Image from http://www.mineraltreasures.co.uk
I first came across this enchanting stone about a year ago and for some time I have really wanted to make pieces with it. Labradorite is in the feldspar family, which accounts for over half of the composition of the earth’s crust, making them the most common minerals on earth. Labradorite is named for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, and the native peoples had long-used the stone for ornamental and medicinal purposes. According to an Inuit legend, the Northern Lights were once trapped inside the stone and freed into the sky by a warrior’s spear. Not all of the light could escape, seen in the stone’s shimmering colors.
The effect is called labradorescence, also known as the schiller effect. It is caused by light refracting through fine layers (iridescence tends to work the same way every time…gemstones, butterfly wings, peacock feathers, etc). It was not until Moravian missionaries came to the island and sent specimens back to Europe in the 1700’s that the gemstone was made known to the world, and shortly thereafter it was highly sought after in France in England for jewelry. Labradorite is said to reduce anxiety, replacing it with inspiration, and help in understanding the meaning of one’s dreams.
Now for the classification stuff: labradorites belong to the plagioclase subgroup of feldspars. Spectrolite is a generic term for varieties of labradorite with a wider array of colors such as yellows and reds, instead of only blues and greens, and is found in Madagascar and Finland. I was also surprised to learn that the set of rainbow moonstones I just purchased are not moonstones at all but a form of labradorite. They are also called white labradorite and come mostly from India. I’ll be getting my chance to make labradorite pieces ahead of schedule, it seems :-).