After all, we live on a large planet, and if geological forces have produced a certain mineral in one place, there is a good chance they will produce it elsewhere.
Indeed, of the 6,000 minerals recognized by the International Mineralogical Association, many are formed by multiple processes, with completely different chemical processes producing the same results.
Even if the mineral was formed only once, samples can easily be broken up and dispersed over a wide area.
Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that any mineral can be known from only one sample. However, this is exactly the case with one crystal – kyavtuite.
Kyawtuit was found only in the form of a single gem in the vicinity of Mogok (Myanmar) and was recognized by the International Mineralogical Association in 2015.
The almost identical synthetic compound was already known, so if you really want to get it, you don’t have to steal a single copy from the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, where it is kept.
Kyawtuit has a translucent reddish-orange color, and a single specimen weighs 1.61 carats (0.3 grams). Chemical formula – Bi3+Sb5+O4, with traces of tantalum.
Both bismuth and antimony (yes, Sb is the chemical symbol for antimony, because why simplify everything) are rare metals, but not super rare.
There is more bismuth in the earth’s crust than gold, and more antimony than silver.
Oxygen is the most common element in the earth’s crust, so the rarity of kyattuite should be related to the method of its formation, and not to the lack of its components.
Bismuth is such a heavy element that kyawtuite has more than eight times the density of water (and twice the density of rubies, which it looks a bit like), so the stone is even smaller than its weight would suggest.
The Caltech mineral database describes the structure as checkered sheets of Sb5+O6 octahedrons parallel to Bi3+ atoms.
It is the only recognized bismuth-antimony oxide named after Dr. Kyaw Tu, a former geologist at Yangon University.
A sample of kyawtuite was found in a stream bed by sapphire hunters and approved by the IMA in 2015 as a distinctive mineral. Its scientific description was published in 2017.
Interestingly, Myanmar is also the source of the second rarest mineral, painstone, a precious stone of which only a few have been recorded.
Speaking Caltech professor George Rossman attributed Myanmar’s abundance of gems to pressure and heat from India‘s collision with Asia.
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