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The current featured stone:

 

Axinite

 

Refractive Index:  1.672-1.704 Crystal Structure: Triclinic
 

 

 
Hardness:  6 1/2 - 7 Specific Gravity:  3.18-3.37
 

 

 
Chemical Composition:
(Ca,Mn)2(Fe,Mn,Mg)
Al2BSi4O15OH

 
Occurrences:  Mexico,   Pakistan, Tanzania, California
The name Axinite refers to a group of borosilicate minerals that make an uncommon gem material.  The stones are sufficiently hard for use in jewelry, as is often the case the material is simply to rare to find a meaningful place on the market.  That said, there has been enough of the this gem available in the last couple of years, primarily from finds in Pakistan, that we thought it merited a write-up.  Looking at the first photo, you make be inclined to think of Axinite as just another scarce brown gem with little to make things more interesting.  It's true that there are lot of rare, brown stones.  The next photo should help with that a bit:  Axinite has a strong directional color, or pleochroism, and one of these colors can be an intense purple.  The combination of brown bodycolor with strong flashes of purple is highly unusual and quite lovely.

There is even more to the story.  As mentioned, Axinite refers to a group of minerals that are the same structurally but can differ based on the percentage of other elements present.  Most gem Axinite has a high percentage of iron and is therefore known as Ferro-Axinite.  These are the primarily deep brown gems that are most frequently encountered.  Attractive examples of Magnesio-Axinite have also been discovered in gem quality in the last several years - interestingly enough at the Tanzanite deposits in Merelani, Tanzania.  These stones have a strikingly different visual appearance - they tend to be pink-purple (see the double photos below) and will exhibit a color shift.
 

Deposits in Baja, California have produced gem Axinites for collectors for many decades, but only recently have more significant finds in Pakistan allowed larger, cleaner gems to be faceted.

Finally, what's in a name?  Axinite comes from the unusual flattend, wedge shape of the crystals themselves (see right).  While these distinctive beauties are great for collectors, they tend to limit the available size of finished gems.  Flat crystals make for very poor yields when faceting.