Sugilite is a relatively new gem stone that was discovered in 1944 by Japanese geologist, Ken-ici Sugi. The material ranges in color from deep dark grape purple hues to red or even pink colors. It is most often opaque but is found sometimes to be nearly translucent. The royal purple colors are rarest and the most sought after. Next to that, various shades of beautiful light purple and pink “gel” (translucent) material is held in high regard. Sugilite is often found with other materials such as Richterite (blue material – desirable) and Bustamite (brown or dark earth red – not desirable).
The only find of any significant quantity is in South Africa coincident with a manganese deposit. Manganese, which is a mineral used to alloy steel, is mined on an industrial scale nearly 3,200 ft underground. Sugilite has been recovered from small veins or pockets within the manganese mine and is secondary to the mine’s primary purpose. Availability of sugilite is erratic because it is viewed as a nuisance by the mine’s owners as it is a distraction from large scale industrial production of manganese.