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Iolite: The Viking’s Navigational Gemstone


Deriving its name from the Greek word ‘ios’, meaning violet, Iolite is a gemstone steeped in history and lore. Often dubbed the “Viking’s compass” or “Viking’s stone”, ancient Scandinavian tales recount how Norse seafarers utilized thin iolite lenses as primitive polarizing filters. On cloudy days, these lenses aided them in pinpointing the sun’s location, ensuring safe navigation. Exhibiting a violet-blue hue, Iolite is occasionally termed “water sapphire”. While its presence in jewelry has grown over time, it remains an understated gem compared to other colored stones.

Pleochroism: Iolite’s Unique Feature

One of Iolite’s distinguishing characteristics is its pleochroism, where a single stone can display up to three distinct color shades. This makes Iolite one of the rare trichroic gemstones. This property, while fascinating, poses a challenge for gem cutters. When cut optimally, the stone’s violet-blue shade is most vivid when viewed from the top facet.


The primary source of Iolite is India. However, deposits are also found in Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Madagascar, the United States, and Brazil.

Properties and Enhancements

With a hardness rating of 7-7.5 on the Mohs scale, Iolite is relatively durable. Currently, there are no recognized treatments to augment Iolite’s appearance.

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