Iolite gets its name from its sensational color, using the Greek words ios (violet) and lithos (stone). The stone, often referred to as water sapphire, cordierite or dichroite, was used by the Vikings as a navigational tool and came to be knows as “Vikings’ Compass.” When Viking explorers ventured far into the Atlantic Ocean, away from any coastline that could help them determine position, they were able to navigate safely by looking through iolite lenses that allowed them to find the exact position of the sun.
The property that made iolite so valuable to the Vikings was the gem’s pleochroic property, which is the display of different colors when viewed from different directions (like a modern-day polarized filter used in sunglasses). A cube cut from iolite will look violet-blue from one side, clear as water from the other and honey yellow from the top.
Pleochroism may have been helpful in navigation, but it makes a gem cutter’s job quite difficult. If iolite is not cut from exactly the right direction, its color will not show to its best advantage. When cut properly, the stone is usually a violet blue and can be obtained in sizes up to 5.00 carats relatively easily. Iolite ranks a 7.0-7.5 on the Mohs Scale and is readily available and affordable. Today, it is mined in Brazil, India, Mozambique, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe. The Vikings probably mined iolite from deposits in Norway and Greenland.
Traditionally given as a 21st anniversary gift, iolite is thought to bring harmony to relationships. It is also said to balance the masculine and feminine aspects of one’s own character, bringing harmony and enabling that person to enjoy each moment. Iolite is believed to heighten psychic abilities by aiding and encouraging people along their spiritual paths. It is said to enhance curiosity and achievement, and aid in money management. Iolite is also believed to possess the power to guide lost sailors to the brilliance of the sun, so that they may find their way home.
Kunzite is a rare and expensive semi-precious gemstone that is most famous for its delicately pale, lilac pink color. It is known for its strong pleochroism, meaning it shows lighter and more intense coloring when viewed at different angles. For this reason, the pastel gem is always cut to show the deepest pink color through the top of the gem; the deeper the pink, the more valuable the stone. Because kunzite shows its best color in larger sizes, small sizes tend to be very pale. It needs a certain amount of mass to bring out its color, so stones should weigh at least 10.00ct to be really in the pink. The largest faceted kunzite is an 880.00ct stone that is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
Kunzite is often called the “evening stone” because it should be protected from strong sunlight. Direct sunlight and heat can fade the gem’s color over time. It is an especially fragile stone due to its crystalline structure. In fact, kunzite’s perfect cleavage and splintery fracture make it one of the most difficult gems to cut. It is a relatively hard gemstone, however, with a hardness rating on the Mohs Scale of 6.0-7.0.
First significantly found in Pala, California in 1902, kunzite is named as a tribute to George F. Kunz. He was the legendary gemologist and chief gem buyer for Tiffany & Co at the turn of the century, and was a pioneer of the science now known as gemology. Kunz wrote The Curious Lore of Precious Stones and searched the world for old stories and legends about gems while seeking new varieties and new deposits. Today, most kunzite is mined in Brazil, Afghanistan and Madagascar, and generally found in larger sizes of 10.00ct or more.
Modern folklore says that kunzite promotes emotional support and balance by helping to keep the mind and emotions in sync. It is believed that the gem aids in giving confidence and connection to a higher self. Many believe it reduces depression, mood swings and stress, while easing tension of tight muscles in the neck and shoulders. It is also suggested that kunzite increases the ability to open the heart to love and trust. In fact, the gem is considered a major gemstone of love, good for improving self-love, unconditional love of others and communication in loving relationships. Also known as a communication stone, kunzite is believed to help people better understand and interact with others.