double heart cabochon - Australia
double heart cabochon - Australia

Variscite Value, Price, and Jewelry Information


With beautiful green to blue-green colors and interesting patterns, variscite is a popular hobbyist material for cabochons.

3 Minute Read

With beautiful green to blue-green colors and interesting patterns, variscite is a popular hobbyist material for cabochons.

double heart cabochon - Australia
Double heart variscite cabochon, 55.5 cts, 26.5 x 42.9 x 5.4 mm, Australia. © 49erMinerals. Used with permission.
freeform variscite cab - Damele Mine, Nevada
Freeform variscite cabochon, 32.73 cts, 38.2 x 22.6 x 4.5 mm, slightly bluish yellow-green, Damele Mine, Nevada. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

What is Variscite?

Variscite lends its name to the variscite mineral group, which includes gem materials like scorodite and the very rare mansfieldite. It also forms a series as the aluminum-dominant end member with iron-dominant strengite (FePO4 · 2H2O).

Does Variscite Make a Good Jewelry Stone?

Massive variscites have no cleavage planes, which means cabs and decorative objects cut from this material may have excellent structural integrity. Nevertheless, these gems have great susceptibility to scratching due to their very low hardness. Therefore, wear these gemstones in jewelry with protective settings, especially if used as ring stones.

variscite cup
Variscite cup. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

Variscite Varieties

Chromium and vanadium impurities contribute to variscite’s typically green range of colors. However, the presence of iron may give some stones known as ferrian or ferroan variscites a rare red or violet color.

ferrian variscites - Brazil
Very rare cherry-red microcrystalline ferrian variscites on a snow-white matrix. Boa Vista pegmatite, Laranjeiras, Galileia, Doce Valley, Minas Gerais, Brazil. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Metavariscite

Metavariscite is a monoclinic dimorph or polymorph of variscite. Cut metavariscite may resemble fine, translucent jadeite.

metavariscite - Utah
A rock covered by microcrystalline metavariscite. 7.0 x 5.0 x 2.4 cm. Utahlite claim (Lucin Variscite), Lucin, Lucin District, Pilot Range, Box Elder Co., Utah, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

"Spiderweb" Variscite

Gem-quality variscite occurs more rarely than turquoise and is sometimes confused with this more popular stone. In particular, blue-green variscites with black “spiderweb” patterns may resemble turquoise.

spiderweb variscite - Nevada
"Spiderweb" variscite cabochon, 36.10 cts, 31.4 x 18 x 5.1 mm, Nevada. © 49erMinerals. Used with permission.

Variscite Trade Names

This gem material has garnered quite a few trade names.

Amatrix

Variscite mixed with quartz from Ely, Nevada, is sometimes called amatrice or amatrix, for “American matrix.” (However, such mixes also occur in Australia).

Utahlite

Variscites from Utah usually feature interesting patterns, which makes material from this state very popular for cabbing and carving. These variscites are sometimes called lucinites or utahlites.

variscite rough - utahlite claim
A large, fine green specimen of lapidary-quality variscite. 12.1 x 8.2 x 3.1 cm, Utahlite claim (Lucin Variscite), Lucin, Lucin District, Pilot Range, Box Elder Co., Utah, USA. © Rob Lavinsky, www.iRocks.com. Used with permission.

Sabalite

Banded variscite has been calledsabalite as well as trainite.

striated variscite - Utah
Medium green-blue variscite with an unusual striated pattern. Oval-cut cabochon, 37.16 cts, 43.5 x 24mm, Utah. © The Gem Trader. Used with permission.

Callaïs

People have created jewelry from variscites since Neolithic times, more than 6,000 years ago. Neolithic beads carved from variscite discovered in Brittany, France were called callaïs or callaina(callainite), after a gemstone described by the Classical Roman scholar Pliny the Elder. Although first believed to be turquoise from China, it became evident this material wasn't turquoise but variscite. However, the name callaïs for these beads remains in use in art history and archeology.

While not proof of Neolithic trade between Europe and China, researchers have determined that some of these variscites came from Sarrabus on the island of Sardinia (Italy). Thus, these artifacts still point towards a large prehistoric gem trade network in Europe.

Neolithic callaïs necklace
A callaïs or variscite necklace created around 4500-4,000 BCE, found in the tumulus of Mané-er-Rhoek near Locmariaquer (Morbihan, Bretagne, France). From the collection of the Museum of History and Archeology, Vannes, France. Photo by Vassil. Public Domain.

How Can You Distinguish Variscites from Turquoise Gems?

Even experts may find distinguishing variscites from turquoise gems challenging. Although variscite has lower refractive indices than turquoise, common turquoise treatments may mask this. Generally, variscite “looks greener” than turquoise, though this is hardly diagnostic.

Variscites have a significantly lower hardness, but testing this would require a destructive scratch test. Conduct this only on rough material or on an inconspicuous area of a finished gem as a last resort.

Are There Synthetic Variscites?

Scientists have synthesized variscites for various projects, including research into how soils react to phosphates in fertilizers.

You may find “synthetic variscites” for sale online. Interestingly, some of these jewelry stones have pink or red splotches on a green body color or a pink or red body color. (Perhaps a consumer demand exists for the rare ferrian variety). As far back as 1988, synthetic or imitation variscite was on display at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show. However, it isn’t clear whether these materials are truly lab-created variscites or simply simulants, “faux” pieces that just resemble natural variscites. These may be examples of the term “synthetic” simply used in the popular sense of “not real.”

Variscites typically don’t receive any treatments or enhancements. However, when misrepresented deliberately as turquoise, they may receive dyes or wax/polymer impregnation treatments to make the deception more convincing.

Where are Variscites Found?

While variscites are relatively rare, they occur in many localities across the globe. However, the US state of Utah is the principal source of gem-quality material. Fairfield County, Utah produces nodules with rich colors up to 24 inches across mixed with other massive complex phosphates. Tooele, Utah also produces massive, rich green nodules, suitable for cutting.

Other notable sources include the following:

  • United States: Arizona; Arkansas; California; Nevada; Pennsylvania.
  • Queensland, Australia; Austria; Brazil; China; Czech Republic; Germany; Sardinia, Italy; Peru; Spain; Tajikistan.

Stone Sizes

Suitable only for cabochons, variscite nodules may weigh many pounds and measure up to 24 inches in diameter. However, lapidaries may cut variscite mixed with other phosphates into spheres or for use in decorative displays.

Variscite slab - Utah
Variscite slab (~ 6 inches across): Fairfield, Utah. Photo © Joel E. Arem, PhD, FGA. Used with permission.

How to Care for Variscite Jewelry

Clean variscites only with a soft brush, mild detergent, and warm water. For more care recommendations, consult our gemstone jewelry cleaning 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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