Better known in mining language as rock salt, halite stone has its etymological root in the Greek words hals and lithos, meaning respectively salt and stone. It is the result of the evaporation of salty seas and lakes during the geological periods of the Triassic, more than two hundred million years ago, and the Oligocene, thirty-three to twenty-three million years ago. It is called evaporite rock, as opposed to igneous rocks such as granite, or metamorphic rocks such as gneiss. Deposits take the form of entangled crystals. Transparent it its pure state, the inclusion of impurities such as clays often causes it to take on a grey or ochre colour.
The thickness of sedimentary deposits can sometimes exceed thirty metres, and they have been subject to human exploitation since the Neolithic period. This stone can be found in various places in Europe, such as Hallstatt (Austria), Cardona (Spain) or Slanic-Prahova (Romania), and also in France, where there are five salt basins: to the west, the Aquitaine basin, and to the east, the subalpine basin, the Lorraine-Champagne, Alsace, and the Comté-Bresse region. It should be noted that most of the known exploitation sites in France are located on the major Rhine-Rhone industrial axis. This industry is governed by the mining code, which originates from a Napoleonic law of 1810 from which many countries have drawn their legislation in this area.
Geological movements subsequent to the formation of these deposits, such as the appearance of mountains, can elevate them, as in Austria. Moreover, when fresh water flows through them, they can also give birth to salt springs or lakes. Beyond the exploitation of these basins, three methods can be used to obtain this culinary product :
Although salt basins have been exploited by humans since prehistoric times, their modern inventor is Ernst Friedrich Glocker who, in 1847, gave them the name “halites”. James Dwight Dana later removed the “s” from the plural, giving them their definitive name. It is a solid mineral whose main chemical component is sodium chloride (NaCl). It is contained in a soft and very light evaporite, also known as halite stone, which is brittle and salty and contains traces of oxygen, silica, fluorine, bromine, iron and iodine. In its purest composition, this saline stone is colourless, or white, perfectly stable and moist to the touch. Most often, the inclusion of impurities such as calcium chloride or magnesium chloride make it deliquescent, and give it various shades. It can take on a grey or ochre colour, be much darker, black or brown, or even violet and blue. Halite stone is easily characterized by its salty taste, its solubility, and its cubic shape which distinguishes it from other crystals whose faces can form a pyramid. A grain of this mineral will produce a bright yellow flame typical of sodium ions, and when heated, it decays and melts.
It is often found with other evaporites such as gypsum or anhydrite, and more rarely accompanied by limestone, clay or dolomite. Indispensable to life and a central component of numerous economies throughout history, the most accessible clusters, whether visible on the surface of the ground or characterized by the presence of salt springs, were already known in antiquity, and earlier by the first herding peoples. Halite stone may originally come from ancient seas that have receded, but also from volcanic or plutonic rocks, which explains why brackish or saline waters are found in basins that have no connection with any sea.
The thickness of the clusters can vary from one metre to more than three hundred metres. They sometimes constitute saline masses that are not very dense, may have the appearance of large domes and, for the largest of them, extend for almost ten kilometres, with a thickness of up to two kilometres. These structures elevate the ground, forming rounded envelopes that can be identified with the help of specific geophysical measurements. This crystal is found in very large quantities under the Sahara, with estimated reserves of some four hundred thousand billion tonnes, buried at an average depth of about five hundred metres. It is also found at depths of one thousand metres in Algeria, or in the rocks of Djelfa and El Outaya in Biskra. The commercial importance of this crystal gave rise to salt routes, whose evocative name is a symbol of the essential role they played in the economic development of certain regions. By transporting the precious commodity from the deposits to places of consumption facing a natural deficit, numerous itinerant traders contributed to the commercial development of their peoples and countries. Thus, in the Sahel, desert nomads drove a caravan of camels called Azalai in the Tuareg language, which transported the priceless gem over more than a thousand kilometres from the Malian mines of Taoudeni to various markets such as that of Timbuktu, where they exchanged it mainly for slaves. The same trade took place in Tibet, where caravans of yaks led by nomads would transport halite from the Himalayan peaks to the plains. The mineral was then exchanged for grain and other basic foodstuffs. Later, Alexander the Great was the first to transport this precious material from the Himalayas to Europe. As proof of the region’s immeasurable resources, there is still the second-largest mine in the world, in Khewra, Pakistan, where extraction is still done by hand.
Halite is known as the purifying element, and would therefore be impervious to any negative energy. Pink halite is particularly recommended for emotional relationship problems, when the sustenance of old responsibilities or old bonds prevents a fresh start. It is also effective in preserving or restoring the balance of your mind.
This gem has numerous physical benefits :
A certain number of precautions relating to its specific characteristics are nevertheless necessary for its use: pay attention to its fragility and the ease with which it can be chipped. If you expose it to liquids, also be aware of its solubility.