Colour: blue, green, colourless, pink, orange, yellow, purple, black
Fracture: conchoidal, splintery, brittle
Crystal system: trigonal
Chemical composition: aluminium oxide, colouring agents – iron, titanium, vanadium, chromium.
Transparency: transparent to opaque
Sapphire – from the Greek word for blue. In ancient times sapphire was considered to be the stone that is now called lapis lazuli. In modern times however sapphire refers to any variety of corundum that is not red (as then it is ruby). The most desired colour is a cornflower blue. Heat treatment is common.
Mined from mainly alluvial deposits it is found in quantity in Australia, Burma and Thailand. It is also found in India, USA, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and Finland. A famous sapphire is the Star of India – a 536 carat cut star sapphire.
Among the most famous sources of sapphire is the island of Sri Lanka, known to history as Ceylon and to fable as Serendib. Gemstones are found in vast plains of alluvial soil, or illum, near Ratnapura; mined by families in small foxholes, and sorted using wicker baskets. This traditional mining method is protected for the income it gives to whole families of artisanal miners.
Sapphire can be confused with benitoite, indicolite, iolite, kyanite, spinel, tanzanite, topaz and zircon. There are many imitations and synthetics available.
Metaphysical practioners call sapphire the wisdom stone with each colour having a specific property; that it can focus the mind and bring serenity; that it can restore balance within the body. Crystal healers believe it can calm overactive systems , regulate the glands, heals the eyes, strengthens veins and alleviates excessive bleeding and that the following colours have more specific properties – Black – protects and centers and imparts confidence ; blue – seeker of spiritual truth, associated with love and purity; green – improving vision and dream recall. Brings loyalty, fidelity and integrity; pink – a fast acting stone that teaches you how to master emotions and acts as a magnet to draw into your life all you need to evolve; star – opens intuition; white – a protective stone removing obstacles to the spiritual path; yellow – attracts wealth to the home, stimulates the intellect and improves focus.
Colour: green, yellowish, brown
Fracture: uneven, splintery
Crystal system: monoclinic microcrystalline
Chemical composition: magnesium hydroxysilicate
Transparency: transparent to opaque
The name serpentine is from the Latin word meaning ‘snake’ and refers to a group of predominately green minerals including bowentieand williamsite. This stone has been used for carving and is often sold as ‘new jade’ or ‘olive jade’ and often has a slightly spotty appearance. It is found in Afghanistan, China, South Africa, Italy, England, New Zealand and the USA. It can be confused with jade, verdit and turquoise.
An interesting gem from the Shattuck copper mine in southern Arizona, USA, this relatively rare gemstone is a copper silicate mineral, first discovered in 1915. A secondary mineral it has replaced, atom for atom, the malachite it has grown on, creating an interesting mix of blue and green patterns. A softer stone at 3.5 hardness, it is best used in earrings or necklaces. Metaphyiscally it is considered a stone of truth and is used as a protective stone.
Crystal system: organic
Chemical composition: calcium carbonateShells come in many shapes, sizes and colours and have been used since ancient times for jewellery and decorative items. Conch and helmet shells may be carved into cameos, pearl oysters, abalones and topsheslls are prized for their mother of pearl shell linings.
Fracture: conchoidal, uneven
Crystal system: cubic, usually found in a massive form.
Chemical composition: chloric sodium aluminium silicate
Transparency: transparent to opaqueNamed for its high sodium content, it is a major constituent of lapis lazuli. Blue stones are the ones generally seen in jewellery. There are usually white veins of calcite present throughout the stones.
It is found in Brazil, Greenland, India, Canada, Namibia, Russia and the USA
Metaphysical healers believe sodalite can unite logic and intuition, encourage objectivity, truth and rational thought and can be used to deepen meditation. Crystal healers believe sodalite can balance the metabolism, rectify calcium deficiencies and to boost the immune system.
Fracture: brittle, splintery, grainy
Crystal system: triclinic, usually found in massive form
Chemical composition: sodium calcium aluminium silicate
Transparency: translucent, opaqueA plagioclase feldspar, it is identifiable by its metallic glitter caused by golden-red platelets of hematite or goethite. It is also known as Aventurine Feldspar.
It is found in India, Canada, Madagascar, Norway, Russia and the USA. It can be confused with aventurine quartz and is imitated by the manmade glass ‘goldstone’. Oregon sunstone was made the official State Gemstone where sunstones occur in Lake and Harney Counties where they are dug from the soil and the underlying lava flows.
Metaphysical practioners believe sunstone to instill a joy for life, good nature and optimism and to enhance a connection to the regenerative power of the sun. Crystal healers believe it helps those people who can’t say ‘no’; that it facilitates self-empowerment, independence and vitality.
Fracture: uneven, brittle
Crystal system: orthorhombic
Chemical composition: calcium aluminium silicate
Colouring agent: vanadiumA gem quality type of zoisite, Tanzanite was first discovered by Portuguese prospector Manuel d’Souza in the Merelani hills of Tanzania in 1967 – near to the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. It was first introduced to the jewellery world by Tiffany & Co, the New York jewellery firm who named it after its country of origin. With the status of mines in doubt due to flooding and the export of rough to the West completely halted as of 2006, this gem is becoming increasingly difficult to find.
Tanzanite is often heated to reduce yellow or brown tints and to enhance the blue colour. It can be confused with amethyst, iolite, sapphire and spinel.
The stone is strongly pleochroic and can appear different colours in different lights.
Although only a ‘new’ stone, metaphysical practioners believe it helps meditation and communication of insights.
See entry under ‘Hawk’s Eye’.
Fracture: conchoidal, uneven
Crystal system: orthorhombic
Chemical composition: fluor containing aluminium silicate. Colouring agents – iron and chromium.
Transparency: transparent to transluscentTopaz – the name is thought to be derived from the island formerly called Topazos (now Zabargad) in the Red Sea, which was an ancient source of peridot. In ancient times topaz generally referred to gemstones that were yellow, golden and sometimes green. Ancient Greek’s prized topaz as it was said to make the wearer invisible in times of emergency.
Topaz gems in nature are usually soft in hue, the most common being yellow with a red tint. Pink topaz is highly sought after as are blue. Natural blue topaz tends to be quite light and most blue topaz today has been treated by irradiation then heating which can produce the darker, brighter blue tones. Other colours are sometimes heat treated. Both heating and irradiation are permanent treatments.
Blue topaz is often separated into descriptors according to hue – sky blue topaz is a light blue, swiss blue topaz is a medium to dark blue, London blue topaz is a deep blue-green and maxi-blue topaz is a deep/intense sky blue.
Mystic topaz has been coated with a thin layer of titanium oxide vapour, however this treatment is not completely permanent. An emerald green topaz is also becoming popular which is clear topaz treated by diffusion. This is supposed to be a more durable treatment.
Topaz is found in Brazil, Afghanistan, Australia, Burma, China, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, Namibia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, USA, UK.
The world’s largest cut topaz is the “American Topaz,” with a total weight of 22,892.50 carats (5,785 kg). Originating in Brazil and cut in Germany, the giant sphere resides at the Smithsonian in the USA. The “Braganza diamond” which is set in the Portuguese Crown Jewels, is actually a 1,680 carat colorless (white) topaz.
Topaz can be confused with apatite, aquamarine, brazilianite, chrysoberyl, citrine, danburite, diamond, beryl, citrine, fluorite, kunzite, orthoclase, phenakite, ruby, sapphire, spinel, tourmaline and zircon. Synthetic stones are available.
Metaphysical practioners believe topaz is an empathetic and vibrant stone, directing energy where it most needed; that it is soothing, healing, stimulating it recharges, motivates and cuts through doubt and uncertainty. Traditionally it was known as a stone of good fortune and love and it mentally aided problem solving, particularly for creative people. Crystal healers believed it could aid digestion, fortify the nerves and stimulate the metabolism. Specifically, crystal healers believed the following colours had these specific properties: Blue topaz attuned to truth and wisdom; clear topaz helped you to become aware of the impact of your thoughts and deeds; golden topaz recharged you spiritually and physically; pink topaz was a stone of hope.
Fracture: uneven, conchoidal, brittle
Crystal system: trigonal
Chemical composition: varies depending on type/colour
Transparency: transparent to opaqueTourmaline – is derived from the Sinhalese (Sri Lankan) word “tura mali,” meaning “stone of mixed colors.” An ancient Egyptian legend explained the array of colors found in tourmaline: “On its long journey from the middle of the earth up toward the sun, the tourmaline traveled along a rainbow collecting all of its colors.”
Tourmaline owes its rainbow colors to trace impurities such as chromium, iron, lithium, manganese, schorl and vanadium. There are many names for the different tourmaline colours although the most common are: Indicolite – blue; rubellite – pink to red; schorl- black; verdelite and uvite – green; watermelon – a transition of green to pink.
Tourmaline can become electrically charged and therefore can attract dust and will need to be cleaned regularly.
Found in Brazil, Afghanistan, Australia, Burma, India, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, USA, Zaire, Italy and Switzerland. Tourmaline from the Pala district of San Diego (USA) have been famed since the early 1900s and vast numbers were sent to the Empress of China who doted on them. Some tourmaline is heat treated.
Due to the wide colour range tourmaline can be confused with many other gems. Particular confusion may arrive with amethyst, andalusite, chrysoberyl, citrine, demantoid, emerald, hiddenite, idocrase, kunzite, morganite, peridot, prasiolite, tub, topaz and zircon. Synthetics are uncommon.
Metaphysical practioners believe that tourmaline promotes self confidence, attracts inspiration, compassion, tolerance and prosperity. Crystal healers believe that it will release tension, enhance energy and remove blockages and that the following specific colours had these properties – schorl protects against negative energies; indicolite encourages ethics and tolerance and dissolves sadness and blocked feelings; dravide (brown) encourages community spirit and social commitment; verdelite nutures, brings balance and joy in life; pink attracts love; watermelon – instills patience and tact and encourages regeneration; rubellite offers stamina and endurance; yellow enhances personal power.
Traditionally tourmaline was a shamanic stone that brought protection during rituals. Used for scrying and for pointing to the culprit or cause and for indicating the best direction in which to go.
Fracture: uneven, conchoidal
Crystal system: triclinic but mostly found in a massive form
Chemical composition: hydrated copper aluminium phosphate
Transparency: opaque, translucent
Colouring agents: iron and copperThe name turquoise reflects on its history, as the stone was brought to Europe via Turkey and was therefore given the name meaning ‘Turkish stone’. A very popular stone in ancient Egypt their mines were already worked out by 2000BC.
It is rare to find a pure blue colour with turquoise, it is usually found with brown, dark gray or black veins of other minerals or the host rock. It is sometimes found with malachite or chrysocolla.
A somewhat porous stone, turquoise can discolour when subjected to light, oils, cosmetics, detergents and even some water. Turquoise is often treated with resin to improve colour and harden the survace. Colouring agents are also used at times. Chalk turquoise refers to a lower grade turquoise that is treated with both colour and resin to give the look of a high grade turquoise without the price.
Turquoise is found in Iran, Afghanistan, Argentina, Tibet, Russia, Chile, England, Turkestan, Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Mexico, Tanzania and the USA. It is often imitated by dyed howlite, glass and enamel.
In ancient times turquoise was believed to warn the wearer of danger, illness or infedility by changing colour and was often used in amulets. It unites the earth and sky, bringing together male and female energies. Metaphysical healers believe turquoise can heal, purify and protect.
Chemical composition: an aggregrate of quartz, feldspar and epidote
Transparency: opaqueNamed after the place of discovery in South Carolina in the USA, unakite is a rock that combines the minerals of quartz, feldspar and epidote. It is also found in South Africa.
Metaphysical healers believe unakite to be a stone of vision that can bring calm to environments and is useful in recovering from major illnesses.
Fracture: conchoidal, brittle
Crystal system: orthorhombic often found in massive form.
Chemical composition: hydrous aluminium phosphate
Transparency: transluscent to opaqueNamed after the Latin word variscia after the old name for Vogtland, in Germany. It is often interspersed with brown matrix and can also be found in the USA. Variscite can be confused with chysocolla, chyrsoprase, jade and turquoise.
Metaphysical practioners believe variscite to be a stone of encouragement and hope; doing away with façades it lets you show your true self ; that it brings calm and peace and can assist sleep and clear perception. Crystal healers believe it to be beneficial for the nervous system, veins and skin