Iolite is a semi-precious gemstone that comes in shades of blue, with tones of grey or pale yellow and violet. Iolite is one of those special gemstones that naturally appear different colors depending on their angle in the light. (This is a characteristic of several gemstones and it is called “pleochroism”. Tanzanite is another gemstone that has this same color phenomenon, even in the same hues. For this reason, fine iolite gems often look like fine tanzanites (but at 1/100th of the cost!)
Iolite is found in India, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Brazil.
It is the gem variety of the mineral cordierite. The rough iolite crystals should be cut in such a way that the deepest violet-blue faces up, so that when we look at the stone from it’s top, the blue-violet color permeates.
When iolite gemstones are set in jewelry, the wearer should take care not to knock them about too much. The gems are tolerably hard (meaning they will resist scratches from most materials) but they are brittle, meaning if they are knocked or hit in the right way, fractures may occur inside the stone, or even break a piece off. Read more about the gemological properties of iolite.
It is rare to find iolite gems in very large sizes – they are more common in the 3 carat and under range. It is common to see inclusions or fractures inside iolite gemstones. This makes exceptionally clear or “flawless” iolites more valuable because they are rare and beautiful. Read more about how the value of an iolite is determined.
The color and pleochrosim of iolite has made it useful to people of ancient times as a tool for understanding the exact angle of the light from the sun. It also gives it special metaphysical properties and symbolism. Read more about the meaning and symbology of iolite.