History of Magnesite

Magnesite is a relatively “new” healing stone whose properties have only recently begun to be explored. As a result, it was not included in early lapidaries, texts which describe gemstones and their powers. Magnesite is mostly used for industrial purposes, most interestingly as a source for the metal used to build spaceships. While Magnesite has many practical uses here on Earth, its most fascinating history belongs to the stars.

In 1984, a group of meteorite hunters who belonged to ANSMET (Antarctic Search for Meteorites, funded by the US National Science Foundation) made a unique discovery. The meteorite which they discovered (ALH84001) had landed in Allan Hills, Antarctica, and is believed to have originated on the planet Mars. In 1996, the meteorite was the subject of headlines worldwide after it was announced that it contained evidence for microscopic fossils of bacteria. It was tentatively put forth as possible proof that life had once existed on the Red Planet. The fossils were located in the carbonate globules, which were largely composed of Iron and Magnesite.

Alh Meteroite

ALH84001 Meteorite, Smithsonian Museum

The meteorite is an igneous rock, which is estimated to be 4.09 billion years old. This is slightly older than any known Earth rock, making this meteorite the oldest known rock in the solar system! According to current theories, ALH84001 was blasted into space approximately 17 million years ago, after Mars was hit by a large meteorite, sending rocks through its atmosphere and into deep space. The Martian rock traveled the cosmos for millions of years before eventually landing in Antartica, roughly 13,000 years ago.

It has been suggested that the meteorite came from the Valles Marineris canyon on Mars, based on a chemical analysis done by the Mars Global Surveyor and Mars Odyssey spacecraft, but the evidence is not conclusive.  Since 1997, NASA has sent several rovers to wander around on Mars and do experiments in preparation for an eventual manned-mission.  Many of the rover experiments are geological, such as identifying the types of rocks and minerals on the surface of the landing areas, in order to determine if liquid water once flowed on the Red Planet and to search for any fossils.  Some of the first minerals identified by the rovers were Magnesite and Hematite.  None of the rovers have landed on Valles Marineris yet, but perhaps that might be the site of a manned-mission in the 2030s.

Perseverance Mars Rover

Mars Rover “Perseverance” pauses to take a selfie while searching for signs of life

Citron Chrysoprase is a form of yellow-green Magnesite found in Western Australia.  The word “Citron” is related to “citrus” and this gem is sometimes called “Lemon Chrysoprase.”  Chrysoprase is actually a misnomer but unfortunately the name has become so entrenched within the gem and mineral industry, that it is difficult to correct.  Citron Chrysoprase is often confused with other healing stones, particular Chrysoprase (Green Chalcedony) and Serpentine (Magnesite is a secondar mineral formed by weathered Serpentine rocks.  To further complicate the matter, regular Chrysoprase and Serpentine are found in the same localities as Citron Chrysoprase!  In fact, on rare occasions, Chrysoprase and Citron Chrysoprase may even be found inter-grown!

The word “Citron” is related to “citrus” and this gem is sometimes called “Lemon Chrysoprase”.  Chrysoprase is actually a misnomer but unfortunately the name has become so entrenched within the gem and mineral industry, that it is difficult to correct.  This stone is more accurately called Citron/Lemon Magnesite.