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Violite / Varisite

Hi Everyone! I have a unique problem that I should have put out
here for suggestions in the beginning. I purchased several pieces of
a stone called Violite/Varisite" in Tucson in 1999, from a company
called Vajda’s from Albuquerque. I made a pair of earrings a couple
of years ago using two fairly long triangle pieces. They are about
two inches long. They are a mint green at the top and become purple
at the bottom. Kind of looks like a sherbert ice cream cone. It’s
very pretty and unusual. Anyway, a woman bought the earrings from me
about 10 months ago. She came back about 6 weeks ago and showed me
that the stones (both) had cracked down the center vertically.
Aughhh! Apparently this stuff is about as soft as tourquoise.

Why they didn’t crack horizontally is beyond me. I mean why they
cracked at all is a mystery. The woman loves these earrings, and they
were rather expensive. She swears nothing ever happened to them other
than her wearing them. Soooo what to do? I’ve had them filed down to
where the crack is not too visable, but it’s still there. I’ve called
the company I bought them from. They have an answering machine so I
assume they still exist. But no one has ever returned numerous calls.
Does anyone out there work with this material? Also, I’m sure it
won’t be cheap to cut two matching stones of that size to fit the
settings. Even finding material that even resembles these might be
impossible. Is it my responsibility to pay to replace the stones?
I’ve already lost an enormous amount of time dealing with them
already. The last resort I can come up with is enameling two pieces
that look like the stones and setting them. When Sarah Perkins saw a
slide of them she thought they were enameled. I think I can pull it
off but that alone would be an event! If anyone has any ideas I
would really appreciate it.

God Bless you

Hi Poppy.

Variscite is a Hydrous Phospate of Aluminum (when this mixture also
contains copper it is Turquoise). Much like Turquoise, Variscite has
a wide range of hardness with the low grade averaging around 4 1/2

  • 5 (mohs harndess scale) and the best grades having a hardness
    roughly equal to Quartz (Mohs 7). I suspet the material you have is
    of the softer variety which is important insofar was the important
    word in the chemical make-up of both Variscite and Turquoise is
    hydrous, meaning there is a certain amount of water in the mix. Some
    of the water will be tightly bound by chemical bonds while another
    portion of the water could be loosely held by capillary action in
    the interstices of the material. The harder varieties of these two
    phosphates contain very little “loose” water whereas the softer
    varieities contain considerably more “loose” water. It would seem
    that you had the misfortune to acquire stones in which the water
    content changed enough after cutting to cause stress fractures. I
    suspect that in this instance the stones lost water.

I have one idea to offer which you might wait to hear from others who
read this post before deciding whether or not to try it. My
suggestion is this, soak the repaired stones in opticon at room
temperature for 12 - 36 hours and then wipe away all excess opticon.
This should not cause any significant changes to the size or finish
of the stones but it will darken the stones considerably (test an
unexposed area by dabbing on a small amount of opticon to determine
whether the color change is too significant to be acceptable) . The
aim of this treatment is to seal the surface of the stones and
hopefully stabilize the them against any gain or loss of water in the
future. Whatever you decide to do it is always best to be up front
with the customer about what you intend to do regarding any warranty
of your products. I realize that this is a significant event and I do
not mean to make light of it but be thankful that it wasn’t a high
priced opal gone gray or crazed. Best of luck with this unfortunate


Hi, Poppy-

Violite has been used as a trade name for both purple chalcedony,
which is much harder than what you describe, and copiapite, which
has a hardness of 2-3 and is too soft for jewelry use. I like weird
rockhound stuff, and I cut variscite, but I have never seen
variscite occur in conjunction with any purple mineral such as you

Variscite chips are known to turn purple when placed on a hot stove.
My sneaking suspicion is that what you were dealing with is
partially heat-treated variscite. If you want to experiment, you
could try heating some variscite cabs at one end and see if you can
duplicate the look of the stones in question.

Variscite is a fairly soft stone, much like turquoise. It could have
snapped due to being struck, or due to being under stress due to
some irregularity in the setting, or due to an internal fault in the
stone along the line of breakage.

Lee Einer
Dos Manos Jewelry

Dear Poppy,

Having been a specialist in variscite for many years I can assure
you that purple is definitely not in the variscite color spectrum.
On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the material that
you mentioned may have come from a new source. As for cracking I can
assure you that variscite rarely cracks. Turquoise and variscite
share many physical attributes, but variscite is much less prone to
be brittle or porous than turquoise. Hardness is not to be confused
with toughness. Nephrite jade is one of the toughest minerals , but
it is not particularly hard. Hardness is simply a matter of
resistance to abrasion.

Ron Mills, Mills Gem Co.Los Osos, Ca.

If the pieces were enameled the chances of picking the same enamel
colors is astronomical since there are so many companies and so many
colors not to mention skill levels and kiln temperatures,etc. Since
the cracks are similar on each earring, could you try to create a
line of decorative metal running down the piece? That will change
the original piece but save the artistic integrity of your work. The
customer’s approval, of course. Sketch a few ideas and see if it
pleases the customer.