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What is Rhodolite?

By Devon Pryor
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Rhodolite is a mineral, a variety of the pyrope, which belongs to the garnet group of mineral gems. It ranges in color from purple or red to rose pink, and can be light or dark in shade. This reddish color is where rhodolite gets its name. The term rhodolite is derived from the Greek word rhodon, meaning “rose.” The name rhodolite, however, seems to be unrecognized as an official term.

Rhodolite is commonly used as a gemstone. This means that it may be used to make jewelry or for other decorative purposes. Rhodolite is considered a semi-precious gemstone. Rhodolite is found in North America, in the State of North Carolina. More specifically, rhodolite can be mined in the Cowee Valley, which lies in Macon County, North Carolina. Other mineral gems with similar pink color include rhodochrosite and rhodonite.

The mineral makeup of rhodolite is a combination of iron, magnesium, and aluminum silicate. These chemicals are common to the pyrope group. Rhodolite is, therefore, a type of garnet that exhibits the chemical properties characteristic to the pyrope group of garnets. Not all pyropes are transparent, and therefore not all can be used as gemstones. Furthermore, rhodolite, although it is considered part of the pyrope group, also exhibits a few qualities of the almandite group, and is therefore considered a composition of pyrope and almandite.

Pyropes, including rhodolite, usually originate in the ultramafic rocks in the Earth’s mantle. This means that the substance which eventually becomes a rose colored rhodolite started out as magma, which cooled or otherwise solidified into an ultramafic rock. Over time, this rock formed the mineral gem rhodolite due to specific chemical makeup, including qualities such as low amounts of silica and potassium, and high amounts of magnesium and iron.

Pyrope is one of six common species of garnets, each of which is distinguished on the basis of its chemical makeup. Almandine, spessartite, grossular, uvarovite, and andradite are the other five. These six common garnet species are further divided into two groups, the Pyralspite garnets, which include almandine, pyrope, and spessartine, and the Ugrandite garnets, which include andradite.

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