Apatite Gemstone Information and Education
About Apatite - History and Introduction to Gemstones
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 humans and animals 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 Mohs scale of mineral hardness, they remain virtually unknown to most consumers and seldom are they found in jewelry stores. However, because Apatite occurs in such a wide variety of attractive colors and forms, they are a favorite among gemstone collectors. Connoisseurs often seek out rare colors like paraiba-like blue-green, leek-green Apatite known as 'asparagus stone', and deep purple, violet and reddish specimens. There is also a blue variety known as 'moroxite', but these are typically heat-treated for enhanced color.
The word 'Apatite' was derived from a Greek word meaning 'cheat'. The name was given to apatite because of its close resemblence 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.
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 more 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 similar gemstone that resemble the color and form of Apatite. In fact, Apatite acquired its name because it was used 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 color varieties 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 Silimanite 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 Mohs scale and is ideal for jewelry that less prone to wear-and-tear. Jewelry designs 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 wearing 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 comparison.
Gemstone Caring and Cleaning for your Apatite and Gemstone Jewelry 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 steamers and ultrasonic should always be avoided. Apatite is sensitive to acids, so they should not be worn when working with chemicals. Avoid wearing Apatite jewelry when engaging in 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, wrap them in a soft cloth, or place them into a fabric-lined box. Always store Apatite separately from other types of gemstones and gemstone jewelry.
- First Published: August-10-2006
- Last Updated: October-25-2013
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