I was going through my archive photos the other day – because I have all the time in the world for things like that right now – looking at pictures of things we’ve made in the past and searching for inspiration for new designs, and noticed a recurring theme in the stones we use, namely labradorite. I don’t know anything about it, except that we love it, so started doing some research and ended up discovering that labradorite and another of our favourite stones, moonstone, are from the same family, feldspar, so why not put them together in a little bite of knowledge?
As its name suggests, Labradorite comes from Labrador in Canada, and the ancient belief is that the Aurora Borealis has come to earth and been captured in the stone which explains the blue and green lights that move so beautifully when the stone is polished. This wonderful iridescence or schiller is called Labradoresence – obviously – and one of the most appealing things about this stone is that it is so varied. So many of the stones we have – beads, cabochons and facet cut alike – are either grey or brown at first glance, and then you pick the stone up and a flash of turquoise or bright green or rich blue appears. We also know how stunning it looks in 22ct gold, which largely explains how much we use it!
Sometimes, though, the stone is just full of wonderful colours with hardly any grey or brown in it, and there’s a good chance that this is actually Spectrolite which is only found in Finland, and wasn’t discovered until the Second World War, quite by accident. The stone from Canada and that from Finland are actually the same thing but the ones from Finland, for some reason, tend to be much brighter and richer and more varied in colour. Spectrolite is only found in Finland, but Labradorite has now been found in Madagascar, China, Australia, Slovenia and the US, but still it is associated with the northern hemisphere and the northern lights.
Moonstone, on the other hand, is a much more ancient stone. The Greeks and the Romans used it, and the Romans believed it was solidified moonlight, thus the name. I think that’s a lovely idea and it just adds to my love of the stone. Lucky for this little magpie Moonstone is one of three June birthstones – the other two are Alexandrite and pearl – which probably helps explain my passion for it.
As varied as labradorite/spectrolite in its range of colours, there are actually five kinds of moonstone which come from different regions of the world, producing different colours including green and pink, but the most well known is the pale stone with a sort of floating blue light in it (which is called adularesence because fine quality moonstone was mined in the Swiss Alps on Mt Adular..) The best moonstones are now mined in Sri Lanka and India in artisanal mines.
Even though it’s been used in jewellery for such ages, moonstone really came to the fore in the art nouveau period and has stayed popular ever since. Usually it’s cut en cabochon but somewhere, on a gem hunt, Polly found this magnificent piece of free form moonstone that had been faceted. Unable to resist, she scooped it up and brought it home and made this wonderful brooch. The photograph captured the extraordinary blue light in the stone, but sitting in its tray it looks quite white. Amazing and interesting and alluring.
One little factoid about moonstone… it is the Florida state gemstone – even though it’s not mined there – and was designated as such in 1970 to commemorate the moon landing.
Even without all this knowledge about first cousins Labradorite and moonstone, this magpie has always known there was something special about these stones because I’ve had jewellery made with both stones since I moved away from plastic bangles in my littlehood, and I probably always will.