Rainbow Lattice Sunstone was first discovered in 1985 by Darren Arthur and Sonny Manson. It was first discovered at an undisclosed mine which has recently been named ‘The Rainbow Serpent Mine’ in the Herts Range, Northeast of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. It wasn’t until 1989 that it was identified at the Gemological Institute of America and verified a new gem variety.
Rainbow Lattice Sunstone is a type of Feldspar which is predominantly Moostone. The Inclusions (The Rainbow Lattice effect) are the result of crystallographicly oriented crystals within the feldspar; these crystals have been identified as Hematite and Ilmenite.
- Ilmenite helps create the specific lattice effect; Ilmenite forms very thin blades, orientating differently on each level of the Feldspar by a process known as ‘lamellar twinning’ which helps to form this lattice effect. The Ilmenite inclusions in the majority of cases have been oxidized through geophysical processes, it’s this oxidisation which results in the iridescence seen within the crystal. Ilmenite also can form equilateral triangle inclusions which go through the same process as stated above.
- Hematite causes small yellow to orange hexagonal platelets within the Feldspar; this mineral produces an effect called aventurescence which provides an orange glow to some minerals.
Rainbow Lattice Sunstone is mined completely by hand using only hand tools, no heavy machinery or blasting is involved. Large quantities of the dug material is put through and cleaned using a mixture of sieves, drums and water. The rough material is then hand sorted in the sun, selecting out only the occasional piece that contains the Ilmenite and Hematite inclusions.
Something, that is just as amazing, is the miners are dedicated to leaving the space they mine from in perfect condition; believing strongly that we all have a right to be here, and no one human should destroy the habitat and home for countless other species.
Photos are Copyright of Steve Hompot, & Asterism Gems Australia PTY/LTD.