A neat little Lepidolite from the Brown Derby Mine, near Gunnison, Colorado

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Lepidolite has a hardness of 2½ – 3½ and a specific gravity of 2.8 – 2.9. It was named in 1792 by Martin Klaproth from the Greek words lepidos for “scale” and lithos for “stone”. Lepidolite is found naturally in a variety of colors, mainly pink, purple, and red, but also gray and, rarely, yellow and colorless, due to trace amounts of Manganese.

It’s often found with other lithium-bearing minerals, such as spodumene, in pegmatite bodies. It has also been found in high-temperature quartz veins, greisens and granite. Associated minerals include quartz, feldspar, spodumene, amblygonite, tourmaline, columbite, cassiterite, topaz and beryl.

Fluoride ions can substitute for some of the hydroxide in the structure, while sodium, rubidium, or cesium may substitute in small quantities for potassium. According to Wikipedia, Lepidolite “is the most abundant lithium-bearing mineral and is a secondary source of this metal. It is the major source of the alkali metal rubidium.”

In 1861, Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff extracted 150 kg (330 lb) of lepidolite to yield a few grams of rubidium salts for analysis, and discovered the new element rubidium.

Needless to say, this is a great rock for element collectors!

The Brown Derby Mine is famous as the only location in Colorado where you can find Samarium in the Monazite-Sm and Cesium in the Pollucite, and one of the only places where you can find Niobium, Tantalum, and REEs in many of the additional minerals rarely found elsewhere. Lepidolite, however, is found in 30 Colorado locations and nearly 1,000 locations worldwide, as it’s quite sought after due to it being such a useful lithium ore.

If electric cars are the way of the future, be sure to keep your eyes out for a cool rock like this and you might just be the next Oil Baron!


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