1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Iolite

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IOLITE, a mineral occasionally cut as a gem-stone, and named from the violet colour which it sometimes presents (ἴον, "violet"; λίθος, "stone"). It is generally called by petrographers cordierite, a name given by R. J. Haüy in honour of the French mineralogist, P. L. Cordier, who discover edits remarkable dichroism, and suggested for it the name dichroite, still sometimes used. The difference of colour which it shows in different directions is so marked as to be well seen without the dichroscope. The typical colours are deep blue, pale blue and yellowish grey. While the crystal as a whole shows these three colours, each face is dichroic.

Iolite is a hydrous magnesium and aluminium silicate, with ferrous iron partially replacing magnesium. It crystallizes in the orthorhombic system. In hardness and specific gravity it much resembles quartz. The transparent blue or violet variety used as a gem occurs as pebbles in the gravels of Ceylon, and bears in many cases a resemblance to sapphire. The paler kinds are often called water-sapphire (saphir d'eau of French jewellers) and the darker kinds lynx-sapphire; the shade of colour varying with the direction in which the stone is cut. From sapphire the iolite is readily distinguished by its stronger pleochroism, its lower density (about 2–6) and its inferior hardness (about 7).

Iolite occurs in granite and in true eruptive rocks, but is most characteristically developed as a product of contact metamorphism in gneiss and altered slates. A Variety occurring at the contact of clay-slate and granite on the border of the provinces of Shimotsuké and Ködzuké in Japan has been called cerasite. It readily suffers chemical change, and gives rise to a number of alteration-products, of which pinite is a characteristic example.

Although iolite, or cordierite, is rather widely distributed as a constituent of certain rocks, fine crystals of the mineral are of very limited occurrence. One of the best-known localities is Bodenmais, in Bavaria, where it occurs with pyrrhotite in a granite matrix. It is found also in Norway, Sweden and Finland, in Saxony and in Switzerland. Large crystals are developed in veins of granite running through gneiss at Haddam, Connecticut; and it is known at many other localities in the United States.

(F. W. R.*)