Editors

5 Things To Know About … Sphene

EditorsSep 12, 2019

5 Things To Know About … Sphene

Discover what gives the gem a fire that can out-sparkle a diamond, its second name, geographic origins, and more.

A 17.49-carat sphene cut by Roger Dery
Sphene is one of those magical gems that can really enchant you—the best faceted examples display brilliant fire and flash three different colors.

I, for one, love when the gemstone is a vibrant, almost lime green that also shows flashes of orange and yellow.

Sphene belongs to the titanite mineral group, occurring as an accessory mineral in granitic and calcium-rich metamorphic rocks, and is the only member of the group commonly used in jewelry.

Here are five things to know about this unique gemstone.

1. It has another name.

Sphene comes from the Greek word “sphenos,” meaning wedge, a reference to the mineral’s characteristic wedge-shaped crystals.

But it also goes by the name titanite, referencing its place in the mineral group.

According to many online sources, “sphene” is more commonly used in the gem and jewelry sector while geologists and mineralogists tend to use “titanite.”

2. Gem-quality examples are rare.

Sphene is a collector’s gem and is particularly rare when you start talking about a clean stone above 5 carats, the International Gem Society says

As is the case with all gemstones, size creates a premium with this species. 

A 20.96-carat sphene from Mayer & Watt
A 20.96-carat sphene from Mayer & Watt

3. It has more “fire” than a diamond.

Sphene has one of the highest dispersions of any mineral; the term dispersion refers to a mineral’s ability to break white light into spectral colors.

The dispersion of sphene is 0.051. A diamond’s dispersion, by comparison, is 0.044.

It’s this high number that helps to give the stone such an intense “fire,” showcasing multiple colors, especially when it’s well-cut.

Sphene has a refractive index of 1.843-2.110 and a birefringence of 0.100-0.192. Its high birefringence often results in visible doubling of facets within the stone, meaning there looks to be a “fuzziness” inside the gem.

It’s a 5 to 5.5 on the Mohs scale, making it softer than other, more well-known gems like sapphire, ruby and even garnet.

Sphene has distinct cleavage in one direction, but can still create beautiful jewelry when cut and set properly.

It’s also pleochroic, showing more than one color depending on the angle from which you view it; sphene’s transparent specimens are notable for their trichroism, showing three different colors.

The three colors depend on the base stone color, according to Gemdat.org.

A 24.75-carat pear-shaped sphene from Mayer & Watt
A 24.75-carat pear-shaped sphene from Mayer & Watt

4. It comes in a variety of hues, but some are preferred. 

Sphene’s typical color range is yellow, green, orange and brown. There are also pinks and reds, which are rarer, as well as some black and colorless material.

According to IGS, there’s a preference in the market for lighter tones, especially the yellows, light oranges and greens, which best show off the gemstone’s amazing dispersion.

IGS also notes that “chrome sphene”—dark green in color—is the most valuable type as its hue mimics a good emerald.

5. Here are its sources. 

The primary sources of sphene are Canada, Madagascar and Mexico, IGS says. 

Baja California, Mexico produces yellow-brown, brown, green and dark green (chrome) crystals up to 4 inches long, making it one of the world’s main sphene deposits. 

Madagascar produces green crystals, some of which are large in size, while Canada produces brown and black crystals. 

IGS added that Austria and Switzerland also have both produced sphene. 

Other places where sphene has been found are: India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Germany, Kenya, Myanmar, Pakistan, Russia, New York state and Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Brecken Branstratoris the senior editor, gemstones at National Jeweler, covering sourcing, pricing and other developments in the colored stone sector.

The Latest

MajorsNov 24, 2021
Here Are This Year’s Black Friday Jewelry, Watch Deals

From Amazon to Zales, several retailers have deals lined up for the shopping holiday.

MajorsNov 24, 2021
Former JCK Associate Publisher Donna Borrelli Dies

The longtime industry veteran had a breakthrough case of COVID-19.

MajorsNov 24, 2021
Samuel B Has Now Donated More Than 1M Meals to Feeding America

The company donates 10 meals to the nonprofit for every piece of jewelry it sells.

Brought to you by
Train Your Staff Today with Interactive eLearning

Join the prestigious brands, industry organizations and sellers using IGI’s educational services.

CollectionsNov 24, 2021
Piece of the Week: Sorellina’s Lover’s Bypass Ring

It’s double the toi et moi fun.

Weekly QuizNov 23, 2021
This Week's Quiz
Test your knowledge of jewelry news from the week of Nov. 22-26, 2021.
Take the Quiz
ColumnistsNov 23, 2021
When Did You Know You Wanted To Be in Sales?

A question from an astute young relative has Peter Smith pondering this question in his latest column.

Policies & IssuesNov 23, 2021
BIJC Has an I.D.E.A for Diversity Training in 2022

Starting in January, the Black in Jewelry Coalition will host webinars on addressing racial injustice and encountering racism in retail.

Brought to you by
3 Tips For Entering the Estate Market

Generate foot traffic and expand your jewelry expertise by adding an estate assortment to your store in partnership with Windsor Jewelers, Inc.

SourcingNov 23, 2021
Parlé, Gem Legacy Team Up for Giving Tuesday Fundraising Campaign

Parlé will match donations up to $15,000 in an effort to build houses for teachers at a Tanzanian primary school.

×