Iolite - A violet-blue gemstone
After the discovery of Tanzanite, many gemologists thought that it could be a cordierite, which is a violet-blue gem, which goes by the name of Iolite. It is a gemstone that is composed of Iron, Magnesium and aluminum. It is the iron and magnesium which give it the distinct violet-blue color.
Now the story behind Iolite gemstones has led it to be nicknamed the gemstone of the Vikings.
A brief look into the history of Iolite
Leif Eriksson, one of the legendary Viking explorers and many others after him, used iolite as a means of navigation. The stone has a unique property that allowed people to set their position to the sun according to the color that it shows. The property that it exhibits is called pleochroism, and Iolites is extreme. When viewed from one side, the stone has a blue color, and when viewed from another, it shows a clear color, just like water, and when viewed from the top, it has a honey-yellow color. That said, you may wonder how this property helped the Vikings navigate the Atlantic Ocean and other huge water masses.
The navigator of the ship would place the stone on a pedestal and then look at it without flinching. The stability of the colors would show if the ship veered off the course. And he would make the necessary directional changes to get them back on course. This was a story of legend, and scientists later put it to the test.
One day, a gemologist, who was also a pilot, decided to take an Iolite stone on one of his flights; he flew light planes and not commercial ones. He placed it on the dashboard of the cockpit of the plane and then took off. Later on, he purposefully changed directions several times, taking note of the color before changing direction, and then tried to get back, simply by using the color of the stone. To his surprise, when he got the same color, and then looked at the plane’s instruments, he realized that he was back on course. He therefore proved that the Vikings were right in using this remarkable stone as a way of navigating the high seas.
Iolite was also the world’s first polarizing filter, which helped the Vikings in getting the position of the sun, to an exact point. When looking through a thinly cut slice of iolite, you can look at the sun, and it filters out the bright haze, and you see the spot without hurting your eyes.
The mining of Iolite
This is a mineral that is found in many parts of the world, but only a few parts produce stones that can be exploited commercially as gemstones. The regions are India, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Brazil and Sri Lanka. The stone is easily pliable and affordable, and this has turned it into a darling for jewelers. It has a striking color and intensity, which makes it ideal for decorative wear. In the past, the Vikings probably found their iolites in Greenland and Norway.
Iolite, the genuinely blue stone
In gemology, it is very hard to find stones which have a rich blue or violet color occurring naturally. Most stones that have this color have been treated using heat. However, the stable pleochroism of iolite ensures that it cannot be changed by any form of treatment. This means that for someone who is looking for a natural blue stone, Iolite is the best choice. The deeper the blue color, the more costly the stone will be. In comparison to other blue stones, iolite is surprisingly affordable. This serves as a double plus to anyone looking for a blue gemstone; you get one that has a naturally-occurring blue color, and at a fraction of the price offered for blue stones that had to be treated to get the same color.
The cutting of Iolite Gemstones
The pleochroic characteristic of iolite also makes the cutting somewhat of a headache for most lapidarists. The stone has to be cut exactly right in order to get it to exhibit the best colors possible. The lapidarist must set the stone, and look at it from several directions so that the three colors are visible, before he begins to cut it. Iolite can be cut into any shape, since the colorful nature is natural and will still shine no matter the cut.
The uses of Iolite Gemstones
Although iolite is generally hard, it is used strictly for jewelry purposes. It does not have any industrial use. The gem is hard bit should be protected from blows, because it cannot compare to diamonds, Moissanite or Zircon, which are almost as hard as diamonds. This is a gemstone that will find its way into rings, pendants, brooches and bracelets, and not into machinery and technological gadgets. Due to its beauty, and stable character, combined with the affordable price, this is a stone that will be part of the jewelry world for a long time to come.
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