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Painite: The gem from Myanmar

Rough painite

Painite is a rare borate mineral only found in Myanmar (Formely Burma). Its colors range from orange-red to brownish-red owing to traces of chromium and vanadium. It has a white streak, transparent appearance and vitreous luster. It is formed as hexagonal or prismatic crystals and has a relative hardness is 8. Painite contains calcium, zirconium, boron, aluminum, and oxygen alongside the traces of chromium and vanadium; chemical composition CaZrAl9O15(BO3).

Painite was first identified as a new gem species in 1957 by a British mineralogist; Arthur C.D. Pain in Myanmar who mistaken it for sapphire (the mineral was named Painite in his honor). It was considered the rarest mineral on earth with only three crystals known to exist until 2001.

Most rough painites are highly included and fractured

More exploration in Mogok region and northern Myanmar has resulted to discovery of several thousand crystals and fragments , diluting the market. Facetable rough material of fine quality is still rare because most of them are highly included and fractured. Due to this, gem cutters tend to cut them small and shallow impairs their brilliance.

Painite has a different refractive index values from ruby, which serves as their distinguishing factor. It birefringence (measure to polarize light and split it into two or three different directions) and absorption spectrum distinguishes it from garnet.

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