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What is Pleochroism?

small translucent crystal being held up in tweezers. The piece exhibits pleochroism

Pleochroism an Optical Phenomenon

Pleochroism is an optical phenomenon seen in certain minerals and gemstones.  Depending on the angle from which the stone is viewed different colours can be seen.

Pleochroism can be used for identification purposes because stones that share very similar colour will often have different pleochroic colour schemes.

Although amethyst can exhibit pleochroism it's fairly weak.  Tourmaline, tanzanite and apatite exhibit strong pleochroism.

Kyanite is also pleochroic.  This mineral which is known for its long bladed crystals has a unique crystal structure that allows light to pass through it in different directions.  This results in different colours being reflected back to the observer. 

The word pleochroism comes from the Greek words 'pléōn' meaning 'more' and 'khrôma' meaning 'colour'.

pleochroism in a natural crystalPleochroism is caused by the way light passes through a mineral's crystal structure.

Article Picture

The crystal in the photo above is an extreme example of pleochroism. The picture is clickable and redirects to the original image. The page includes further details about how the photo was taken. Courtesy of Stan Celestian.

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