One of the few exceptional gemstones to exhibit a mesmerising metallic lustre, Hematite is also one of the densest and heaviest stones on the planet. It is found in vast quantities on Mars, and is responsible for the planet’s distinctive red colour. All specimens of this gem, whatever their tint, will always produce a red streak and, for this reason, in its powdered form, it has been one of the very first minerals to ever have been used as a pigment. Moreover, it is a powerful protection stone which can also stimulate concentration, focus, memory and original thought.
What is Hematite?
Hematite, also spelled Haematite, is an iron oxide and is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth’s surface and in the shallow crust, found in sedimentary, metamorphic and igneous rocks at a number of locations.
Thanks to is unique lustre, it is practically impossible to mistake it for any other gemstone. As a rough stone it appears red to brown-red, but once polished it becomes a mesmerising black to steel, metallic and shiny.
Characteristics of Hematite
Pure Hematite will present a composition of roughly 70% iron and 30% oxygen. However, as most natural materials, it is rarely found in its purest form. This is particularly evident when Hematite is formed in sedimentary deposits: minor clastic sedimentation has been known to add clay minerals to the iron oxide, while episodic sedimentation can cause the presence of bands of iron oxide and shale.
It has a variable appearance, with its colour varying from black, to steel, to brown or reddish brown and its lustre ranging from metallic to sub-metallic. It is one of very few gemstones to exhibit a metallic lustre, and like other stones bearing this characteristic, it is remarkably dense and has a high refractive index. In fact, Hematite is one of the densest gemstones available, with specific gravity and refractive index actually higher than those of Corundum, Zircon and even Diamond.
Though Hematite specimens have a variable appearance, all of them will produce a reddish streak (the most important clue for identifying this mineral), even when the rock is black or steel grey.
Hematite is actually harder than pure iron (though more brittle), and measures between 5.5 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale (which makes it similar to Opal and Turquoise in terms of hardness).
This is not a magnetic mineral and does not usually respond to a common magnet. However, many Hematite specimens also contain Magnetite, which causes them to be attracted to a common magnet. This may lead to the assumption that a given specimen in Magnetite or Pyrrhotite, but if the given specimen produces a reddish streak, it is most likely to be a combination of Hematite and Magnetite. Furthermore, though natural Hematite is not magnetic, it can be magnetized through a process of heating and cooling while attached to a strong magnet.
Origins of its name
The name ‘Hematite’, sometimes also ‘Haematite’, derives from the ancient Greek word for ‘blood’, referring to the red streak this mineral produces and the colour of its powdered form, often used as a pigment.
How did Hematite form?
The most significant Hematite deposits formed in sedimentary environments. Between 2.4 to 1.8 million years ago extensive deposits accumulated on the ocean floor, several thousand feet deep and stretching over thousands of square miles, making these some of the largest rock formations ever.
Approximately 2.4 billion years ago our planet’s oceans were rich in dissolved iron but poor of free oxygen. However, as cyanobacteria, capable of photosynthesis, developed they began to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen, thus releasing the first free oxygen into the ocean environment. This rapidly combined with the iron forming Hematite, most of which sank on the seabed becoming rock units, known today as the banded iron formations. As photosynthesis became more common in many parts of the oceans, important Hematite deposits began accumulating on the seabed (containing both Hematite and Magnetite, as well as other iron minerals).
Where can Hematite be found?
Hematite is one of the most abundant minerals on the surface of the Earth, and in its shallow crust, and it is also the most important ore of iron in the world. Though Magnetite does contain a higher percentage of iron and is usually easier to process, Hematite remains the leading ore as it is more abundant.
This dark stone was once mined at thousands of locations around the globe. Today however, most of the Hematite produced comes from a couple of dozen mines. These are some of the largest mines in the world where significant investments in equipment allows for the removal of over 100 million tonnes of iron ore per year. These are usually open pit mines which can be thousands of feet deep and measure several miles in diameter.
The larger Hematite deposits are found in banded iron formations, while grey Hematite is usually found in locations where there are still standing water or mineral hot springs. However, it can also occur where there is no water, usually as the result of volcanic activity.
On the European continent, Cumbria in England is a major source of Hematite, especially of the Specularite variety and stalactitic specimens. Furthermore, Ukraine has become one o the world’s leading producers of iron ore and in Rio Marina, on the Island of Elba in Italy, Hematite crystals of outstanding quality have been mined ever since the Etruscan period (8th to 2nd centuries B.C.).
In South America the finest deposits are in Brazil, where the Minas Gerais (Antonio Pereira, Jaguaracu, Itabira and Congonhas de Campo) produce large and thick crystals while the Novo Horizonte and Brumado mines in Bahia have been known to produce lustrous plates with flat or tubular crystals. Large deposits of high quality Hematite are also found in Venezuela.
In North America, Canada and the United States are among the world’s leading producers of iron ore. In the United States, enormous Hematite deposits can be found along Lake Superior in Michigan, while spectacular ‘Iron Roses’ occur along the Thomas Range in Utah, on Aztec Peak and Buckskin Mountains in Arizona and also in Chub Lake in the state of New York.
On the African continent, Morocco has recently become a producer of fine collectible Hematite. Here, Nador deserves a special mention as source of excellent crystals and clusters. Outstanding lustrous Hematite crystals, often including rarer prismatic forms, have been found in the Wessels Mine of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa. Other noteworthy deposits are found in Asia (in China, India and Russia) and in Australia.
Properties of Hematite
Hematite is most commonly used as a powerful grounding or stabilising stone and for protection. Placed at the corners of a room or a building, it can be a simple yet strong protective spiritual crystal. Moreover, the grounding properties of this stone may help prevent a range of health issues linked to being chronically ungrounded.
Hematite is also known as a “stone for the mind”, as it stimulates concentration, focus, memory and original thought. This gorgeous stone can in fact be used for mental organisation. Thanks to its grounding and stabilising properties it is in fact a great crystal to use to stimulate original thinking or logical thinking. It is particularly effective in stimulating the mind for higher learning, especially if in the fields of technical studies or mathematics as it assists with the development of logical thought processes, helping achieve the topmost capacity. This in turn will heighten will power, confidence and self esteem.
From an emotional point of view, Hematite yields a highly protective energy and decreases negativity which helps balance the connection between mind, body and spirit. This in turn has the secondary effect of boosting self esteem and confidence. In this instance it is particularly powerful in assisting timid women bring out their assurance and courage and is in fact known to be an excellent female stone. Furthermore, this is a stone which helps establish peace and harmony in one’s life simply by being carried on the body.
Carrying a piece of Hematite on the body will also support physical healing. This gemstone is often used in crystal healing to cool down the body, treat blood disorders or issues related to the nervous system. It is also useful in its botroydal form when dealing with insomnia, anxiety, stress. Furthermore, Hematite can help strengthen the liver, support the health of the spleen and it can even help ensure that bone fractures heal properly and more speedily.
At a physical level it is also an exceptional aid in treating problems related to the circulatory system or blood disorders such as anaemia. Aside from helping absorb iron, it is said to aid the formation of new red blood cells as it supports the production of blood within the bone marrow.
Thanks to its remarkable vibration, Hematite is an exceptional stone to use when doing spiritual work as it helps establish a stronger connection to the Earth plane. It can also make spiritual travels safer, ensuring that what is learned can more easily be brought back to daily life. Because it is a highly protective stone, it is also useful for shielding and sealing the aura, to prevent any intrusion from unwanted entities while undertaking a spiritual journey.
The powerful grounding energy enclosed within Hematite stones, vibrates strongly at the Root Chakra (also First Chakra or Muladhara), located at the base of the spine. This chakra controls the energy for kinaesthetic feeling and movement, and is also the foundation of the spiritual energy for the body. As Hematite grounds our energy to earth, any excess energy within our bodies will move down via the Root Chakra to the Earth Chakra, and thus to Mother Earth herself (Gaia).
If used to balance the Solar Plexus Chakra (also Third Chakra or Manipura, which constitutes the core of our personality, our identity and our ego) the energy of this shiny gemstone may enhance willpower and personal magnetism.
Furthermore, when used in meditation sessions, Hematite will stimulate both the Third Eye Chakra (Sixth Chakra or Ajna) and the Crown Chakra (also Seventh Chakra or Sahasrara), which will help internalise the outer world and will ground our energies for a safer return.
Hematite channels the yin-yang energies within our bodies to balance our meridians and to create a stable equilibrium between the physical nervous system and the ethereal one. It helps focus energy and emotions to attain a balance between the body, mind and spirit.
Other uses for Hematite
Pigment - Hematite is one of the very first minerals to ever have been used to produce pigments. It was first utilized for red chalk writings by the Pinnacle-Point man 164,000 years ago. Pictographs dating back 40,000 years have also been discovered where primitive peoples used finely crushed Hematite mixed with a liquid to produce the durable pigments to paint cave walls.
Several thousand years later, during the Renaissance, Hematite remained one of the most important mineral pigments as it was mixed with oil based paints to produce a wide variety of pink tints (often used to paint flesh).
The warm hues of Hematite continue to be one of the most important pigment minerals today. A wide variety of hues are commercially available. Colour variations are the result of the type of Hematite used and the impurities commingling with it, such as clay or other iron oxides. The resulting pigments are often named after the locations where they were produced (such as Venetian Red, Pozzuoli Red or Blue Ridge Violet).
Radiation shielding – Because of its high density, Hematite has frequently been used to protect from X-rays. It is in fact often used for radiation shielding around scientific and medical equipment.
Coal processing – Ground to a fine powder and mixed with water, Hematite will produce a liquid with a high specific gravity which can be used in the ‘float-sink’ processing of coal and other minerals. In this process, crushed coal, which has a low specific gravity, is placed on the heavy liquid, the light, clean coal will float, while impurities with high specific gravity like Pyrite will sink to the bottom.
Polish – Finely ground hematite can be used to make ‘red rouge’ or ‘jeweller’s rouge’, a polishing compound commonly used on brass and other soft metals. Used on a soft cloth it can also be used to polish gold and silver jewellery, while when added to crushed walnut shell media or crushed corn cob media it can be used to tumble-polish brass shell casings.
Ballast – Thanks to its affordability and high density, Hematite (as well as other iron ores) is used as ballast, to provide stability for ships or other structures requiring it.
Beyond Planet Earth
The infrared spectrometer on the 1996 NASA Mars Global Surveyor (the MGS) and the 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft both detected the spectral signature of Hematite on the planet Mars. The dark mineral was seen in large quantities at two sites: the Terra Meridiani (near the Martian equator) and the Aram Chaos (near the Valles Marineris).
Later, in 2004, the Terra Meridiani site was further investigated thanks to ‘Opportunity’, one of the two NASA Mars Exploration Rovers sent to the Red Planet. Small spheres, informally named ‘Blueberries’, were discovered and were found to be made of iron oxide, mostly in the form of Hematite. Analysis showed that the Martian Blueberries formed from a water solution, just as terrestrial Hematite formed in aqueous environments.
The discovery of the presence of Hematite on Mars and the understanding of how this formed will help characterize this planet’s past environment and determine whether it was ever favourable for life. Furthermore, the abundance of this dark mineral in Martian rocks explains the planet’s reddish appearance from Earth (thanks to which it earned the name "Red Planet").