Finding the Flash in Labradorite
Labradorite is one of my very favorite gemstones to work with. Its mysterious colors that appear from such an unassuming neutral background are so beautiful, and surprising. It got its name from the Labrador Peninsula in Canada where it was found by Moravian missionaries in 1770 in the early 19th Century. The local Inuit people knew about it for much longer and believed that Labradorite fell from the frozen fire of the Northern Lights. They believed this ordinary looking stone could transform into the extraordinary, since it holds the energy and the colors of the Aurora Borealis.
Labradorite is a mineral of the plagioclase feldspar group with a hardness of 6-6.5. The amazing play of color in the stone is known as “labradorescence”. The background color of Labradorite is usually gray to gray-green, brownish-gray, dark blue-gray or black. Since it is made up of aggregate layers that refract light, iridescent flashes in the blue, green, gold or red range can be seen varying with the angle of light. There are rarer varieties of Labradorite that include Golden Labradorite which is a transparent gold or champagne color, and Spectrolite which can display the whole color spectrum and especially a vivid electric blue. This variety was discovered in Finland in the 1940s.
What’s on my bench today are some labradorite cabochons which need to be set. The challenge in working with labradorite is to find which direction you see the flash of color and set the stone so the color can best be seen. I find that by “playing with them” and moving the stones around I can see how the light affects them. That will help me determine how to use these cabochons - in hanging settings, or in horizontal settings.
In the first photo the 10mm x 8mm stone appears dark, with no labradorescence.
In the 2nd photo I’ve reversed the direction from top to bottom, and there’s the flash~ Now it will make a lovely pendant and the color can be enjoyed.
Looking at this group of small 7x5mm cabochons and another 10x8mm cab, some show flash but most do not. So I will move them around to see which direction they best show labradorescence. The pair at the lower right corner shows a match of color and flash on the front.
In the second photo the same group is rearranged and shows the direction the flash is best viewed. I’ve reversed the direction of the corner pair so you can see they would not show flash if set in this direction.
Sometimes you want the pretty colors to be viewed from the side of the stones, so these photos show how the cabochons look from these directions.
Some of the stones look more vibrant, viewing them from the side.
These are some larger, faceted and set Labradorite cabochons I bought. There’s not a lot going on when viewing them sideways. But the green and gold one shows some labradorescence.
Here’s the slightly domed side of the cabochons, viewed lengthwise top to bottom:
And now here’s the other side.
The green and gold labradorite has possibilities to be used horizontally in a bracelet or vertically as a pendant, and both sides are amazing. I would use the blue labradorite in a pendant since it looks best seen vertically.
And last, here are some earrings I’ve been working on. By looking through the small cabochons from the group above and using the method of viewing them placed in different directions I was able to match a pair of labradorite 7mm x 5mm cabochons. They both show blue labradorescence, and because the flash is at the top and front of the stones I’ve set them vertically.