Iolite
 
Best known as the Viking stone.   Iolite was used by Viking explorers to help them determine their position from the coastline.    The Viking mariners used thin pieces of it as the world's first polarizing filter.   Looking through an Iolite lens, they were able to determine the exact position of the sun and navigate their way safely to the New World and back.   It shielded their eyes from the sun's haze and glare.
 
The property that made Iolite so valuable to the Vikings is its extreme pleochroism.   Iolite has different colors in different directions in the crystal.   A cube cut from Iolite will look almost like a Sapphire (more or less violet blue) from one side, while clear as water from the other side, and a honey yellow from on top.   In the past, this property led some people to call Iolite 'Water Sapphire'.
 
The pleochroism in Iolite may have been helpful in navigation but it certainly makes life difficult for the gem cutter.   If Iolite is not cut from exactly the right direction, no matter what the shape of the raw crystal, its color will not be shown to its best advantage.
 
The name Iolite comes from the Greek 'los', meaning 'violet'.   When properly cut, Iolite is usually a purplish blue with a soft hue that can be quite attractive.
 
Iolite is readily available and surprisingly affordable.   The richer the blue, the better.   Iolite is mined in India, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Brazil.    The Vikings probably mined theirs from deposits in Norway and Greenland.
 
Iolite has a hardness of 7 to 7.5 on the Mohs Harness Scale, but should be protected from blows.   It is commonly cut into traditional shapes and is most desireable in a rich violet-blue color.   While it is not as well known as its blue counterparts, Sapphire and Tanzanite, this pleasing blue gemstone is popular for its beauty and affordability.
 
 
 
GB Jewelers, Inc.
Under the Clock Tower
675 SE Marlin Avenue, Suite 1  /  PO Box 999
Warrenton, OR 97146
800-869-1481

Latitude:  46.159033 / Longitude: -123.9055280
 
 
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