Apatite is a magnificent gem, occurring in a wide variety of mesmerising colours. The origin of its name lays in ancient Greek mythology (in Greek apatao means ‘deceit’). Indeed this gem has, across time, often ‘deceived’ the human eye; due to its many colours and tonalities, it is often mistaken for a number of other minerals which at a first glance may look similar to it.
It’s a fascinating gem for several reasons. Not only is it rare and precious, admired for its balanced lustre, its fluorescence and the occasional ‘cat eye’ refraction, but it is also a powerful healer thanks to its mineral composition (calcium phosphate), which is the same in bones and teeth of most animals, including humans.
What is Apatite?
Apatite is a phosphate mineral. Characterized by calcium phosphates (which is the same substance bones and teeth are made of), it tends to be a rather common mineral, if not the most commonly found phosphate on the globe. However, gemstone-quality transparent Apatite, such as that found in jewellery stores, is extremely rare and precious.
Characteristics of Apatite
This magnificent precious stone is characterised by a well-balanced lustre, meaning it’s not excessively intense or bright, nor too dark or opaque. This is influenced by different factors such as the gem’s dimensions (though Apatite gemstones weighing more than one carat are extremely rare), clarity and cut.
Typologies of Apatite
In its rough and uncut state Apatite is an allochromatic gemstone: its pigmentation is determined by the presence of other elements in the mineral (such as fluoride or chloride). This will make the gem a variety of shades of green, yellow, blue, purple, pink and at times even red-brown. The intensity of the stone’s colour is determined by the saturation of these other elements within the mineral.
Because of its diverse and lively colouring, this gem is particularly sought after by collectors, who will typically favour rarer hues such as those of the Paraiba blue-green variety from Brazil, or the leek-green (of what is known as the ‘asparagus stone’) or deep purple varieties from Maine (in the United States).
As the origins of its name suggests, Apatite is not easy to identify. Because it is naturally found in such a wide range of colours and tones, it is often mistaken to be other precious stones. However, there are a few characteristics which will help identify Apatite gems:
Hardness: firstly, its medium hardness (it rates 5 on the Mohs scale) sets it apart from other gemstones. It can be carved without the risk of flaking or cracking; this does however also mean it can easily scratch. In fact, scratching it with a knife can be a way of identifying an Apatite gem. As it’s a relatively delicate gemstone, in jewellery it is more commonly carved into pendants for earrings or necklaces rather than for bracelets or rings.
Flourescence: when exposed to shortwave ultraviolet light this mineral will emit its own light (the glowing ceases once the font of light is removed). The fluorescence is not influenced by the original colour of the gem, though its tone may vary according to the wavelengths of the radiation which it is exposed to.
Size: this is simply something to bear in mind, as gems weighing more than one carat are extremely rare.
“Impurities”: finally, nearly imperceptible fragments of other natural elements (such as dust, dirt or traces of stone chippings) are usually found in Apatite gems. These minute “impurities” lay suspended in the transparent stone, and are actually visible to the naked eye, making every Apatite specimen absolutely unique and inimitable.
Where can Apatite be found?
This mesmerizing mineral is widespread in various parts of the planet, among which Myanmar (Burma), India, Kenya, Brasil, Norway, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Mexico, Canada and the United States. Deep blue coloured gems from Brasil are among the most sought after, as well as violet coloured stones from Maine (in the United States), or “neon” blue gems from Madagascar.
A peculiarity which makes this gem even more fascinating and unique is that tests on lunar rock samples (collected in 2010 by astronauts during the Apollo program), revealed traces of Apatite.
Origins of its name
Its name is linked to the ancient myth of Pandora, according to which Apate, daughter of Nyx, represented the goddess/personification of deceit, fraud and trickery (vices thought to be unknown to humans). Apate was freed by Pandora, and released from the infamous vase together with all other ills of the world, forever corrupting mankind.
Processing of Apatite
The medium hardness of this gem allows for great diversity in its processing. Expert polishing and skillful cutting (typically the stone will be cut into oval or round shapes) will turn a rough stone into an exceptionally precious gem.
When cut en cabochon, rare specimens of the gem will display a singular and fascinating optical trait. When exposed to direct light these will produce a glare or refraction similar to a cat’s eye: this very unusual characteristic is known as ‘chatoyancy’ or ‘cat’s eye Apatite’.
Properties of Apatite
This magnificent gem is thought to have powerful curative properties as it is composed of the same matter present in the human body. It is utilised to heal and strengthen bones, teeth, and ligaments and to help the body absorb calcium (it is in fact particularly indicated in the event of a fractures, osteoporosis or arthrosis).
It also provides invaluable psychic and emotional support; Apatite is believed to influence our open mindedness and autonomy, favouring sociability, a sense of trust and optimism. Wearing an Apatite gem will help regenerate our inner energy and reach personal objectives, making us more dynamic and warding off the negativity attracted by confusion, anger and disappointment.
In crystal healing, different varieties of Apatite are associated to different chakras depending on the colour of the gem. These all have specific healing powers and influence the wellbeing of organs associated to each relevant chakra.
Yellow Apatite influence the third chakra (Manipura), located at the navel, just above the solar plexus. This chakra controls our energy balance and the gem acts on internal organs such as the spleen, colon, liver, stomach and the small intestine. This variety of Apatite is associate to the element of Fire.
Green stones are associated to the fourth chakra (Anahata), found in the middle of the chest, around the heart. These gems influence the physical wellbeing of the heart as well as the realm of feelings and emotions. The elements associated to this variety is Wind (Air) and Earth.
Blue gems are associated to the fifth chakra (Vishudda), located around the throat. For this reason, blue stones are believed to specifically favour our sociability and help improve our verbal communication. Furthermore, blue Apatite gems are also believed to have exceptional properties. These are considered to be extraordinarily spiritual stones, closely linked to the aura which allows a connection to past lives and to the supernatural. The element associated to blue Apatite is Wind (Air).
Other uses for Apatite
As already mentioned above, the more precious specimen of Apatite are used to embellish jewellery. However, this is a versatile mineral because of the high concentration of fluorine which makes it sought after for industrial use. It is for example used in the chemical industry to manufacture toothpastes and sprays; in the agricultural industry to produce fertilisers; while in the arms industry it is used in the production of incendiary and explosive devices.