Orange is a bright color, and not necessarily one we see often in nature. It’s most commonly associated with hazards and hunting, but it’s a beautiful color and there are many natural minerals that meet the bill. They range from ochre to bright orange, depending on the exact stone or mineral we’re looking at.
So, let’s dig into the matter and we’ll be taking a look at a bunch of different orange rocks and minerals to help you get your fix.
1. Spessartine Garnet
Garnets come in a wide range of shades, much wider than the normal deep red that most people associate with the stone. One of these varieties, spessartine garnet, comes in with a great shade of orange. They’re more often found as mineral samples than cut stones, mainly owing to their habit of forming as tight bunches of small crystals on the host mineral.
Spessartine garnets are often found in pegmatites. Not all are in the orange part of the spectrum, some locales boast a variety that’s a reddish-purple color similar to rhodolite garnet. They’re found all over the world, like most varieties of garnets, with particularly stunning specimens coming out of Madagascar and Bulgaria.
Spessartine garnet is a great example of an “unnatural” orange in nature. The best examples have a bright orange hue that’s simply radiant, but most fall a bit more on the side of brown-orange instead. That makes these garnets a source of cheap orange faceted stones for jewelry, and also a prized specimen for many mineral collectors.
2. Native Copper
Copper’s color is a bit hard to define, but most people would agree it falls under orange. Native copper is a form of copper that’s found in nature. It’s simply raw copper surrounded by host rock, and when cleaned the specimens are obviously metal. The metal is often formed into strange shapes, seen best when the rest of the host material is removed.
Native copper is often mottled with a blue color when pulled from the ground, but it’s only a thin layer of oxidation on the surface. Some commercial specimens are prepared, you can easily discern them by their shiny surface and bright color. Native copper is usually fairly pure, although impurities do occur.
Some of the most fascinating specimens are the “half-breeds” from the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. These specimens are interlocked masses of native copper and native silver. Native copper was one of early man’s sources of metals, making it an important part of our species’ history in addition to being a beautiful specimen.
Crocoite is a rare mineral, and a toxic one. It’s lead chromate, with the chemical formula of PbCrO₄. This mineral forms itself as red-orange spikes on the host rock, creating an impressive mass of unique crystals. It’s only found in a few locations and it’s sometimes known as Red Lead.
While crocoite was often used as a lead ore in the past, these days even the most productive mines mainly produce specimens. High-grade mineral samples are highly sought after by collectors, owing to the rarity and beauty of the formations. The most highly sought-after specimens actually edge over into red more than orange, but they’re vanishingly rare.
Crocoite is a strange mineral. While no longer an important chromium ore, it’s still mined regularly to produce specimens. They’re a treat to behold if a bit expensive. Crocoite’s unique structure and bright colors make it a favorite, and one of the coolest examples of orange minerals.
4. Baltic Amber
Amber is one of the classic gemstones, with Baltic Amber being the best known. This amber is deep, glowing orange in color, and is often included with bits of insects or plants. Some of the best examples contain complete specimens of ancient creatures caught inside. Amber is the result of tree resin becoming fossilized over time and is distinct from copal which is only a few thousand years old in most cases.
Amber is famous. Whether you know it from the machinations of John Hammond in Jurassic Park or just from the amazing color it displays. Oddly, it doesn’t feel like any other stone in hand. Indeed, the best description of amber’s feel is that it feels like plastic. The light weight and strange surface feel would have been truly unique in ancient times, there are few hard, natural polymers that occur in nature.
Amber’s fame is well-deserved. Whether it’s scientific specimens or just a pair of earrings, the warm internal glow of amber is always well-received. Not all amber is orange either, there are also stunning blue specimens out there that are less well-known. That said, it’s easy to see why amber deserves a place on our list.
Sunstone is an orange plagioclase feldspar mineral with a unique glittering effect when cut and polished. The stone itself is highly prized, with a large portion coming out of mines in Oregon. Sunstone’s glitter and orange color make it unique in the world of stones, and the best-quality examples are quite stunning.
This glittering mineral can be worth quite a bit when the right pieces are found. The best are faceted and used in fine jewelry, where they command a high price, but many end up as cabochons to better display the optical effect. The effect is caused mainly by copper included in the stone. Oregon Sunstone, in particular, has a lot of elemental copper which can lead to stones appearing in different colors from different angles when there’s enough clarity.
With its complex visual effect and pleasing orange hue, sunstone enjoys a lot of popularity. Grades vary a lot, from rough chunks that are often tumbled to high-clarity crystals pulled from the earth in Oregon that are cut into incredible faceted gems. Whatever your taste in collectibles, there’s something available in Sunstone.
7. Hessonite Garnet
Another species of garnet, distinct from the spessartine garnet above. Hessonite garnet displays a deep orange hue, often in large enough crystals for the crystals to be cut into faceted stones for jewelry. Its color varies from a light orange-yellow to a deep blood red-orange.
Hessonite garnets belong to the grossularite garnet group, the same one that produces the stunning Tsavorite garnets. Hessonite garnet holds a particular interest for Hindu astrologers since it’s assigned as one of the nine planetary stones in their astrological system. It’s known in Sanskrit as gomeda.
These garnets are often overlooked in favor of the more spectacular spessartine garnets, but that’s a good thing for collectors and those looking for orange stones. When they can be found, good quality hessonite is usually cheaper than spessartine for the same size. These are just more proof that the garnet family is one of the most fascinating in the mineral world.
Bauxite is a rock that few have heard of, but it’s essential to our modern lifestyle. How? Well, it’s the most important source of aluminum in the world. Bauxite itself appears as an orange stone, often in large amounts. Without it, aluminum would be far more scarce and the world would look much different.
Bauxite is actually a rock, meaning it’s comprised of many minerals. The main one of importance is the aluminum ores gibbsite, boehmite, and diaspore. It’s mixed in with goethite, haematite, and kaolinite as well. It’s essentially a big jumble of aluminum-bearing minerals with some filler.
While bauxite isn’t the most attractive specimen, its importance is hard to overstate. Aluminum makes up a huge part of our infrastructure but it wasn’t readily available until the process of forcing bauxite to yield its pure form was finalized. It helps make the world go around, which is enough reason for many collectors to seek out a piece.
Carnelian and sard are both on a spectrum. Carnelian is a bright red-orange, definitely on the red side, while sard is used to refer to carnelian that’s more brown or orange in color. The exact point at which one becomes the other isn’t well defined. It’s something like chert and jasper, where the minerals are almost the same but its appearance dictates what it’s called.
Sard is a form of orange-to-brown chalcedony. Sard tends to be rather opaque, having a lot of mineral inclusions that give it its color. Like proper carnelian, it’s often carved into decorative objects along with the usual use in jewelry as beads or cabochons.
Sard is readily available and even easy to find in many locations across the United States. It’s a staple in rock shops and a low-cost stone that most collectors have at least a piece of. It may not stand up to carnelian as a red gem. Still, on its own, it remains quite beautiful.
10. Mahogany Obsidian
Mahogany obsidian is a variant of obsidian that has impressive orange streaks and shapes contained within it. The orange is dominant in many pieces, leading to the appearance of an orange stone mottled with black instead of vice versa. It’s one of the most sought-after obsidian types, despite being less flashy than fire or rainbow obsidian.
Like all obsidian, mahogany obsidian isn’t really a rock or mineral. Instead, it’s a glass that forms when silica-rich magma is rapidly cooled after a volcanic eruption. The orange color stems from the inclusion of oxidized hematite or magnetite that ended up in the glass. It can be found in many places, as it’s a fairly common way for the mineral to form.
This form of obsidian often occurs in massive pieces, creating a unique medium for carving. It can be found in many types of decorative objects, tumbles, beads, and even cabochons cut for jewelry without any difficulty. It’s only one of many types of obsidian, but this orange-laced obsidian remains a favorite of collectors.
Siderite is an orange form of iron carbonate and an ore of iron. It’s known as a spathic ore, meaning that it’s a carbonate, which is more difficult to process than the usual suspects like hematite. It was in high demand for about half of a century, with its usage in the Bessemer process being easier than with most ores that had a high phosphorous content.
Siderite has many forms. One of the oddest is as bladed crystals, which are often just a touch off-white in the orange direction. It also occurs in massive pieces as a dull orange rock, and as orange crystals with a cubic shape. These days siderite is mostly of interest to mineral collectors, who can find some joy in its many forms.
Siderite is even cut as a gemstone on very rare occasions. There aren’t many crystals of sufficient quality. For the most part, it just serves as a reminder of some of the complications of early steel-making processes, and as an attractive specimen for your mineral shelf.
Creedite is a hydroxylhalide mineral that has a range of colors from purple to white to orange. The orange specimens have a bright, impressive hue with a lot of color saturation. Creedite is mainly of value as a specimen, with no industrial or other commercial use. It’s associated with veins of fluorite in the wild.
The majority of creedite forms as tiny crystals. Anything over a millimeter in length is a bit unusual, making specimens a bit hard to come by. The most common specimen pieces seen are small balls of radial crystal growth. Think of a Koosh Ball made of crystals and you’ll have a good idea.
Creedite is a lesser-known mineral, which has kept demand in check. It’s rare in nature and the majority of places it’s found are host to commercial mining, so gathering a specimen yourself may not be possible. Fortunately, you can find samples online if you’re looking to fill a hole on your shelf with something a bit unusual.
Another orange lead ore, wulfenite often forms as tabular crystals. These crystals are usually seen alongside richer lead ores such as galena, which makes them more of a curiosity than an economical source of lead. That’s great news for collectors, as most wulfenite found ends up as mineral specimens.
Wulfenite sometimes occurs in massive crystals that end up being faceted. These are more of a curiosity than anything, wearing a stone with such a high lead composition isn’t something most people shoot for. These are still beautiful, displaying a deep orange radiance that’s oddly appealing despite the stone’s makeup.
Wulfenite may not be on the top of the list for everyone, but it’s got definite appeal as a collector’s item. The fact that it most often occurs with a rich orange color is nice as well, making it a unique sight. For the most part, however, wulfenite is an oddity with a unique crystal form and bright colors.
An orange-to-red crystal, vanadinite is mainly known as the primary ore for vanadium. This rare earth metal is in many parts of our technology, from electronics to catalysts used in chemical engineering. It appears as hexagonal crystals and was previously referred to as brown lead.
Vanadinite was actually the original source of the metal vanadium. It was discovered in this mineral and was a subject of much debate. The original discoverer concluded that vanadium was just an impure form of chrome but it was later discovered to be a new element entirely.
Oddly, vanadinite is actually an apatite. Apatites are mainly known for their blue hues, making vanadinite even more unique. It’s often associated with lead mines, where it can be found on the outskirts of the main ore locations. It’s a strange one, and one that’s more than welcome as a collector’s specimen.