This article explains the meaning of Kunzite, its chemical properties, physical description, tips for identifying the gem and other members in and outside the spodumene family that resembles Kunzite.
How To Tell if Kunzite Is Real (EXPLAINED)
Kunzite is the latest member of the gem family, having been discovered only in 1902.
There is no historical mention of the rock before the year of discovery, and neither are there prior archaeological finds.
George Frederick Kunz of Tiffany and Co. determined that the gem from San Diego, California, belonged to a known crystal family known as spodumene.
However, the unique deep pink to lilac color wasn’t previously described, and thus the rock was named after him.
What Is Kunzite?
Kunzite is chemically composed of lithium aluminum inosilicate (Lil(Si2O6) with trace amounts of manganese, enabling it to absorb light and reflect back in beautiful pinkish and lilac hues.
Although you can get some with more pronounced colors, Kunzite typically has a light pinkish to lilac color.
The mineral exhibits pleochroism, which is the presentation of several colors simultaneously when looked at from different angles.
A good example of pleochroism is a mixture of pink and lilac colors, although it is not uncommon to find other colors like green, blue and yellow.
Kunzite has a vitreous luster and a hardness of 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which is similar to quartz but softer than pink spinel and sapphire, making the rock resilient enough for most jewelry use.
Kunzite gem class stones have a specific gravity of 3.15-3.21 and a refractive index of 1.660, making them naturally transparent, eye clean with no visible inclusions.
Any visible inclusions appear as aligned tubes contributing to the overall beauty.
Common metaphysical beliefs link kunzite stone with matters of heart and love with the stone said to open and connect mind and heart, encouraging fellowship between the two, thus calming mind and body.
Most lapidary use kunzite weighs not less than 20 karats, with one famous specimen weighing 47 karats having fetched over $410,000 in 1996.
5 Tips for Identifying Kunzite
If you think a random rock could be Kunzite, look for the following;
One of the qualities that make humankind want to dangle rocks from their ears, necks and wrap them around their fingers is the bright and attractive colors.
Kunzite exhibits pleochroism, a brilliant display of colors from yellow, pink, blue, and anything in between to purple when viewed from different angles.
Most gem-quality kunzite projects pinkish to very light purple giving the rock a colored glassy look.
Concentrated pink means that the rock is probably pink quartz or Kunzite made from synthetic materials in the lab.
One way to tell whether Kunzite is real is by exposing it to sunlight.
It will lose color gradually to become colorless like glass.
So, if the rock is stored in a dark place or the owner wears it for evening functions only, it’s likely to be Kunzite.
Use tools and other rocks to test the scratch hardness of the potential mineral.
You can use a piece of glass and a kitchen knife if you aren’t near professional testing materials.
Kunzite ranks 6 to 6.5 on the Mohs scale higher than glass and kitchen knife at 5.5.
This means that the rock will scratch glass, but a kitchen knife will leave no marks on the gem surface.
Other minerals that can leave marks on the surface of the mineral include topaz, sapphire, and diamond.
Mineral spodumene forms a monoclinic crystal system as it crystallizes.
The result is a prismatic crystal structure that produces the unique pleochroism.
Crystals look like flattened prisms and are ordinarily striated, which means they run parallel to the length.
Look for these unique crystal forms, which are unique to spodumenes.
One kunzite property that makes it complicated to cut is the perfect cleavage, a character it shares with both topaz and diamond.
Perfect cleavage means that the mineral or rock will cleave or break fully along one line, leaving a smooth plane where the crystal broke.
Although minerals with a perfect cleavage leave a smooth surface, it isn’t uncommon to find minor residual rough surfaces.
If you were to collect a pinkish rock you suspect to be Kunzite, break it and watch how the rock breaks.
Touch the remnant surface with your fingers, and it will feel smooth.
This quality is a source of headache for lapidaries which explains why you can only find huge kunzite jewelry like pendants and life-sized rings and less small ones like earrings.
Kunzite is diamagnetic or, simply put, weakly magnetic.
This is because it contains manganese impurities, with the Mn2+ ions being responsible for pink and red colors in most gems, for example, Rhodochrosite.
Kunzite displays light pinkish colors to soft lilac hues because of the Mn3+ ions, which produce colors in lower concentrations than the Mn2+.
Mn3+ ions produce the red hue in Rubellite Tourmaline, which is weakly magnetic, and the pink color in Kunzite, which is diamagnetic.
In simple terms, if you want to identify Kunzite, place it next to a magnet, and the magnet will repel it in the opposite direction.
This is because it is weakly magnetic and creates a repulsive force in an induced magnetic field.
How Kunzite Can Be Confused with Other Gemstones
Rose quartz is commonly confused with Kunzite due to its pinkish glassy appearance.
However, rose quartz is cloudy with visible inclusions, while Kunzite is clear and free from inclusions.
Rose Quartz’s pink is warmer than Kunzite’s, which is pale and boarder lilac.
Pink topaz, morganite, tourmaline, and spinel are all likely to be confused with Kunzite due to the pink color and lilac hues.
Pink topaz is even more confusing with its clear look free from inclusions.
However, the pink in these gems, even morganite’s which borders lilac, is still on the warmer spectrum of true pink compared to the cool lilac of Kunzite.
Why is the Identification of Kunzite important?
Although relatively inexpensive, jewel-class Kunzite can fetch impressive amounts of cash in the market.
Kunzite contains lithium, the reason why most stones that are too pale for lapidary use are crushed and processed to produce lithium.
Kunzite is still the main source of pure lithium used in batteries.
Kunzite shouldn’t be stored in water or close to damp surfaces because it contains lithium which reacts intensely with water to produce highly flammable hydrogen gas and lithium hydroxide, spoiling the quality of your gem.
Kunzite or lithium aluminum silicate is a gem that belongs to the spodumene family.
You can distinguish it from other materials using color, hardness, magnetism, crystal formation, and cleavage.