Rhodochrosite is a hardstone which is rarely seen in fine jewellery. It is named after the Greek for ‘rose-coloured’, which, given its warm spread of raspberry red through to orangey-pink colours, shouldn't come as any surprise.
Being a relatively soft, fragile material, it needs a bit of tender loving care, but may be carved into wonderful forms and beads. The massive variety has a banded structure which shows zig-zagged stripes in a range of tones of pink.
These qualities made rhodochrosite perfect for Boivin to use in this imaginative ‘Radishes’ brooch, circa 1985, sold at Sotheby's Geneva in November 2015. Note how each ‘radish’ is protected from knocks by the gold and diamond ‘root’ finial and by the placement of each surrounding radish. The colour of the material accords exactly what we would expect a radish to look like – fresh, crisp, and bright.
Rhodochrosite was discovered in 1813 in Romania, but didn’t really come onto the market until the 1940’s when an abandoned 13th Century Inca silver mine in Argentina was reopened and found to be full of stalactites of banded rhodochrosite. Massive rhodochrosite subsequently came to be known as the ‘Inca Rose’ or ‘Rosinca’. It is thus quite rare to find examples of jewellery with this material pre-dating the Retro period.
When cut in cross-section, these stalactites show the range of colours of rhodochrosite, along with that serrated banding, in a ‘target’ style form which mimics the flowering petals of the rose for which it’s named.
Rhodochrosite was also used in jewellery in the 1970s and 80s by such makers as Van Cleef et Arpels, Bulgari, JAR and Seaman Schepps. We are far more accustomed to seeing this material being used in ornamental objects such as boxes, vide-poches (lit – something into which to empty one’s pockets), and sculptures – objets d’art if you will.