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Vesuvianite, also known as idocrase, is a green, brown, yellow, or blue silicate mineral. It was first identified and named by the famous German gemologist Abraham Gottlob Werner in 1795 after Mount Vesuvius (hence its name) where fine brown in color crystals of the mineral were found in the ejected limestone blocks. Several other names have been applied to this species, one of which, "idocrase" was given by R. J. Haiiy in 1796. The name "idocrase" comes from Greek words meaning "mixed form", in reference to the crystals showing a mixture of other mineral forms.
Idocrase is an older synonym sometimes used for gemstone-quality vesuvianite. Italy contains numerous localities that have produced exceptional vesuvianite. A sky bluish variety known as cyprine has been reported from Norway and New Jersey, USA; the blue is due to impurities of copper. Californite is a name sometimes used for jade-like vesuvianite, also known as California jade, American jade or vesuvianite jade. Xanthite is a manganese rich variety.
Wiluite is an optically positive variety from the Wilui (Vilyui) River Basin, Yakutia, Russia, it was discovered in the 1990s. Wiluite was previously regarded as a variety of vesuvianite, but is now considered a distinct mineral species. Other sources of vesuvianite include China, Switzerland, Pakistan, and Mexico. Although many species of vesuvianite are dull and uninteresting, there are some highly lustrous and brilliantly-colored forms of this mineral that are outstanding especially the multicolored varieties that came from the Quebec, Canada.
Attractive-looking crystals are sometimes cut as gemstones, but transparent specimens that can be faceted are extremely rare. Most gem-quality vesuvianite is opaque with an appearance similar to jade. The opaque specimens have a greasy or resinous luster, while the rare transparent form has a vitreous luster. Recent finds in Kenya and Tanzania have brought some very fine stones to the market, albeit in limited quantity. One source of cabochon grade material is California, USA.