From the Dinosaurs to the Internet: a Brief History of Shungite

Posted by Karelian_Heritage 18/03/2019 0 Comment(s) Shungite 101,



      It might seem that shungite got into a public eye not too long ago with the end of the 20th century but and it is partially true, as shungite indeed did become a well-known crystal healing item internationally with the advent of the 21st century. However, in Russia, its homeland shungite has been known for centuries before globalization and the Internet made it accessible all around the globe. It was used in spas, studied and mined and was becoming more and more popular in scientific and geological communities that it helped English scientists win the Nobel prize for the discovery of fullerenes in 1996. So today we will take a closer look at what happened centuries ago and will try to see how shungite got to where it is now.


      So we should start at the beginning: shungite deposits were formed around 2 billion years ago in 3 large areas: near modern day villages of Tolvuya (called Zazhoginskoe deposit, the largest shungite deposit in the world), Shunga (where it got its name from) and Vozhmozero. The deposits were formed from organic sediments of ancient marine life. As shungite veins in Shunga are the closest to the surface they were noticed the first by people of Russia, hence the name shungite. Over the years in the Late Medieval times and on shungite people started to note that shungite pieces help them with ailments and springs near shungite deposits pack a health boost and give them extra energy.


      These springs are the subjects of the first legends connected with shungite. It is said that the water from springs in Shunga was given to the mother of Mikhail Romanov, the first Tsar of the House of Romanov. Xenia Romanova, or great nun Martha as she became known later in life, became gravely ill and there was a hard time finding her a cure. At the time, modern day Karelia was a part of the Grand Duchy of Moscow, and when Martha was exiled to Karelia near Tolvuya she started to drink water from the local springs. Later after a period of consuming shungite water, Martha did get better. This became the first evidence of the shungite healing power and drew the attention to the stone for the first time.


      However, shungite was quickly forgotten after that and only resurfaced a hundred years after, during the Great Northern War. Karelia became an important strategic area in the war with Sweden for the Russian Tsar Peter the Great, so he founded a lot of factories and spent a lot of time there. When he became ill from the harsh climate and conditions in Karelia, he was approached by the locals and was offered the water from the shungite springs.  He not only tried it himself, but also offered it to his soldiers, and it was noticed that almost everyone got rid from their respectful ailments in 2-3 weeks’ time. In 1719 he opened the first Russian spa resort on site of the springs and called it Martsialnye Vody (eng. Martial Waters) to commemorate the role of soldiers in creating the spa (Mars being the god of war in Roman pantheon). Peter the Great also urged soldiers to carry pieces of shungite with them in campaigns and drinking shungite water.  It is said that shungite water was one of the reasons the Russian army didn’t suffer from dysentery during hot summer Poltava campaign in 1709, even though in opponent ranks even the Swedish king Charles XII himself was down with the sickness.


     After the war the fame of shungite (which was known back then as the aspidian stone) grew tenfold and spilled over the military ranks. Its properties became well-known far from just the North and people wanted to experience its properties firsthand. Even though Martsialnye Vody quickly ceased to exist after Peter’s death, the locals continued to practice shungite healing and their practices didn’t died down with later generations. Over a century later the name shungite was given by professor Alexander Aleksandrovich Inostrantsev back in 1885. Professor Inostrantsev wrote the first in-depth scientific work about shungite which later became widely recognized all over Europe and attracted attention towards the stone. His work was called “The newest member of the group of amorphous carbons” which was published in 1877, and it was followed by “More about shungite” in 1886. The attention to shungite grew substantially after these works were published, and 1907 marked the first time the word “shungite” was described in a dictionary, namely in the Encyclopedic Dictionary of Brockhaus and Efron, the major dictionary of the Russian Empire. That solidified shungite in the mass consciousness and along with studies of professor Inostrantsev laid the groundwork for the future generations of researches.


      Later the priorities of Russian society shifted with two World Wars, Civil War and shifts in power, however throughout the 20th century the Karelian Academy of science became the lead authority on shungite, conducting research after research with valuable findings. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the whole world gained access to this marvelous stone. As we mentioned before, it led to the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1996. But it also led to the wide recognition of shungite and its properties around the world, its application in many spheres and industries and it became one of the natural heritages of Karelia.


      Nowadays, everyone in every corner of the world has an access to shungite, and we are happy to help you with that. You can enjoy the powerful healing and protective properties of this magical stone in just a few clicks, something that just wasn’t possible 20 years ago. Buy shungite and enjoy your own piece of the Northern history in your home!

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