Selenite is a rare form of Gypsum found in some of the world’s driest desert environments. Miners in ancient Egypt, Rome, China and other civilizations, actively mined Gypsum, primarily to create a plaster for building projects. Likewise, snow-white Alabaster, the massive form of Gypsum, was highly-prized for carving statues. Selenite, the fragile gem variety of Gypsum, is so soft that it is only useful for decorative and metaphysical purposes. Its name literally means “moonstone”, from the Greek selene, or moon.
The oldest surviving reference to this gemstone is in the early-medieval poem Liber de Lapidibus (Book on Stones). The author, Marbodius of Rennes (c.1035 -1123), was a bishop in France. Most of his writing was of a spiritual nature, such as saints’ lives, Christian advice, and hymns. But he also wrote about the medicinal and therapeutic qualities of sixty gemstones. While Selenite is most commonly pure white, it occasionally come in other colors. In Liber de Lapidibus the Selenite is described as a green stone that hailed from Persia, or modern Iran. Persian Selenite was once common, but today it is rarely available on the market.