Sodalite is a royal blue coloured mineral which is often mistaken for lapis lazuli but unlike lapis, sodalite is never included with pyrite. Sodalite is however often present in lapis lazuli. The first actual documentation relating to sodalite dates back to 1806 when a large quantity was sent during the Napoleonic war from Greenland to Denmark. At some point during the journey the material caught the attention of the British who had it examined by Glasgow chemist Thomas Thomson who subsequently named it after its high sodium content. Sodalite remained relatively unknown until 1891 when huge deposits were discovered in Bancroft, Ontario and in 1893 several rough and carved specimens were displayed at an exposition in Chicago.
Bancroft Ontario, Ice River British Columbia, Litchfield in Maine USA and Brazil are home to the largest and most commercial deposits of sodalite but it can also be found in smaller quantities in Greenland, Russia, Montana and India. The stones from Greenland have a very different appearance and are mainly grey or yellow but other vibrant colours such as blue, white, pink, green and red are also known. Whilst some varieties fluoresce under UV light, others are tenebrescent which means they change colour when exposed to sunlight. Although the exceptional grade of some of these rocks would make them suitable for polishing, they rarely end up being polished because they're far too rare. The varieties of sodalite which exhibit the reversible optical phenomenon known as tenebrescence are known as Hackmanite. More recently a deposit with exceptionally fine grade material was discovered in Quebec, Canada and a few polished stones from this locality are now slowly beginning to appear.
Rare sodalite from Greenland under UV light
It is widely reported in various articles that in 1901 during a visit to Canada, the Prince and Princess of Wales who later became King George V and Queen Mary fell in love with Sodalite and had 130 tons shipped to the UK in order to decorate their home. Although we've found shipping records from Ontario which show the shipment took place, we cannot find any documentation which confirms sodalite was ever used in Marlborough House. Not long after their visit to Canada the quarry where the stone was mined became known as the Princess Sodalite Quarry. The princess of Wales subsequently gave her husband an exquisite letter opener with a sodalite handle and gold blade which also featured several other gemstones and a crown at the top of the handle. A note in her records shows that she also had a pair of sodalite urns made to order whilst she was still Princess of Wales.
Sodalite is only really used as a decorative material and we have read articles which indicate that it was being used thousands of years ago by various ancient civilizations in South America. In the 1870's a German geologist found blue beads along with quartz and obsidian arrowheads in the ruins of Tiahuanaco, a pre-Columbian city on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia. The beads were later confirmed to be sodalite. Deposits of sodalite are present in both Brazil and Bolivia.
On Mohs scale of mineral hardness sodalite is 5½ to 6, it's generally cut as a cabochon when used in jewellery and takes on a high polish. It occurs mostly as a navy blue coloured stone that's patterned with inclusions of white or orange calcite but is also known to occur in other colours as well.
Sodalite tumbled stones are popular for use in alternative therapies such as crystal healing and Judy Hall's Crystal Bible states that it's great for endurance and energy even during the most challenging situations and can increase confidence, enhance creativity and have a balancing effect on emotions and the mental state. She also writes that it helps alleviate fear, brings clarity of mind and is excellent for psychic protection.