According to Inuit legend, tugtupite possesses a special power. In the presence of lovers it will glow a fiery red from the heat of their romance and passion, and the vibrancy of the colour will reflect the intensity of their love. While most would consider this fanciful, there is actually an element of truth in it.
Tugtupite really does have the ability to glow red. Under shortwave ultraviolet light, it becomes fluorescent and glows a fiery, cherry-red colour. Longwave ultraviolet light produces a softer salmon-red colour. Tugtupite is a rare stone, but its properties and good looks make it worth looking out for. Also called reindeer stone, it was officially recognized and recorded as a gemstone in 1960, named after Tugtup, Greenland, where it was found. Inuit artisans are likely to have worked with the gemstone before 1960. Not only does it fluoresce, but it is also tenebrescent, which means that the paler parts of the stone fade to white when it is placed in the dark, while exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet light restores and enhances the red colour.
Gem-quality, pure red transparent crystals are small and very rare, so remain collector stones. The translucent to opaque material is more available; this is an aggregate consisting of indistinguishable crystals formed into a large, fine-grained mass. The colours of the massive material are white, bright pink, dark red with a violet tint, and shades of orange. The pink areas can be mottled with several colours and inclusions can create a slightly spotty look. White albite feldspar frequently occurs alongside tugtupite, often intergrowing with or acting as a host for patches of massive material. Tugtupite can have a vitreous to greasy lustre, and transparent gem-quality stones can be distinctly pleochroic, showing bluish red and orange-red. The Kvanefjeld area of Greenland produces the best gem material.
Smaller pieces of tugtupite are moderately priced, but larger, high-quality pieces can be expensive as the stone is still quite rare and sought after by collectors.
Working with tugtupite
- The Kvanefjeld gem material is typically a bright red colour and has been used for jewelry. It can be cut as cabochons or sliced, and takes a good polish (the deep pink colour is brought out fully once the surface is polished). The fluorescence is an unmistakable bright red and could make a rather interesting design feature in any jewelry. Just in case there is any concern, tugtupite is not radioactive!
- Tugtupite has been carved by Greenlanders for many years because of its softness and fine compact grain. It has a distinct cleavage and conchoidal, uneven fracture. It would be suitable for most types of jewelry, as long as it is for occasional wear and there is little risk of impact. As a ring stone it would need a protective setting. In other words, treat tugtupite as you would an opal.