Tasmanian Stichtite is a spectacular speckled gemstone from the "Land Down Under." Prized for its green matrix and purple-pink hues infused together by nature.
Stichtite is a vivid, purple-pink to purple-rose colored stone. As a mineral, it is a carbonate composed of chromium and magnesium. The material found in Tasmania, Australia, is found within serpentine. This serpentine is of a brilliant, yellow-green to dark green color. Serpentine is organized within its own separate mineral group. The earliest finds reported that the stichtite found within could be minuscule in size up to about 10 to 12mm. These appear as patches throughout the rock. Rough material from this locality is often known as stichtite serpentine.
Origins of Name
A.S. Wesley, a chemist with the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company, named this gemstone in 1910. Before this, samples were referred to as kammererite, another similar mineral found in the area with similar color. This stone was known in the region as early as 1891.
This gemstone is named for Robert Carl Sticht. Originally from New Jersey, Sticht spent his early career distinguishing himself as a metallurgist. He later became the general manager of the Queenstown mine in Australia, with the Mount Lyell Mining & Railway Company. Sticht is recorded as receiving this honor due to being well known and well regarded within the community. Also, he was one of the first to recognize that this was a new mineral and remarked in a letter to a colleague that stichtite serpentine was "masquerading under the name of a massive form of kammererite." He supported efforts to understand this new find better, both materially and through professional expertise.
From a geological perspective, stichtite occurs in areas with a significant presence of methane. It is an altercation material of serpentine, meaning stichtite material replaces the chromium content within serpentine. This occurs through natural processes of the Earth. It is a common occurrence within serpentine.
Lapidary and Jewelry Use
The mined material is opaque in appearance. From a lapidary perspective, rough is shaped into cabochons, beads or tumbled. Stichtite serpentine is also popular for carving and often shaped into decorative objects. Whether the material is suitable for jewelry or ornamental use depends on the grade of material. For example, rock that contains a large amount of stichtite is not suitable for carving as it can be brittle. Rough is classified by the ratio of stichtite to serpentine within a sample. Finished and polished stone vary, sporting either a pearly, resinous, or waxy luster.
Stichtite serpentine is a soft material and difficult to work with as a result. Its hardness rank on the Mohs scale varies from 1.5 to 2. As a result, it is very common for this gem to be subjected to stabilization treatments. Stabilization creates a more durable gem that can better withstand the rigors of regular handling and placement in jewelry.
• Barbertonite is a polymorph of stichtite, and both minerals are frequently found together. Polymorphs possess the same chemical composition but different crystal structures.
• Stichtite is sometimes confused for woodallite. Both stones are of a very similar color. Woodallite color is purple to dark magenta. Not only that but both minerals are of a similar hardness and polished luster!
• Stichtite serpentine is also sometimes known as atlantasite among followers of New Age philosophy. The name is a reference to the fabled lost city of Atlantis. Enthusiasts believe that the stone aids efforts to focus on and connect to past lives.
The Western Coast of Tasmania is still considered wild and untamed. Known for heavy rainfall and biting cold, only the most hearty of men and women choose to live in this land. Abandoned mines and towns dot the landscape, the artifacts of humanity being slowly returned to the wilderness. The communities that do exist are frequently small and isolated. Miles of railway still stretch across the surface, defiant of nature as they connect these insular communities. Severe weather often cuts off travel and transport to the Australian mainland.
Tasmanian Stichtite is sourced from Stichtite Hill, within the Dundas Extended Mine of Tasmania. This is the original discovery location of the stone. A.S. Wesley, a chemist with Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company, discovered it in the early 20th century. It is home to some of the highest quality material in the world. Mike and Eleanor Phelan now privately own the mine. With its remote location, four-wheel-drive vehicles are required to travel to the mining site.
Rough is mined from small, open pits and trenches. Exposed veins are weathered by the elements and are deep brown in color. It's not until tools are used that the incredible color of the rock is exposed. The material is hewn from the landscape by the utilization of a jackhammer. Climbing harnesses are worn to help secure miners to the treacherous, hilly landscape. Due to the precipitation cycle of the region, heavy rains, snow and ice can be frequent hardships to endure. Despite this, Mike Phelan suggests that the wet weather makes it much easier to harvest the stone, as it's easier to cut. Furthermore, practices are in place to ensure that the mining of stichtite serpentine has minimal impact on the surrounding environment.
The present day Dundas mining area was once the township of Dundas. The town originally formed after the discovery of silver in 1890. This lasted until the early 1930's. As prospects dried up, residents began leaving, eventually leaving the municipality a ghost town. The surrounding forest reclaimed most of the original settlement, aside from the Phelan's home. Today, they are the only residents of Dundas. About three miles the east, the nearby town of Zeehan exists, a world apart from this reclaimed ghost town.
• Ranks 1.5 to 2 on the Mohs scale.
• Color is purple-pink to purple-rose from stichtite and yellow-green to dark green from serpentine.
• Sourced from Stichtite Hill, Dundas Extended Mine, Tasmania, Australia.
• A genuine gem stabilized for durability.