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Scapolite Gemstone

What is Scapolite?

Scapolite (SCAP-oh-lite), is rare and unusual gemstones that lesser known amongst jeweler, but scapolite attracts many of gemstone collector due to its rarity, beauty and stability. By chemical composition, gem scapolites are sodium-calcium-aluminum silicates, with some chlorine. They form a mixture of a series of ratios between the sodium-end member and calcium end member which is sometimes known as “isomorphous replacement”. All of scapolites are formed in tetragonal in crystal structure, its typical crystal habit usually occurring in elongated prismatic shape.

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Above: Typical crystal habit of scapolite rough

The name scapolite, is in fact, comes from the Greek word which means "rod", in association to the shape of scapolite crystal shape. Historically scapolite was known as Chrysolite, which was a name given to number of greenish yellow gems including chrysoberyl, and peridot (see also the Breastplate of Aaron). During the last century, the gem has also been known as Wernerite, Mizzonite, Dipyre and Marialite. Today its new name Scapolite is widely recognised throughout the gem collectors.

Gem Scapolite is commonly cut as faceted and used as a gemstone or sometimes cut as chabochon when the rough contains series of parallel fine fibrous structure or needle like inclusion to display chatoyancy or “cat’s eye effect.

In order to exhibit chatoyancy effect, fibrous material must be properly oriented, so that the needles like inclusions are running at perpendicular angles to the length of the cabochon. This scapolite polishes satisfactorily on a felt wheel with either cerium oxide or tin. Linde A on a tin lap, using 42° crown angles and 43° pavilion angles, produces an acceptable faceted stone.

Typical appearance of Scapolite

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Above: large and clean yellow scapolite rough from Tanzania

Scapolite color range varies from a near colorless, through pink, green and violetish blue, and purple with degree of transparency ranging from transparent to opaque. Pale-yellow stones are most commonly seen. Generally speaking, the deeper the color and larger the size is, making those pieces are the more desirable and command higher price per carat.

Some of rare scapolite variety has been called "pink moonstone", because it shows a billowy effect similar to that of moonstone.

Scapolite sources

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Above illustration display countries where most scapolite were mined 

The gem scapolite has been mined in several countries around the world, but major sources of this unique gem are the Mogok region of Myanmar, Madagascar, Espirito Santos in Brazil, Siberia Rusia,the Badakhshan of Afghanistan, Darra-i-Pech, Afghanistan, and Merelani, Tanzania. The gem scapolite usually forms in metamorphic rocks, particularly metamorphosed limestones, and in near contact with igneous intrusions. Associated minerals of scapolite gems are apatite, garnet, zircon, and sphene.

Care and cleaning of Scapolite gems

Since scapolite's hardness is approximately 6.5 on the Moh's scale, making this gem durable enough to be used in jewelry. It is not adviseable to mount your scapolite gemstone in the piece of jewelry that are going to subject to daily wear. Peandant, earrig, brooch would probably be the best for this gem. Scapolite's bright and shiny luster can be attacked by soaking in strong acids and the best cleaning method for scapolite is to use warm soapy water and try to keep them away from steam cleaning machine.

Treatments in Scapolite 

While colors of blue sapphire, red ruby, purple in amethyst, and many more gems derived from certain kind of treatments. On the other hand, there hasn't been any report on treatment thathas been carried on in scapolite gemstones. All scapolite colors occur naturally from mother nature and this is another big plus point for the gem scapolite.

Physical and Optical properties of Scapolite

Purple scapolite

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Color range: Violet, purple, rarely red. Vitreous polish luster, conchoidal fracture with vitreous fracture luster. Two cleavage directions.

Optical properties

Refractive Index (RI): Purple to violet stones commonly 1.536 to 1.541

Birefringence: increases as RI increases Purple to violet stones commonly 1.536 to 1.541

Optic character—Double refractive with Uniaxial negative

Pleochroism—Moderate to strong blue and bluish purple in pink, purple, and violet stones

Spectrum—Not diagnostic, except in pink stones, which might show lines at 663 nm and 652 nm

Fluorescence—Inert variable in this color range

Specific gravity (SG): 2.68 (+0.06/-0.08). Often 2.60 in purple-to-violet stones

Comments: Key tests are RI, birefringence, optic character. Scapolite’s RI is as high as beryl’s and labradorite’s, but it has much higher birefringence than either gem.

Yellow scapolite

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Color range

Yellow to colorless. Vitreous polish luster, conchoidal fracture with vitreous fracture luster. Two cleavage directions.

Typical cutting style—Faceted

Optical properties

Refractive Index (RI): 1.550 to 1.564 (+0.015/-0.014)

Birefringence: 0.004 to 0.020 (increases as RI increases)

Optic character—Double refractive with Uniaxial negative

Pleochroism: Weak to moderate in yellow stones, with different tones of yellow

Magnification: Not diagnostic

Spectrum: Not diagnostic

Fluorescence: Inert to strong pink, orange, or yellow

Specific gravity (SG): 2.68 (+0.06/-0.08)

Comments: Key tests are RI, birefringence, optic character, and possibly fluorescence.

Colorless scapolite

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Vitreous polish luster, conchoidal fracture with vitreous fracture luster. Two cleavage directions.

Typical cutting style—Faceted

Optical properties

RI—1.550 to 1.564 (+0.015/-0.014)

Birefringence—0.005 to 0.038, commonly 0.005 to 0.020 (increases as RI increases)

Optical properties

Refractive Index (RI): 1.550 to 1.564 (+0.015/-0.014)

Birefringence: 0.004 to 0.020 (increases as RI increases)

Optic character—Double refractive with Uniaxial negative

Pleochroism: Weak to moderate in yellow stones, with different tones of yellow

Magnification: Not diagnostic

Spectrum: Not diagnostic

Fluorescence: Inert to strong pink, orange, or yellow

Specific gravity (SG): 2.68 (+0.06/-0.08)

Comments: Key tests are RI, birefringence, optic character, and sometimes fluorescence. Scapolite’s RI is as high as beryl’s and labradorite’s, but it has much higher birefringence than either gem.