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Labradorite (Feldspar Family)

The minerals in the feldspar family make up more than half of the Earth's crust. Occasionally these common minerals form crystals that shimmer like the light of the moon or a rainbow on a soap bubble. Called iridescence, this phenomenon is caused by light scattering, or diffracting, off closely spaced layers in the feldspar crystals. The gems cut from these iridescent crystals are called moonstones, sunstones, and labradorite. Sunstones exhibit a reddish to golden schiller, resulting from light reflecting off numerous tiny copper or hematite (iron oxide) flakes scattered within the stones. Varying amounts of copper in Oregon sunstone cause the gems to range in color from colorless to yellow, as well as shades of green, red and pink. Some gems contain several colors, as seen in the carved sunstones pictured here. The pendant at far left was designed and carved by Nancy Chan and Greg Fraser; the center hexagonal-shaped sunstone, "Spitfire," is 4.53 carats and was faceted by Paul Paulson; the sunstone at far right, "Eternal Flight," is 174 carats and was carved by Bobbie Lorett. This suite of carved and faceted Oregon Sunstones was a wonderful addition to the National Gem Collection in 2004.

Image Number: Ken Larsen
Catalog Number: G10366, G10362, G10343
Weight: 4.53-174 carats
Gift of Robert Glenn and Connie Dixon , 2004
Locality: Ponderosa Mine , Oregon

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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History Department of Mineral Sciences website Credits