Rhodochrosite, the Bacon of Gemstones

Seems like there’s been quite a bacon fad over the last year.  Well I’m sure you’ll be happy to hear that gemology has it’s own candidate for the bacon craze – rhodochrosite.

Rhodochrosite, MnCO3, is an ore of manganese.  It is a beautiful, but fairly soft (Moh’s hardness 3.5-4.0) mineral.  Most beads and cut stones show beautiful pink, brown, and white banding (described as the “bacon-strip effect”), and are opaque.  Although it is usually seen in jewelry cut as cabochons it can also be found as transparent pink to reddish faceted gems.  The banded material is also used in carvings. The name comes from the Greek rhodon -“rose” and chroma – “color.”


Rhodochrosite and sterling silver necklace. Item RDSSN102

Rhodochrosite was initially described at a deposit in Romania in the early 1800s.  Rhombohedral crystals are mined in Colorado, where it is the state mineral.  Most of the banded rhodochrosite used in jewelry today comes from Argentina.

Rhodochrosite is a great gemstone for earrings and necklaces but generally too soft to safely wear in rings or bracelets that get heavy use.  It scratches easily so should be cleaned with a mild soap and water.

Gemological Institute of America, Gem Identification Lab Manual, 5/2012

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