- Labradorite gets its name from where it is mainly quarried: the Labrador peninsula in Canada. It is a sodium-rich plagioclase feldspar---in other words, a hard crystalline mineral. Thus labradorite---otherwise of an undistinguished gray-green rock color---is able to display a vast array of colors when light strikes it, producing reflections of violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. This effect is called "labradorescence."
Labradorite occurs in metamorphic or igneous rocks, and it can be found in other places in the world, such as Finland, Russia, Madagascar, Australia, Mexico, Norway and the United States.
- The Eskimo Inuit and the Native American Innu, natives of Labrador, have used labradorite for centuries. There are stories involving the discovery of labradorite, one of which tells of some "mighty being" coming upon the rocks where the stars once resided, and pounded on them to enable some of them to travel up to the sky, while a few remained. The native inhabitants of Labrador called the mineral "fire rock" or "firestone."
Discovery by Missionaries
- It was Moravian missionaries, working among the Inuit, who gave the mineral its name, noticing its flash from the boulders on one of the islands off the Labrador coastline. In 1771, they introduced it to Europe, where it eventually grew in use for jewelry in France and England in the form of pins, broaches and bracelets.
- Spectrolite is the trade name of labradorite from Finland. It was discovered in 1940 during World War II when a group of Finns, quarrying stones along the country's eastern border for making traps to thwart attacks from Russian armored tanks, discovered flashing areas at the region they had just blown up. Professor Aarne Laitakari of Geological Survey of Finland coined the term "spectrolite."
- The native inhabitants of Labrador used labradorite for medicinal purposes---most notably for the reduction of anxiety and stress, and to increase energy. In addition, labradorite was thought to ward off harm or danger and facilitate communication with supernatural forces.