Apatite: More Than Just Fertilizer
Apatite is a relatively soft gemstone and is usually found in various green colors. New deposits have uncovered high quality apatite with such striking colors that they are becoming known under the name neon apatite.
It’s no surprise that this gemstone has been increasing in popularity in the last few years.
When you take proper care of this gemstone you can own a magnificent gemstone that looks just like the paraiba tourmaline at a fraction of the cost!
What is Apatite?
Apatite is part of the phosphate mineral group, along with fluorite and hydroxy apatite. Unfortunately its hardness is quite low, scoring only 5 on Mohs hardness scale, making most apatite minerals not suitable for use as gemstones.
The most common color of apatite is green, though blue apatite and yellow apatite are readily available on the market as well. The reason for this is that apatite can be found all over the world in large quantities.
Some varieties are dichroic, showing a different color when viewed from another angle. Blue apatite from Burma is well known for this property. Unfortunately it becomes colorless from a different angle. Making the change not as spectacular as other dichroic gemstones, such as tanzanite, iolite or kyanite.
A chatoyant variety is found as well, when cut into a cabochon shape a so-called cats eye is shown. This variety is found in Brazil, Sri Lanka and Burma.
In recent history this gemstone was only cut for collector’s and was virtually unknown to the public. In the last decade however several high quality deposits were discovered that display such striking colors that this gemstone is quickly increasing in popularity. A variety called paraiba apatite (named after the rare and expensive paraiba tourmaline) is the most popular and offers a high quality stone for a very reasonable price.
As mentioned before apatite can be found all over the world, though economically viable deposits are slightly more concentrated. Most of the gemstone quality minerals are mined in the following countries: Brazil, Burma, Mexico, Sri Lanka. Several other countries, including the USA, mine a small amount of apatite.
Apatite is mainly used in the production of fertilizer, being a source of phosphorus. At certain localities it also contains a large amount of rare earth elements and will be mined specifically to obtain these.
Where other ores can be radioactive making waste disposal quite expensive, apatite is not radioactive at all.
Hydroxy apatite makes up a large part of tooth enamel and bones. This is the reason fluorite apatite is added to fluoridated water and toothpaste, because when used in small amounts it will strengthen your teeth.
Taking Care of Your Apatite Gemstones
Apatite gemstones can be worn every day, the following advice will help you keep it beautiful:
- Because of its low hardness I would buy a necklace, pendant or earrings instead of an apatite ring. They are less likely to come in contact with hard objects.
- Like several other of the softer gemstones, you should not use an steam or ultrasonic jewelry cleaner, the heat and sonic waves could damage your stone.
- When cleaning only use warm water and mild soap. Do not use jewelry cleaner on this gemstone as they could contain chemicals and acids which it is vulnerable to.
Apatite Buying Guide
The most important factor for the price of apatite is color, with clarity coming in second. The more intense the color, the higher the price will be. High quality neon apatite or paraiba apatite will fetch the best price. Though because of its low hardness it will still be far below what a real paraiba tourmaline will be selling for.
Apatite is not known to be enhanced.’Synthetic variants are not sold on the market, as they are not commercially viable. They are only used in certain laboratory laser equipment. The usual culprits colored quartz and glass could pass as apatite, but most frauds don’t even know apatite exists so you should be relatively safe when buying it.
A good way to get a high quality apatite necklace is to buy loose gemstones or apatite beads and add them to a necklace of your choosing yourself. If you don’t have the skill or time to do it you can visit your local handmade jewelry shop for help. If you want or require someone with more expertise you could try your local jeweler though this might be more expensive.