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Gemspedia >> Gems >> Introduction to Gemstones >> Kunzite

Kunzite

KUNZITE

Pleochroism

Major Sources

Afghanistan, Brazil, Madagascar, Nigeria & Pakistan

Colors Found

Shades of pink & yellow

Family

Spodumene: LiAlSi2O6

Hardness

6 to 7

Refractive Index

1.66–1.68; Biaxial (+)

Specific Gravity

3.15–3.21

Crystal System

Monoclinic

Enhancements

May be enhanced

Discovered in California in 1902 (some sources say around 1877), kunzite was named after Tiffany’s legendary gemologist and famous gemstone author, George Frederick Kunz.


Kunz described this durable pink gemstone as having two distinct properties: phosphorescence—where, like diamond, kunzite glows in a darkened room after it has been exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and pleochroism—showing different colors when viewed from different directions. These phenomena are best seen in larger sized gems set into jewelry like pendants, drop and chandelier earrings, and rings with open prong or bar settings that let light flow freely through them, accentuating kunzite’s fire to full effect.

 

Kunzite radiates pure Parisian chic, revealing delicate pastel pinks, frosty lilacs, cool lavenders, hot fuchsias and rich orchids under the warm glow of incandescent light (candlelight). Its subtle coloring perfectly compliments décolleté evening wear and soft candlelight, hence its colloquial name “the evening gemstone.”

 

Legends and lore

Aside from their obvious physical beauty, pink gemstones possess potent metaphysical properties. Alternative healers use a multitude of pink gems in conjunction with the heart chakra. The fourth of seven energy points that run the course of the human body, the heart chakra is believed to carry the emotional sensibilities of love and compassion. Some believe that when the fourth chakra is blocked we experience emotions such as anxiety, fear, anger and frustration. Crystal healers use the properties of pink gems like pink tourmaline and kunzite to free the heart chakra from this negative energy. This alternative approach of enhancing the “power of pink” is a viewpoint shared and supported by traditional methods of medicine and psychology: “The color pink causes the brain to send signals that reduce the secretion of adrenalin, reducing the heart rate and consequently dissipating states of extreme excitement such as anger.” (Science Digest, 1980).

 

Just the facts

The lithium in kunzite’s chemical composition, lithium aluminum silicate, along with trace amounts of manganese, gives it the wonderful pink colors that complement both autumn and spring wardrobes. As a member of the spodumene family, kunzite is closely related to hiddenite, a green variety of spodumene.

 

Hiddenite is an attractive gem, but is extremely rare and for the most part is only known by collectors. Hiddenite was discovered in 1800 in Hiddenite, a city in Alexander County, North Carolina, USA. Both the city and the gem were named after William Earl Hidden, a mineralogist and mining director from Newark, New Jersey who was mining in the area. For many years, hiddenite was limited to North Carolina, but new deposits were recently discovered in Madagascar and Brazil. Green spodumene must contain trace amounts of chromium to be called hiddenite.

 

Spodumene’s color is due to trace elements of iron (producing yellow to green), chromium (producing medium to deep green) or manganese (producing pink to lilac), all substituting for aluminum in the crystal structure. Some pink kunzite will naturally fade over time with exposure to strong light, another reason why it is known as an evening stone.

 

The name spodumene (named by B.J. D’Andrada Sylva in 1800) was derived from the Greek spodumenos, meaning “burnt to ashes” in reference to the light grey color of some spodumenes.

 

While kunzite is usually thought of as a pink to lilac gemstone, yellow kunzite, mint kunzite and white kunzite are trades name used to describe yellow, light green and colorless spodumene. Displaying delicate pastel lemon meringues, mint greens and ice whites, these color varieties possess all the attributes of kunzite, albeit in other colors, providing kunzite lovers with delightful alternatives.

 

Kunzite is strongly pleochroic, meaning there is a color intensity variation and change when the crystal is viewed from different directions. A gem cutter must take great care to orient the gem in a position that accentuates its best color. The top and bottom of the crystal reveal the deepest colors and our experienced gem cutters always take this into consideration when faceting kunzite for Paraiba Gems.


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