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Heliotrope (mineral)

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A tumble-polished pebble of heliotrope, also called bloodstone
CategorySilicate mineral
(repeating unit)
SiO2 (silicon dioxide)
Crystal systemTrigonal
ColorDark shades of green, often with red or yellow spots; sometimes mixed with whitish silica
Mohs scale hardness6.5–7
DiaphaneityOpaque to translucent
Specific gravity2.61
Refractive index1.53–1.54
A rough specimen of bloodstone

The mineral aggregate heliotrope (from Ancient Greek ἥλιος (hḗlios) 'sun', and τρέπειν (trépein) 'to turn'), also called Indian bloodstone or ematille, is a cryptocrystalline mixture of quartz that occurs mostly as jasper (opaque) or sometimes as chalcedony (translucent). The "classic" bloodstone is translucent to opaque green chalcedony and red jasper that contains inclusions of hematite. The red jasper may resemble spots of blood, hence the name bloodstone. Other colors of chalcedony also can occur in Indian bloodstone, such as white, yellow, or blue. This stone should not be confused with other ornamental stones that contain red jasper, such as Setonite (also known as African Bloodstone) which is composed of red jasper, grey chalcedony, and pyrite; or Dragon's Blood (sometimes referred to as Australian Bloodstone) which is composed of red jasper and green epidote.

The name heliotrope derives from ancient beliefs about the manner in which the mineral reflects light. Such notions are described, for example, by Pliny the Elder (Nat. Hist. 37.165).[1]

Legends and superstitions


Heliotrope was called "stone of Babylon" by Albertus Magnus[2] and he referred to several magical properties, which were attributed to it from Late Antiquity. Pliny the Elder (1st century) mentioned first that the magicians used it as a stone of invisibility.[3] Damigeron (4th century)[4] wrote about its property to make rain, solar eclipse, and its special virtue in divination and preserving health and youth. A Christian tradition states that the red spots come from blood falling upon the stone during the crucifixion of Jesus, as he was stabbed in the side by a Roman soldier.[5] Ancient Roman soldiers believed that the stone had the ability to slow bleeding and wore it for this reason.[5] In India it is held that one can staunch the bleeding by placing upon wounds and injuries after dipping it in cold water, which may have a scientific basis in the fact that iron oxide, contained in the stone, is an effective astringent.[5] The Gnostics wore the stone as an amulet for longevity, for wealth and courage, to strengthen the stomach, and to dispel melancholy.[6] In the Middle Ages it was considered useful for animal husbandry.[6] The ancient Greeks and Romans wore the stone to bring renown and favor, to bring endurance, and as a charm against the bite of venomous creatures. Greek and Roman athletes favored it as talisman for success in their games.[6] In Scotland, the Gaels saw heliotropes as the product of an everlasting battle (seen as the aurora borealis) fought by 'the Nimble Ones,' giant faerie-folk who danced and fought in the night skies, their blood pooling into the red part of the aurora before falling in drops to the ground to form bloodstones.[7]



True Indian bloodstone is primarily found in the Deccan Traps of India, though other rocks with red jasper in them may be found in South Africa, Western Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Italy, Nova Scotia, and numerous locations in the United States.[8] There are also occurrences of bloodstone on the Isle of Rum, in Scotland.[9]


  1. ^ "heliotrope". Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary.
  2. ^ Albertus Magnus, De Mineralibus, II.5. in: id., Opera omnia, ed. Borgnet (Paris, 1890), vol. 5, Mineralia: pp. 1–116; on p. 36. Cf. Peter J. Barta, The Seal-ring of Proportion and the magic rings (2016), p. 50f.
  3. ^ Pliny the Elder, Natural History, xxxvii.(60).165. His account was copied verbatim by Isidore of Seville(c. 560-636), Etymologies, XVI,7,12. Cf. Peter J. Barta, The Seal-ring of Proportion and the magic rings (2016), p. 47.
  4. ^ Damigeron, De lapidibus (Abel), ch. II, p. 165, lines 1-19; Damigeron (Pitra), ch. XIX, vol. iii, p. 325-326. Cf. Peter J. Barta, The Seal-ring of Proportion and the magic rings (2016), pp. 48-49.
  5. ^ a b c The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems, by William Thomas and Kate Pavitt, [1922] p.138
  6. ^ a b c The Book of Talismans, Amulets and Zodiacal Gems, by William Thomas and Kate Pavitt, [1922] p.139
  7. ^ Habold, Agathe. "The Nimble Men". Spirit of the Highlands and Islands. Retrieved 5 March 2024.
  8. ^ Mindat.org
  9. ^ The Story of Rum National Nature Reserve