13 Purple Gemstones (How Many Do You Know?)
Rarely found in nature, purple gemstones can make quite a fashion statement. Here are 13 examples for every budget and style.
8 Minute Read
We'll begin with amethyst, the February birthstone and perhaps the most famous of all purple gemstones. Amethyst colors range from pale lilac to deep reddish purple.
Amethyst is a type of quartz, one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. Thanks to its beautiful color, plentiful supply, and low price point, amethyst is the best-selling of all transparent purple gemstones.
Amethyst is a very versatile gem. Jewelers use it in all types of designs, from expensive high-fashion pieces to simple birthstone items. Transparent stones are often faceted, while translucent pieces can be carved into cabochons or beads. Some people collect raw crystals still attached to their host rocks.
Amethyst is very closely related to citrine, the yellow variety of quartz. In fact, some quartz crystals are part amethyst and part citrine. Gemologists call this bicolored material ametrine. If you're looking for something unusual and fun, an ametrine may be for you!
The workhorse of the gem world, sapphire boasts high durability scores, many possible body colors, and an abundant worldwide supply. Not surprisingly, people have prized sapphires for thousands of years.
Impurities in sapphire's chemical formula create color in these gemstones. Purple results from a specific combination of iron, titanium, and chromium. Depending on the concentrations of these elements, purple sapphire may have secondary red or violet color components.
Many purple sapphires receive heat treatments that change their primary colors to pink. Since pink sapphires have higher price-per-carat values than purple, vendors can make more money selling pink gems. Fortunately, some purple sapphires survive this culling process. Although this practice reduces the supply of already uncommon purple sapphires, you can still find them at affordable prices. You may hear dealers refer to purple sapphires as "rose sapphires" or "plum sapphires."
Some rare sapphires show a natural color change phenomenon. These gems appear reddish or violetish purple in incandescent light and blue or green in daylight. Lab-created color-change sapphire can also show a similar effect.
One of the modern December birthstones, tanzanite is an exciting gem. It presents a combination of three different colors, depending on your viewing angle. This phenomenon is called pleochroism, and gems that show three colors are called trichroic. Tanzanite has one of the strongest trichroic displays in the gem world, showing purple, violet, and blue.
In terms of price per carat, tanzanites cut so they show a dominant blue color have greater value than gems cut to show a dominant purple color. As a result, most stones on the market will appear blue with purple and violet flashes when viewed face up. However, cutters will sometimes orient the gem to highlight the purple color. You should treasure these relatively rare purple gemstones.
A durable gem, tourmaline can show almost any color, including purple. The October birthstone, tourmaline gems can have perfect clarity or show an especially shiny cat's eye effect. Fortunately, purple tourmalines are more affordable than some other color varieties, like red and pink.
This January birthstone comes in many different species, varieties, blends, and colors. Garnets whose chemical makeup includes the almandine species can show a dominant purple color. Dealers will often call purple garnets rhodolites. Although garnets aren't as hard as other popular gems like tourmalines and sapphires, they're still strong enough for regular wear.
A modern August birthstone option, spinel makes a durable gemstone and often shows incredible colors. Purple spinels come in tones ranging from light to dark and saturations ranging from pale to intense.
From a chemical perspective, a combination of iron and chromium traces create purple color in spinel. Purple spinels don't enjoy the same popularity as red, pink, or blue stones. However, this means the price-per-carat values of these charming purple gemstones remain relatively low.
Jadeite that exhibits a purple color is called "lavender jade," referencing its gentle, never overly dark or saturated color. (Although two distinct minerals, jadeite and nephrite, are both considered jade, only jadeite naturally occurs with purple color).
Lavender is the second most valuable variety of jadeite after green. Although collectors tend to look for deeper colors, some buyers prefer light purple gems with a gray color component. The very best jade pieces have a uniform color. However, more often than not, jade displays an uneven, mottled color.
Jade has been treasured for thousands of years, especially in Asian cultures, for its aesthetic and physical properties. Soft enough to carve into elaborate works of art, jade is also strong enough to maintain a sharp edge better than iron. Jade gems can range from semi-transparent to opaque, with clearer gems commanding higher prices.
You may also find a gem material for sale know as turkiyenite, more popularly called "Turkish purple jade." Although turkiyenite contains a variable amount of jadeite, this opaque gemstone differs from jadeite or nephrite. Nevertheless, jewelers can carve beautiful pieces from it.
One of the November birthstone options, topaz can show many dominant colors. Most well-known for yellow, red, orange, and blue colors, topazes can also occur naturally as beautiful purple gemstones.
Gem cutters can polish topaz to such a high degree that some describe the surface as feeling "slippery." Fortunately, with a hardness score of 8, topaz has the durability to maintain that polish over time. You can wear topaz jewelry every day.
Purple Spodumene (Kunzite)
Although the kunzite variety of spodumene usually shows a pink color, some rare crystals occur with a violetish purple color. Kunzite is better known to collectors than casual buyers, which keeps price-per-carat costs for this gem quite low. Kunzite can form naturally as large crystals, some weighing more than 1,000 cts. Thus, jewelers can use these purple gemstones to create delicate accents or large centerpieces.
Jewelry enthusiasts should note that kunzite's color will fade if exposed to too much light or heat. Reserve these gems for occasional evening wear and always store them in cool, dark conditions.
Purple scapolite has colors and properties similar to amethyst. However, these colors may appear more violet or brownish than amethyst's purples. Scapolites will also often display strong pink, yellow, or orange fluorescent colors under ultraviolet light. In contrast, amethysts don't typically fluoresce. Scapolites are also somewhat softer than amethyst, with a hardness score of only 5.5-6. Thus, you should wear scapolite jewelry with care and use protective settings for rings.
Translucent to opaque sugilite has a strong purple hue that may have violet, red, or even blueish undertones. These striking purple gemstones may contain other minerals that will appear as dark or light streaks within the gem. Gem faceters usually cut sugilites into cabochons and beads but only rarely into faceted pieces. You may find sugilite sold under trade names such as "Royal Lavulite," "Royal Azel," and "Cybelene."
For gemologists, a rock is a material composed of several different minerals in a single mass. Some rocks have the beauty and durability needed for gem use. Charoite is one such "gem rock" or "lapidary rock."
Made up of many minerals, including feldspar and quartz, charoite usually contains distinctive string-like, crimped, whiteish inclusions. Some in the gem trade call this "granny hair." Between these white streaks, you may also see white, gray, black, and possibly brownish orange spots.
Due to its softness and perfect cleavage in four directions, fluorite is quite fragile and usually considered a collector's stone. However, fluorites occur in many beautiful colors, including purple. Fluorite gems can range from transparent to fully opaque. Raw fluorite crystals can be very large, but their surfaces are generally quite pitted due to their softness. Any fluorites in jewelry should have protective settings.
Emily Frontiere is a GIA Graduate Gemologist. She is particularly experienced working with estate/antique jewelry.
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