Ekanite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information
A relative newcomer to the world of gemstones, ekanite is rare and usually quite radioactive. When cabbed, some ekanites can display a star stone effect.
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A relative newcomer to the world of gemstones, ekanite is rare and usually quite radioactive.
The gemologist F. L. D. Ekanayake discovered ekanite as two cabochon-cut gemstones in a market in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1953. When he examined these unknown stones, he found they had unusual optical and physical properties. He later discovered the source of these and other similar stones in gravel beds in Eheliyagoda, near Ratnapura, Sri Lanka. In 1961, scientists confirmed the mineral as a new species and named it ekanite after its discoverer.
Other sources of ekanite have emerged, but it remains a rare gemstone. More stones undoubtedly exist, perhaps misidentified and sold as other Sri Lankan gems. However, the total number of gems is still a mere handful.
Although ekanite has a tetragonal crystal system, it's usually metamict as a result of its uranium (U) and thorium (Th) content. This means it loses its crystalline structure due to radioactivity, becoming amorphous, like glass. Other gemstone properties may also vary depending on the degree of radiation damage.
The first ekanite gems discovered displayed asterism in the form of a 4-ray star effect. This phenomenal effect is rare, but in addition, 6-ray and 8-ray stars have since been discovered. Ekanites may also display chatoyancy (cat's eyes) as well as Tyndall scattering.
Small, crystalline (non-metamict) ekanites have been found in Canada.
Sri Lanka has produced most known ekanites, as translucent green pebbles from gem gravels in Eheliyagoda and in placer deposits from Okkampitiya.
Other notable sources include the following locations:
- Quebec (metamict); Tombstone Mountains, Yukon (crystalline), Canada.
- Monte Somma, Vesuvius, Italy; Kyrgyzstan; Myanmar; Tulare County, California, United States.
The London Gem Labs tested a 43.8-ct stone in 1975. A 351-ct rough has also been reported.
In 1999, a 161-ct star stone cabochon was examined by the GIA. This may have been the record holder for largest finished ekanite gem until 2016. A new title holder, a 498-ct gem from Welimada, Sri Lanka, has been reported.
Metamict ekanite may be strongly radioactive, so jewelry use isn't recommended.
Test any ekanite you're going to handle or store with a Geiger counter. You can also use the radioactivity chart on this site to estimate how much exposure in mRem per hour ekanites of different sizes may cause if held in hand.
For storage and display, keep any samples enclosed and separated from other gems (radiation may affect their color) and use radon detectors to monitor the buildup of radon gases in the storage container as well as the room.
Please note: the average annual estimated exposure in the U.S. from background radiation, medical sources, and consumer products is 360 mRem. To put this in perspective, at almost 500 cts (about 100 g), a little over 20 hours of holding the world's largest ekanite would alone match the average annual estimated exposure. A 5-ct ekanite (1 gram) would take a little over 83 days of close contact to match the annual average estimate.
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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