Selenite is a mineral form that can be very useful, but it has some different physical properties than the harder stones we work with – like the quartz varieties – and I recently had some experience with it that I thought others might find helpful.
Selenite is named after the moon goddess Selene because the way its structure looks in light creates a white-on-white effect that resembles moonlight on water. It actually contains none of the element selenium. Selenite is a form of gypsum, which is a hydrated calcium sulfate. This means there are water molecules in the crystal lattice itself. If you add more water, gypsum can dissolve, but the process happens very slowly.
Gypsum is also very soft – softer than your fingernails. Selenite is probably the softest mineral that most of us work with on a regular basis. It should always be stored or carried with some cushioning, and not with any other stones rubbing up against it. On the other hand, its softness also means that it can be reshaped and polished fairly easily.
FYI, the mineral form called “desert rose” is (almost always) also a form of gypsum, which means that it is just as soft as selenite, but because of its formation it is less likely to show small scratches. I still wouldn’t carry it in a pouch with other stones.
Now for the practical experience:
I had a piece of selenite go through the washer recently. It was not appreciably smaller in size afterwards. The biggest effect was that the surface was much rougher all over. So even a thorough soaking and agitation does not instantly dissolve it, but it does definitely disturb the polished surface. I was thinking about how to restore the polish, and realized that since selenite has approximately the hardness of fingernails, the same things that I use to shape my fingernails might work on selenite – and they did!
I used a four-sided nail buffer to repolish my selenite. This is NOT your typical metal nail file. (One of those would probably chew through selenite pretty quickly, like a hacksaw.) A buffer is a series of four different grits mounted on a soft foam block. They’re not very common at regular drugstores, but you can find them in beauty supply shops or online. The kind I typically use has a blue surface for filing, a pink surface for smoothing ridges, a white surface for buffing, and a grey surface for polishing. The grey surface feels completely smooth, not like emery at all.
I used the pink, white, and grey surfaces in the same order I would on my nails. Please note that this did wear down the grit on my nail buffer quite a bit more than just doing my nails, so I’m going to need a new one soon, but I thought it was an inexpensive and easy solution! Plus, it was rather satisfying to repolish the piece myself; it’s always good to forge a hands-on relationship with one’s magical tools.
To buff, I found that circular motions were the most effective, and that the process took some time. On the other hand, once a polished surface is achieved, small scratches can be buffed out relatively quickly. If you just want to restore a small scratch, I would start with the white surface and go slowly; you can probably make it almost imperceptible without having to repolish too large of an area.
I hope some of you find this useful!