What Does Raw Labradorite Look Like?

Labradorite is a beautiful feldspar mineral that displays an iridescent optical effect known as labradorescence. When viewed from different angles, labradorite flashes brilliant metallic blues, violets, oranges and greens. This phenomenon is caused by the structure of the mineral reflecting light back in different ways. Raw labradorite has an appearance quite different from the tumbled stones that display these flashy Labradorescent colors. So what does raw labradorite look like before it is tumbled and polished?

In its natural unprocessed form, raw labradorite usually has a dull, matte appearance on the surface. The body color can range from dark gray to black, to a medium gray or brownish-gray. Some pieces may be more of a light gray or whitish color. The surface is uneven and when freshly broken will have sharp edges and a vitreous or glassy luster when light catches the smooth new surfaces. But most surfaces are quite rough and do not reflect light well, so raw labradorite does not exhibit much Play of Color.

However, the inside of raw labradorite tells a different story. When a piece of raw labradorite is cracked or broken open, beautiful Labradorescence can be seen on the fresh unweathered surfaces. Vivid flashes of blue, green, yellow, orange, red and purple iridescence are visible at certain angles when light hits the newly exposed interior of raw labradorite. This labradorescence is caused by lamellar intergrowths inside the mineral’s structure that act like semi-precious diffraction gratings. So while the outside of raw labradorite appears dull and nondescript, the inside can display the mineral’s magical chameleon-like Play of Color.

Some pieces of raw labradorite may show limited patches of iridescence on naturally weathered surfaces, but the labradorescence really comes alive on newly fractured interiors. So when searching for labradorite in its raw natural form, look for specimens that have sharp, angular fractures that expose the iridescent material inside. The more fractured surfaces a piece has, the greater range of labradorescence you will see when it catches the light.

High quality labradorite that displays strong labradorescence is primarily found in Finland and Madagascar. But lesser quality raw material can also be found in other localities such as Russia, Mexico, Norway, Canada and the United States. With some tumbling and polishing, even lower grade raw labradorite can be turned into beautiful finished stones with mesmerizing labradorescence. So while raw labradorite may initially look rather dull and gray, the phenomenal Play of Color within just needs to be revealed by cutting, polishing or fracturing the surface. The result is a stunningly beautiful gemstone that dazzles the eye with ever-changing iridescent colors.