Related by locale to a popular family retriever, labradorite is named after the Labrador Peninsula in Canada where it was first discovered. A sodium rich plagioclase feldspar, labradorite also occurs in Australia, Madagascar, Russia, Mexico, China, the Scandinavian Peninsula and the United States.
Available in brilliant pastels and deep gold colors, as typified by the exciting fantasy laser cut labradorite pictured, this variety of feldspar produces some stunning gem-quality stones perfect for summer wardrobes. Transparent labradorite should be fine, clear and relatively free from inclusions, displaying shades that vary from an almost lime-yellow color to bright canary yellows and golden tones.
While it appears in orange, yellow, colorless and red, the dark smoke gray material that shows a play of color or “shiller” is the variety most frequently used in bead necklaces, brooches, rings and ornamental objects. Valued for its lustrous metallic reflections that are said to resemble a Brazilian butterfly’s wing, this play of color or shiller is aptly called “labradorescence” in gemological circles and appears as stunning rainbow colored reflections when light strikes the gem in a particular direction.
Mainly caused by the interference of light from lattice distortions, this affect often appears in violet, blue, green, yellow and even orange-reddish tints, although specimens displaying the complete color spectrum are those most highly valued, such as the particularly brightly colored variety found in Finland, which is also known as spectrolite. As the background color is arguably uninteresting, when selecting dark smoke gray labradorite observe the strength and intensity of the labradorescence when the gemstone is viewed from different angles. This may result in different colors being visible or even a range of colors all visible at the same time.
Calling it “firestone” because of its captivating play of color, the Native Indians of Labrador attributed mystical qualities to labradorite, using the powdered gem as a magical potion to cure their ailments. Interestingly, some modern mystics believe that labradorite is a gem that assists the practice of magic, unleashes the power of the imagination and helps to overcome personal limitations.
Although labradorite has not been produced synthetically, the highly distinctive appearance of its dark smoke variety can be confused with larvikite, a potassic feldspar of Norwegian origin. Predominately used in facades and for other building purposes, larvikite is also know as “blue granite” and where necessary, can be distinguished from labradorite by its density.
Ideal for those who like large brightly colored faceted gems or an unusual play of color, labradorite is a relatively obscure semi-precious gem type with prices varying widely according to availability and quality. As with any lesser-known gem variety, individual preference is an important factor when considering its value.