened clarity and creativity, as well as a communicative, humanitarian spirit to its bearer.

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