Although too fragile for most jewelry use, fluorites are often faceted for collectors. They occur in a wide range of attractive colors and can be extremely bright. These gems are also renowned for their fluorescence.
Fluorite is very easy to identify if you consider cleavage, hardness, and specific gravity. It is the only common mineral that has four directions of perfect cleavage, often breaking into pieces with the shape of an octahedron. It is also the mineral used for a hardness of four in the Mohs Hardness Scale. Finally, it has a specific gravity of 3.2, which is detectably higher than most other minerals.
Although color is not a reliable property for mineral identification, the characteristic purple, green, and yellow translucent-to-transparent appearance of fluorite is an immediate visual clue for the mineral.
Fluorite typically glows a blue-violet color under short-wave ultraviolet and long-wave ultraviolet light. Some specimens are known to glow a cream or white color. Many specimens do not fluoresce. Fluorescence in fluorite is thought to be caused when trace amounts of yttrium, europium, samarium, or other elements substitute for calcium in the fluorite mineral structure.
Fluorite has a wide variety of uses. The primary uses are in the metallurgical, ceramics, and chemical industries; however, optical, lapidary, and other uses are also important. Specimens of fluorite with exceptional optical clarity have been used as lenses. Fluorite has a very low refractive index and a very low dispersion. These two characteristics enable the lens to produce extremely sharp images. Today, instead of using natural fluorite crystals to manufacture these lenses, high-purity fluorite is melted and combined with other materials to produce synthetic “fluorite” lenses of even higher quality. These lenses are used in optical equipment such as microscopes, telescopes, and cameras.
Specimens of fluorite with exceptional color and clarity are often used by lapidaries to cut gemstones and make ornamental objects. High-quality specimens of fluorite make beautiful faceted stones; however, the mineral is so soft and cleaves so easily that these stones are either sold as collector’s specimens or used in jewelry that will not be subjected to impact or abrasion. Fluorite is also cut and carved into ornamental objects such as small figurines and vases. These are often treated with a coating or impregnation to enhance their stability and protect them from scratches.
Very fine crystals are found lining large cavities of openings as large as 3 to 4 feet across at the Rock Candy Mine near Grand Forks. Green is the most common colour, but purple and colourless varieties also occur. Other less noted areas are Whiteman Creek, Scuzzy Creek, Lumby, Hellroaring Creek, and Liard River Hot Springs.