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Andalusite Gemstones - Pleochroic gemstones


This is a gemstone with a unique name, having been named after a province in Spain, Andalusia, where it was first found. This is one of the most pleochroic gemstones in the world; pleochroism is the characteristic exhibited by some gemstones, whereby they show different colors when viewed from different angles. These stones are tricky to cut, in that the cutter has to know which the best way to cut it is, so that the main color will be seen most of the time; minimizing the pleochroic nature and allowing the main color to be shown. However, when cutting Andalusite, the cutter tries to make sure that as many colors are seen; these are usually orange-brown, gold or yellowish green.

After successful cutting, Andalusite stands out from all other gemstones, with various colors being seen doing a dance on the facets of the gemstone. Fancy shapes are the ones that bring out the best display of colors in Andalusite, and particularly the rectangular cushion cuts. The round cuts also show great blending of the colors.

The fact that Andalusite gemstone shows a great display of colors and is not as expensive as other pleochroic gemstones, led to it being nicknamed the poor man’s alexandrite. However, this did not mean that the gemstone had any resemblance to alexandrite, which often displays a color change that drifts from green to red, when viewed in different lighting setting; natural and artificial. One can say that Andalusite is not really a true color-change gemstone, because more than a single color can be present at the same time.

However, this fact does not affect the appeal of Andalusite in any way, and people love those that exhibit the earthy tones. Andalusite is a truly remarkable gemstone, and it can be bought at a low price. This is a durable gemstone, and the fact that it shows all these amazing colors, makes it a wonderful gemstone to be worn by men. Andalusite is mainly mined in Sri Lanka and Brazil.

A profile of Andalusite gemstones

There is a proverb, which has been passed down several generations, which somehow characterizes several gemstones: If you cannot say anything nice about something, then do not say it at all. Andalusite, unfortunately, is one of these gemstones, and although it is mainly mined in Brazil, it is named after Andalusia, in Spain, which it the earliest source of the gemstone.

This proverb is not true for those who are devoted to Andalusite, but even among these devotees, the good nature of the gemstone is kept platonic and low-key. This is one of the reasons why Andalusite stays below the threshold in the market, and this is mainly due to the quiet nature of its friends. The landmark studies carried out by respected gemologists, ‘Precious Stones’ by Max Bauer and ‘Gems’ by Robert Webster, hardly mention Andalusite except breeze through it briefly.

One can certainly stand up and make a case against Andalusite; first of all, the gemstone has a problem in that it has a lot of brown and grey colors in it. Secondly, the gemstone is very hard to find, in fine qualities, in those that weigh over 5 carats. Irrespective of the size of the gemstone, one can always see some rutile needles within the crystal, and this nature tends to put off people who are looking for clear gemstones. Finally, this is a gemstone that has a very distinct cleavage; this is the characteristic where a gemstone can easily split along one of its planes, and this proses a great problem to cutters when they are working on the gem for making jewelry.

However, one can also argue a good case for the gemstone. When in its finest quality, Andalusite is a gemstone that shows very lovely colors, and costs very little. One collector and gem specialist from Virginia says that you do not look to buy Andalusite in order to find perfection in one color, but you buy the gemstone when you need vivid, contrasting colors.

This is a characteristic that is attributed to the pleochroic nature of the gemstone, which means that when you look at the stone from different sides, you will see different colors. As mentioned before, most cutters try to minimize this effect in other gemstones, in order to have one color being predominant over the others. This can be seen when they cut gemstones such as tanzanite, where they mainly go for the best Kashmir Blue color, and trying their best to minimize the presence of the violet color, which can also be very strong.

In the case of Andalusite, they go for the exact opposite effect. When cutting this gemstone, the lapidarist usually tries to get the best pleochroic exhibition of colors. The gemstone has two basic hues, which are orange brown and yellow green. However, the cutters feel that any one of these colors is not good enough to please the eye, and so they look to maximize the play of color between the two. The two colors are quite vivid and this is what makes the stone to be very attractive. However, most people feel that one has to acquire a unique taste for the gemstone in order to buy it.

‘Phenomenon’ stone: the fallacy

A key factor in the connoisseurship of Andalusite is education, but it has been difficult to educate buyers and collectors about the Andalusite given that it is even difficult to describe what its best colors are. If you can imagine, for a moment, that you are talking about an Andalusite gemstone that has a cushion or emerald cut, which also has a middle area of light, which is quite pronounced; the yellow green, which sometimes looks a bit steely, will quickly give way, on every side, to areas of bronze, or purplish orange-brown, and these colors will be sharply contrasting. The fine specimens that are available usually have this very dramatic change of colors.

Now the problem is that some dealers will tell a buyer to look for a pink hue in the brown color; this is a characteristic that can only be seen in the round cut stones, and not in the fancy shapes; the fancy shapes display a lot of pleochroism. The all-pink, and all-green stones are occasionally cut in fancy shapes, but most of them are only cut in round shapes, which have hazy and cloudy colors, which can only be loved by collectors, and not someone looking for glittery jewelry.

The reason why the grayish green and pinkish brown gemstones are more popular is the fact that the colors that they display closely resemble those that are seen in alexandrite. This is the reason why this gemstone, as mentioned earlier, was given the name of the poor man’s alexandrite. Although this term was given as a compliment, it has had a bad effect in that it has made Andalusite loose its appeal, especially to those who take prestige as an important factor when buying jewelry. At one time, this used to be the most expensive Chrysoberyl, as is mentioned by Max Bauer in his book, ‘Precious Stones, which was published in 1909. Now how did this confusion come about?

Alexandrite is one gemstone that changes color like a traffic light, when viewed under natural and artificial light. When viewed on daylight, this gemstone bring out a very strong green color which has hints of yellow, gray or brown in it. When described at its best, this gemstone can be said to have the bluish green color of a tourmaline, and at its worst, a light olive brownish green. When viewed under artificial light, alexandrite, will exhibit a red color, which has hints of brown or purple. When described at its best, it can be said to have a raspberry red color, and at its worst, a muddy purple brown color. This is the reason that makes the alexandrite bear the term, the ‘Phenomenon’ stone.

On the other hand, Andalusite cannot truly bear the term being a phenomenon stone. The way its changes color is not similar to the way that alexandrite does. The gemstone displays different colors at the same time, due to its string pleochroic nature, and this is only properly displayed through masterful cutting. These colors have been known to resemble those of the alexandrite, though not strongly. For example, the strong raspberry red of the alexandrite is not too far from the purple orange brown color is a fine specimen of Andalusite.

The narrow niche of Andalusite

It is very rare that you get Andalusite in jewelry stores. Those who do stock the gemstone, usually do so, not out of enthusiasm but out of curiosity, and these usually tend to be specialists who have a good knowledge of gemology. Due to this, you find that most buyers will only find Andalusite stocked as loose stones and not mounted jewelry, and the selection is usually very small; you may only find one stone that has been cut. This occurrence is not likely to bring about a lot of enthusiasm in the gemstone.

However, Andalusite is a gemstone that has great beauty, and this fact makes it very good for setting into jewelry. This is a gemstone that has a hardness value of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs scale, and this means that it is quite durable. Since this is not a gemstone that will feature prominently in jewelry stores, it commends a low price, and this means it is affordable to most people, especially in weights below 5 carats. When you look at Andalusite gemstone weighing less that 3 carats, which tend to be very fine, the price is ridiculously low.

The fact that the gemstone is lowly priced, and has a great display of colors, makes it very appealing for the making of unique jewelry pieces. According to one jeweler, who specializes in this gemstone, the high contrast in colors makes it a very noticeable gemstone, and this is the realm reason why anyone would like to buy attractive jewelry in the first place.

Perhaps, the situation whereby very few jewelers stock Andalusite, has led many buyers to believe that the gemstone is very rare, and can only be found in unique pieces. However, the reality is that the gemstone can easily be found, especially in weights that are below 3 carats. Brazil, is the largest and most reliable producer of Andalusite, and those coming from there are in small sizes. There are backup supplies that come from Sri Lanka, making it the leading secondary source of Andalusite. For enterprising jewelers, fining Andalusite from these two sources should not be too difficult.

One West Coast gemstone importer is reported to have said that she gave an Andalusite jewelry piece to a friend, and the reaction was not quite what she expected; her friend was very flattering and excited about the gemstone. For this very reason, she believes that Andalusite is a sleeper gemstone, which would be better received in the gemstone world, if it was marketed properly.

In summary

Andalusite is one of the most pleochroic gemstones in the world, and it is a Spanish treasure having been first discovered in Andalusia, Spain. It is a gemstone that had a transparent to translucent clarity, and it is actually a polymorph of two different gemstone varieties. One is Sillimanite, and the other if the popular Kyanite. The gemstone is chemically similar to these two gemstones, but it has a completely different crystal structure.

Usually, Andalusite is mistaken to be a Smokey Quartz, a Tourmaline or a Chrysoberyl. The gemstone is favored by the fact that it has an attractive and distinct pleochroic nature; this is a characteristic that cutter strive to optimize when they are faceting the gemstone. As is normal, all pleochroic gemstones, such as tanzanite kunzite and Iolite, are cut in a way which minimizes the pleochroic nature and leave one color as the dominant one; usually the most attractive one. But in the case of Andalusite, they go in the opposite direction, striving to make sure that as many colors as possible are shown when the gemstone is cut. This means that they try to bring out a pleasing mix of the golden, yellow, brown and green colors of the gemstone to the fore. When it is cut professionally, Andalusite looks very different from other gemstones, usually displaying color that seem to dance around on the facets of the stone.

Apart from Brazil and Sri Lanka, the two main producers if the gemstone, it also comes from Switzerland, Kenya, Mozambique and Kenya. This is quite a durable gemstone and does well in jewelry that is preferred by men.

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