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Digital Subscriptions > Rock&Gem Magazine > May 2019 > Hematite



The iron oxide mineral hematite has an amazing history that began maybe 100,000 years ago, even before ancient cave peoples used its vivid reddish color to render drawings of the animals on cave walls. When crushed to a powder, normally black hematite exhibits a lovely red color. In fact, we use hematite’s red powder streak to identify it.

It seems odd that a normally black mineral has a name based on the Greek word haimatites, which means “blood-like.” But when streaked on a piece of unglazed tile, a reddish streak illustrates the origin of the name. More obvious are the specimens of hematite with a curving ball-like surface, decidedly reddish surface color, and shaped like a human kidney. English miners even took to calling it kidney ore. Ancient cave artists would crush hematite into a red powder and use a straw-like tube to blow it into the porous rock to create artistic images. This same powdered hematite was also smeared on the face and body as “paint” for war and decoration.

Hematite (FeO) is the most common and most important of the several iron oxides. It forms lovely shiny black hexagonal crystals that can be clustered like the petals of a flower. It can also form velvety needle coatings and long curving splintery shapes. In addition, when included with other minerals, hematite’s lovely red color is even more apparent.

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About Rock&Gem Magazine

Rock & Gem May 2019, Volcanic Views : Remnants of Eruptions, Artisanal Mining : A Complex Industry, HEMATITE : An Influential Mineral Iron Ore, And More.....