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Apatite Gemstone Information

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About Apatite - History and Introduction

Apatite is a very common mineral, but transparent gemstone-quality apatite is extremely rare. Despite the fact that apatite is the defining mineral for 5 on Mohs scale of hardness, the gemstone remains virtually unknown to most, 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. The name 'apatite' was derived from a Greek word meaning 'cheat'. It was given its name because of its close resemblance to several other gemstones that are often more valuable. As a result, apatite became unfairly labeled as the 'deceitful stone'.

Apatite that exhibits chatoyancy, or a cat's eye effect, is rare and highly sought-after. Cat's eyes are cut en cabochon to bring out their desirable qualities. Chatoyancy is a rare optical phenomenon existing only in a handful of different gem types. It is distinguished by a unique light reflection that resembles the slit eye of a cat. The effect is caused by light reflection from parallel inclusions within a stone, typically rutile needles, fibers or channels. Cat's eye reflections are best viewed in strong and direct light; when the stone is rotated, the cat's eye will appear to glide across the surface.

apatite gemstone
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Identifying Apatite

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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. 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, precious beryl and quartz, a simple scratch test can usually identify and distinguish apatite. Amblygonite, andalusite, brazilianite, sphene and topaz can be easily confused with apatite too.

Apatite Mineralogy

Apatite develops as crystals within granite pegmatites, metamorphic rocks and igneous environments. Apatite crystal can vary in composition based on the level of hydroxide, fluorine or chlorine ions. Apatite-rich rocks are one of the most important sources for phosphorus. Not only is phosphorus required by plants, but it is also an essential chemical commonly used in fertilizers, explosives, fireworks, pesticides, toothpaste, detergents and pharmaceutical products.

Apatite Origin and Gemstone Sources

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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. Madagascar is known to produce a neon blue-green material that is highly desirable. A rare variety is a rich purple apatite from Maine.

Buying Apatite and Determining Apatite Gemstone Value

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Apatite Color and Hue

Connoisseurs often seek out rare colors such as Paraiba-like blue-green apatite or leek-green apatite, which is known as 'asparagus stone'. Top grade blue-green specimens of apatite can rival that of famed Paraiba tourmaline. 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. Other apatite gemstone colors, include colorless, pink, purple and golden yellow. Blue Brazilian stones are second in demand (untreated). Light-green apatite carries the trade name 'asparagus stone'. As for any other gem, color saturation defines the value. 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 Clarity and Luster

When cut and polished, apatite has a vitreous luster. Gem-quality apatite typically occurs transparent, but translucent specimens do exist. Apatite is a 'Type II - Typically Included' gem type. Almost all apatite will have visible inclusions. Eye-clean specimens are very rare, especially in large sizes.

Apatite Cut and Shape

Apatite comes in many different shapes and cuts. Transparent specimens are typically faceted into traditional shapes. Fancy shapes and calibrated sizes are hard to find and command higher prices. Some blue and yellow apatite exhibits chatoyancy and is cut and polished as cat's eye apatite. Specimens with bases parallel to the fibers are most ideal for cabochon cuts.

Apatite Treatment

Apatite gemstones are typically untreated. Blue apatite is known to be heat-treated, but some are unenhanced. Most green specimens are typically untreated. Gemstone suppliers should always disclose treatments and enhancements made to their gemstones for sale.

Apatite Gemological Properties:

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Chemical Formula: Ca5(PO4)3(F,OH,CI) - Basic fluoro- and chloro-calcium
Crystal Structure: Hexagonal, columnar, thick tabular
Color: Colorless, pink, yellow, green, blue, violet
Hardness: 5 on the Mohs scale (defining mineral)
Refractive Index: 1.628 - 1.649
Density: 3.16 - 3.23
Cleavage: Indiscernible, conchoidal fracture
Transparency: Transparent to translucent
Double Refraction / Birefringence: -0.002 to -0.006
Luster: Vitreous
Fluorescence: Yellow apatite: purple to pink

Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details on gemology-related terms.

Apatite: Varieties or Similar Gemstones:

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Cat's eye apatite - click to enlarge image
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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. Like sapphire and tourmaline, apatite is often traded under color varietal names, such as 'blue apatite' or 'golden apatite'.

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.

Most Popular Apatite Varieties and Trade Names:

'Asparagus stone', neon-blue apatite, neon blue-green apatite, violet-purple apatite, green apatite and cat's eye apatite are the most popular and well-known color varieties of apatite.

Lesser-Known Apatite Varieties:

Carbonate apatite (carbonate-rich), collophane apatite, mangan-apatite, sammite-apatite, staffelite-apatite and moroxite apatite are the lesser-known varieties of apatite.

Apatite Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers

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Apatite is a lesser-known gemstone with very little fame, myth or legend attached to it. However, since apatite is actually part of our composition and is produced and used by the human body, it is believed to have some extremely powerful healing abilities. Many gemstone lovers are fascinated by the lore and powers of gemstones, especially those with relation to the human body.

Apatite is thought to be a stone of learning and inspiration. It is a fire element stone that is thought to be helpful for overcoming fear and turning thought into physical manifestations. It is associated with the solar plexus chakra. Apatite is commonly used for its metaphysical ability to encourage extroversion. It is able to draw out negative energy and stimulate creativity. Physically, apatite is said to heal bones, cartilage, teeth and boost calcium absorption. It is also believed to relieve pain caused by arthritis and other joint-related health problems.

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 is not 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.

Apatite Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas

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Apatite has a brittle tenacity and 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

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How to Clean your GemstonesApatite 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: January-03-2019
  • © 2005-2019 all rights reserved.
    Reproduction (text or graphics) without the express written consent of (SETT Company Ltd.) is strictly prohibited.
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