Strongly pleochroic, andalusite can show shades of green, brown, and red when viewed from different directions. Although tough enough for most jewelry uses, this strikingly beautiful stone is largely unknown to the gem buying public.
Andalusite is an aluminosilicate mineral most commonly found in schist, gneiss, and hornfels. Minor amounts are also found in granite and granitic pegmatite.
The most important use of andalusite is in making heat-resistant bricks and ceramic objects used in the steel-making and metal processing industries. It is also used to make chemicals, glass and a variety of ceramic products. Exceptional crystals of andalusite are valued by mineral collectors. Specimens with spectacular color and clarity are cut into gemstones.
Chiastolite is a variety of andalusite that contains black particles of graphite arranged in geometric patterns. The graphite is pushed aside by crystal growth within a rock that is being metamorphosed. As growth occurs, the particles become concentrated at crystal interfaces.
Andalusite has a number of useful physical properties. It has the ability to withstand high temperatures without alteration. For that reason it is used to make high-temperature ceramics and refractories. The white porcelain of some spark plugs is made using andalusite.
The Chiastolite variety is common in the black schist of the hills around Armstrong.