Labradorite: Characteristics And Properties
Here we’ll cover Labradorite’s physical and chemical properties as well as its characteristics. Labradorite is a feldspar mineral. It belongs to a series known as the plagioclase.
If you want to explore the properties of crystals in general and labradorite in particular, you have come to the right place. In this article, we will go over this particular crystal.
What Is Labradorite?
The name of this crystal gives us a big clue about its geographical origins. You might have heard of the Canadian province known as Newfoundland and Labrador. That province covers the island of Newfoundland (and some of the smaller islands around it), and a part of the continental mainland known as Labrador.
Labradorite is not only found in Labrador (and, hence its name) but also it has been used and believed to have magical properties by the native people of that part of the world way before the arrival of European settlers.
For hundreds of years (and possibly longer) people have believed that this crystal was a piece of frozen fire created by the northern lights. Although we now know that that is nonsense and fire cannot possibly be frozen, some people still attached certain magical properties to this crystal found in North America.
This stone was first mined by European settlers in Labrador in the 18th century. But First Nations people in the area had been familiar with it for a long time.
As a feldspar mineral, labradorite is found in gabbro, basalt, norite, anorthosite (where is usually an abundant mineral) and in other igneous rocks.
Some kinds of labradorite have a play of green, iridescent blue, red, yellow, and orange colors. That is known as a schiller effect.
Another well-known feature of labradorite is the phenomenon referred to as labradorescence; that is the name that is used to refer to the labradorite displays of color, which are often spectacular.
And that is one of the reasons why many labradorites are often used as gemstones.
What Are the Properties of Labradorite?
As a mineral that belongs to the plagioclase series, labradorite shares a lot of its properties with other plagioclase minerals.
One of those properties is its color: white or gray if reflected in light, usually clear. Its labradorescent colors often include green, orange, yellow, red, and blue.
Another of its properties is its white streak.
Labradorite has a vitreous luster, that can be pearly particularly on the cleavage faces. In terms of diaphaneity, this stone can be from transparent to translucent.
It has a Mohs hardness, like that of plagioclase minerals is between 6 to 6.5. And its cleavage has two directions that intersect at 86 degrees approximately.
Labradorite has a specific gravity between 2.68 and 2.72. And its diagnostic properties are cleavage and hardness. Some specimens of labradorite also show labradorescence and twinning. Labradorite is the only member of the plagioclase series that can show labradorescence, but not all specimens do. Sometimes it can hard to distinguish labradorites that do not show labradorescence from other members of the series. But thanks to different methods, including chemical analysis, x-ray diffraction, gravity determinations, and optical tests, a distinction can be made on pure specimens.
Labradorite belongs to the triclinic crystal system. And its chemical composition is as follows: (Na,Ca)(Al,Si) 4O8 with Na (30-50%) and Ca (70-50%).
Uses of Labradorite
Labradorite is now a sought-after gemstone. What makes it particularly attractive as a gemstone is that many specimens show a unique play of color. Also, the brilliance, hue, and quality are different between specimens, so labradorites tend to display unique appearances.
That unique quality is what it makes labradorite a preferred by many jewelers and designers and why it is not often found in mass-merchant jewelry.
Even labradorites that do not display labradorescence are still used to make gorgeous gemstones because of other optical effects and their beautiful colors.
Labradorite must be handled with great care because it is a lot more likely to get scratched than other gems such as rubies, diamonds, emeralds, and sapphires, and even more than agate and Jasper.
Labradorite can be used as decorative stone because of its gorgeous green and blue shimmering that many people find appealing. But, that is just the most common varieties of labradorite. But other, rarer, kinds have orange, green, or even violent shimmer.