Apatite Gemstone Information
About Apatite - History and Introduction
Apatite is a group of phosphate minerals which includes hydroxyl-apatite, fluor-apatite and chlor-apatite. Apatite is the most common type of phosphate in the world and it is the main source for phosphorus, a chemical essential to bioenergetics and photosynthesis. Apatite is composed of calcium phosphate, which is the same material that makes up teeth and bones.
Although apatite is a very common mineral, transparent gemstone-quality apatite is extremely rare. Despite apatite being the defining mineral for 5 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness, it remains virtually unknown to most consumers and is seldom found in jewelry stores. However, because apatite occurs in such a wide variety of attractive colors and forms, it is a favorite among gemstone collectors. Connoisseurs often seek out rare colors such as Paraiba-like blue-green apatite or leek-green apatite, which is known as 'asparagus stone'. Deep purple, violet and reddish specimens are also sought after. There is an additional blue variety known as 'moroxite', but this is typically heat-treated to enhance color.
The word 'apatite' was derived from a Greek word meaning 'cheat'. The name was given to apatite because of its close resemblance to several other precious gemstones. As a result of many people being 'cheated', apatite became unfairly labeled as the 'deceitful stone'. Amblygonite, andalusite, brazilianite, precious beryl, sphene, topaz and tourmaline can all be confused with apatite.
Identifying Apatite Back to Top
Apatite can be identified through several testing methods. Fluorescence is one way to distinguish apatite specimens. Apatite is much harder than calcite, and because it is softer than tourmaline, beryl and quartz, a simple scratch test can usually identify and distinguish apatite. Apatite value depends mostly on color saturation. Specimens with high color intensity are considered most valuable. Gem-quality apatite is rarely found in large sizes; stones over one carat can command very high premiums. Apatite is a 'Type II - Typically Included' gem type. Almost all apatite will have visible inclusions. Eye-clean specimens are very rare, especially in larger sizes.
Apatite Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top
Apatite is found in a number of places in the world, including Myanmar (Burma), India, Kenya, Brazil, Norway, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Mexico, Canada and the United States.
Buying Apatite and Determining Apatite Gemstone Value Back to Top
Apatite Gemological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details on gemology-related terms.
Apatite: Varieties or Similar Gemstones: Back to Top
Apatite is one of the lesser-known gem types. However, there are many gemstones that have a similar color and form to apatite. In fact, apatite acquired its name because it was said to imitate more expensive stones, such as precious beryl, tourmaline, sphene and topaz.
Apatite also comes in a very rare, but popular cat's eye cabochon. Most are found with yellowish, green and golden color, but there are many other colors available. As with faceted apatite, there are many cabochon stones that can be confused with cat's eye apatite, including chrysoberyl cat's eye, quartz cat's eye, tourmaline cat's eye and sillimanite cat's eye.
Apatite Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas Back to Top
Apatite has a brittle tenacity. Although tooth enamel is the hardest material in the human body, apatite is not especially hard compared to other types of gemstones used for jewelry. It has a hardness rating of 5 on the Mohs scale and is ideal for jewelry that is less prone to wear and tear. Jewelry applications such as earrings, pendants, pins, cuff-links and tie-tacks are generally safe. Apatite can be used in ring designs, but it should be limited to occasional wear and protective-style settings.
Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary with size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamond by weight in comparison.
Apatite Gemstone and Jewelry Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Apatite gemstones are rather fragile compared to most gemstones. Care for apatite should be similar to that of precious opal. Apatite is sensitive to heat and shock, so the use of steamers and ultrasonic cleaners should always be avoided. Apatite is sensitive to acid, so it should not be worn when working with chemicals. Avoid wearing apatite jewelry when engaging in vigorous physical activity, such as exercise or sports, or when doing household chores.
Since it is considerably softer than quartz, simply wiping off dust can eventually cause apatite to lose its polish and develop surface scratches. When storing apatite gemstones, wrap them in a soft cloth, or place them into a fabric-lined box. Always store apatite separately from other types of gemstone and gemstone jewelry.
- First Published: August-10-2006
- Last Updated: May-16-2014
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