Halite is a wonderful crystal, from the delicate “hopper” crystal formations of the California Searles Lake clusters to the blue and purples cubes from the basins of Northern Germany. But aside from being a wonderful specimen for a collection, did you know that Halite, or as it may be more commonly known, Rock Salt, has been popular throughout history?
Did you know that we get the word ‘salary’ from the Latin for salt, “sal”? Due to the difficulty in producing salt before mass industrialization it was a very precious commodity, and has been the cause of many wars and protests. Salt was so valuable to the ancient Romans that they were sometimes paid in it! It’s also mentioned a lot in the Bible, people are referred to as the “salt of the earth” and so on, even today. This was due to its effectiveness as a preservative, and so it became associated with permanence and stability. As humans we need a certain amount of salt in our diets, as it aids our muscles, helps to transport oxygen and keeps a healthy nervous system.
Himalayan Salt Lamps are gaining in popularity for their warmth and supposed health benefits, they certainly help to lift the mood and provide a feeling of coziness in the house. This variety of Salt comes from Pakistan, and trace minerals including Magnesium and Potassium give it the distinctive rosy, orange colour. Alongside a glowing fire and some candles, these salt lamps are certainly a favourite in our house! They can be harmful to pets though, so make sure they are out of reach for licking!
As a collectors crystal, Halite, chemically known as Sodium Chloride, it gets its name from the Ancient Greek “Hals” for salt, is highly desirable in large crystal form. Unlike most crystals, they can grow very quickly and form in evaporate conditions alongside other evaporate minerals such as Anhydrite and Gypsum. Unlike many crystals, where the colour comes from impurities, Halites colour causes vary - unlike the Himalayan Salt, the wonderful blues and purples come from defects in the crystal lattice, and many of the salt lake specimens get their colour from bacteria in the water.
Large areas known as salt flats can be found in places like Badwater Basin where inland seas have repeatedly flooded and evaporated to leave large salt deposits behind, causing a glittering white surface that at first glance can be mistaken for snow or frost. Large deposits can also build up underground, pushing up to form a salt dome. Where these salt domes reach the surface, they can form salt glaciers.
Salt mines are ideal places to store fragile and delicate items, as the conditions are very stable. The Winsford Mine in Cheshire is the UK’s largest producing salt mine, 150 metres below the surface, but it is also home to a large amount of priceless paintings and a portion of the irreplaceable National Archives.
Salt is also surprisingly good for the skin - adding some salt to your bath is a wonderful way to relax (go even further and add some essential oils if you’re feeling adventurous). Salt scrubs for exfoliating are also increasing in popularity. It’s also extremely useful for melting snow and ice - more salt is used in the USA to deice roads than for any other purpose - even cooking! There are endless uses for this wonderful mineral, and you can be sure that it’s one that pretty much every house across the world will have in one form or another!