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The name iolite comes from the Greek 'ion', which means violet. Iolite is
usually a purplish blue when cut properly, with a softness to the color that
can be quite attractive.
When Leif Eriksson and the other legendary Viking explorers ventured far
out into the Atlantic Ocean, away from any coastline that could help them
determine their position, they had a secret gem weapon: iolite. The Viking
mariners used thin pieces of it as the world's first polarising filter. Looking
through an iolite lens, they were able to determine the exact position of the
sun, and navigate their way safely to the New World and back.
A cube cut from iolite will look a more or less violet blue, almost like
sapphire, from one side, clear as water from the other, and a honey yellow
from on top. In the past, this property led some people to call iolite 'water
sapphire', though the name is now obsolete.
Iolite is mined in India, Sri Lanka, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Brazil. The
Vikings probably mined theirs from deposits in Norway and Greenland.