Sugilite: a New and Beautiful Discovery
Sugilite is a fairly recently discovered semi-precious gemstone that was first located in Japan and then later mined extensively in the South African desert.
It is a relatively rare mineral that is most commonly traded in a deep and vibrant purple hue. It has become more popular in recent years and is growing in price and in trade. It has similar uses to that of turquoise and malachite.
Sugilite is a rare form of mineral found primarily in attractive shades of pink and purple. Sugilite is comprised primarily of sodium, lithium, iron, manganese and potassium. Manganese is what gives sugilite its trademarked deep purple color.
The initial samples of sugilite that were found had very little manganese within them and thus were of pale yellow and pink hues.It is also known as lavulite, royal lavulite and royal azel, and is mined primarily in South Africa. Other deposits are located in Italy, Australia, Japan, Canada and India but none of these deposits are as significant.
Gem grade sugilite is considered rare, however sugilite itself is usually found in very large deposits. Sugilite can be both transparent and opaque but the best pieces are considered those that are completely transparent. This is also known as sugilite gel.
Sugilite registers 6 to 6 1/2 on the Mohs hardness scale which means that it is a relatively soft gem. While it is primarily traded in purple, sugilite can also be found in colorless, brown, black and yellow. Sugilite may also contain a matrix of black, yellow or brown. As with most gems, the clearest sugilite stones are the most prized. Opaque purple crystals with a deep color are also often use in jewelry.
History of Sugilite
Sugilite was first discovered in 1944 by a Japanese geologist studying minerals in Japan. The gem was named after the discovering geologist, Ken-Ichi Sugi. Sugilite did not become popular until 1975 when a large deposit was found in South Africa in the Kalahari Desert. It is slowly becoming more popular with jewelers and hobbyists but remains largely neglected in North America. Sugilite is most popular in Asia where it was originally discovered.
Taking Care of Sugilite
Sugilite is not an extremely hard mineral, which means that it needs to be carefully taken care of to avoid scratching or chipping.
It should always be kept in a padded jewelry box when not in use and it should be protected when worn. However, it is still fairly durable and it is not brittle which makes it very easy to work with for cutters and jewelers.
Care should be taken when cleaning the gem and cleaning with a damp cloth should be sufficient. Sugilite should never be cleaned with an ultrasonic cleaner or put into a liquid jewelry cleaner.
Sugilite Buying Guide
Sugilite is usually sold in cabochon form and not faceted. More common sugilite stones will display considerable matrixing. Sugilite stones can vary between a light pink to a dark purple. Gem grade sugilite can be of a variety of colors but should be translucent with a clear color and no matrixing. Gem grade sugilite is quite rare compared to common sugilite.
Sugilite is graded based on the depth of color and translucency. However, even gem grade sugilite will show some mottling. Mottling does not affect the price of the sugilite as long as the color remains dark throughout the stone. Some collectors specifically look for pink sugilite as it is rare and can be extremely vibrant.
Collectors should be careful when purchasing sugilite, because it is not uncommon for other gems to be passed on as sugilite or dyed a deep purple color.