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Chatoyant from the French for Cat's Eye

cats eye optical phenomenon in gemstones

Chatoyant Chatoyance and Chatoyancy

A rock or mineral that's chatoyant or exhibits chatoyance or chatoyancy displays a curious optical phenomenon.  It's caused either by the stone's fibrous structure or by fibrous inclusions or cavities within the stone that reflect light. 

Chatoyance produces a narrow band of reflected light from beneath the surface of the stone.  As the direction of light changes the band of light moves.  In patterned stones this can give the impression of movement on the surface of the stone.

To appreciate this optical phenomenon the stone must reflect light from different angles.  The effect can vary significantly and is best seen in gemstones that have been polished as a cabochon.   

The minerals best known for being chatoyant are tigers eye and chrysoberyl also known as cats eye.  Chatoyance can also be seen in several other minerals.

The word chatoyant originates from the French for 'cat's eye'.  

Article Photo

The stones in our photo are elbaite which is a variety of tourmaline. Photo courtesy of Stan Celestian. The image is clickable and redirects to the original non-compressed photo.

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