Variscite Gemstone Information
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About Variscite - History and Introduction
Variscite is considered to be one of the rarer and lesser-known collector's gemstones available today. Its appearance often causes it to be confused with turquoise, but variscite's color tends to be greener rather than blue. In some cases, materials may be marketed as 'variquoise', a name which combines 'turquoise' with 'variscite'. It is a relatively rare hydrated aluminum phosphate mineral, and gem-quality deposits and occurrences are considerably rare; only the highest quality material is used for gemstones and ornate carvings. Variscite takes an excellent polish, often better than that of turquoise. It is most famous for its different shades of green caused by traces of chromium, although its colors can range from light bluish green to medium and dark green and, very occasionally, red. Variscite is sometimes traded as 'utahlite', a trade name given in reference to Utah, the site of the USA's famed variscite deposits. Utahlite is often cut and polished into smooth slabs and halved nodules.
Variscite is named after 'Variscia', the historical name of the Vogtland district in Saxony, Germany. It was first discovered and described in 1837, when it was found in massive fine-grained aggregate form; crystals are extremely rare. Variscite is an end-member of the isomorphic row of variscite-strengite series of minerals. Like the garnet and feldspar groups, variscite-strengite minerals have an identical crystalline structure, but exhibit slightly varying composition. Owing to variscite's unique mode of occurrence, it is often formed and associated with other phosphate minerals, resulting in interesting veining, splotches and other coloring habits. Although all variscite is valued by collectors, emerald-green variscite from Utah and the black spider-webbed variscite from Nevada are among the most desirable gemmy materials.
Identifying Variscite Back to Top
Variscite is a hydrated aluminum phosphate. It has a hardness rating of 4.5 on the Mohs scale, which makes it slightly softer than turquoise. It has a density of 2.42 to 2.58 and a refractive index of 1.563 to 1.594. Variscite is typically opaque with a vitreous to waxy luster. Some rare materials are slightly translucent around the edges. Variscite can often be distinguished by its splintery fracture, brittle tenacity and its striking colors and patterns. Variscite is usually greener than turquoise. In addition, gemologists can also easily identify variscite from turquoise by the presence of copper; turquoise contains copper, whereas variscite does not. When compared to gemstones with a similar appearance, variscite is more vitreous of luster than chrysocolla and it is considerably softer too.
Variscite; Origin and Sources Back to Top
Variscite is known to occur in various locations around the world. It normally occurs as a secondary mineral in brecciated sandstone and hydrothermal deposits. It is normally found as rounded, coarse aggregate masses within cavity fillings, nodules and crusts; it is rarely found in crystal form. Today, the most significant variscite deposits come from Utah, USA, which is why variscite is sometimes referred to as 'utahlite'. Other notable variscite sources include Arkansas and Nevada (USA), Australia (Queensland), Germany, France, Poland, Russia, Spain, Sweden and Brazil.
Buying Variscite and Determining Variscite Value Back to Top
Variscite Gemological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.
Variscite: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Variscite is an end-member of the variscite-strengite series of minerals. Variscite is aluminum-rich, while strengite is the iron-rich form. Although they are very similar in composition, strengite and variscite differ strongly in color. Strengite is mostly violet or reddish, owing to more iron and less aluminum content. Variscite is often found in association with other phosphate minerals such as apatite and crandallite. In Southern Australia, variscite can be found together with turquoise.
'utahlite' or 'utahlite matrix' are popular synonyms used as trade names for variscite from Utah. Other misleading trade names, which are usually region or locality-based, include 'Utah turquoise', 'Nevada turquoise', 'Australian turquoise', 'Australian nephrite' and 'Australian jade'. Variscite may also be found intergrown with chalcedony or quartz; these special stones are referred to in the trade as 'Amatrix' gemstones, short for 'American matrix'.
Variscite Mythology, Metaphysical and Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top
Variscite is a lesser-known gemstone and although it rarely occurs in crystals, its aggregate form is still widely used throughout the world of metaphysical and crystal healing. As a green gemstone, it is a strong grounding stone and green gemstones are often used for gaining wealth and improving the intellect. The power of variscite is thought be able to help most brain-related functions, such as learning, reasoning and logic or common sense. It is believed to be an excellent stone for relieving stress and anxiety. Variscite is thought to enhance feelings of joy, peace and harmony for those who carry or wear it as jewelry.
Although it is not an official modern birthstone, Variscite is one of the astrological birthstones for those born under the signs of Gemini, Scorpio and Taurus. It is especially beneficial for the balancing the energies of the higher heart chakra; it is believed to open the heart and stimulate feelings of compassion and love. Physically, variscite can alleviate pain associated with gout, rheumatism and ulcers. Many alternative crystal healers will use variscite for acid indigestion, abdominal distress, cramps and distension.
Variscite Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas Back to Top
Variscite is not often used for jewelry, since it is relatively unknown to most. It is mainly a collector's gem owing to both its rarity and lack of popularity. Although it is not something you'll find in local jewelry stores, custom jewelry designers are known to create very interesting designs with variscite, especially some of the very unique webbed and patterned variscite from the United States. Any jewelry design used for turquoise would be generally suitable for variscite. It is also considered rather affordable and unlike turquoise, it is available in very large sizes (20 carats or more), making it ideal for bold fashion jewelry. Rings are not recommended, but can be worn with care. Other designs such as pendants, pins, brooches and earrings are considered best and 'safest' for variscite. Variscite is typically cut en cabochon, but it may also be tumbled or cut and drilled into beads. Some materials may be carved into ornamental objects. Beaded and tumbled variscite is typically used for bracelets and necklaces. With their high luster, they can make very attractive jewelry pieces.
Note: Buy colored gemstones by size and not by carat weight. Colored stones vary in size-to-weight ratio. Some stones are larger and others are smaller than diamonds by weight in comparison.
Variscite Gemstone Jewelry Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Variscite is considered to be a fragile gemstone, especially when compared to other more common jewelry gemstones, such as quartz or topaz. It also has a brittle tenacity and a splintery fracture. Additionally, it is one of the softer gemstones, so when wearing variscite, extra care should be taken to prevent scratches, hard knocks or blows which can damage the stone. When cleaning variscite, avoid the use of any harsh chemicals or cleaners. You can wipe down your stones using a soft plain cloth, and plain soapy water. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. Avoid the use of ultrasonic cleaners and heat steamers. Prolonged exposure to strong heat can cause permanent color damage.
Always remove any variscite gems and jewelry before engaging in any harsh physical activities such as cleaning, exercising or playing sports. When storing variscite gemstones, store them separately from other gems and jewelry. It is best to wrap stones in a soft cloth or place them in a fabric-lined jewelry box.
- First Published: May-09-2014
- Last Updated: November-08-2018
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