Is Sunstone a Natural Stone?

Sunstone is a type of feldspar mineral that displays an optical phenomenon called schiller. This results in metallic-looking flecks of reddish brown and gold that shimmer and gleam as the stone is moved under light. Sunstone is indeed a natural stone, though some enhanced varieties exist.

What Is Sunstone?

Sunstone belongs to the plagioclase feldspar mineral group. It has a chemical composition of A12Si2O8 + Ca, Na, or K. The base color of sunstone ranges from clear or pale yellow to deep reddish orange. Within this base, banding often occurs in colors like red, orange, and brown. This banding forms from inclusions of copper crystals like hematite and goethite.

The metallic schiller effect visible in some specimens comes from plate-like copper inclusions just under the surface. As light hits these plates, it reflects and refracts to produce bright flashes of light. This optical phenomenon distinguishes sunstone from other similar feldspars.

Where Does Natural Sunstone Come From?

The greatest deposits of natural sunstone exist in India and Oregon. A few other sources include Tasmania, Norway, Canada, Madagascar, and various parts of the United States. Only a small percentage of stones from these deposits display the distinctive schiller effect.

Oregon sunstone comes from deposits of andesitic lava flows in Lake County. These lava flows contain abundant copper, producing sunstone with red, orange, and green schiller flashes. Oregon sunstone localities include the Ponderosa Mine, Dust Devil Mine, and Spectrum Mine.

India boasts sunstone deposits in states like Orissa and Madhya Pradesh. These sunstones range from transparent to deep red in color. Occasionally, blues and greens also occur. Sources here include the Sambalpur and Balangir regions.

Sunstone vs. Goldstone

Goldstone is an artificial glass made by Renaissance artisans to imitate the look of natural sunstone. Flecks of copper crystals like cuprite are suspended in the molten glass to produce glittering reflections of light. While goldstone superficially looks like natural sunstone, it lacks the complex play of light seen in genuine stones.

Other enhanced sunstones exist that are natural stones coated with a fine metallic film. These should not be confused with completely natural, unaltered specimens. Reputable dealers will disclose any treatments or enhancements.

Sunstone Uses

With its warm tones and dazzling flashes, sunstone has long been popular in jewelry. The Romans used it in carved intaglios and medieval Europeans wore it as pendants and brooches. Today sunstone appears in rings, bracelets, necklaces and earrings. Oval, cushion and round cabochons showcase the schiller effect.

Sunstone also holds meaning as a spiritual stone of light. It’s thought to carry positive solar energy and has connections to wind and fire. Sunstone’s warm energy resonates with the solar plexus chakra. Mined in locations around the world, beautiful sunstone continues to live up to its name as a natural stone of light.