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|Crystal class||Dipyramidal (mmm) |
H-M symbol: (2/m 2/m 2/m)
|Color||Green, blue green, yellow green and rarely red|
|Crystal habit||Encrustations and reniform masses|
|Fracture||Conchoidal to splintery|
|Mohs scale hardness||4.5|
|Luster||Vitreous to waxy|
|Diaphaneity||Transparent to translucent|
|Specific gravity||2.57 to 2.61|
|Optical properties||Biaxial (-)|
|Refractive index||nα = 1.563 nβ = 1.588 nγ = 1.594|
|Birefringence||δ = 0.031|
Variscite is a hydrated aluminium phosphate mineral (AlPO4·2H2O). It is a relatively rare phosphate mineral. It is sometimes confused with turquoise; however, variscite is usually greener in color. The green color results from the presence of small amounts of chromium.
Variscite is a secondary mineral formed by direct deposition from phosphate-bearing water that has reacted with aluminium-rich rocks in a near-surface environment. It occurs as fine-grained masses in nodules, cavity fillings, and crusts. Variscite often contains white veins of the calcium aluminium phosphate mineral crandallite.
It was first described in 1837 and named for the locality of Variscia, the historical name of the Vogtland, in Germany. At one time, variscite was called Utahlite. At times, materials which may be turquoise or may be variscite have been marketed as "variquoise". Appreciation of the color ranges typically found in variscite have made it a popular gem in recent years.
Variscite from Nevada typically contains black spiderwebbing in the matrix and is often confused with green turquoise. Most of the Nevada variscite recovered in recent decades has come from mines located in Lander County.
Variscite is sometimes used as a semi-precious stone, and is popular for carvings and ornamental use due to its beautiful and intense green color, and is commonly used in silversmithing in place of turquoise. Variscite is more rare and less common than turquoise, but because it is not as commonly available as turquoise or as well known to the general public, raw variscite tends to be less expensive than turquoise.
Cut slab of Variscite at the Smithsonian. Specimen is roughly 0.5 m wide.
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