an unusual shaped specimen of barite heavy spar from from Dirtlow Rake, Castleton
|Origin||Dirtlow Rake, Castleton|
Barite was familiar to the very first miners, for it occurs abundantly in ore veins. For a long time it was considered to be worthless gangue, though it stirred the interest of alchemists in the Middle Ages. Vincenzo Cascariolo, an Italian alchemist in Bologna, was heating barite with other minerals in the course of his experiments in 1630. He discovered that when heated it shines in the dark. This was the discovery of phosphorescence, which caused great excitement in those days.
Barite received its name from the Greek barys (`heavy’), because it was conspicuously and unusually heavy. The German name Schwerspat has a similar meaning. The high density of barite is close to the density of some of the iron ores, magnetite of haematite, for instance.