Gemstones: Labradorite's earthy essence
Labradorite is a feldspar, part of the mineral class that includes moonstone, sunstone and amazonite. All are appealing, but today's windows show off the flashing, mysterious charm of labradorite, which was named for the area where it was I have always thought it should have a sexier name, maybe shimmerstone? But alas, geologists are not often marketers.
It's a vitreous stone; the glassy surface, though, is misleading, for high-grade labradorite shows flashes of colour (iridescent blues, greens, red or orange, purples) coming from not just the surface, but the depths, like a small light show. (Gemologists use the technical term, labradoresence or shiller effect.)
The Inuit believed that the Northern Lights were captured in the stone. Originally found in Labrador (which, with Newfoundland, forms a province of Canada), gem labradorite also comes from Norway, Finland, Russia, Sri Lanka and Madagascar. "Rainbow moonstone" is actually labradorite; spectrolite is a colourful, premium variety from Finland.
In today's windows, a look at an often overlooked mineral. Though the wildly iridescent multi-coloured material is prized, the subtler grey-to-blue stones are also very beautiful.
When the stone is treated to truly artful setting, it easily accepts the upgrade. Here's a plush windowful:
Left, detail: Nak Armstrong Small Scallop rivière necklace; 6mm half-moon labradorite set in oxidised silver. Price, US 950. The quality of the material and unusually-cut stones make the piece sing.
Top right: Labradorite scarab, diamond and 14k gold necklace by Lito; price $US 1, 690 at Netaporter
Bottom right: Labradorite petal earrings by Kothari Elements, set in 18k gold. Price, $US 715 at Twistonline
Labradorite is a fabulous choice for what I call Relaxed Real jewellery, pieces made with noble metals, and even handmade, for $200 or less. For any piece, look for a lively stone.
Not all labradorite flashes colours, some specimens are more discreet but still-fascinating layers of grey, brown and gold. I'd spend a few hundred on a well-made labradorite piece rather than the super-trendy "raw" (uncut and unpolished) dun-coloured diamonds that cost many times the price—and look like a piece of quartz retrieved from a driveway.
Rings need a setting that protects the edges, because labradorite is not very hard, and any piece should be stored in a box or bag; the minute fissures that let in the light to create that colour play can cleave when the piece is thumped or dropped.
Clockwise from upper left:
Earrings with that green-blue flash. Worth a moment to click on NAMATAdesigns' video to see how a well-cut and polished lab delivers such presence. The acorns on 14k gold-filled wires hang 1 inch; the stones are about 12mm x 8mm. Price, $CDN 193.
Earrings of 13mm labradorite set in a graceful silver setting, from Etsy seller UniqueToMeDesign; price, $CDN 53.
Labradorite ring, size 9, from Cranky Crow Studio on Etsy; price, $CDN 56
A simple pair of teardrop studs with lively labradorite and an interesting teardrop shape; from Earth and Elm on Etsy; price $CDN 18. These have surgical steel posts, ideal for those with allergies to silver or gold.
Yes, I'm getting pearls in here! The inherent earthiness of labradorite mixes wonderfully with pearls, resulting in just-enough colour and texture. I especially like the grey labs with white pearls, and the blue-tinged type with grey freshwaters or Tahitians.
Top, detail: Freshwater pearls on labradorite beads; sterling silver chain from Joseph Jewelers; price, $US 115. Here's an idea to lift for a reno for a strand of which only some pearls survived years of hairspray or perfume. Select seven or nine rescue pearls and mix with small gemstone beads.
Bottom: Milk Velvet Pearls' baroque grey and white pearl stretch bracelet shows off a big chunk of faceted labradorite. S/O on the site but since pieces can be ordered, inquire if interested, Price, $US 97.
Because flashy iridescence is commands a price similar to that of good opals, some labradorite is enhanced with dye. Go here to see some examples.
In short, if a labradorite looks too wildly and consistently colourful, but the price is only in the double digits, be suspicious.
Give "mystic labradorite" a miss. It's a coating applied to the stone to make a shimmery surface, similar to "mystic topaz". The coating will chip and wear off. The material should properly be called "mystic coated labradorite" and clearly disclosed.
The spectrolite variety, though, will show strong colouration that's entirely natural, which commands higher prices.
This 20mm bead, which would make a gorgeous pendant, is genuine Finnish spectrolite with rare purple tones, and is €130 at Spectrolite Finland.