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Pleochroism of Gems

 

 

 

Pleochroism is an optical phenomenon where due to double refraction of light by a colored gem or crystal, the light is divided into two paths which are polarized at a 90 angle to each other. As the divided light follows different paths within the stone and are traveling at different speeds, they may have the result of differential selective absorption, thus when they leave the crystal they have different colors, making the stone seem to be of different colors.


Some stones show two colors or shades and are called dichroic, some show three and are called pleochroic (or trichroic). Gems are sometimes cut and set either to display pleochroism or to hide it, depending on the colors and their attractiveness.


Dichroic gems generally always have hexagonal, trigonal, or tetragonal crystalography. Pleochroic gems generally always have orthorhombic, monoclinic, or triclinic crystalography. Isotropic gems are never pleochroic.


Pleochroism is an extremely useful tool in mineralogy for mineral identification, since minerals that are otherwise very similar often have very different pleochroic color schemes.


Some gems displaying pleochroism:

Actinolite: yellow, dark green

Alexandrite: (strong) deep red, orange yellow, green

Andalusite: (strong) olive green, brick red; also light red, yellow, pale yellow

Chondrodite: yellowish brown, reddish brown, dark red, brownish yellow

Chrysoberyl: (strong) yellow, brown (also see Alexandrite above)

Diaspore: (strong) pale green, rose red; also colorless, violet-blue, dark red

Enstatite: (strong) pink to green

Hiddenite: (strong) green, blue-green, pale green, colorless

Iolite: (strong) colorless, violet or blue; also gray, pale yellow

Kornerupine: (strong) green, yellowish brown; also brown, greenish yellow

Kunzite: (strong) pink, purple-violet, colorless

Kyanite: (strong) violet-blue, colorless, cobalt-blue; also blueish green and green

Sillimanite: (strong) pale yellow, green; also pale to dark brown, blue, violet-blue

Sinhalite: (strong) pale brown, greenish brown, dark brown

Sphene: (moderate to strong) pale yellow, greenish yellow, orange-brown

Staurolite: (strong) colorless, yellow, red, golden yellow

Tanzanite: (strong) purple, blue; also yellow or green (Zoisite)

Zoisite: (strong) yellow, green
 


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