faceted sugilite by Mark Oros
faceted sugilite by Mark Oros

Sugilite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information


What is the color of sugilite? Grape jelly purple is a good description. More popular among consumers in Asia than North America, this is a very rare and beautiful opaque gem material with an unusual appearance.

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What is the color of sugilite? Grape jelly purple is a good description. More popular among consumers in Asia than North America, this is a very rare and beautiful opaque gem material with an unusual appearance.

faceted sugilite by Mark Oros
Faceted sugilite, cut by Mark Oros of Hashnu Stones & Gems. Design: Sakura 96 (modified) by Marco Voltolini. 20.5 cts, 18 mm x 17 mm x 12 mm. © Hashnu Stones & Gems. Used with permission.

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Sugilite Value

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The most important factor in grading sugilite is color. The deepest color receives the highest grade. A mottled appearance under close inspection doesn’t affect the overall value, provided the overall color remains deep. However, lighter areas mixed with dark purple will lower the value.

Sugilite is available in fairly large sizes. Gems over ten carats are common and receive no additional value per carat.

Translucent sugilite isn’’t yet available in sufficient quantities for market values to be established.

sugilite pyramid
“Metal & stone (precious & semi-precious) 28,” silver, sugilite, and bronze. Photo by Eric Golub. Licensed under CC By 2.0.
Sugilite gem and rough - South Africa
Sugilite: Kuruman, South Africa (gem 3.66). Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Comments

Outside of Asia, sophisticated gem shoppers haven’t shown great interest in sugilites. Perhaps younger consumers in North America and other parts of the world will find this material's bold, striking color more attractive. Of course, its rarity may appeal to collectors.

Discovered in 1944 on Iwagi Islet in southwestern Japan, the first known sugilites were actually tiny, yellow crystals. They had no gem value. In 1955, some dark pink prismatic crystals were found in central India. However, this material wasn’t cuttable.

In 1975, a core-drill sample from a manganese mine near Hotazel, South Africa revealed a thin seam of sugilite. This material had enough manganese content to give it a deep purple color. Small but significant, the deposit became the first source of gem-quality sugilite and launched the gem’s now famous association with purple. (Some specimens can approach an amethyst-like color).

sugilite owl carving
Owl with snake, carving made from South African sugilite, 5.25" x 5.50" x 3.25”. © Arizonacrystalco. Used with permission.

Varieties and Trade Names

In 1979, a massive deposit estimated at 10-20 tons was found near Hotazel. Unfortunately, it lies 3,200 feet underground. The combination of the technical challenge of mining the material and the limited demand for sugilite means much of it remains underground. Half of the deposit may have the opaque, grape jelly color of known gem-quality sugilites. However, a very small percentage, perhaps 0.1%, may be translucent. Known as “sugilite gel,” this material is extremely rare and highly prized.

diamond ring with sugilite gel inlay
Custom cast 14k gold diamond ring with sugilite gel inlay. Jewelry and photo by Jessa and Mark Anderson. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

A number of trade names for sugilite have emerged. Material more lavender than purple is sometimes called “Royal Lavulite.” Hotazel, South Africa has inspired names such as “Royal Azel” and “Royal Lazelle.” The Wessels Mine itself has also inspired the name “Wesselite.”

sugilite - "Royal Azel"
Sugilite, “Royal Azel.” Photo by TIS0421. Licensed under CC By-SA 3.0.

Variations of the name “Cybelene” are also given to sugilites, perhaps alluding to the myth of Cybele and Attis and its connection to the flower violet.

sugilite specimen, purple and lavender - South Africa
This South African specimen displays royal purple bands of parallel, fibrous, and very chatoyant sugilite, alternating with bands of lavender sugilite with an almost wrinkled foil appearance. It also contains thin bands of gray-black manganese shale. 11.2 x 10.9 x 4.7 cm, N’Chwaning III Mine, Kuruman, Kalahari MN Field, Northern Cape Province, South Africa. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Identifying Characteristics

Deep purple, grape jelly sugilites get their color from traces of manganese. They may resemble sogdianite gemstones. However, sogdianites contains traces of titanium and zirconium, which sugilites lack. A chemical analysis can distinguish the two species. Note that sogdianite is a much rarer mineral than sugilite and far less likely to be found either cut or carved.

Another rarely encountered gemstone, purpurite can show a purplish rose color similar to sugilite. However, purpurites have a higher specific gravity (SG) than sugilites.

intarsia - sugilite, malachite, opal, agate
This intarsia by Jim Kaufmann consists of bands of malachite, sugilite, opal, and fire agate. Photo © All That Glitters. Used with permission.

Synthetics

A wide variety of gemstones have been used to simulate or imitate the appearance of sugilites. Gem labs have reported instances of dyed marble, dyed quartzite, dyed magnesite, and dyed and heated beryl confused with or presented as natural sugilites.

Consumers can easily find so-called “synthetic sugilite” for sale online. However, this material is most likely an imitation, not a lab-created version of actual sugilite. In these cases, “synthetic” means “fake” in the popular sense. Buyer beware.

Enhancements

Sugilites generally receive no treatments or enhancements. However, heating may lighten some dark material.

Sources

Notable sources include the following:

  • Wessels Mine, Kuruman district, near Hotazel, South Africa.
  • Iwagi Islet, Japan.
  • Madhya Pradesh, India.
  • New South Wales, Australia; Canada; Italy; Tajikistan.
sugilite and unknown mineral - Australia
Sugilite within a matrix of an unidentified, unstable brown mineral. Woods Mine, Tamworth, Darling Co., New South Wales, Australia. Photo by Matthew Goodwin. Licensed under CC By 3.0.

Care

With poor cleavage, a hardness of 6-6.5, and a tough tenacity, sugilites can make durable gemstones. However, protective settings are advisable for preventing scratches, especially if this material is worn as a ring. Otherwise, these gems require no special care.

For cleaning recommendations, consult our gemstone jewelry care guide.

sugilite scrollwork ring
Sugilite ring with scrollwork. Jewelry and photo by Jessa and Mark Anderson. Licensed under CC By 2.0.

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


Donald Clark, CSM IMG

The late Donald Clark, CSM founded the International Gem Society in 1998. Donald started in the gem and jewelry industry in 1976. He received his formal gemology training from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Society of Gemcutters (ASG). The letters “CSM” after his name stood for Certified Supreme Master Gemcutter, a designation of Wykoff’s ASG which has often been referred to as the doctorate of gem cutting. The American Society of Gemcutters only had 54 people reach this level. Along with dozens of articles for leading trade magazines, Donald authored the book “Modern Faceting, the Easy Way.”


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