Have you heard about the rare purple crystal called Sugilite? Or have you tried to buy some and found it nearly impossible to find, or that the price is astronomical? Let’s learn a bit more about the history of this stone! Find out why purple Sugilite is so rare!
WHAT IS SUGILITE?
Sugilite is a cyclosilicate mineral with a very complex chemical formula (KNa₂(Fe, Mn, Al)₂Li₃Si₁₂O₃₀). That means it is a sodium (Na) potassium (K) lithium (Li) silicate (SiO) mineral. And it can variably contain iron (Fe), Aluminium (Al), or Manganese (Mn).
Rare purple Sugilite: The presence of Manganese gives Sugilite material it’s sought after purple colour – the amount and distribution of Mn accounting for the colour range from pink to violet.
WHERE DOES THE NAME SUGILITE COME FROM?
Named after Japanese petrologist Dr Kenichi Sugi who first discovered the mineral in 1944, Sugilite is one of the most mispronounced minerals around! Most English speakers pronounce the “g” in Sugilite as a soft “g”, as in “ginger” or “general”. But you should actually pronounce it with a hard “g”, as you would pronounce “geese” or “go”.
Sugilite almost had a very different name. During the early 1980’s, mineral dealers tried out different trade names. These included “Royal Hazel”, “Wesselite” and “Lavulite”. But none of these trade names caught on.
Sugilite was first discovered in 1944 in Japan, by petrologist Dr. Kenichi Sugi.
The Sugilite he identified was in the form of unattractive, unremarkable small brownish yellow grains on host rock.
At the time, the discovery went largely unnoticed.
Some dark pink, prismatic crystals were found in central India in 1955. But due to not being cutting material, they were of no commercial value.
In 1975, a core-drill sample at the Wessells mine in the Northern Cape of South Africa revealed a thin seam of Sugilite.
Here, Sugilite formed in beds of manganese-rich metamorphic rocks that are the remains of magma. These strata-bound manganese deposits of the Kalahari manganese fields are the largest, richest manganese deposits in the world. As we know from it’s chemical formulation, it is the presence of manganese that gives Sugilite its beautiful pink purple hues.
While fairly small, the deposit became the first source of gem-quality purple Sugilite to be found.
RARE PURPLE SUGILITE RISE TO FAME
This discovery of commercial quantities of gemmy purple Sugilite shot the mineral into the gem world’s spotlight by 1979. And by the following year in 1980, Sugilite was officially classified as a rare gem.
Supply at the Wessells mine became exhaused by the mid-1900’s. The pocket was empty, and there were no new ones! Those mineral dealers who had bought stock from the Wessells mine before it ran out, now held the only stock available.
Scarcity – meaning, hard to get hold of, limited availability – can raise the value of a mineral. Thus the price of Sugilite began its climb…
SCARCITY TO SOARING PRICES
A key factor to the meteoric price rise of Sugilite involves China.
At a certain point, China took interest in the beautiful Wessells mine Sugilite stock and began buying up supply from mineral dealers in huge quantities.
Sugilite gems are highly prized in China. The material is sold as jewellery and carvings, as well as collector specimens.
More and more of the available stock was bought up by China. While no new sources were discovered. So it became harder and harder to aquire.
By 2015, it was almost impossible to find any good quality Sugilite outside of China. What little remained with mineral dealers commanded ever burgeoning prices, as demand remained high.
Since that famous discovery of the pocket at the Wessells mine in 1979, no new notable large deposits have been found. Anywhere in the world! The only new discovery was of another very small pocket in 2013, at the Wessells mine itself.
The pocket held well-crystallized specimens. These new specimens occurred in masses of hair-like crystals in thin veins only. As the rarest form of Sugilite, this pocket was an exceptional discovery!
Specimens found in the 2013 Wessells mine pocket featured colorful, bright lavender-hued Sugilite in fibrous crystals with a silky sheen. These fibrous crystals are the rarest form of crystallized Sugilite.
WHERE IS SUGILITE FOUND?
- Wessels Mine, Kuruman district, near Hotazel, South Africa.
- Iwagi Islet, Japan.
- Madhya Pradesh, India.
- New South Wales, Australia; Canada; Italy; Tajikistan
DO WE STOCK SUGILITE?
Here at the Mystic Cat we are always on the lookout for well-priced and well-prized purple Sugilite. Hard to come by and very expensive, we tend to get in fairly small pieces which sell out almost immediately! Have a look at some of the pieces we have sold:
RARE PURPLE SUGILITE SPECIMENS WE HAVE STOCKED:
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