About Labradorite - History and Introduction
Labradorite is a remarkable gemstone named after its original place of discovery in Labrador, Canada. It was first discovered in 1770, on the Isle of Paul, near Nain, which is the northernmost settlement in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has since been found in other places, including Finland, Norway, Madagascar, and Australia. Labradorite is highly sought after for its incredible iridescent properties, often appearing in the lustrous form of blue and green metallic tints. The remarkable optical effect is so strong and unique to labradorite, it was officially termed as "labradorescence" to differentiate it from typical iridescence. When viewed at certain angles, labradorite exhibits such captivating color that has led to Inuit legends stating that the Northern Lights shone down on the shores of Labrador and were captured inside these colorful stones.
As a member of the plagioclase feldspar group, there are a several gemstone varieties of labradorite, including spectrolite, a trade name for a rare variety of labradorite that shows the full spectrum of colors; rainbow moonstone, a trade name for a transparent labradorite that lacks iridescence but exhibits an attractive and intense adularescence; andesine-labradorite, a reddish labradorite color-enhanced through copper-diffusion; and sunstone, an orange to reddish labradorite famed for its aventurescence which results in attractive sparkling glittering effects.
Identifying Labradorite Back to Top
Since there are two main subgroups of feldspar that produce gem-quality material, labradorite can identified by its composition. Labradorite can be easily distinguished by its unique iridescent schiller effect, known as labradorescence. Transparent labradorite that exhibits adularescence, rather than iridescence, are traded as 'rainbow moonstone' rather than as 'labradorite'. Adularescence effects can often result in labradorite being falsely identified as moonstone. However, moonstone is a potassium feldspar and has a lower density and tends to form with monoclinic crystals.
Labradorite; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top
Labradorite was first discovered on the Isle of Paul in Labrador, Canada (Labrador, Newfoundland). It has since been discovered in Australia, Finland, Madagascar, Mexico, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and the United States. Many would agree that some of the most colorful specimens (spectrolite) were mined from the Ylamaa Quarries in Lappeenranta, Finland, but to this day, the most important deposits are sourced from Labrador, Canada, at Nain and Tabor Island.
Buying Labradorite and Determining Labradorite Gemstone Value Back to Top
Labradorite Gemological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemology-related terms.
Labradorite: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Labradorite belongs to the plagioclase family of feldspar gemstones, which are defined by their calcium or sodium compositions. Other feldspar gemstones are composed of potassium, such as moonstone and orthoclase. The plagioclase feldspar gemstone group includes labradorite, spectrolite, rainbow moonstone and andesine-labradorite. Rainbow moonstone is a variety of transparent labradorite that lacks iridescence, but exhibits adularescence. "Madagascar moonstone" is an unofficial trade name for rainbow moonstone mined from Madagascar. Today, most rainbow moonstone is sourced from Sri Lanka and India. However, "true" moonstone is actually a variety of potassium feldspar and is not in the same gemstone family as rainbow moonstone as its name may suggest.
Labradorite Gemstone Mythology, Metaphysical and Alternative Crystal Healing Powers Back to Top
According to an Inuit legend, the Northern Lights are captured in the minerals on the coast of Labrador. This is not surprising considering the magical, iridescent color of labradorite. After its discovery, labradorite became popular with the missionaries. Labradorite is thought to be a magical stone that possesses powerful protective properties and helps its wearer to find their true path in life. It is thought to "bring light" to the otherwise unknown, and thus provide its wearer with insight. Additionally, labradorite is credited with having the ability to bring out the positive in people and calm overactive minds, bringing peace to its wearer. Labradorite is also thought to soothe menstrual problems, aid disorders of the lungs, prevent colds, help with digestion and regulate both metabolism and blood pressure. In traditional Hindu belief systems, labradorite is associated with the throat chakra, or vishuddha, which is the center of purification. The throat chakra is associated with hearing, speech and self-expression. Wearing labradorite is thought to contribute to true and honest expression. Labradorite is said to facilitate communication between the spiritual and physical world, helping its wearer to recall dreams and experiences from past lives. It is therefore thought to help bring out psychic abilities.
Labradorite Gemstone and Jewelry Design Ideas Back to Top
Labradorite is a versatile material that can be cut en cabochon or into fancy shapes. It can also be faceted or drilled and set in silver, gold or other materials. Labradorite is often used to make attractive pendants and rings. It can also be used to create earrings or beaded jewelry, using tumbled stones or spherically cut stones. Depending on the cut and setting, labradorite is suitable for both men and women. Although labradorite is softer than quartz, it is durable and not brittle. In fact, labradorite gemstones from the Victorian era remain lustrous and beautiful; proof of labradorite's durability. Bezel settings can help to protect labradorite from being scratched by harder substances.
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.
Famous Labradorite Gemstones Back to Top
Although famous labradorite gemstones are unknown, there are some historically and culturally interesting pieces of labradorite. One such example is a carved labradorite soldier cameo of unknown age, which is displayed in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. Labradorite was also used as a decorative stone in the 19th century St Isaac's Cathedral in St Petersburg, Russia.
Labradorite Gemstone Jewelry Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Although labradorite has a hardness of 6 - 6.5 on the Mohs scale, which is slightly softer than quartz, it is still considered to be a very durable material. In addition, labradorite is not brittle. To clean your labradorite, simply use soapy water and a soft cloth. Be sure to rinse well to remove soapy residue. As with most gemstones, ultrasonic cleaners and steamers are not recommended. Always remove any jewelry or gemstones before exercising, cleaning or engaging in harsh physical activities such as sports. Labradorite 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 jewelry box.
- First Published: February-11-2014
- Last Updated: March-21-2017
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