Spodumene

lithium aluminum silicate

Spodumene is a lithium aluminum silicate (LiALSi2O6) and the principle source of lithium, the lightest of all metals. It is a relatively rare pyroxene found mainly in lithium-rich pegmatites. Rough crystals of spodumene have been found in huge sizes, one of the largest single crystals being over 47 feet long and weighing 90 tons.

Spodumene occurs almost exclusively in lithium rich granite pegmatites. It is a relatively rare mineral, occurring in association with quartz, microcline, albite, muscovite, lepidolite, tourmaline and beryl. Spodumene is a new mineral to science, as it was discovered only in the last three centuries; gem varieties have only been known for the past 120 years.

Gem spodumene occurs very rarely and in much smaller crystals ranging from colorless to yellow, pink to violet (kunzite), yellowish-green to medium deep green (hiddenite) and an extremely rare light blue color. The color in these gems is due to impurities substituting for aluminum in the crystal structure -- iron produces yellow to green-colored spodumene, chromium produces deep green-colored spodumene; manganese produces pink to lilac spodumene.

Spodumene is recognized by its prismatic cleavage, crystal habit, striated prisms, color, fracture, and by its pegmatitic occurrence. Gem varieties of spodumene can be distinguished by their strong pleochrism and by their higher refractive index from similar appearing pegmatite minerals such as quartz, topaz and beryl. It occurs in California, North Carolina and South Dakota, in the USA; and in Afghanistan; Pakistan; Brazil and Madagascar.

Spodumene is a major source of lithium, which has a great variety of uses including in the manufacture of lubricants, ceramics, batteries, welding supplies, experimental fuels and in anti-depressant drugs. Spodumene gems are perfectly suited for setting into rings, pendants, brooches and earrings. The perfect cleavage of spodumene makes it more difficult to facet, and care is required to prevent damage when wearing a spodumene gem set in a ring.

The name spodumene was derived from the Greek spodumenos, which means burnt to ashes in reference to spodumene's common light gray color. Kunzite was named for the author and gemologist George F. Kunz, and hiddenite was named after A. E. Hidden who was one of the original mine owners of this type spodumene.

Hiddenite

Hiddenite is a deep green spodumene found only in Hiddenite, North Carolina. Both the town and the gem are named after William Hidden, the original mine owner. Hiddenite occurs only in small crystals and is quite rare. Ordinary green spodumene from other localities is often erroneously and misleadingly labeled hiddenite.

Kunzite

Kunzite is the violet-pink variety of spodumene and is one of two gemstone varieties. The other variety is green and is called Hiddenite. Kunzite is strongly pleochroic, meaning there is a color intensity variation when a crystal is viewed from the top or bottom then from other directions. The top and bottom of the crystal reveal the deepest colors and knowleagable gem cutters take advantage of its effects. Due to kunzite's cleavage, splintery fracture and strong pleochroism it is considered a real gem cutter's challenge. However, its lovely pink color makes kunzite an attractive and desirable gemstone.

Traditionally, the wearing of kunzite is thought to bring good luck. The astrological signs of kunzite are Scorpio, Taurus and Leo, and the sign of hiddenite is Scorpio. Kunzite is a birthstone for the month of September.

Kunzite is said to help strengthen the circulatory system, help one understand and interact better with others, to help heal "broken hearts," to relieve stress and anger, and to bring love, peace and harmony. Hiddenite is said to enhance one's creative and spiritual potentials, and to stimulate the intellect.

SPODUMENE

Chemistry

Crystal System

Hardness

LiALSi2O6

monoclinic, 2/m

6.5 to 7.0

Cleavage

 Fracture

Specific Gravity

Perfect

conchoidal, brittle

3.0 to 3.2

Color, Transparency,
Luster & Streak

 VARIETIES 

Color: colorless, white, gray, yellow, pink to violet, green and very rarely light blue
Transparency: transparent to translucent
Luster: Vitreous
Streak
: white

Hiddenite
Kunzite

-- Bob Katz


Desert Minerals & Geology Index
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