Labradorite is a beautiful feldspar stone that has, in recent years, become increasingly popular. Labradorite is defined by its gorgeous iridescence that makes it appear to glow from within. Base colors of brown, orange, blue, or green are shot through with other colors. This multi-colored look can include every color of the rainbow, from red and orange to blue and purple and every color in between. These colors have been described as schillers, twinnings, stripes, flashes, veins, striations, and, for stones with the greatest variation and brilliance of color, spectrolite.
These breathtaking stones, naturally, have become a desirable part of many jewelry makers’ repertoire. Labradorites have even appeared on the red carpet, adorning people as famous as Julia Roberts. For the beader, labradorite offers a way to add a beautiful look to a piece in the form of labradorite cabochons.
Do not, however, buy the first gemstone you see. Not every labradorite is created, or cut, equal. There are certain qualities you should look for. The right qualities will ensure a high grade, gorgeous, and long-lasting piece for your next project.
Look for stunning labradorescence.
The beauty of labradorite is hard to explain because there isn’t anything else quite like it. Unlike diamonds, the glitter is not caused by the light glancing off many different facets. Instead, the light is diffracted around inclusions (other elements within the stone).
Often, the colors within the stone seem to change as you turn it around and from side to side, because you are changing the way in which the light is diffracted within the stone. Because the effect of light diffraction within labradorite is so unique, it has been given its own name: Labradorescence.
The extent of labradorescence depends upon the stone. Even a single stone might have different levels of labradorescence in different areas. Some labradorites do not possess labradorescence at all. As a result, you will want to look for the existence of beautiful labradorescence when you go to buy cabochons made of this stone.
What makes a beautiful labradorescence? Look for clarity in the iridescence. Also look for strong colors, as well as the existence of multiple colors and striations. The clearer the striations and the wider the range of colors, the more beautiful the labradorescence is likely to be.
Look for face-up labradorescence.
When a professional cuts a labradorite correctly, the striations are arranged in such a way that the labradorescence is strongest when the cabochon is viewed in a face-up position. A less accurate cutting of the labradorite stone will result in labradorescence that is off-kilter. You want face-up labradorescence, because this is the way the stone will be viewed when it is integrated into your beadwork. As a result, you want stones that will deliver the most beautiful look possible within your project.
In order to ensure that the stones you buy have face-up labradorescence, look for a cut that places the base of the stone parallel to the striations producing the labradorescence. You should also look for stones that, though they produce a beautiful glimmer no matter which way they are turned, reserve their strongest and most stunning flashes of color for the face-up position. Ensure that those flashes are perfectly centered.
Look for translucence.
Labradorites can come in three different versions: Opaque, translucent, and transparent. Opaque labradorites do not demonstrate labradorescence because they do not allow enough light in and out of the stone to create the right effect. Transparent labradorites also do not produce the same type of labradorescence because they allow light to pass through without enough diffraction.
It is only the translucent ones that can deliver the gorgeous, shimmering look you want when you buy cabochons made of this stone. Transluscence allows light in and out, but diffracts it among the inclusions in the stone. This diffraction yields the glimmering, ever-changing rainbow of colors that makes labradorite so popular.
Choose labradorite cabochons of a good size.
Dainty, delicate bits of stone are not going to yield the look you want from a labradorite. While diamonds glimmer and shine no matter what size they are, the unique shifting of colors that occurs in labradorite is best viewed in larger stones.
As a result, when you purchase labradorites, make sure to look for stones that are a good size. While the size should fit with your project, it should also be the star of the show. This stone is no shrinking violet. By embracing a larger size, you get to enjoy all of the transluscent, shimmering, labradorescence that will make your labradorite stand out in your beadwork.
Choose a higher grade.
In order to make it easier for you to understand the quality of the labradorite you are purchasing, these stones do receive grades. Grading can vary from economy grade at the lowest to AAA grade at the highest. While the highest-quality labradorites are unlikely to be cut into cabochons, you can find jewelry-ready pieces of labradorite in quality grades.
When selecting your stones, purchase the highest grade you can afford. The grade reflects the quality and clarity of the labradorescence. As a result, the higher the grade, the better, and more beautiful, the stone is likely to be.
When you go to buy cabochons made from labradorite, you will need to look for certain features to ensure you get a high-quality stone for your project. Make sure the stone you choose has stunning labradorescence, a face-up cut, transluscence, a good size, and a decent grade.
Here at the Austin Bead Gallery, we love to offer our customers high-quality beads of all kinds. We can help you find the right labradorite for your needs, help you identify other stones for your project, and even offer classes to help you learn the art of beading. Do not hesitate to reach out today.