CHEMISTRY COMPOSITION: LiAlSi2O6
COLOR: Pink-violetish purple, light-intense
REFRACTIVE INDEX: 1.660 to 1.676
BIREFRINGENCE: 0.014 to 0.016
SPECIFIC GRAVITY: 3.18
MOHS HARDNESS: 6.5 to 7.0
California Usa, Afghanistan, Brazil, Madagascar, Afghanistan.
Birthstones & Anniversaries
Some consider kunzite to be an alternate birthstone for February.
Collectors love kunzite for its color range, from delicate pastel pink to intense violetish purple.
Kunzite is the best-known variety of the mineral spodumene. It’s named after famed gemologist George Frederick Kunz, who was the ﬁrst to identify it as a unique variety of spodumene. Kunzite gets its delicate color from trace amounts of manganese. California’s San Diego County is an important source of kunzite.
Kunzite is the light pink to violetish purple variety of the mineral spodumene. It’s found in Afghanistan, Brazil, Madagascar, and the US state of California. The gem was named after pioneering gemologist George Frederick Kunz (1856-1932).
Kunzite has two perfect cleavage directions. It’s pleochroic, with the best color visible when you look down the length of the crystal. Cutters keep these factors in mind when they orient gems for ﬁnishing. They might also cut a kunzite deep to emphasize its pink to violet color.
It is not unusual to ﬁnd kunzite in large sizes. The Smithsonian Institution houses a faceted heart-shaped kunzite that weighs 880 carats.
Kunzite can be irradiated and then heat-treated to enhance its color. Both treated and natural color in kunzite can fade with exposure to heat and bright light.
Kunzite is a relative newcomer to the array of colored stones available for use in jewelry. As the story goes, specimens of an as-yet-unidentiﬁed pink crystal were found in San Diego County, California, and sent to Tiffany & Co.’s mineralogist, George Frederick Kunz. The year was 1902. Kunz was able to conﬁrm that the crystals were, in fact, spodumene, but the previously unrecognized color made the ﬁnd a new variety of the mineral.
Charles Baskerville, a chemistry professor at the University of North Carolina and later the City College of New York, subsequently named kunzite in honor of George Kunz in 1903.
In the years since, kunzite has proven to be a highly desirable gem. Occurring in attractive shades of pink to violet, kunzite crystals are also often large, with relatively few inclusions. Though difﬁcult to cut due to its two cleavage directions, it lends itself to lovely ﬁnished gems that show magniﬁcently in ﬁne jewelry.
KUNZITE QUALITY FACTORS
Color is kunzite’s most important value factor. The more vivid the color, the higher the value.
Kunzite is usually very clean, so inclusions that affect its transparency can reduce the gem’s value.
Skilled cutters can bring out kunzite’s beauty despite challenges from its two cleavage directions.
It’s not unusual to ﬁnd kunzite in large sizes. This is an extremely large example that weighs 648.10 carats.
Kunzite can be found in a wide variety of jewelry styles to suit every buyer. Always attractive, it suffers somewhat from a lack of consumer recognition. However, this can translate to reasonable prices at the counter. In its largest sizes and ﬁnest colors, kunzite appeals to discriminating collectors.
Kunzite is the pink-to-violet variety of the mineral spodumene, and gets its color from manganese. It’s most often found in shades of pale pink, but more vivid colors are possible and it can achieve rare hues of vivid violet to purple.
Kunzite’s color can be enhanced by irradiation followed by heating. Whether natural or enhanced, the color can fade when exposed to heat and intense light. It’s a good idea to store kunzite jewelry in a closed jewelry box or case when it’s not being worn.
Kunzite is pleochroic, which means it can display different colors in different crystal directions. Kunzite displays its best, most intense color down the length of its crystals.
Kunzite crystals often have relatively few inclusions, so “clean” ﬁnished gems in jewelry are common.
Kunzite can present problems for cutters. It has two directions of cleavage, which means that the gem can split cleanly along those directions. As a result, kunzite has been known to simply fall apart from the pressure applied during faceting. In addition, kunzite’s color is usually concentrated down its length, or C-axis. Cutters must factor these properties into their plans when fashioning gems.
Kunzite appears in a wide variety of shapes and cutting styles. Because many crystals are relatively inclusion-free, step-cut stones are fairly common.
Skilled cutters have fashioned kunzite into every imaginable shape and style. Some have even carved the gem. Also, many kunzites are cut deep to maximize the color.
Size and Weight
Kunzite is often found in large sizes. The Smithsonian Institution houses a faceted 880-carat heart-shaped example.