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Sphene Gemstone Information

About Sphene - History and Introduction

Sphene is a very rare brilliant yellowish-green, green, orange or brown gemstone with a high lustre, also known as "titanite" due to its titanium content. The name "sphene" comes from the Greek word, "sphen", meaning "wedge", which alludes to the formation of its crystals. Due to its strong dispersion, when brilliant-cut, sphene can exhibit a fire similar to that of diamond.

Sphene has been known since 1787 and was named according to its titanium content in 1795 by Martin Klaproth. In 1801, it was given the name "sphene" by French mineralogist, Rene Just Hauy. In 1982, the International Mineralogical Association Commission on New Minerals and Mineral Names (CNMMN) decided to use the name "titanite" rather than "sphene". However, both "sphene" and "titanite" continue to be recognized in mineralogy circles, and sphene is the most frequently used gemmology term.

Sphene Gemstone
Sphene Gemstone
Click to enlarge image
Identifying Sphene Back to Top

Sphene can be identified by its high lustre, a refractive index that is typically over the limit of standard refractometers and intense fire, caused by a high dispersion. Sphene has a similar refractive index to zircon, but can be distinguished from zircon by its Mohs hardness score of 5 to 5.5, whereas zircon has a Mohs hardness of 6.5 to 7.5.

Sphene; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top

Sphene deposits are found in Brazil, Burma (Myanmar), India, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico, Austria, Sri Lanka (Ceylon) and the USA.

Buying Sphene and Determining Sphene Gemstone Value Back to Top

Sphene Colour

Sphene can occur yellow, brown, green or reddish and various shades in between, such as cognac colour. Intense green sphene is also known as "chrome sphene", due to the colour agent being chromium. "Chrome sphene" and yellowish-green sphene are the most desirable colours. Reddish sphene gets its colour from manganese impurities and is sometimes referred to as "greenovite".

Sphene Clarity and Lustre

Sphene is rarely free from inclusions and eye clean stones are rare. Gemstones in sizes over 5 carats are also rare and are highly valued. Sphene has an adamantine lustre, which combined with its high dispersion, makes it an attractive gemstone.

Sphene Cut and Shape

Sphene is cut in a variety of faceted shapes that show off its high dispersion and adamantine lustre. Sphene can be seen in shapes such as octagons, trillions, squares, rounds and fancier shapes, such as ovals, pears and cushions. Translucent to opaque stones are often cut en cabochon. Sphene can present a challenge to lapidarists, due to its brittle tenacity and softness, but is worth the effort, since when faceted and polished it yields stunning results.

Sphene Treatment

Sphene is not generally treated or enhanced, though the colour can be changed to red or orange by heating. However, most sphene gemstones are untreated and naturally orange and reddish sphene is available.

Sphene Gemmological Properties: Back to Top
Chemical Formula: CaTiSiO5 Calcium titanium silicate
Crystal Structure: Monoclinic; platy
Colour: Yellow, brown, green, reddish
Hardness: 5 to 5.5 on the Mohs scale
Refractive Index: 1.843 to 2.110
Density: 3.52 to 3.54
Cleavage: Good
Transparency: Transparent to opaque
Double Refraction or Birefringence: 0.100 to 0.192
Lustre: Adamantine
Fluorescence: None

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemmology-related terms.

Sphene: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Scapolite Gemstone
Scapolite

Sphene is known to occur with scapolite, apatite and quartz. However, sphene can be distinguished by its higher refractive index. Sphene also occurs with zircon, which has a similar high refractive index. Sphene has a similar chemical structure to tilasite, malayaite and fersmantite. Other gemstones that can be confused for sphene are chrysoberyl, dravite, golden beryl, scheelite, topaz, zircon and idocrase.

Sphene Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top

Sphene is said to be a calming and soothing stone that protects its wearer from negative energy. Additionally, sphene is thought to aid clear thinking and creativity. In traditional Hindu belief systems, sphene is associated with the Ajna chakra; also known as the third eye, or brow chakra, which is related to the mind and previous lives. Physically, sphene is thought to help alleviate muscle strain, fever and tissue inflammation.

Disclaimer: Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers and Properties are not to be taken as confirmed advice. Traditional, Ceremonial and Mythological Gemstone Lore is collected from various resources and does not represent the sole opinion of SETT Co., Ltd. This information is not to replace the advice of your doctor. Should you have any medical conditions, please see a licensed medical practitioner. GemSelect does not guarantee any claims or statements of healing or astrological birthstone powers and cannot be held liable under any circumstances.
Sphene Gemstone and Jewellery Design Ideas Back to Top

Sphene's high refractive index, dispersion and lustre make it a stunning gemstone. However, it is a rare gemstone that is not often seen in jewellery. Moreover, due to sphene's lack of hardness, it is not recommended to be worn daily in rings or jewellery that is likely to be exposed to general wear and tear. Sphene is best used for earrings and pendants, which would not be at risk of damage as much as rings or bracelets. If sphene is fashioned into a ring or bracelet, protected settings such as bezel settings are best. Sphene gemstones make beautiful earrings, pendants and brooches.

Note: Buy coloured gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Coloured stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.

Famous Sphene Gemstones Back to Top

American TV personality, Kristin dos Santos wore a Madagascan sphene ring by Kat Florence to the 2014 Golden Globes.

In 2013, the Pimco Foundation Gallery in Southern California was host to a "Jewels of the Connoisseur" exhibition that featured rare gemstones, including a green sphene butterfly by master lapidarist, Buzz Gray and jewellery designer, Bernadine Johnston. Also faceted by Buzz Gray is an incredible 43.52 carat intense green sphene gemstone, displayed at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in the USA.

Sphene Gemstone Jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top

How to clean your gemstonesSphene lacks hardness, so it should be cared for in order to prevent damage. Since household dust contains quartz, which has a Mohs scale hardness of 7, simply wiping dust from a sphene gemstone could cause scratches. The best way to clean sphene gemstones is by using soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. Do not expose sphene to household chemicals, acid or excessive heat. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewellery or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sports. Sphene can be easily scratched by harder substances, so it should be stored away from other gemstones. It is best to wrap gemstones in soft cloth or place them inside a fabric-lined jewellery box.

  • First Published: July-03-2007
  • Last Updated: May-29-2014
  • © 2005-2014 GemSelect.com all rights reserved.
    Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of GemSelect.com (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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