Rhodochrosite is a semiprecious stone, similar to onyx but unique to Argentina. It is mined only from a generous seam in the Capillitas mine, to the north of Andalgalá in Catamarca Province. Known popularly as the Rosa del Inca – and believed by the indigenous people to be the solidified blood of their ancestors – rhodochrosite is reminiscent of Florentine paper, with its slightly blurred, marble-like veins of ruby red and deep salmon-pink, layered and rippled with paler shades of rose-pink and white. Its rarity has made it Argentina’s unofficial national stone. Much of it is sold in Buenos Aires, in luscious blocks suitable as paperweights or book ends, or worked into fine, expensive jewellery, or into animal and bird figures, many of them kitsch.

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