64 Hematite Facts To Understand About The Iron Oxide Compound

Helga Khumanthem
Jan 24, 2023 By Helga Khumanthem
Originally Published on Mar 02, 2022
Edited by Jade Scott
Fact-checked by Pratiti Nath
What's so special about this unassuming mineral? Find out with these hematite facts!
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.1 Min

Hematite has an unparalleled position in the production of the world's most important metal- iron.

The brittle ore isn't the strongest or the most precious. However, without it, we wouldn't quite be where we are in terms of progress.

Hematite is the most important ore of iron because of its abundance and reliability. It's by no means a recently discovered mineral. Traces of hematite minerals from almost 200,000 years ago can be found in Pinnacle Point, South Africa. Hematite residues have been in ancient graves, and the ancient Egyptians placed objects made of hematite in their tombs.

Did you know you could paint with hematite? This particular use of the ore isn't as common as it once was since cheaper alternatives have taken its place, but hematite is unarguably an indispensable gift of nature. Learn more about this wonderful ore right here!

Facts About Hematite

Here are some interesting tidbits of information about the ore we know and love such as why it got the name hematite and where it's found.

Hematite is one of the most common materials that can be found in the Earth's shallow crust.

Hematite can be found in sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks.

The name Hematite is derived from the Greek word for blood, 'haima'.

This is because of the reddish-brown color that hematite produces when ground into a powder.

Thick crystals of hematite have been found in the Minas Gerais district of Brazil.

Tabular crystals or iron roses in lustrous plates are found in Novo Horizonte and Brumando, Brazil.

Ores similar to those found in Brazil were also dug up at Lake Superior.

Hematite concentrations have been found on Mars. In 1998, the Mars Global Surveyor spotted large deposits of the mineral near the equator of the planet.

The discovery was the first mineral evidence of water possibly having existed on the planet.

In 2017, NASA's Curiosity rover was brushing over an area on the Vera Rubin Ridge when it found fine-grained hematite in the area's bedrock.

Along with the hematite, calcium sulfate veins were found.

Both are promising evidence of photodissociation of water (separation of compounds due to light) by UV rays.

A secondary formation of hematite can also occur. Clay size hematite crystals are formed due to weathering of the soil and are the reason, along with other iron oxides, why some soils are red in color.

The reason why hematite ores are sought after as a raw material in steelmaking is because they're extremely abundant minerals.

Hematite and hematite goethite deposits can have iron grades between 56%-59%, ideal for iron production.

In terms of quality, magnetite ores have the highest iron percentage (72.4%) but are less common than hematite.

Hematite's Properties

Learn more about the physical properties of hematite and its associated minerals, and what makes hematite special.

Hematite has a chemical composition of Fe2O3 (ferric oxide).

It's made up of about 70% iron and 30% oxygen.

Hematite is formed by sedimentary deposits, where clay minerals can also end up and is rarely found in a pure composition.

The compound varies in terms of appearance. It can have an earthy appearance, metallic luster, or anything in between.

Its colors range from black to silver-gray, and it can also come in a reddish-brown hue.

While they can vary in color, all specimens produce a reddish streak, useful for identifying hematite.

Hematite specimens can come in a variety of forms. It can be crystalline (like tabular crystals), kidney ore, fibrous, massive, and micaceous (like the mineral mica) among other forms.

Micaceous hematite is also called specular hematite. It has a metallic sheen because it contains mica flakes.

Hematite is not naturally magnetic on its own but can have some magnetic properties if it contains magnetite (a strongly magnetic iron ore).

The reddish-brown streak of hematite is useful for distinguishing magnetic hematite from magnetite or pyrrhotite (an iron sulfide mineral that has weak magnetic properties).

Hematite is higher on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness compare to pure iron ores but is more brittle.

Hematite, especially pieces with a metallic luster, is brittle and needs to be handled carefully.

Hematite's Uses

Throughout history, hematite has been used in paint-making to healing. Each form of the ore can be utilized for all kinds of purposes.

Hematite can be crushed to make a fine powder. The powdery mineral can be used for cosmetic purposes or making paints.

The use of hematite for paint has been around for centuries. The ore was crushed and mixed with liquid for creating cave paintings or pictographs.

Some pictographs have been dated to be up to 40,000 years old.

The reddish-brown pigment was also used during the Renaissance when oil painting became a popular medium.

When mixed with a white pigment, red hematite powder could be used to make opaque and permanent colors in various shades of pink and red ochre.

Even today, hematite pigment is used to make oil colors and watercolors.

Hematite is also a gem material, albeit a minor one. The ore can be used to make cabochons (polished gemstones that haven't been cut), beads, miniature sculptures, and other small items.

Hematite cabochons and beads are used for fashioning jewelry pieces.

The ore was once popularly set in Victorian mourning jewelry.

In Britain in the Middle Ages, it was believed that the ore would preserve the blood of dead soldiers and protect living ones by giving them newfound energy.

For similar reasons, Ancient Egyptians used hematite for carving out talismans and medallions.

Hematite is also popular for making tumbled stones, which are stones placed in a machine called a rock tumbler. The rocks are tumbled around in the machine until they become smooth.

You can see tumbled stones being used as vase fillers, decorations, plant fillers, and more.

Hematite is used for making radiation shielding around medical and scientific equipment like x-ray machines and even nuclear reactors.

Hematite in powdered form is used in making 'float sinks', a method of coal processing through which clean coal particles can separate from impure ones.

One controversial use of hematite, and other rocks and ores, is as a 'healing stone'.

The claims that healing stones can restore and strengthen the physical body, or have any effects on the body for that matter, are not scientifically backed up.

So far as research goes, healing stones have a placebo effect at most, and should definitely not be substituting actual medical treatment in case of genuine ailments.

The process of extracting ores from the earth is a tedious one but humans have proven to be innovative, as always.

Hematite's Mining Process

Hematite is an important source of iron, as we've established but how exactly do we get these ores? Find out here.

Hematite crystallizes in a rhombohedral system, which means they're found in a layered honeycomb kind of shape.

Hematite deposits are found in banded iron ore formations, sedimentary deposits that are about 1.5-3.8 billion years old.

Around 2500 million years ago, the bacteria in the ocean produced huge amounts of oxygen that would combine with iron oxides in the seawater.

These iron minerals would slowly collect on the seafloor to create layers of magnetite and hematite.

Steel gray hematite is largely found near bodies of water, like lakes or mineral hot springs.

The mineral precipitates and slowly collects at the bottom of the water.

Yellowstone National Park is an example of a place where hematite would be found in abundance.

Hematite doesn't necessarily need water to form, however, as it can be formed by volcanic activity as well.

Like most iron mines around the world, hematite mines are open cut.

Open-cut mining or open-pit mining is a surface mining technique through which the minerals or rocks are extracted by digging an open-air pit.

Tunnels are dug into the earth and throughout the mining process, the mines are gradually enlarged to access more of the mineral resource.

The new levels, as they are called, are accessed by using downward ramps.

The level is mined until it gradually becomes the new pit bottom. The process is repeated until enough ore is gathered.

The rocks bearing hematite ore are blasted with explosives and then brought to the surface.

The ores are then transported to crushing and screening plants using heavy-duty trucks. The trucks can carry up to 300 tons (300,000 kg)

The ores are crushed, screened (the particles separated by size), and ground to create smaller lumps and hematite ore fines.

Along with hematite, iron oxide minerals found in the Earth's core crust include magnetite, goethite, and limonite

For making iron, hematite and magnetite are the most important minerals.

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Written by Helga Khumanthem

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

Helga Khumanthem picture

Helga KhumanthemBachelor of Arts specializing in English Language and Literature

A dedicated and passionate writer, Helga brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to the team. She holds a Bachelor's degree in English Literature and Language from Lady Shri Ram College For Womenand has a keen interest in charitable work, particularly in animal welfare, which drives her commitment to making a positive impact. Previously, she volunteered for the Friendicoes National Service Scheme, managing their social media platforms and organizing charity events for animals in need.

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Fact-checked by Pratiti Nath

Bachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology, Masters of Science specializing in Biotechnology

Pratiti Nath picture

Pratiti NathBachelor of Science specializing in Microbiology, Masters of Science specializing in Biotechnology

A Master's in Biotechnology from Presidency University and a Bachelor's in Microbiology from Calcutta University. Pratiti holds expertise in writing science and healthcare articles, and their inputs and feedback help writers create insightful content. They have interests in heritage, history, and climate change issues and have written articles for various websites across multiple subjects. Their experience also includes working with eco-friendly startups and climate-related NGOs.

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