Iolite is a blue variety of the mineral Cordierite. Iolite ranges from a light blue to a deeper blue colour with a hint of purple. It can resemble sapphires, zoisite and particularly tanzanite. Although Iolite is a difficult stone to cut and fashion thanks to its strong pleochroic structure, it is an increasingly popular gemstone used in contemporary jewellery for those seeking an unusual coloured gemstone.
Iolite was first discovered in 1813 by French geologist, Louis Cordier (1777-1886). Cordier was the namesake for the Cordierite mineral family of which Iolite belongs. The first deposit was unearthed in Almeria, Spain. Today the primary deposits of iolite are found in Burma, India and Sri Lanka. Iolite from Sri Lanka can contain platelets of iron that produce a red speckling throughout the stone, which is colloquially known as bloodshot iolite.
In recent years, Iolite has entered the realm of Fine jewellery. In 1989 Chaumet Paris included square cut Iolite in a 18k yellow gold collar necklace. Although iolite is relatively affordable, it adds an unusual hue to any piece of jewellery.