Barite Gemstone: Properties, Meanings, Value & More

barite gemstoneBarite, or baryte, is a commonly white or colorless mineral mainly used industrially. Is barite a gemstone? Barite is occasionally faceted as a gem, but it’s considered a collector’s mineral more than a jewelry gem.

A famous form is the barite desert rose, or “rose rock.” These are so significant in Oklahoma, USA, they named it the official state rock.

Join us as we explore barite’s mineral properties, history, benefits, and value.

barite gemstone

About Barite Stone

Barite is a semi-precious gemstone in a variety of colors. Some blue barite crystals can even resemble aquamarine, the March birthstone.

The mineral’s name has some controversy, though.

In America, the mineral has always been spelled barite. The traditional spelling in the UK is baryte. The International Mineralogical Association (IMA), who standardizes mineral nomenclature, initially recommended the “barite” spelling, then flip-flopped to “baryte” years later.

Regardless, barite has had many names over time, including:

  • Barytine

  • Barytite

  • Heavy Spar

  • Blanc Fixe

  • Tiff

  • Honey Spar

  • Calk / Cawk / Cauk

  • Astapia / Astrapia

  • Dreelite / Dréelite

  • Boulanite / Boulonite

But what makes barite unique? Barite’s is noteworthy for its density, which is exceptionally high for a nonmetallic mineral and lends many uses.

What is barite commonly used for?

Barite Mineral Uses

Barite’s primary use isn’t as a gem, but rather a beneficial material in a myriad of industries. For one, it’s the main source of barium. However, around 70 percent of barite mined goes toward oil and drilling.

What is barite used for in drilling? Barite is used for drilling mud, which lubricates the drill so it can go through rocks more easily. The mineral increases the mud’s weight and prevents oil or gas from exploding during drilling.

Additional barite uses include:

  • Isotopic analysis of oxygen and sulfur in the deep ocean

  • Determining the age of hydrothermal vents

  • Filler in paints & plastics

  • Finishing coat on cars (smoothing & corrosion-resistance)

  • Shielding concrete from radiation

  • Contrast agent to highlight body areas during CT scan (when ingested)

  • Glass ceramics

  • Reducing sound in engine compartments

Density is just one of barite’s important mineral characteristics.

barite gemstone specimen rough

Barite Specifications & Characteristics

Barite is a barium sulfate mineral in the barite group. Common impurities are calcium and strontium.

Other minerals in this group are celestite, anglesite, and anhydrite. Celestite (strontium sulfate) forms a solid solution with barite, with barite at the barium-rich end and celestite at the strontium-rich end. Strontium-bearing barite is sometimes called celestobarite.

Common habits for barite include tabular or flattened crystals, rosettes, and crystal clusters. It can also be found as compact, laminated, concretionary, fibrous, granular, or stalactic masses.

Despite its high density (making it heavyweight), barite’s hardness is quite low.

The stone is also diamagnetic, meaning it’s repelled by a magnetic field.

Barite mineral properties listed:

  • Mohs hardness: 3-3.5

  • Color: Colorless, white, yellow, brown, gray, light blue, green, reddish; Sometimes color-zoned

  • Crystal structure: Orthorhombic

  • Luster: Vitreous (glassy) to resinous; Pearly on cleavage

  • Transparency: Transparent to opaque

  • Refractive index: 1.636-1.648

  • Density: 4.3-5.0

  • Cleavage: Perfect parallel to base & prism; Perfect on [001] & [210], imperfect on [010]

  • Fracture: Irregular/uneven

  • Streak: White

  • Luminescence: Fluorescence sometimes present - cream, blue, yellow-green, pinkish-white, or green in LW-UV & white, blue-green, or gray in SW-UV; Phosphorescence sometimes present - greenish-white; Thermoluminescence sometimes present

  • Pleochroism: Present but weak in colored crystals; Brown barite: Straw-yellow to wine-yellow to violet; Yellow barite: Light yellow-brown to yellow-brown to brown; Green barite: Colorless to light green to violet; Blue-green barite: Blue-violet to blue-green to violet

  • Birefringence: 0.012

barite gemstone desert rose

Types of Barite

Barite doesn't have varieties, per se, but there are many names for its variety of crystal habits. One notable one is barite desert rose, pictured above.

A barite rose or barite desert rose is a crystal cluster with a rose-like formation where the crystals resemble rose petals radiating out from a central point. Found in deserts, the crystals have lots of sand in and around them, sometimes as druze.

You may know selenite (or gypsum) desert roses better, which look similar but with sharper edges and softer crystals.

Another notable type of barite is what’s called the Bologna Stone. Today, this refers to barite with rounded masses of radiating fibers or silvery-white barites found near Bologna, Italy. But the origin of this name ties into barite’s origins and discoveries about luminescence.

barite gemstone synthetic bologna stonesPictured above: Synthetic "Bologna Stone" pies created by heating barite | Image credit: Cran Cowan, Flickr

Barite Meaning & History

As a commonly white gemstone, barite can symbolize purification, renewal, and integrity. The mineral’s heaviness can also represent grounding, safety, and stability.

1600s: Bologna Stone

Barite first gained recognition among alchemists in the 1600s.

At the time, European alchemists were studying bioluminescent materials hoping to find or make the “Philosopher’s Stone,” a mythical material that turns base metals into noble metals like gold.

In 1602, an Italian shoemaker and amateur alchemist, Vincenzo Casciarolo, found barite near Bologna, Italy. After heating and calcining the crystals, Casciarolo found that they glowed persistently after exposure to daylight.

Casciarolo named it “Bologna stone” or “lapis solaris,” and it became the first known persistently luminescent material.

1700s Onward

In 1774, Swedish-German chemist Carl Scheele discovered barite contained an unknown element, though he could only isolate barium oxide. The first person to isolate barium (via electrolysis) was British chemist Sir Humphry Davy in 1808.

German mineralogist Dietrich Ludwig Gustav Karsten named barite in 1800 from the Greek term barús, meaning “heavy.”

In the past, barite was used in sugar refining (as barium hydroxide) and white pigments for paint, paper, and textiles. Today, barium carbonate derived from barite is used to create LED glass for items like computer and television screens.

blue barite healing crystal

Barite Healing Properties

Barite can be used as a healing stone. In energy healing, barite is a chakra stone for the third eye and crown chakras, opening these energy centers to help you embody your highest spiritual self.

Physical Healing

Physically, barite is said to help treat:

  • Memory loss

  • Cognitive deficiencies

  • Substance abuse disorder

  • Hormone imbalance

Emotional Healing

Emotionally, barite is believed to help turn pain and anger into compassion and acceptance. Crystal healers recommend using it to navigate negative emotions. Barite serves as a reminder that we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves everyday.

orange barite gemstone crystals

Barite Gemstone Properties

Barite gemstones are graded on the standard factors of color, cut, clarity, transparency, and carat weight.

Color

Colorless to white barite is most common, but it comes in many hues like yellow, gray, red, brown, and light blue. The most valuable barite crystals are pure blue.

Cut

You can find faceted barite gemstones, but they’re not common. A combination of softness, brittleness, heat sensitivity, and perfect cleavage make barite incredibly difficult to facet. This rarity makes faceted barites more valuable, though.

Most often, attractive barite crystals or specimens are sold uncut. Large, white, marble-like masses are common for decor.

Clarity & Transparency

Clarity (the number of visible inclusions) isn’t a major barite value factor, but lots of inclusions can affect its transparency.

Regarding barite’s transparency, greater transparency means higher value.

Carat Weight

Barite crystals can be quite large, though larger sizes generally mean more flaws. Barites from Madagascar have been faceted into stones over 100 carats. English barite rough can be cut into gems up to 50 carats, while Colorado material is usually cut into 1- to 5-carat gems.

barite gemstone massive rough specimen

Barite Formation & Sources

Barite forms through hydrothermal, biogenic, and evaporative processes, though hydrothermal processes are most common.

The mineral is found in:

  • Hydrothermal vents

  • Lead-zinc limestone veins

  • Hot spring deposits

  • Sedimentary rocks

  • Clay deposits

It’s even present in outer space, as it’s been found in meteorites.

It often occurs with hematite, quartz, and other barite-group minerals.

Mining Locations

Where is barite most commonly found? Many countries around the world produce gem-quality barite. The top producers in 2017 were China, India, and Morocco.

Significant barite gem sources include:

  • Brazil

  • Canada

  • China

  • England

  • France

  • Germany

  • Italy

  • Madagascar

  • Morocco

  • Namibia

  • Peru

  • Romania

  • Russia

  • South Africa

  • USA (Colorado, Illinois, South Dakota)

Barite desert roses are notable in the Sahara (specifically Tunisia, Libya, and Saudi Arabia) and Oklahoma.

blue barite gemstone crystal raw

Barite Gemstone Price & Value

What is barite worth? Prices for barite gemstones and industrial barite material differ.

More processed industrial barite is pricier. Industrial barite’s price per ton ranges from $1.50 to $600 per ton.

Faceted yellow barite gems generally cost $10-$225 per carat, while colorless gems are typically $1-$35 per carat.

Here at Gem Rock Auctions, you’ll find barite crystals ranging from under $0.01 per carat to $20 per carat.

Barite Care and Maintenance

Lastly, we’ll discuss gemstone care. Unfortunately, barite isn’t suitable for jewelry use, but it’s gorgeous on display.

Barite is soft, sensitive to heat and prone to fading in sunlight. Keep it away from:

  • Abrasives

  • Harder materials

  • Heat

  • Prolonged sun exposure

  • Ultrasonic cleaning systems

If you’re curious, barite isn’t toxic. Although it contains barium, which is toxic, barium sulfate is extremely insoluble and not harmful.

Clean barite gently with a soft, lint-free cloth and warm water.

Brighten Your Day with Barite!

Besides offering rejuvenating spiritual properties, barite literally brightens the room with its luminescence. Barite gemstones are uncommon but essential for any collection.

Buy barite gemstones today!

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