Labradorite

Labradorite

Labradorite is beautifully described in ancient Inuit legends as ‘the aurora borealis entombed in stone’. This stunning gem is treasured for its exquisite display of cold, wintery colours, hues ranging from peacock blue to dark grey to violet to blue-green, and for its labradorescence, by which light, upon entering the gem, is refracted creating a mesmerizing iridescent effect reminiscent of the effect of the Northern Lights. Labradorite gems are used to create gorgeous custom jewellery and eye-catching ornaments. They also make powerful healing stones, protect the aura and bring with them the gift of serendipity and synchronicity, together responsible for making amazing things happen in one’s life.

What is Labradorite?

This is a feldspar mineral, more specifically it belongs to the Plagioclase Feldspar group series. Within such series Labradorite is the intermediary member, with Albite at one end (containing sodium and no calcium) and Anorthite the other end (containing calcium and no sodium). In the sodium/calcium ratio of the structure, Labradorite is defined as a mineral containing  30-50% sodium and 50-70% calcium.

Labradorite is one of the primary minerals found in mafic igneous rocks, such as norite, gabbro, basalt and anorthosite (in this last rock, Labradorite tends to be the prevalent mineral).  This mineral rarely forms in crystals, it most commonly presents itself as a rounded chunky mass of large elongated and grainy fragments. More rarely, crystals can be found embedded in igneous rocks with a low silica content, as rough, tubular and well formed crystals.

Characteristics of Labradorite

Labradorite is a mesmerising gem, which owes its fame and appeal to a beautifully unusual iridescent play of colours. This optical effect, or schiller, is due to miniscule internal fractures (more specifically lamellar intergrowths) inside the crystal, which refract light back and forth. Upon entering the stone, a ray of light is slowed down as it is bounced from one sub-microscopic plane to another and mixes with other rays, exiting as light rays of different wavelengths, hence the changing colours. This schiller is thus not a display of colours reflected from the surface of a specimen, rather it is the effect of light entering the stone. The resulting  iridescence will depend on the orientation and thickness of the layers, as well as the angle of the light source and of the viewer (the effect might even not be seen if the angle is not correct or the layers are of an inadequate dimension). This hypnotic schiller effect described above is known as labradorescence, a term coined by the Danish professor of Mineralogy Ove Balthasar Bøggild in 1924.

As mentioned above, not all specimens of labradorite exhibit labradorescence. Some gems present other optical effects such as aventurescence instead, which gives the gem a metallic-like lustre. This is the result of the presence of highly reflective disc-like inclusions of other minerals within the stone. These act as minute mirrors reflecting light, causing the gem to sparkle and glitter.

Labradorite measures about 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness and has two distinct directions of perfect cleavage which intersect at an angle of approximately 86 degrees. These are important features as they indicate this is a delicate stone and caution must be exercised when using Labradorite as a gemstone. Upon impact it can break in two directions due to the cleavage and it can easily scratch due to its hardness. Other distinguishing characteristics of this stone are its vitreous or pearly lustre and its transparent to translucent diaphaneity.

Where can Labradorite be found?

Labradorite was first discovered by a Moravian missionary in 1770 on Paul’s Island in Labrador (its name sake), north-east Canada. Some of the most prominent deposits are in fact found in Labrador and Newfoundland in Canada, specifically at Nain and Tabor Island.

The most impressive gems come from Madagascar and Finland. Deposits in the latter have produced specimens of exceptional labradorescence, and more specifically the Ylamaa Quarries in Lappeenranta have given light to some of the most colourful of Labradorite gems. Gray to black Labradorite with good labradorescence has been mined in Madagascar, Russia and Ukraine: noteworthy localities are Golovinskoye in Russia, Zhytomyr in Ukraine and the Tulear Province in Madagascar. Good quality gems have been unearthed in Australia (Black Hill), while a limited amount of transparent Labradorite has been found in India. Several mines in the United States (in the state of Oregon, Utah, Texas and New York), have produced red, orange, yellow, green, blue and clear Labradorite with aventurescence thanks to the copper inclusions (but no labradorescence).

Types of Labradorite

Spectrolite is perhaps the most sought after and uncommon variety. It is characterised by vivid labradorescence and a richer spectrum of colours than more common Labradorite (its name derives in fact from ‘spectrum’). The stronger and spectacular pigmentation of this variety is due to the black base colour of feldspar, while other Labradorites tend to have a transparent base colour. Spectrolite was discovered in 1940 by a Finnish geologist who came across the gems by chance in Ylamaa (south-eastern Finland) while constructing the Salpa Line fortifications against tanks in the course of the Second World War. The name ‘Spectrolite’ is sometimes incorrectly used for any Labradorite of similar rich colours regardless of where it was mined, in actual fact the term exclusively designates a Finnish variety of the mineral. After the Second World War, the quarrying of Spectrolite became a significant local industry in the area, and in 1973 the first local workshop began cutting and polishing the gem for jewellery. This variety of Labradorite is frequently cut as a lapidary cabochon to enhance the iridescence, and it is often used as a gemstone in jewels.

A darker variety of the mineral is known as Black Moonstone, while Labradorite with an intense blue schiller from Madagascar is known as Rainbow Moonstone (or Madagascar Moonstone). Mines in Oregon have produced what is known as Oregon Sunstone, a Labradorite variety with no labradorescence but with inclusions of copper in common alignment which create a dazzling aventurescent flash when exposed to light.

Identifying Labradorite

When Labradorite displays its unique iridescence, it can be easily distinguished from other minerals. However, as mentioned above, not all Labradorite gems exhibit labradorescence and can thus be confused with other minerals, especially other members of the plagioclase series. The following tests can be run to help distinguish Labradorite gems from other stones: chemical analysis, optical tests, x-ray diffraction and specific gravity determinations. Furthermore, at present there is no market so far for imitating or producing synthetic Labradorite.

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Labradorite is a truly remarkable healing gem, as the energy within it aids the healing of a number of health issues and helps relieve pain. It is known to be beneficial to the lungs, alleviating the symptoms of cold and also more serious respiratory complaints such as bronchitis. It is a potent aid for digestion, for maintaining healthy eyesight, for lowering blood pressure and more generally for regulating metabolic processes. It is particularly recommended in the case of rheumatisms and arthritis (as it alleviates bone disorders and the stability of joints) and for soothing menstrual aches (as it can help balance hormones). Its action on the brain can stimulate mental acuity and can also help alleviate mental ailments.

This gem is perhaps even more exceptional when it comes to mental and emotional healing. Its uplifting energy helps relieve stress, provides relief from tensions and banishes fears and insecurities. Negative feelings or states of mind are replaced with inspiration, enthusiasm and self confidence. Labradorite can act as a valuable ally in times of turmoil and transformations, as it will enhance your determination and increase instincts and focus. When there is a dilemma or uncertainty it encourages introspection and contemplation, brings clarity of thought, dispels illusion, helps determine the root cause of issues and ultimately helps find serenity. It tempers our negativity, our traits and actions that consume our energy and may produce feelings of shame or depression. It is a powerful aid in detoxifying the effects of addictions and in finding the strength to distance yourself from negative social influences.

Labradorite gems are known to pacify an overactive mind, assisting it in focusing its efforts on imagination, creativity and developing new ideas. It is a powerful tool for bringing back joy and spontaneity into one’s life, awakening a sense of adventure and eliminating the emotional drain of daily routine and excessive responsibility. As it is invaluable in brightening minds and expressing creativity, this stone is recommended for teachers, composers, creative writers and playwrights.

In order to benefit from the healing powers of Labradorite, this can be worn as jewellery, carried as a tumbled touchstone or even placed under a pillow at night. This is a gem whose energy works very rapidly; to enhance the possibilities inherent in the stone it must be kept as high as possible on the body (earrings or hairclips set with this gem are particularly powerful). After use, if the surface of the gem becomes cloudy, simply place the stone in mineral water under direct sunlight for a couple of days, this will regenerate and refresh it.

Esoteric Labradorite

Coincidences, being at the right place at just the right time, seem to occur more often when this stone is being used. It is thought this is because Labradorite gems bring with them the gift of serendipity and synchronicity, which together make amazing things happen in one’s life.

The element of Labradorite is Water, associated to stillness, quiet strength and purification. Enclosed within this element is the energy of the circle of life as it brings the power of rebirth and regeneration. Water is formless yet powerful, and thus embodies the potentialities yet unrealized in our lives; its flowing energy helps balance life as it flows and unfolds.

The blue energy of this mesmerising gem stimulates the fifth chakra (that of the Throat, or Vishudda). This is also known as the voice of the body, and acts as a sort of pressure valve which permits the energy of other chakras to be expressed. If the fifth chakra is out of balance, or even blocked, it will affect the wellbeing of other chakras too; however when it is balanced and open the Throat chakra allows expression of thought and feelings. It thus enables us to more freely communicate our emotions, beliefs and ideas. It is said that Labradorite is so powerful in stimulating expression and contact that it can also prompt telepathic communication abilities.

Among Labradorite’s metaphysical properties is its capacity to protect the aura by clearing it of any negativity, sealing it to prevent energy leakages and by protecting it from the threat of others draining one’s personal energy. This gem can ensure all elemental forces within one’s system are empowered, proportional and balanced. It helps with recharging spent energies and is for this reason incredibly beneficial to healers (such as Reiki practitioners) who use their the power of touch to transmit energy and heal.

A Labradorite amulet acts as a powerful ‘Barrier Filter’, helping us focus and keep undesirable elements and energies out of our lives. It does this by encouraging us to adopt the ‘glass half full’ perspective, and noticing beauty in life, the best in others, and good in humanity. This keeps us focused on the positive and refrains us from being overwhelmed by negative life situations. Because of its structure as a mineral it provides omnidirectional strength, thus protecting us from attacks in any direction, even if simultaneous.

The shimmering blue tones of Labradorite radiate powerful colour energy. In colour therapy theories, its blue tones have been described as ‘the colours of ice and of the slow lightening of the winter sky as the sun climbs higher each day… when winter gives way to spring, and new life is ready to burst forth; blue marks the beginning of life and emotion’. Blue coloured crystals inspire faith, patience, trust and respect, helping us gain the focus to act more responsibly, be more trustworthy and become more sincere. Darker blue Labradorite talismans in particular have the effect of stimulating our honour, humanity and empathy and thus enhance the compassion and respect we have within ourselves. Ultimately, they will encourage us to act charitably and help others. Lighter blue talismans instead influence our abilities to develop patience, reconcile differences and seek forgiveness. They are particularly recommended if we are recovering from an addiction or are attempting to shed destructive patterns, they also help in letting go of the past, freeing ourselves of feelings of guilt and dealing with grief.

Labradorite in legend

Though it is claimed Labradorite was discovered in 1770 by missionaries, it is known this gem was used by the Beothuk peoples in northern Canada much earlier than the late 18th century and had been referenced in older Inuit legends. One of these recounts that long ago the Northern Lights were trapped within the rocks along the Labrador coast in Canada, till an Inuit warrior saw them and decided to set them free. The warrior was able to release most of the lights with just one blow from his spear. Some however stayed imprisoned within the stones in what are hypnotic Labradorite gems.

Labradorite in jewellery

Labradorite is more often used by jewellers and designers to create unique and custom pieces, and is rarely used in mass-merchant type jewellery. This is because it is a difficult stone to cut: it requires careful study of the material and special ability on part of the cutter. It is often cut as a low cabochon as this best exhibits the stone’s labradorescence; the schiller is enhanced when the base of the cabochon is parallel to the minute layers which produce the labradorescent flash. If the gem is cut at any other angle, the schiller will be spoilt.

This was one of the most frequently used gemstones for jewellery in England and France in the 18th century. At the time, this mineral used to be carved into a letter “L” to be used in mottos like “Good Luck” set in jewellery or ornaments. It was also often used in carvings and in representations of items with an iridescent finish, such as the wings of butterflies.

Other uses of Labradorite

Labradorite is often used in the manufacturing of ceramics. It is added to the mixture to improve the durability and strength of artefacts and, as it has a ranged melting point, it functions as a fluxing agent in the production of glassy phases of ceramic.

As mentioned above, Labradorite is often found in anorethosite rock, which is quarried for slabs to be used in the manufacturing of small sculptures, tiles, window sills, countertops, facing stone or other architectural features. The optical effect of polished Labradorite-rich anorethosite rock, referred to as “blue granite” or “Labradorite granite”, is spectacular: Labradorite crystals will reflect mesmerizing colour flashes when struck by sunlight or artificial lighting, giving the item a vivid and multicoloured sparkle.