Only found in Utah, honeycomb calcite may be the state stone following passage of bill in House

A sample of honeycomb calcite from Hanna, Duchesne County, Utah, date not specified. | Image courtesy of Utah Museum of Natural History, Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Utah lawmaker is proposing that honeycomb calcite be designated as the official state stone. The proposal passed the House on Monday and only needs the approval of the Senate.

Rep. Christine Watkins said she decided to draft and sponsor the bill, designated HB 188 in the 2021 Utah Legislature, after visiting Duchesne County, which she said is the only place in the world where that particular type of calcite is found.

Watkins said she had planned to visit the mine itself during that recent trip but ended up settling for a tour of a small warehouse/workshop located in the nearby community of Hanna where various mined rocks are stored, cut, polished and made into products.

Honeycomb calcite, which is more than 500 million years old, ranges from a bright yellow or gold to a more brownish amber, like honey. The unique coloration comes from iron deposits within the stone, Watkins said. First discovered in the area by Floyd Anderson in 1995, the honeycomb calcite deposit is now harvested by Shamrock Mining, which makes various honeycomb calcite products and ships them worldwide.

The stone, which has a hardness comparable to marble or opal, has a rough appearance at first, Watkins said.

“It doesn’t look pretty when it comes out of the ground,” she added, noting that the stone only becomes strikingly beautiful after it is cut and polished.

“They were able to figure out the true beauty in this stone,” she said.

Honeycomb calcite, which is used in making jewelry and decorative items, appears to give off a translucent glow as light is shone behind it.

“There’s a bar in Park City that has a big long bar where they put the lights under it,” Watkins said, adding that the stone has been used in various products, including bathtub decorations, backsplashes, lampshades, jewelry boxes, canisters, waterfalls and inlaid table decorations.

“On the first floor of the Capitol Building, there’s a big seal of the state on the floor, and the beehive is made out of this,” she said.

“I do want to let you know that there is no classroom behind me,” Watkins told her fellow legislators during her initial presentation of the bill on Feb. 1. She was referring to the occasional campaigns made by Utah schoolchildren over the years to get certain state symbols passed into law, as was the case when students at Lava Ridge Intermediate School in Santa Clara successfully lobbied to have the Gila monster named the state reptile in 2019.

“There is no one doing this except me, with the support of the people who mine this and the people of Duchesne County,” she said.

Utah’s state seal on the first floor of the State Capitol building features a honeycomb inlaid with honeycomb calcite, Salt Lake City, Utah, date not specified | Image courtesy of Rep. Christine Watkins, St. George News

Watkins’s bill passed by a vote of 56-13 during its third and final reading in the Utah House on Monday, one week after it was first introduced.

Of the Southern Utah legislators, all voted in favor of the new stone with the exception of Reps. Travis Seegmiller and Lowry Snow.

HB 188 now moves to the state Senate for consideration.

For a complete list of contacts for Southern Utah representatives and senators, click here.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2021 Utah Legislature here.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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