Buying iolite jewelry – A quick and comprehensive guide

Iolite is a fine blue gemstone that sparkles with life and color when touched by light. It can be as beautiful as expensive blue stones such as sapphires and tanzanites, but because iolites are found in abundance in many locations around the world, they are quite affordable. This does not mean that iolites are inferior gemstones! Read this iolite shopping guide to find out why these stones are gaining popularity in the jewelry world and why they are a great choice.

What is iolite?Uncut blue iolite stone

Iolite is the gem version of the mineral cordierite. The name comes from greek ‘Ios’, meaning violet, due the color of the stone. The stone used to be called the Water Sapphire, due to its unique bluish hue.

One special attribute of the iolite gemstone is its strong pleochroism. This is its tendency to exhibit different colors based on the position in which it is viewed (more on this further down).

Although iolite has been quite a popular gemstone throughout history, it was only officially named in 1912. That makes it a relatively recent addition to join the ranks of gemstones!

Here’s a historical tidbit. Iolite used to be called the Viking Compass Stone. Apparently, the Vikings used to use thin slices of iolite as a light polarizer to help them navigate on their journeys. This may be why blue iolite is said to carry the spirit of a journey, of dreams and explorations.

Evaluating iolite – the famous 4cs

When buying iolite, you can use the 4Cs (cut, color, clarity, carat weight) to help you evaluate the stone.

Color

Iolite is primarily a blue gemstone. You can find it in many shades of blue, from light to dark. At its deepest and most vivid, high quality iolite can challenge the beauty of expensive stones like sapphires and tanzanites! It also exhibits a purplish tint which complements the primary color of the stone beautifully.

Although the stone is blue, because of iolite’s strong pleochroism, the color of the stone can change depending upon the angle you are viewing it from. From certain angles, it can appear grayish and from others, it can appear golden, brownish or even transparent. Some sections may have very light colors and others may show a dark color.

The most valuable and highly priced iolite is the most saturated, deepest blue.

Cut

The cut is extremely important to bring out the best in iolite. The cutting process of iolite is challenging for cutters for two main reasons:

  1. Iolite is cut so that the grayish, pale yellow or brownish pleochroic colors do not show face-up. They only make an appearance when the stone is held and turned. The stone can produce the strongest pleochroism only if it is properly cut.
  2. Due to iolite’s distinctive cleavage and brittle nature, iolite can easily fracture or break. One wrong move and the stone loses its entire beauty and worth!

Iolite is cut into all the traditional shapes including square, round, oval and cushion. As iolite is increasing in demand, jewelry designers are attempting to get creative with the shape of the stone and have more options for shoppers.

Clarity

Clarity is an important factor for iolite. Generally, iolite is a transparent and translucent stone with relatively few inclusions. If there happen to be inclusions, they are usually long and tubular-looking that run parallel within the stone.

Iolite can also contain metallic, plate-type inclusions. If the inclusions are brownish or red in color, the stone is marked as bloodshot. These inclusions can create a sparkly effect when cut properly. Again, it depends on the expertise of the cutter and if they are able to turn a flaw into something to flaunt!

In terms of stone sizes, larger iolite gemstones, those upwards of 8 carats, are generally not eye-clean.

Carat weight

Iolite gemstones can be found in medium sizes, not too small or large ranging between 1 Carat to 10 Carats. Carat weight between 1-5 is ideal for jewelry and fortunately, because iolite is an inexpensive stone, the prices will be very affordable.

Extra fine stones of 1 to 5 carats may cost upwards of $60 per carat. Larger stones from 5 to 10 carats will be more expensive, costing about $100 to $150 per carat.

High quality iolite gems above 8 carats, with good clarity, are very rare and expensive.

Uses of Iolite in jewelry

Iolite jewelry is available in every form including rings, bracelets, pendants and necklaces. Because it is a relatively hard stone (7.0 – 7.5 on the Mohs scale of hardness) it is suitable for everyday wear.

Iolite and metalsIolite mounted on white gold

Iolite goes well with most popular metals for jewelry, including white gold, sterling silver, platinum, rose gold or yellow gold.

Iolite jewelry paired with silver-colored metals exhibit a dazzling, modern and trendy look. Iolites paired with yellow and rose gold have a classy, vintage and confident look. They are eye-catching and make a statement. However, with yellow/rose gold, make sure that the iolite is of high quality and does not have yellowish tints on the surface, as this can be emphasized by the metal.

I personally prefer the iolite and yellow/rose gold metal look for more formal, dressy occasions, while the iolite and silver-colored metal go great with daily wear and casual occasions.

You can also find iolite with cheaper metals. As the gemstone is very affordable, jewelers sometimes use polished brass or copper to keep the price of the finished piece low. These metals may not complement the stone as well as the other more expensive metals.

Blue iolite and diamond engagement ring

Gemstones that go well with iolite

Iolite can be combined with most other stones such as amethyst, peridot, blue topaz, yellow topaz, quartz, amber and diamonds. Personally, I think the white diamond and blue iolite make the perfect match but it all depends upon your choice. The best part is that iolite can also be used as a replacement for blue sapphire which is a very costly stone.

Iolite engagement rings

If you want a blue stone that has the look but not the price, iolite is the perfect alternative for you. This may be one reason that iolite is increasing in demand as an engagement ring.

As I mentioned above, it is quite a hardy stone and can be suitable for daily wear. It is vulnerable to breakage however (more on this later) so you will have to bear that in mind and take extra care of the ring. Many modern couples who do not want to follow the tradition of a diamond engagement ring can opt for an iolite ring instead.

As with any other gemstone, there are always varying levels of quality. Choose a stone that has a deep blue or violet color and a top quality cut. Many iolites found on the market can be cheap, low-quality stones with colors that are less valuable, such as faint blue or grayish with yellowish flashes. You get what you pay for, so of course the well-cut vivid stones will command higher prices.

Carrying for your iolite jewelry

We’ve mentioned a couple of times that iolite is a hard stone but can easily fracture. This happens if pressure is applied to the stone at certain angles. Iolite has cleavage that runs in one direction, which means that the stone is not as tough as it may seem, and is liable to splitting or breaking in that direction. Very hard knocks or rough daily wear can cause the stone to crack or even chip off!

Never use ultrasonic or steam cleaners for iolite jewelry. It should be cleaned with a mild dish wash soap and a soft brush especially in the areas where dust can collect.

It is recommended that iolite jewelry, especially rings, should not be worn during vigorous outdoor activities. Also, do not expose the stone to harsh chemicals.  Store iolites away from heat and sunlight.

Enhancements and imitations

Iolite is a naturally beautiful stone. There are no enhancements known for iolite and even the highest quality iolite will be natural. Most other blue gems are treated and enhanced to maximize their color, but not iolite. Shoppers sometimes prefer iolite for this reason.

In terms of imitations, you may come across fake iolite in the form of glass. Check to see the depth of color and the hardness of the stone. Glass will easily scratch unlike iolite. Having said that, it is not common for there to be iolite imitations because, as I have mentioned already, it is already an affordable stone.

It is more common for iolite to be used as imitation of tanzanite! While it can have the same pure blue hue, it does not come with as steep a price tag.

Beliefs and significance of iolite

There are many beliefs and symbolism connected to iolite. However, all these are mythological and none of these have been scientifically proven. Here are the most common beliefs about the beautiful Water Sapphire.

  • Iolite is said to have both physical and emotional healing powers. It is believed that iolite helps a person to connect to the world. It makes the nerves stronger, prevents nightmares and insomnia. It soothes the emotion and calms a troubled mind.
  • The violet color is famous for removing fear from the heart and opening up the feelings of mystery, magic, and nobility.
  • The power of iolite motivates its wearer to accomplish great tasks and make dreams real.
  • Iolite’s darker shades offer honesty and lighter shades help to connect to the real world. The blue colors are considered to be dream crystals that improves the thinking abilities of the wearer.

Whether these beliefs are real or not, it definitely adds to the allure of iolite and makes the stone even more interesting!

Photo courtesy for all photos: overstock.com