The Crystal Aragonite Rings of Karlovy Vary, Bohemia

Aragonite is a naturally occurring, crystal formation of calcium carbonate. It is formed through biological and physical processes, including precipitation in freshwater and marine environments.

Aragonite forms naturally in most mollusk shells; in some mollusks, the entire shell is aragonite. Aragonite also forms in the ocean and in caves. It may form as columns or fibrously, and occasionally in striking branched stalactite forms known as “flowers of iron,” because of the mineral’s association with the iron mines of the medieval Duchy of Carinthia in Austria.

Aragonite has been shown to successfully remove pollutants including zinc, cobalt, and lead from contaminated wastewaters. It is considered essential for the replication of reef conditions in aquariums. Aragonite likewise provides the materials necessary for much sea life and keeps the pH of water close to its natural level, which helps prevent the dissolution of biogenic calcium carbonate.

In the United States, aragonite stalactites and “cave flowers” can be observed in Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico) and other cave systems. Most of the topography of the Bahama Banks is composed of aragonite sand material.


House of Whitley’s spectacular aragonite rings originated in Karlovy Vary, a spa town located in the modern Czech Republic, situated at the confluence of the rivers Ohře and Teplá, about 80 miles west of Prague. Karlovy Vary (German: Karlsbad, “Karl’s Baths,” also the name of the New Mexico caverns) is named after Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV, who founded the city. Around 1350, Charles IV established a spa on the site of a spring he lauded for its healing power; the Emperor also visited Karlovy Vary in 1370, 1374, and 1376.

Beneath the medieval streets of the acclaimed thermal spa, the passing years produced a natural phenomenon that would render one of the world’s most beautiful and celebrated crystal formations. The hot spring contained an elevated level of carbonate content which included a vast amount of aragonite. With the passage of decades, the chemical reaction within the city’s water pipes facilitated the growth of crystals.

The intricate layers of remarkable color and patterns resulted from the aragonite reacting with impurities in the flowing water, filling the pipe space with beautiful carbonate crystals (and slowing the flow of water) while creating a magnificent series of concentric rings that are fascinating to behold.

When the water pipes were replaced, the spectacular crystal formations were preserved within thinly sliced sections of the iron pipes and brought to the collection of the House of Whitley. These natural formations are eye-catching centerpieces for a living or workspace, with the rich and vibrant colors evoking timelessness and history in the décor.