A favorite feldspar mineral in the moonstone family, labradorite is showing up in an array of designer jewelry that plays on the virtual light show gleaming from within this luminous gem. Think Aurora Borealis in stone.
Called the "bringer of light," labradorite has a metallic sheen and is popular in shades of gray. It also can be black with flashes of blues and yellows or milky with golden glints. The finest material, known as spectrolite, is semi-transparent blue with strong iridescence awash in a blend of colors including green and yellow when viewed from different angles.
Cathy Cronin for the Boston-based Boston Gems notes that labradorite, much like its kin moonstone, is a natural gem that is not enhanced. “Moonstone has a natural schiller occurence called adularescence, labradorite has it's own natural effect called labradorescence,” she explains. “The stone takes on many colors, but with its dark base the colors appear different depending on it's light source and can sometimes create a rainbow effect.” If cut properly, she says labradorite is a very rich looking stone, allowing it to team up with high-karat gold and diamonds as easily as it does with silver and other stones.
Labradorite owes its not-so-sexy name to the place where it was first discovered, the northeastern region of Canada in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador . The gray variety of this gem primarily comes from Canada, while yellow most often comes from Russia, and spectrolite is found in Finland. Others sources include Madagascar , India , Norway , Australia , and Mexico .
Mystics regard labradorite to be a stone of transformation. Labradorite is believed to clear, balance and preserve the aura; diminish stress; enhance intuition and psychic development; aid in subconscious issues; and provide clarity. Associated with the solar plexus and brow chakras, labradorite is believed to help with eyesight, brain functions and digestion, aid in sleep, and improve energy.
Artists like Andrea Rosenfeld of Wickatunk, New Jersey design around gems that empower the wearer. “Labradorite offers a wealth of healthy energy including the ability to protect one's aura, attract strength and perseverance, and enhance faith and reliance in oneself,” she explains. “On the physical end, labradorite can be used in the treatment of disorders of the brain and to reduce anxiety. I use it in my weight loss pieces as it aids in digestion and can regulate one's metabolism.”
But Rosenfeld also is drawn to labradorite's intriguing personality. “One minute you're seeing a simple gray crystal but with a slight turn of wrist, BAM, blue, green or orange escapes from within,” she tells. “Light bounces off planes inside the feldspar creating vibrant blues, violets, greens, yellows and oranges, but the neutral color of this crystal allows it to work with many other colors.”
Designing jeweler Eve Alfillé of Evanston, Illinois also pairs it with pearls. “I mix labradorite beads with silvery gray pearls in what I call my seawater necklaces that are very popular, as is a special bracelet I create with dark Tahitian pearls, large faceted labradorites, and teal and green faceted tourmalines,” she says. “Although I find labradorites coexist happily with white metals, recently I found some beautiful green-sheen labradorites that looked content strewn on an 18k green gold chain with grey and green Tahitian pearls and gold spacers.”
While designer Laura Gibson of Tucson , Arizona finds intrigue mixing it with black tourmaline, black spinel and onyx. “Labradorite looks especially good on women with blue and/or green eyes,” she says. “Personally, I love it for its gray color because my hair is gray and it looks great on me!”
Katie Diamond, a New Jersey-based designer loves the life of labradorite. “The stone is like magic to me, it has incredible depth. It reminds me of the night sky reflecting off the ocean. From a practical standpoint, the range of color in each stone makes labradorite a great choice for neutral but interesting everyday jewelry.”
Dreamy and ethereal, labradorite also is the star of a recent collection by designer Melissa Joy Manning of Oakland , California , who blends it with moonstone, kyanite and cat's eye opal in dramatic silver and 14k gold settings. Manning describes the look as organic and bold in its use of different gem cuts with rough crystals in wire wrapped designs. The many moods of labradorite make it ideal in a range of motifs.
For N.Y.C. designer Robert Lee Morris labradorite captures the magic world in which most of his jewelry originates. “It's a stone of the Arts and Crafts movement,” he tells. “In the late 1800s, it was prized for its similarity to the peacock feather. Cousins to blue moonstone and star sapphire, there is a flash of life in this stone. Set in large cabochons with thick molten silver is a touch back to the magnificent work of British silversmith Archibald Knox, his use of labradorite, moonstone and sculptural form that evoked the emotional mood of the times.”
Shamila Jiwa, a young designer from Seattle, Washington, believes the varying cuts, shapes, and designs in labradorite have fueled its recent popularity. She considers the stone a signature of her collection. “It's never the same” she says. “It's the stone of new beginnings, and every day is a new beginning. Labradorite's chameleon-like properties imbue warm or cool tones with soulful and sexy nonchalance, as revealed in my Blue Glimmer collection that celebrates oceanic power and mutability.” The highlight is her Labradorite Boa necklace that includes 300 carats of handpicked highly chatoyant teardrops. “As the sea is known for epic narrative, labradorite is endowed with storytelling charm.”
Like Cinderella at the ball, labradorite has shown up on the red carpet. A great example is the diamond, South Sea pearl and labradorite 18k gold necklace that actress Lauren Velez of the Showtime series “Dexter” wore to the 2009 Golden Globe Awards. The piece was made by Hollywood's darling designer Erica Courtney, who has used labradorite in high-end pieces including a killer pair of platinum diamond earrings with labradorite teardrops. Courtney selects stones that have character, so mixing labradorite with diamonds and platinum is like Sharon Stone pairing a gap T-shirt with a luxe Valentino skirt—unforgettable!
Tip: Certain labradorites are fragile, so always handle with care. Clean with a soft polishing cloth, plain water rinse or mild solution of soap and water.
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