Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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The barite rosette or "rose rock" has been the state rock of Oklahoma since House Bill 1277 was approved by the Oklahoma legislature on April 8, 1968, and was signed into law by Gov. Dewey F. Bartlett. Rose rocks are found in central Oklahoma, although barite deposits also occur in the Wichita and Ouachita mountains. Similar rosettes occur in Kansas, California, and Egypt. The rose rock is an aggregate of barite and sand formed like a fully bloomed rose, with five to twenty radiating plates or blades that appear as the petals.

These objects of collectors' desire were formed during the Permian era (250 million years ago) when ocean waters covered the western half of Oklahoma, and the counties of central Oklahoma were under shallow bays. Over time, barite (barium sulphate, BaSO4) precipitated out of sea water and crystallized around grains of quartz sand. Over eons, the ocean retreated westward, and a geologic formation of reddish sandstone, locally called the Garber sandstone, was left in a broad band across central Oklahoma. Rose rocks occur in outcrops of Garber sandstone from southern Lincoln through eastern Oklahoma and Cleveland counties and into McClain and Garvin counties (from Guthrie to Pauls Valley) and occur prolifically east of Noble and Norman.

Found as a single rose or clusters of roses, the objects range from the size of an English pea to about four inches in diameter. The largest single specimen ever discovered was seventeen inches in diameter and ten inches high and weighed 125 pounds. The largest cluster weighed more than one thousand pounds.

In the 1960s rock and mineral collectors campaigned for the barite rosette to become Oklahoma's state rock. Their petition drive resulted in a bill proposed in the state House of Representatives and subsequently enacted in 1968. Always attractive to rock hounds, rose rocks thereafter became very popular and marketable in tourist venues. The Rose Rock Museum, established at Noble, Oklahoma, in 1986, showcases original art work that includes rose rocks. A Rose Rock Festival has been annually held at Noble.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. E. Ham and C. A. Merritt, "Barite in Oklahoma," Oklahoma Geological Survey Circular 23 (Norman: Oklahoma Geological Survey, 1944). Norman Meland, "A Contribution to the Study of the Red Beds of Oklahoma: Part One, Sand-Barites" (M.A. thesis, University of Oklahoma, 1922). "Oklahoma Minerals," Vertical File, Tulsa City-County Library, Tulsa, Oklahoma. Joseph G. Stine and Nancy A. Stine, The Rose Rock of Oklahoma (Noble, Okla.: Timberlake Press, 1993).

Dianna Everett

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