Apatite - The Neon Blue Electric Colored Gem

 APATITE - A Rare Gem

Apatite is a fairly uncommon gemstone, and you will only rarely see it offered for sale in the typical commercial jewelry stores.  However, in recent years some of the TV jewelry and gemstone home shopping networks have offered a variety of this gem known as neon apatite. This is a very attractive form of this gemstone, and as a result, it has gained some level of popularity because of that exposure.

Apatite is a very soft and heat sensitive gemstone, and it is not recommended for wear in rings are bracelets. It is however perfectly suitable for setting in a pendant or earrings.  While not fragile in any way, a reasonable amount of care is necessary to insure the gem is not damaged, which is why it is not recommended for use in rings are bracelets. It has a hardness of five on a scale of one to 10.

Brazil and Mexico have been the traditional sources of gem quality apatite. The Brazilian stones are a medium dark to dark, strongly saturated blue color, somewhat like a deep sapphire type of color. They are also small, and there is never been much of this deep blue material on the gemstone market. Deep blue stones more than about four carats in size are unusual.  The Mexican apatite comes from an iron mine and is deep golden-yellow in color. In the 1970s and 80s, a fairly large amount of the Mexican yellow apatite was produced.  They are available in somewhat larger sizes, and deep yellow stones up to about 30 carats in size are sometimes found on the gemstone market. Occasionally gems from other colors are found in small deposits from worldwide locations.  Small amounts of apatite have been mined in Canada, Europe, and the state of Maine in the US.  There is also a cats eye apatite from Tanzania, east Africa that forms a very good eye. It comes in large sizes, but unfortunately there is very little of this form of apatite on the market.


 The Discovery of Neon Apatite

In the 1980s an important new discovery of this gem was made on the island of Madagascar off the coast of Africa.  This bright, well saturated electric blue to blue-green colored stone became known as neon apatite. The color is natural, and no treatments or alterations are required to achieve it. The color is close to that seen in the best Paraiba tourmaline, and is very attractive, but of course at a price which is only a tiny fraction of that of Paraiba Tourmaline. So if you are interested in that bright color, but cant afford the $20,000 per carat for Paraiba, then Neon Apatite is a reasonable and fully natural alternative. These electric colored stones have become by far the best known variety of this gem.  While smaller stones in the one to 2 carat range are not unusual, neon apatite gemstones larger than about 10 carats are rare.  The Madagascar deposits were heavily mined for a period of about 10 years and produced quite a bit of gem material. However, most of the production has now ceased and the deposit is generally considered mined out.  During the time of production, prices were comparatively low.  Prices for gem quality neon apatite are slowly beginning to increase because of the popularity of this gem and the lack of new supply.

 Apatite as an Important Industrial Rock

While the gemstone version is not all that common, apatite is actually a fairly standard rock forming mineral.  For many years opaque, crystallized, non-gem apatite has been mined and used extensively as an industrial source of phosphate both for fertilizer as well as other chemicals which contain phosphate. Another important and interesting fact is that it is apatite that makes our bones and teeth hard. The phosphate minerals which make up human bones and teeth are members of the apatite mineral group. This group is composed of three different minerals depending on the predominance of either fluorine, chlorine or the hydroxyl group. These ions can freely substitute in the crystal lattice and all three are usually present in every specimen although a few specimens have been close to 100% in one or the other. The individual names of the minerals in the apatite group are Fluorapatite, Chlorapatite and Hydroxylapatite. The three members are usually considered together due to the difficulty in distinguishing them in hand samples using ordinary methods. All of the apatite group members crystallize in hexagonal form.

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