oval-cut cryoliteoval-cut cryolite

Cryolite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information

Typically colorless with a “sleepy” look, cryolite is rarely found in nature. Rough suitable for gem faceting is extremely scarce. However, the synthetic version of this mineral has many industrial uses.

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Typically colorless with a “sleepy” look, cryolite is rarely found in nature. Rough suitable for gem faceting is extremely scarce. However, the synthetic version of this mineral has many industrial uses.

oval-cut cryolite
Oval-cut cryolite, 0.66 cts, 6.64 mm x 4.48 mm, Ivigtut, Greenland. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

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Cryolite Value

cryolites - Greenland
Cryolite crystals with minor brown siderite patches. Ivigtut Mine, Arsuk Fjord, Sermersooq, Greenland. Photo by Kelly Nash. Licensed under CC By 3.0.

What is Cryolite?

The mineral cryolite has been used in the aluminum industry, first as an ore itself and then as a flux to extract aluminum from other ores more efficiently. Cryolite has proven to have many other industrial uses, from ceramics to pesticides. However, most of the material used today is synthetic.

glass eyes
Glassmakers can add cryolite to glass to create an opaque, white color. So-called "cryolite glass," invented in Germany in 1835, proved very popular as a material for prosthetic eyes because of the naturalistic results. Cryolite glass eyes in presentation case, made in Lauscha, Thuringia, Germany, ca 1900. Photo courtesy of liveauctioneers.com and Auction Team Breker.

Does Cryolite Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

Oval-cut cryolite, 0.66 cts, 6.4 x 5.6 mm, Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

With a hardness of just 2.5 on the Mohs scale, cryolites would make a very impractical choice for jewelry wear. A copper coin (hardness of 3) could accidentally scratch it. Household dust, a far more pervasive hazard, has a hardness of 7 and can easily leave scratches on cryolites.

Typically colorless and very rarely transparent, cryolites seldom attract the attention of adventurous faceters or curious gemstone enthusiasts. You're more likely to find cryolites, faceted or in natural forms, in a mineral or rare gem collection than a jewelry collection.

What's the Difference Between Cryolite and Chiolite?

Cryolite, the "ice stone," and chiolite, the "snow stone," can appear very similar. They also occur in the same locations and have many gemological properties that differ only slightly. Both are rarely faceted, but chiolite is a rarer mineral.

Chiolite is a harder material (3.5 to 4), but scratch testing on finished gems isn't recommended. Conduct this test only as a last resort for identification.

The quickest way to distinguish these gems is to use a polariscope to find their optic character. Cryolites are biaxial +; chiolites are uniaxial -. You can also use a refractometer to identify optic character.

Are There Synthetic Cryolites?

Since abundant sources of natural cryolites are very scarce, scientists have synthesized this mineral for a wide variety of uses. However, there's no known jewelry use for this lab-created material. Cryolite's softness and limited visual appeal make a viable jewelry market for synthetics very improbable.

Cryolites usually receive no gemstone enhancements.

Where is Cryolite Found?

Cryolite was found in commercially significant quantities only in Greenland and only in one locality, theIvigtut mine. This source is now exhausted.

Other notable sources of cryolite include the following:

  • United States: Colorado (small amounts); Virginia.
  • Canada: Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec (rare facetable crystals).
  • Brazil; Namibia; Russia; Spain.
cryolite crystal - Colorado
This crystal specimen features translucent, light gray cryolite and iron oxides. 7.3 x 4.8 x 4.2 cm. St Peters Dome, Cheyenne District, El Paso Co., Colorado, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Stone Sizes

Lapidaries could cut large cabochons from abundant material, such as what Greenland produced. However, facetable rough is quite rare and will only yield tiny gems.

How to Care for Cryolites

Clean cryolites with a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water. However, please note that cryolites are slightly soluble in water. Don't submerge these gems in water. After cleaning, carefully pat them dry. (Don't wipe them dry). For more care recommendations, consult our gemstone jewelry care guide.

Joel E. Arem, Ph.D., FGA

Dr. Joel E. Arem has more than 60 years of experience in the world of gems and minerals. After obtaining his Ph.D. in Mineralogy from Harvard University, he has published numerous books that are still among the most widely used references and guidebooks on crystals, gems and minerals in the world.

Co-founder and President of numerous organizations, Dr. Arem has enjoyed a lifelong career in mineralogy and gemology. He has been a Smithsonian scientist and Curator, a consultant to many well-known companies and institutions, and a prolific author and speaker. Although his main activities have been as a gem cutter and dealer, his focus has always been education. joelarem.com

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