HISTORY, NAME, LOCALITIES: Known since antiquity, barite was described as a mineral species in 1837. Its name is derived from the Greek barytēs, meaning “weight,” an allusion to its high density. Collecting localities are found in Peru, Brazil, China, Germany, Russia, France, Canada, and the United States (Nevada, Colorado, California, Arizona).
MINERALOGY, PROPERTIES, OCCURRENCE: Barite [barium sulfate, BaSO4], pronounced BARE-ite, is the most abundant barium-containing mineral. It crystallizes in the orthorhombic system in clusters of thick-to-thin, tabular crystals with sharp, beveled edges and also in massive and granular forms. It has a Mohs hardness of 4.3-4.6, perfect cleavage in one direction, vitreous luster, and a relatively high specific gravity of 4.3-4.6. Barite crystals are transparent to translucent and have a wide range of colors. Barite occurs in carbonatites, hydrothermal vein and replacement deposits, and as a cementing material in sandstone.
METAPHYSICAL PROPERTIES, LORE, USES: Metaphysical practitioners believe that barite helps to heal the Earth, creates the initiative to pursue dreams without restraint, facilitates independence, and enhances friendship, harmony, and love. Barite is mined extensively as the only source of barium metal and barium compounds. Because of its density, non-toxicity, inertness, and low cost, barite is the “weighting” agent used in oil- and gas-well drilling muds.
COLLECTORS’ INFORMATION: Both as individual crystals and composite specimens, barite is popular among mineral collectors for its range of colors and excellent development of its various crystal habits