Feldspar, a Gem Found in California

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April Nurse
May 28, 2024

Photo: Labradorite, a mineral in the Feldspar family, Awiejekeal, Wikimedia Commons

The most common grit making up the Earth’s crust is called feldspar. Some of the more popular and colorful gems on the market are part of this mineral family. If you’re building a collection, feldspars are easily sourced and worthy additions. If you’re lucky enough to live in Southern California, many varieties can be dug up in your own backyard or picked up on the beach.

Labradorite is a beautifully layered stone with a vast array of colors that “flash” across its surface, depending on how it’s cut and polished. This (usually)charcoal-colored rock can flash every color of the visible light spectrum. Folktales tell us that labradorite was used to capture the beauty of the rainbow, and it shows!

Red and purple are the rarer colors, with blue and gold being most common. The illuminated flash is called “labradorescence,” and it occurs because intrusive compounds make themselves at home within the rock as it’s forming, creating minute spaces between the layers. A tiny amount of disorder creates a world of color. Labradorite is hugely popular and widely available. It makes for flashy jewelry and stunning specimens.

Moonstone from Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, photo by Mr. Matthew Hardy, Japan, Wikimedia Commons

Moonstone is arguably the most popular of the feldspar gemstone family. It occurs in many colors, ranging from black to white and opaque to perfectly clear. The legendary sky-blue flash has been highly sought after for centuries. Ancient Indians and the people of the Kush kingdom popularized the use of gemstones for personal empowerment. They knew moonstone as solidified moonbeams. The concentrated moonbeams could be carved and worn to conjure, to balance, and to protect. Moonstone pairs were given to lovers as wedding gifts; it ensured they’d always remain passionately entwined.

Sunstone, by James St. John, Wikimedia Commons

Sunstone sparkles like the most brilliant light. This red-orange gemstone looks like itis full of glitter. This effect is called “aventuresence.” Often copper and other minute metal bits get trapped within cooling rocks. The reflections give the appearance of confetti. In ancient India, the stones were worn to protect and enhance the solar plexus chakra. Unlike Indian and Russian varieties, Oregon sunstones are stunningly clear and range in color from green blue to brilliantly yellow. Copper inclusions ranging from tiny glittering bits to splashes of red make this variation unique. To the first people, sunstone was not of the sun but of the blood. In the beginning, a great warrior caught in battle dripped his blood over the stones, leaving them stained. Sunstone became synonymous with strength and endurance. So it’s no surprise that sunstone set into tools, masks and weapons (as well loose stones) have been uncovered all over the continent.

I hope that you consider these gems for your growing rock collection. These deeply sacred and beautiful minerals have a rich history and many a story to tell. We’ve spent centuries turning to bits of grit to bring us closer to the cosmos and our own powerful selves. Engaging in the appreciation of them honors our history and the contributions of the earth itself.