Sugilite: Gemstone, Properties, Uses

Sugilite is a rare and beautiful gemstone that is known for its vibrant purple color. It is a cyclosilicate mineral, which means that it is made up of silicon dioxide and other elements, such as potassium, sodium, iron, manganese, and aluminum.

Sugilite was first discovered in Japan in 1944. It is named after Ken-ichi Sugi, a Japanese geologist who discovered the mineral. Sugilite is found in a few other locations around the world, including Russia, South Africa, and the United States.

Sugilite Composition

Sugilite boasts a complex cyclosilicate structure, formulated as KNa₂(Fe,Mn,Al)₂Li₃Si₁₂O₃₀. This means it forms intricate ring structures of silicon-oxygen tetrahedra, with potassium, sodium, iron, manganese, aluminum, and lithium ions residing within.

The abundance of manganese (Mn) is crucial, its oxidation state (Mn³⁺) responsible for the vibrant purple color. Iron and aluminum can substitute for manganese, influencing the hue and subtle variations in color.

Sugilite from N’Chwaning Mine, N’Chwaning Mines, Kuruman, Northern Cape, South Africa

Sugilite Formation

Sugilite forms through a complex geological process involving the interaction of various minerals and elements. It is believed to occur in metamorphic environments, where manganese-rich rocks come into contact with silica-rich fluids or solutions. 

Sugilite forms during hydrothermal processes, where hot, mineral-rich fluids move through cracks in rocks. In manganese-rich environments, these fluids interact with existing minerals, leading to the crystallization of Sugilite.

Specific temperature, pressure, and chemical composition of the fluid during this process dictate the formation and characteristics of Sugilite deposits. Understanding these conditions sheds light on past geological events and hydrothermal activity.

Sugilite is typically found in association with other manganese-rich minerals, such as rhodonite, pyroxmangite, and spessartine. It is also found in association with other cyclosilicate minerals, such as eudialyte and thulite. The exact formation process of sugilite is not yet fully understood.

Occurrence: Where does sugilite come from?

Sugilite is a relatively rare mineral, and it is only found in a few locations worldwide. The most notable deposits of sugilite are found in South Africa, but it has also been found in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, India, Italy, and Tajikistan.

Let's take a closer look at its geographic distribution:

  • Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada: Considered the "type locality" for Sugilite, this site offers high-quality, translucent specimens with vibrant purple coloring. It's a renowned source for collectors and geologists alike.
  • Wessels Mine, Northern Cape Province, South Africa: This massive stratiform manganese deposit holds the key to most commercially available Sugilite. Although the material from this site is typically opaque, it offers a unique, speckled appearance and can be carved into stunning cabochons.
  • Iwagi Islet, Japan: The birthplace of Sugilite's discovery in 1944, this small island yielded brownish-yellow, translucent crystals within an aegirine syenite host rock. While rare and limited in quantity, these specimens hold historical significance.

Sugilite from N’Chwaning Mine, N’Chwaning Mines, Kuruman, Northern Cape, South Africa


Properties of Sugilite

Composition: Chemical formula: KNa₂(Fe,Mn,Al)₂Li₃Si₁₂O₃₀, indicating a complex mixture of sodium, lithium, manganese, iron, silicon, oxygen, sulfur, and fluorine.

Physical Properties

  • Color: Deep royal purple to lavender, lilac; may exhibit hints of pink or blue; variable color distribution due to complex composition and crystallographic orientation.
  • Luster: Vitreous to silky; variable depending on cut and presence of inclusions.
  • Crystal System: Hexagonal; rarely occurs as well-defined crystals; typically massive, botryoidal, or granular.
  • Streak: White to pale purple.
  • Hardness: Mohs scale 6-6.5; relatively hard but susceptible to scratches compared to minerals like diamond or sapphire.
  • Cleavage: Imperfect in several directions; requires careful handling to avoid chipping or fracturing.
  • Crystal Form: Massive, botryoidal (grape-like clusters), granular; well-defined crystals rare.
  • Density: 2.69-2.79 g/cm³; slightly heavier than many other gemstones.
  • Transparency: Opaque; some specimens may be slightly translucent.
  • Fracture: Uneven to conchoidal; irregular breaks with rounded or shell-like features.
  • Solubility: Insoluble in water and most common acids; relatively durable for everyday wear.
  • Magnetism: Non-magnetic.

Optical Properties

  • Fluorescence: Weak orange fluorescence under longwave ultraviolet light; not a defining characteristic.
  • Pleochroism: Distinct; color changes depending on viewing angle (e.g., darker purple along one axis, lighter or pinkish along another) due to complex crystal structure and light absorption properties.
  • Refractive Index: 1.610-1.625; aids in distinguishing sugilite from other gemstones with similar appearances.

Additional Properties

Associated Minerals include pectolite, poudretteite and polylithionite.

Notable Occurrences include the type locality of Iwagi Island, Shikoku, Japan as well as Mont Saint-Hilaire, Quebec, Canada and most importantly, South Africa.

Best Field Indicators are color, hardness, luster, streak and locality.

Unique Properties

Luminescence: Sugilite exhibits strong luminescence under ultraviolet light, typically glowing a reddish-orange color. This phenomenon is caused by the presence of manganese within the crystal structure.

Piezoelectric effect: While not as pronounced as some other gemstones, Sugilite possesses the ability to generate a small electric current when pressure is applied. This property has potential applications in sensors and other electronic devices.


sugilite crystals
Sugilite crystals from Wessels Mine, Hotazel, Kalahari, Northern Cape Province, South Africa

Uses of Sugilite

Sugilite is popular in jewelry, in thin sections which can be polished or cut into cabochons and mounted in silver or gold in rings, pendants, and earrings. In the 1980s the gem was heavily promoted on home shopping channels and internet auctions sites.

Sugilite is a relatively rare gemstone, and it is often used in jewelry and other decorative items. It is also considered to be a powerful metaphysical stone, and it is said to promote peace, love, and spiritual growth.

Sugilite is also used in some industrial applications. For example, it is used as a component in some types of ceramics and glass.


Sugilite gems
Sugilite Gemstones

Purple Gemstones and Crystals
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