Baryte is the most common mineral source of barium
. The name baryte comes from the Greek word barys, which means heavy, as baryte is unusually heavy for a non-metallic mineral. Baryte is also known as heavy spar. It contains 59% barium and 41% sulphate and has many different and important industrial uses. It is powdered to produce heavy drilling muds, which are used in oil wells to help prevent blowouts. It is also used in hospitals in concrete and brick form, to shield radioactive sources, and to give "barium meals" to patients before x-rays. Baryte is also used to refine sugar, as a base for white paint, and as a pigment
and filler for paper. In the 1600's, phosphorescent
specimens of baryte were found in Bologna, Italy
, and were given the name Bologna Stone. Baryte can range in color from colorless to white, yellow tinged, brown, blue, red, or green. It rates only a 2.5 to 3.5 on the hardness scale
, making it not very durable, so stones are usually faceted for collectors only.