( Fr- charoite; Ger- Charoit; Nor- karoitt; Rus- )

CHAROITE, (K,Na)5(Ca,Ba,Sr)8(Si6O15)2(Si6O16)(OH,F)·nH2O

A. Charoite (height - 4 cm) from type locality, south of Olekminsk, Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), Siberia, Russia.  Waterworks. (© photo by Jeffrey A. Scovil)

B, Charoite pin (greater axis, including beadwork - 4.2 cm).  Debra Pyeatt Designs. (© photo by Debra Pyeatt,

DESCRIPTION:  In the language of petrography, most marketplace charoite would be called charoitite (in the same sense that most material marketed as serpentine is serpentinite).  This is so because virtually all gemrock "charoite" consists only predominantly -- not wholly(!) -- of the mineral charoite.
    Colors - violet (frequently described as lilac or periwinkle ...), commonly with a pattern variously described by such terms as streaked, swirls, feathers and mottled.   In addition, colors such as orange, dark green and nearly black are commonly present;  these additional colors manifest other mineral constituents -- e.g., the orange may be tinaksite, the dark green, aegirine, etc. -- the names and possible colors of of which are given under the REMARKS subheading.
    H. (effective hardness) 5 - 6
    S.G.  2.54-2.79
    Light transmission -  translucent  to opaque
r - pearly to subvitreous
    Breakage - irregular to subconchoidal
    Miscellany -  some "fibers" exhibit chatoyancy. 


USES: Jewelry (e.g., pendants, brooches, pins and rings);  tumbled stones;  spheres, pyramids and hearts;  carvings;  candlesticks and lamp bases;  desk sets and clock mountings;  jewelry boxes and diverse vessels, such as vases;  tiles;  polished pieces strictly for use as show pieces, etc.  Also: "It was used for the first time in the construction of the Aeroflot building in Paris." (

OCCURRENCE: Contact metasomatic deposits in calcareous rocks that have been intruded by alkalic magmas:  

NOTEWORTHY LOCALITY:  In the interfluve area between  the Chara and Olekma rivers, south of Olekminsk in the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), which is in east central Siberia, northeast of Lake Baikal.  The locality is about 520 km (325 miles) northeast of the northern tip of Lake Baikal.   According to some reports, the deposit is now "exhausted." (e.g.,     

REMARKS: This name of this gemrock is recorded variously as based on its occurrence near the the Chara River OR on the basis of the impression it leads to --  i.e., it is noted that  "chary" in Russian means "charms" or "magic" (see -- However, to date, I have found no such Russian word meaning either charms or magic;  the nearest possibility would transliterate to a ocharov...).  In any case, according to the CNMMN of the IMA, the type locality is the "Charo River, Marun alkaline complex, Yakutia (SW), Siberia, Russia."   By the way, some maps  show Yakutia as Jakutsk, Yakutsk or Jakutiya as well as calling it the Republic of Sakha.

Lapidaries indicate that  charoite is  rather difficult to work because it  tends to break  while cutting and polishing it.  Some have impregnated it with plastics to reduce this problem but the end products (which I have not seen or at least not recognized) are considered to be less appealing to potential purchasers.

The fact that this gemrock is said to be opaque and unattractive when found in the field may explain why it is a relatively late-comer to the marketplace. -- It was apparently not discovered until the late 1940s and did not become widely known elsewhere until the late 1970s.  In addition, however, its occurrence in this remote region also may have been a factor. -- This part of Russia (Siberia) is known for its forbidding climate and terrain:  Indeed, it said that "the terrain is so hostile and weather so severe, miners are taken to the site by helicopter and are able to stay only two months" (  Yet, Yakutia produces nearly all of Russia's diamonds, much of its gold and silver and is also a major producer of coal and natural gas, so minerals and rocks were certainly sought within this so-called republic. 

Charoite-rich rocks contain several rather rare minerals -- e.g., pale yellow-pink or orange tinaksite, yellow-brown to dark brown batisite (recorded in some descriptions as bathycite);  yellowish green or brown ekanite;  colorless to off-white dellaite;  bottle green diopside (recorded in some reports by the discredited name fedorovite);  and pink, lavender or reddish brown miserite -- as well as the charoite and more common minerals potassium feldspar, quartz and aegirine.

So far as anecdotes:  When I found that the Chara River is a tributary of the Lena, I recalled that I once heard that Lenin's real name was  Vladimer Ilyich Ulyanov and apparently he based his chosen "Lenin" pseudonym on the Lena River because it flows northward -- i.e., in the opposite direction --  from the Volga River upon which his opponent Georgi Plekhanov apparently based his pseudonym Volgin.  (To date, I have not found documentation to support this recollection.


***Barite and gibbsite powder plus an organic (polymer) cement. - [Appearance suffices (See Keeling, 1992).].

***?"Imitation charoite," the properties of which are recorded by Bennett (1992), - [Apparently its artificial appearance is such that it is readily  distinguished from natural charoite.].  

Massive beryl and quartz (heat treated and dyed). - [Dye concentrations can be seen in fractures (Koivula, Kammerling and Fritsch, 1992, p.135).].

***Royal Russianite. largely, if not wholly, a dyed aggregate of plastic(s?). - [Appearance suffices (Johnson et al., 1999, p.221).].

REFERENCES: Lazebnik, 1985; Liping, 1996.

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Last update: 28 June 2005
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