The Violet Gemstone

Jeffrey M. Bertman
Graduate Gemologist

The violet gemstone known as iolite is commonly referred to as “water sapphire” because it bears a resemblance to a faceted blue sapphire. Iolite is also “pleochroic,” meaning that it transmits light differently when viewed from different angles—iolite will appear blue when seen down the length of prismatic crystals but may appear colorless when viewed across. Interestingly, the Vikings put iolite’s pleochroism to good use by using thin slices of the gemstone as a light polarizer. The explorers used the stones much like we use a polaroid filter to make images appear clearer by canceling out haze, mist, and clouds. By observing the sky through iolite, Viking navigators were able to locate the sun’s exact position on overcast days. The blue-violet gemstone iolite has been mined in a remote area of south central India for hundreds of years. In ancient times, farmers often plowed up the beautiful blue gemstone while tilling their fields. It takes the expertise of today’s lapidaries to cut this rare beauty properly to bring out the desired rich color. Are you looking for fine jewelry a cut above the rest? Look no further than our exciting displays at 1402 Hancock Street, Quincy Center. Or reach us at 617-773-3636 or


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