About Labradorite - History and Introduction
Labradorite is a gemstone that was named after Labrador in Canada, where it was found on the Isle of Paul, near Nain in 1770. It has since been found in other places, including Finland, Madagascar, and Australia. After its discovery, labradorite became popular with the missionaries. Labradorite is a plagioclase feldspar which shows adularescence (a white or bluish light seen when turned). This optical effect is so unique to labradorite that it has been termed "labradorescence". It is the result of diffraction of light in the layers of rock. When viewed at certain angles, labradorite exhibits such captivating colour that has led to Inuit legends stating that the Northern Lights shone down on the shores of Labrador and were captured inside these colourful stones. The most highly valued labradorite is material that shows the full spectrum of colour in its labradorescence. Labradorite that does not exhibit labradorescence can still make beautiful gemstones because of aventurescence, which is a glitter caused by diffraction of light from mineral platelets.
There are three further types of labradorite; spectrolite, andesine-labradorite and rainbow moonstone (which is sometimes referred to by the trade name, "Madagascar moonstone"). As the trade name indicates, rainbow moonstone comes from Madagascar and it has an intense blue schiller. Spectrolite is a rare labradorite from Finland. It is known for displaying a beautiful spectral play of colour, hence the name, "spectrolite". Andesine-labradorite is created by enhancing the colour of labradorite.
Identifying Labradorite Back to Top
Labradorite can be identified by its labradorescence, or schiller effect iridescence. This means that it exhibits a brilliant play of colour, often appearing as a blue or green sheen, or as a whole spectrum of colours, known as labradorescence, which is more highly valued. This phenomenon is caused by the diffraction of light in the layers of rock. Labradorite can also show adularescence, which is a white or bluish light seen when the stone is turned. This may lead labradorite to be falsely identified as moonstone. However, true moonstone has a lower density and monoclinic crystals.
Labradorite; Origin and Gemstone Sources Back to Top
Labradorite is found in Canada (Labrador, Newfoundland), Australia, Madagascar, Mexico, Norway, Russia and the USA.
Buying Labradorite and Determining Labradorite Gemstone Value Back to Top
Labradorite Gemmological Properties: Back to Top
Please refer to our Gemstone Glossary for details of gemmology-related terms.
Labradorite: Related or Similar Gemstones Back to Top
Since labradorite is a feldspar, it is related to the feldspar group. Of the feldspar group, labradorite is closest related to the plagioclases, due to their calcium and sodium components. The other plagioclase feldspars are albite, oligoclase, andesine-labradorite, bytownite and anorthite. The plagioclase feldspars are minerals that constitute an important component of almost every igneous rock, which makes up a great deal of the Earth's crust. Albite has a higher double refraction than labradorite, whilst oligoclase has a lower double refraction than labradorite. Andesine has a lower refractive index than labradorite. Bytownite is typically colourless, white, grey or pale yellow whereas labradorite is usually darker colours. Anorthite is transparent with a higher refractive index than labradorite. Labradorite is sometimes called "rainbow moonstone" (or by its trade name; "Madagascar moonstone") due to its adularescence, but true moonstone is a potassium orthoclase feldspar with a lower density and monoclinic crystals. Rainbow moonstone, as the trade name indicates, comes from Madagascar. It is an almost transparent oligoclase material (plagioclase), with a strong blue metallic lustre. Rainbow moonstone is not a true moonstone; true moonstone is comprised of potassium orthoclase feldspar, but it is closely related to moonstone.
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 colour of labradorite. 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 centre 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 Jewellery 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 jewellery, 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 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 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 Jewellery Care and Cleaning Back to Top
Although labradorite has a hardness of 6 - 6.5 on the Mohs scale, which is softer than quartz, it is a durable material. This is thought to be because 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 jewellery 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 jewellery box.
- First Published: February-11-2014
- Last Updated: March-21-2017
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