Rhodochrosite as a Gemstone
Rhodochrosite is a favorite gemstone of many people. It is often slabbed to show off its banded or concentric patterns. Most of the slabs are used to cut cabochons.
Cutting rhodochrosite is a difficult job because the material has perfect cleavage, and it is so soft that it can be difficult to polish. Nice, stable, slabbed material is sometimes used to make small boxes and other ornaments. The rare transparent material that is not suitable as a mineral specimen is sometimes faceted into attractive pink and red gems. The beautiful stones produced are mainly for collectors because faceted rhodochrosite is too fragile for almost any jewelry use.
Rhodochrosite has a hardness of only 3.5 to 4 and has perfect cleavage in three directions.
This eliminates it as a good choice as a ring or bracelet stone which might be subject to abrasion or impact. It is better suited in earrings, pins, and pendants, which are generally not subject to as much abuse as a ring.
Beads and cabochons made of imitation rhodochrosite are in the gem and jewelry market.
They are made from powdered mineral matter, in pink and white colors, and bound together with resin. The powders are layered and swirled together to produce a banded appearance similar to much natural rhodochrosite.
To the unaided eye, the material looks similar to rhodochrosite. If you have seen a lot of rhodochrosite, you will suspect it is imitation, but people who have not seen a lot might think it is natural rhodochrosite.
With a microscope the pink material is translucent, with sugary internal reflections visible through the polished surfaces. Round depressions in the polished surface appear to be bubbles. Broken surfaces have a granular, sugary texture. Cold hydrochloric acid produces a weak effervescence that is strongest on the white bands. SG: 1.99, H: < 3, RI: 1.55, no birefringence blink.