Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gemstone of the Week: Realgar

(Realgar image found on thegemtrader.com)

Realgar is a beautiful little known gemstone. Its name comes from the Arabic rahj al-gahr meaning "powder of the mine" and is used as a pigment.  Realgar is a transparent to translucent gemstone that may be dark red or red-orange with a resinous or greasy luster.  Sadly, Realgar only has a hardness of 1.5-2 and is completely unsuitable for any kind of jewelry use.  This ultra soft hardness is not the only reason for why Realgar is unsuitable for jewelry use.  Realgar is extremely unstable.  When exposed to light, Realgar  undergoes a strange transformation into the mineral Pararealgar and eventually deteriorates into dust (hence the name "powder of the mine").  Realgar is also hazardous as it contains arsenic so caution showed be used if handling it either wear gloves or wash your hands thoroughly after handling it and be careful to not inhale any dust.  Realgar may be found in: Afghanistan, Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Canada (provinces of: British Colombia, Northwest Territories, Ontario, Quebec, and the Yukon Territory), China, Chile, Czech Republic, Fiji, France, Germany, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Turkey, England, Wales, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, and the states of Wyoming, Washington, Utah, Pennsylvania, Oregon, North Carolina, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Nevada, Montana, Maine, Louisiana, Idaho, Colorado, California, Arizona, and Alaska.