Named after Labrador, Canada, where it was first found, labradorite is a mix of two feldspar minerals, albite and anorthite, with anorthite dominating. Labradorite is of gem interest because of the wonderful play of colors it displays—labradorescence—when cut and polished.
These spectacular colors result from labradorite’s complex crystal boundaries and what happens to white light when it enters this material. What seems to be one stone is in fact repeating sandwich layers of albite and anorthite crystals. This form of crystal creation is called lamellar twinning. This twinning, when the layers are very thin, causes the color display known as labradoresence. The play of color is usually seen only when the stone is held at certain angles and disappears if light is passed through the stone from behind.
The colors usually seen are a dark blue, light (almost electric) blue, yellow, orange and red. Labradorite without this play of color is of no special gem interest except for some that shows a different spectacular effect called schiller. Labradorite showing schiller is is given the trade name sunstone.
The most spectacular display of labradoresence is seen in material from one area of Finland. This material is called Spectrolite.
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