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Uncovering the Beauty and Mystique of Howlite

Howlite: Uncovering the Beauty and Mystique of this Mineral

Gemstones and crystals are fascinating creations of nature that convey beauty, elegance, and a sense of mystery. Among the less popular but intriguing minerals is howlite, which is often imitated to resemble turquoise.

This article provides an overview of howlite, its composition, physical traits, and how it is used in jewelry and decorative arts.

Composition and Appearance

Howlite is a calcium borosilicate hydroxide mineral that occurs in massive nodules. It has a fairly low Mohs hardness scale rating of 3.5, which means it can be easily scratched or chipped.

The mineral was named after Henry How, a Canadian mineralogist who discovered it in Nova Scotia in 1868.

Howlite is often white or grey, with black, dark brown, or grey veins that create fascinating patterns throughout the stone.

The stones can range in size from small chips to large masses weighing several kilograms. Howlite is often dyed to imitate other more valuable gemstones such as turquoise or lapis, resulting in stones that have a striking resemblance to the real thing.

Imitation of Other Gemstones

The imitation of turquoise is perhaps one of the most common applications of howlite. The inferior stone, also known as white buffalo turquoise, magnesite or alumite, is dyed blue-green to closely imitate the popular blue-green gemstone.

Howlite is also dyed red to imitate coral or blue to resemble a lapis stone.

The problem with imitating more valuable gemstones is that howlite is significantly less expensive, causing some unscrupulous dealers to sell it as if it were the real thing.

An experienced buyer can easily distinguish between genuine turquoise and howlite by examining their specific gravity, hardness, and color. A buyer who is looking for genuine turquoise should be wary of buying jewelry or decorative pieces made from howlite, as it is not a true representation of the gemstone.

Physical Traits of Howlite

Howlite is a soft mineral that can be easily shaped and worked into different forms. Its softness means that it can be scratched or chipped easily, and it is not suitable for pieces that are subjected to rough handling.

The mineral has an interesting appearance, resembling a cauliflower in texture. It is generally opaque, with a chalky consistency that may show light discoloration in certain areas.

When cut into a cabochon, howlite reveals a distinctive orbicular pattern that adds to its uniqueness.

Size and Appearance

Howlite nodules form cauliflower-like structures that can range in size from a few inches to several feet wide. The nodules are often a grey or white color and can develop interesting veins along the surface.

When mined and polished correctly, howlite can be turned into an attractive stone that can be used in jewelry and other decorative objects such as figurines and sculptures. Some artists prefer using the stone in its natural form, while others prefer to dye it to achieve the desired look.

Applications of Howlite

Howlite has several applications in the jewelry and decorative arts realm. Its attractive appearance and unique patterning make it an ideal choice for cabochons, beads, and pendants.

When combined with other stones, howlite adds a complementary texture and character, making it ideal for mixed media jewelry. Howlite is also used in decorative objects such as figurines and sculptures that are used to adorn homes and offices.

Its ease of use and the variety of colors it can be dyed into make it a good option for small decorative objects such as bookends or paperweights.

Conclusion

To sum up, howlite is a calcium borosilicate hydroxide mineral that occurs in massive nodules with fascinating grey or white textures and black, dark brown, or grey veins. It is widely used to imitate more valuable gemstones such as turquoise, coral, or lapis.

Its softness makes it easy to work with, and it is often shaped into cabochons, beads, and pendants for use in jewelry. The mineral is also used to make decorative objects such as figurines and sculptures.

Knowing the unique properties of howlite can help one distinguish between a true gemstone and a synthetic one.

A Bit of Howlite History

Howlite has been a popular and sought-after mineral since its discovery in Nova Scotia by Henry How in 1868. In the 1950s to the 1970s, the California Gem and Mineral Club opened the Tick Canyon mine, which was one of the largest howlite mines in the world.

During this period, the mine was open to the public and visitors could collect bucketfuls of the mineral to take home. The Tick Canyon mine provided specimens for lapidary enthusiasts and collectors alike, and it remains one of the most significant locations of howlite to this day.

In recent years, the popularity of howlite has grown, with many people seeking out vintage pieces featuring the mineral. Estate sales and online auction sites are an excellent place to find one-of-a-kind howlite pieces that were crafted decades ago.

Dyed Howlite and Counterfeits

One of the major reasons for the sour reputation of howlite is due to counterfeits or fake stones being sold as genuine. The confusion is primarily due to the fact that howlite is often dyed and made to look like other, more valuable stones such as turquoise, red coral, or lapis.

These stones, when dyed blue or green, are often marketed as “turquoise,” causing a lot of confusion among buyers. One way to identify genuine turquoise from dyed howlite is through a hardness test.

Genuine turquoise is a much harder stone, ranking between 5 and 6 on the Mohs scale, while howlite only ranks 3.5 on the same scale. Genuine coral is also much harder than howlite.

When purchasing southwestern-style jewelry or beads, buyers need to be wary of fakes. The best way to avoid buying fake howlite is by reading the description carefully and asking the seller about the source of the stones.

Some sellers may try to sell howlite as turquoise at a high price, taking advantage of buyers who may not be familiar with the stones. Others may be more honest about the stone’s true identity but still price it higher than it should be.

Some dyed howlite stones are easily recognizable as fakes because of their neon colors. While genuine turquoise and red coral can be found in a variety of shades of blue and red, respectively, the colors are not typically as garish as many of the dyed howlite stones on the market today.

Field Identification

For those interested in searching for genuine howlite in the wild, there are a few places to look. Tick Canyon, California is a well-known location for howlite, and many collectors have discovered small deposits in the Muddy Mountains in Nevada.

Field identification of howlite can be tricky. The mineral’s porous nature means that it absorbs dye quickly and easily, so even natural-colored stones should be tested for dye.

The identification of dyed stones can often be done by taking a closer look at the surface of the stone. Natural howlite often has a more subtle marbling pattern, while dyed stones may have a more even and pronounced pattern.

When searching for natural howlite in the wild, a field identification guide can be helpful. This should include information on the color, texture, and other physical characteristics of the mineral.

Anyhow, collectors should be cautious when handling the stones and follow local regulations regarding excavation and collection.

Conclusion

In conclusion, howlite’s history is rich and varied, with significant deposits found in mines and areas that have been subject to exploration and excavation. When purchasing howlite, buyers should be aware of counterfeits or fake stones being sold as genuine.

Identifying genuine howlite requires knowledge of its properties, such as its hardness, natural coloring, and marbling patterns. With this knowledge, buyers can make informed decisions when purchasing howlite jewelry or decorative pieces and collectors can go out in the field to find authentic specimens.

Where Can I Find Howlite? Howlite can be found in a few locations around the world, including Nova Scotia in Canada, Southern California, and the Muddy Mountains Mining District in Nevada.

In Nova Scotia, howlite was first discovered by Henry How in 1868. The mineral is still mined in small quantities in this area and is primarily used for lapidary purposes.

Visitors to Nova Scotia can visit the Cape Breton Mineral Heritage Museum to learn more about the history and uses of howlite. Southern California is another location with significant howlite deposits.

Tick Canyon in the Santa Clarita Valley was a prolific howlite-mining location from the 1950s to the 1970s. The canyon is located on Davenport Road, where the howlite was extracted from the Tick Canyon borax mine’s tailings.

Lapidary enthusiasts and collectors continue to visit the area, although much of the land is now privately owned and not open to the public. The Muddy Mountains Mining District in Nevada is an area known for its howlite deposits, and many collectors have had success in finding howlite in this region.

The Valley of Fire Road, located not far from Las Vegas, is a popular spot for rockhounds and features numerous areas where howlite can be found. Online resources such as Mindat provide information on howlite’s properties and localities where the mineral has been found.

Field Identifying Howlite

Howlite can be identified in the field by its unique appearance and texture. The mineral typically has a white or gray color with black or dark-colored matrix threading throughout the stone.

The black matrix can be quite dark but will often have a distinguishable pattern that sets it apart from other stones. Howlite nodules can often have a cauliflower-like appearance, with small nodules growing in various directions.

The surface texture of howlite is also distinctive, with a porcelain-like feel that sets it apart from other minerals. When examining howlite in the field, collectors should look for these signs to identify genuine howlite.

Some specimens may be mixed with other minerals or dirt, so it is essential to clean the samples thoroughly to get a clear view of the stone’s characteristics. Howlite can often be found in areas where other minerals have been found, so collectors can look for signs of discarded stone or tailings from previous mining operations.

Conclusion

In conclusion, howlite can be found in several locations around the world, including Nova Scotia, Southern California, and the Muddy Mountains Mining District in Nevada. Field identification of howlite requires knowledge of the mineral’s unique appearance and texture.

Howlite nodules can display a cauliflower-like appearance with black or dark-colored matrix threading throughout the stone. The surface texture feels porcelain-like, which is characteristic of the mineral.

When identifying howlite in the field, collectors should look for these signs to ensure they have an authentic specimen. In conclusion, howlite is a fascinating mineral with distinct characteristics that set it apart from other stones.

Its history and uses make it a unique gemstone that has been loved by collectors and jewelry enthusiasts for many years. When purchasing howlite, it is important to be aware of counterfeits or fake stones being sold as genuine and that identifying genuine howlite requires knowledge of its properties, such as its hardness, natural coloring, and marbling patterns.

By understanding the unique properties of howlite, buyers and collectors can make informed decisions and appreciate the beauty of this remarkable stone. FAQs:

Q: What is howlite?

A: Howlite is a calcium borosilicate hydroxide mineral that is often white or grey with black, dark brown, or grey veins threading throughout the stone. Q: Is howlite easy to work with?

A: Yes, howlite is a soft mineral that can be easily shaped and worked into different forms. Q: Is howlite often imitated as other gemstones?

A: Yes, howlite is often dyed to imitate other more valuable gemstones such as turquoise or lapis. Q: How can I identify dyed howlite?

A: One way to identify dyed howlite is by taking a closer look at the surface of the stone. Natural howlite often has a more subtle marbling pattern, while dyed stones may have a more even and pronounced pattern.

Q: Where can I find howlite? A: Howlite can be found in locations around the world, including Nova Scotia, Southern California, and the Muddy Mountains Mining District in Nevada.

Q: How can I identify genuine howlite in the field? A: Howlite can be identified in the field by its unique appearance and texture, including its cauliflower-like nodules and porcelain-like feel.

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