Iolite: The Vikings Compass

Have You Driven A Fjord Lately?

When Leif Eriksson ventured far out into the Atlantic, away from any coastline that could help them determine their position, they had a secret gem weapon: the Ocean Sapphire, aka, Iolite. The Viking Mariners used thin pieces of it as the world's first polarized sun glasses! Crystal Magic Power.

As long as the sun was visable, latitude could be determined, but in bad weather, these Norse Navigators looked through an iolite lens. So, with the sun hidden by clouds, they were  STILL able to determine the exact position of the sun, and navigate their way safely to the New World and back.

The property that made iolite so valuable to the Vikings is its extreme pleochroism. Iolite has different colors in different directions in the crystal. A cube cut from iolite will look a more or less violet blue like a reflective pond like look  from one angle, almost like sapphire, from one side, clear as water from another angle , and a honey yellow from on top. In the past, this property led some people to call iolite 'water sapphire'.

Pleochroism may have been helpful in navigation but it certainly makes life difficult for the cutter. If iolite is not cut from exactly the right direction, no matter what the shape of the raw crystal, its colour will not be shown to its best advantage.

The name iolite comes from the Greek 'ion', which means violet. Iolite is usually a purplish blue when cut properly, with a softness to the color that c
an be quite attractive. It is the stone of Aquarius

Iolite is readily available and surprisingly affordable. The richer  the blue, the better. It is harder on the Mohs scale than Tanzanite, but not as marketed.Therefore there is good value when choosing this gem.

One of great gemstone discoveries in Wyoming occurred near the turn of the 20th century when iolite was discovered in the central Laramie Mountains (Hausel, 2014). While searching for another gemstone, geologist, W. Dan Hausel came across the first of a group of iolite deposits in the Laramie Mountains (Hausel, 2002). At the time in 1996, Hausel was exploring vermiculite schist for rubies and sapphires west of Wheatland, when he spotted a small specimen of flawless, gem-quality iolite in dirt south of the ‘Rolf’ vermiculite-corundum prospect. Over the next few hours, Hausel recovered several detrital specimens of gem-quality iolite and located the outcrop (lode) containing the gemstones.

The National Parks Department closed down any commercial mining because of the environmental impact.  Nevertheless, Iolite  is currently   mined alluvial (Like panning for Gold)  in India, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Brazil. The Vikings probably mined theirs from deposits in Norway and Greenland.

Iolite is relatively hard but should be protected from blows. With its attractive color and reasonable price, it is becoming  a jewellery staple in the industry. 

The Gemmological Association of Great Britain (Gem-A)

I stopped by Gem A in  London's historic Hatton Garden last night to have some fun looking at beautiful gemstones. Getting some refresher knowledge from the longest established gemological teaching organization in the world.

Using the basic tools of the trade, and following their motto "Do every test you can on every stone you have", Gem Testing with the Spectroscope had me thinking like a proton and staying positive!

Rule of Thumb: The Bigger the stone and  the darker the color, the better.

Using a London Dichroscope while in London is like
eating a croissant in Paris-delicious, and authentic.
A vibrant royal blue saphire

Getting Stoned In Hatton Garden

Building a ring in London, Tiffany setting, Hallmarked an Assayed 18K Yellow Gold.The center stone is a stunning white emerald, considered the Mother of Genstones-known as Goshenite, as in Oh My Gosh! Actually a large deposit was discovered in Goshen Massachusetts.  It's pure Beryl. When there is blue traces it's Aquamarine;  pink and peach beryl, Morganite; Yellow Beryl Heliodore, and Red Beryl, well that is called Simply Red.

Notes From The Underground

Saying "I Do" To Fair Trade Gold

Sitting down with  with Britain's First Fair Trade Gold Importer, Alan Frampton

The Independent has a great article about the initiative Alan Frampton is passionate about Fair Trade Gold.  I had the good fortune to speak with him yesterday in Chichester, and he really owns the story of how his jewellery is sourced, made and eventually sold at his CRED brand stores. They have many first in the business and Monica Garcia, (who won a Sales Award at The International Jewellery London Trade Show earlier this week mentioned them to me-

"We have had many firsts in this business: the first jeweller to use known origin gold; the first to have a fully open and transparent supply chain; the first website dedicated to the sale of ethical jewellery; the first boutique jeweller to do the same. The first jeweller to use Fairtrade silver The first jeweller to disclose the contents of the jewellery and the provenance of the main precious metal"
Kenya's makeshift goldmines: Can Fairtrade do for
 our jewellery what it did for our bananas?

Their story resonates with my American audiences:For the whole jewellery industry to sell ethical pieces that benefit indigenous producers while mitigating environmental damage. The lack of supply chain information is what  makes you wonder- How could I dare wear a piece of jewellery without knowing if it was made in a sweatshop or without regard to the dignity of the worker in safety health and pay.

When I mentioned that our customers don't ask for Fair Trade, Alan responded "Did They ask For an IPad? Steve Jobs just built it". Moral of the story: If you build a fairtrade business model, they will come, er, I Mean-Buy.

IJL-International Jewellery London

Aiming  to trade in a manner which supports a sustainable global  environment and economy, fair trade gold and ethically sourced diamonds is a simple idea with profound consequences for all involved. 

Knowing where you diamonds and gold come from is called provenance; and when you are wearing a piece of jewellery, wouldn't it be good to know that it was done with consciousness! 

Saying I Do to Fair Trade

Here I am  (Above) with Judith Lockwood, Dir of Arctic Circle, Fair Trade Gold, Ethically - Sourced Diamonds; and Gary Wroe, CEO of Hockley Mint, and President of The British Jewellers Association.

 I first started following their twitter  and instagram feeds from Tanzania-whilst I was in, ironically, The Arctic Circle selling Tanzanite on board the MS Prinsendam(July)--- We were 1000 of miles apart- Me On Top of The World 71°10′21″ and they, at The Equator--- but on the same wave length. (A diamond jewellery brand using fully traceable Canadian diamonds set in Fair Trade Gold and Made in Britain)


Honningsvåg. Norway-Ready, Set, North Cape

On Top of The World 71°10′21″

Story-Driven Jewellery-Baby's ECG Becomes A Bracelet

Jared, a Goldsmith From Edinburgh, Scotland  is taking the ECG from a Mothers womb of her unborn baby-and commemorating the birth of her child with this Bespoke Bracelet-Fascinating.

JewelReif-Lets Get Stoned

Memories, Milestones and Relationships.

Every stone has a past and the power of story-driven jewelry has a future- On you!
As Owner of JewelReif, I have traveled the world- and found out the most amazing fact: All over this good Earth, we adorn ourselves with Mother Natures gifts and human natures designs-Diamonds and Gemstones, Shells,and Pearls, Strings and Beads, Wood and Bones. Jewelry

Everywhere around the world, people make daily decisions about what to wear or how to dress. Let us help you.