Kunzite is the best know variety of the mineral spodumene, which is a pyroxene mineral and a source of lithium. Kunzite is a light pink to violet/lilac coloured gemstone and gets its delicate colour from minor to trace amounts of manganese. It has two perfect cleavage directions, making it difficult to cut, and the best colour is visible when you look down the length of the crystal. Cutters may cut kunzite deep for emphasis on its pink to lilac colouring.
It was discovered in 1902 and sent to George Frederick Kunz, a pioneering gemmologist, for identification. The gemstone took his namesake in 1903 by order of Charles Baskerville, a chemistry professor at the University of North Carolina, after Kunz confirmed that the crystals were spodumene but as an unrecognised colour made them a new variety of the mineral.
A relatively newcomer as a coloured stone used in jewellery, its popularity has grown. Aside from the attractive shades, it is not unusual to find kunzite in large sizes and they often have few inclusions. The Smithsonian Institution houses a faceted heart shaped kunzite that weighs 880 carats. Another notable example is in the Russian Palmette tiara and necklace worn by the Duchess of Gloucester.