Discovered in 1960, tugtupites are relatively recent entries into the gem world. A member of the helvine mineral group, tugtupite is also closely related to sodalite.
This gemstone displays striking phosphorescence and tenebrescence. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, whether from artificial sources or sunlight, intensifies its colors, generally making it darker and redder. X-rays also darken paler colors. Darkness will cause its red colors to fade. These effects are reversible. Tugtupites can even glow in the dark after UV exposure. See “Identifying Characteristics” for more more information.
Tugtupite’s abundance has declined in the years since its discovery. Thus, it’s become somewhat hard to obtain, especially in cuttable pieces.
You may find this mineral referred to as “Reindeer Stone,” after the type locality. Tugtup means “reindeer” in the Greenlandic Inuit language. (Perhaps the gem’s similarity to a certain famous reindeer’s nose has also reinforced that moniker).
Very distinctive rose-red color. Generally redder in shortwave (SW) than longwave (LW).
Taseq, Greenland: SW, pastel orange-red; LW, bright orange: phosphoresces bright cream or orange-cream, better reaction in SW than LW.
Kvanefield, Greenland: LW, bright orange to orange- red; SW, cerise red, and very intense; phosphoresces dull red to medium cream white.
The material darkens in color when exposed to UV light and slowly bleaches.
Almost all gem-quality material comes from the Taseq and Kvaneﬁeld areas of Tugtup, Ilimaussaq, Greenland.
Other sources of this rare mineral include
Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada.
Kola Peninsula, Russia.
Gem cutters have only faceted a few gems, all very small and none completely transparent. Typical gem size ranges from 1 to 2 carats. While cutters can facet translucent material, they usually cab such pieces. After the initial discovery, gem carvers made decorative objects from some of the larger tugtupites.
This gemstone’s hardness can range from 4 to 6.5. On the softer end, a knife could scratch one. On the harder end, a tugtupite could exceed the hardness of more commonly encountered jewelry stones, such as feldspars. However, their distinct cleavage makes these stones better suited for protected ring settings and pendants or earrings. Of course, owners should be aware of this stone’s sensitivity to UV and darkness.
Moving beyond a mineral collection, these gems could make interesting Christmas jewelry pieces or glow-in-the-dark fashion statements.