I’ve raided my crystal cabinet again! Labradorite is a stone that needs to be held in the hand, and it will enchant you with its spectacular flashes of colour…
At first glance, Labradorite appears to be a dark brownish grey, slightly translucent, like smoky glass; but turn it to and fro in the light and you’ll be astonished at its hidden depths. Layers and fractures within the rock flash with iridescence: peacock blue, turquoise, green, gold, orange and even pink. It’s almost as if a rainbow has been petrified.
If I were a geologist, I would tell you that labradorite is a plagioclase feldspar, composed of a sodium calcium aluminium silicate. It rarely forms into crystals, occurring more widely in ‘massive’ form, and the cut fragments are then polished.
The secret of labradorite lies in its molecular structure, which consists of microscopically thin layers that refract the light back and forth. This scattering of light is very directional, meaning that it can only be seen from a specific angle; turn the stone just a fraction left or right, and the colours are lost. The technical term for this display is labradorescence, or the schiller effect.
Labradorite was ‘discovered’ in 1770 by missionaries on St Paul Island in Labrador, Canada, hence its name. Thousands of years before that, however, pieces of the stone had been collected and incorporated into artefacts by the Red Paint People of Maine. These indigenous people were so called because of their custom of covering the bodies of their dead with red ochre.
A beautiful legend…
An Inuit folk story tells of how the northern lights once became imprisoned in a rock; a warrior, who happened to be passing by, noticed them and set them free with his spear. Some of the light remained trapped, however, and was preserved as a beautiful stone.
Labradorite is also found in India, Madagascar, Mexico, Australia and Russia; the best quality gemstones, known as spectrolite, originate from Finland.
Properties of labradorite…
Known as the ‘stone of destiny’, labradorite is said to help you find your true path in life, seemingly in moments of enlightenment which echo the brilliant flashes within the stone. It is also believed to promote wisdom, understanding and patience; to banish fears and insecurities; and to deflect undesired energies as well as colds and stress. Really, what’s not to like?
Labradorite is not a traditional birthstone, but some sources associate it with the sun signs of Scorpio, Sagittarius and Leo.
Sometimes known as ‘black moonstone’ or ‘falcon’s eye’, Labradorite is linked with the new moon, whereas moonstone, which displays similar properties but in a much lighter coloured crystal, relates to the full moon.
You can find good quality labradorite and all kinds of minerals and crystals at Mr Wood’s Fossils in Edinburgh. I can also recommend The Rock Shop at Ambleside in the Lake District and Crystals in Winchester.
If you missed my first feature in the series, focusing on amethyst, you can read it here.
Photos copyright © Jo Woolf