Hematite or haematite takes its name from the Greek word haem for “blood,” which describes the color of its powdered form. Hematite is the most important iron ore because of its high iron content (70 percent) and its abundance. The steel-gray crystals and coarse-grained varieties with a metallic luster are known as specular hematite; the thin scaly forms are micaceous hetatite; and the crystals in flower-like arrangements are called iron roses. Hematite is also found as an accessory mineral in many igneous rocks.
Much hematite is a soft, fine-grained, earthy form called red ocher, which is used as a pigment. Ancient Egyptians decorated the tombs of pharaohs, with powered hematite, as well as Native Americans that used it for war paint. Egyptians used it for amulets and the Babylonians believed that it would “procure for the wearer a favorable hearing of petitions addressed to kings and a fortunate issue of lawsuits and judgment”. Today it is still used as red ocher pigment and as a metal polishing powder called “jeweler’s rouge,” which is used to polish plate glass and jewelry, and was in the past used to polish gems. Black varieties of hematite were once used for mourning jewelry.
The most important hematite deposits are sedimentary in origin, either in sedimentary beds or metamorphosed sediments. Lake Superior in the United States is the world’s largest producer, but other major deposits are found in the Ukraine, China, India, Australia, Liberia, Brazil, and Venezuela. The best cuttable sources come from Cumbria, northwest England; Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany; and the island of Elba, Italy.