The minerals of greenland

Greenland is one of the world's last mineral frontiers.  Mineral exploration companies are rushing to explore newly uncovered deposits as Greenland's ice cap recedes.

The Ilímaussaq complex is one of the world's most fascinating alkaline complexes. This alkaline complex is an igneous rock mass that consists largely of feldspars and feldspathoids and commonly contain other alkali-rich minerals, but lack quartz. The abundance of rare elements has resulted in more than two hundred and twenty-five different minerals and many unique fluorescent mineral specimens. Thirty minerals were first discovered and described in the complex and twelve are unique to it.

Each year fantastic new discoveries are made, earning this complex a reputation as a “World Class” fluorescent mineral locale. You can shop these fluorescent minerals here on the MinerShop website. 

A piece of gem tugtupite from Greenland


A piece of gemmy tugtupite from Greenland under shortwave light


Chemical formula: Na4AlBeSi4O12Cl.  Hardness = 6.5, Density = 2.35

Perhaps the most famous mineral found in Greenland is tugtupite - and is certainly the main quest of those who travel to this remote area. Local villagers spend much of their free time in pursuit of this stone and many legends have risen around the tugtupite stone and its meaning.

Tutu - Inuit legend attributes tugtupite to “Tutu” - the reindeer girl. Tutu went to the mountains to give birth to her first child and during birth the miraculous life-giving bloods seeped into the mountain stones and created tugtupite. Thus it is known for life, romance and fertility.

Tugtupite is one of the world’s few deep red gemstones, sometimes translucent, and always brightly fluorescent. Often referred to as the "king of fluorescent minerals", it is known worldwide for its beauty under ultraviolet light. When exposed to UV light (or sunlight) the color deepens to a beautiful saturated red, sometimes to an almost grape color (a tenebrescent property). This color change can last for weeks, and is easily restored simply by exposure to sunlight. Heat and moisture also accentuate the color.

Tugtupite was discovered in 1957 close to the town of Narsaq and to-date has only been found in two other areas - Mt. St. Hilaire (Canada) and the Kola Peninsula (Russia).  Tugtupite at Kvanefjeld is scattered in irregular hydrothermal veins up to 50cm wide.  Only tugtupite from Greenland is deeply colored and valued as a gemstone.

Tugtupite varies in color from white, pink, to red and crimson.  Some blue/white specimens have been recorded.  The fluorescence is a brilliant red under short-wave ultraviolet light, and a salmon-red under longwave UV.  After exposure to UV (or exposure to sunlight) the red coloration is enhanced (tenebrescense).  Tugtupite occurs as irregular forms in whitish albite veins with grey-green lujavrite rock.  It can be found throughout the Ilimaussaq Complex, but the specimens from Kvanefjeld are the most sought after - as both jewelry rough and mineral specimens.  It is most often found associated with albite, analcime, beryllite, aegirine, neptunite, and pyrochlore.  Most often it is massive, very few well developed crystals have been found.

Tugtupite Variations - Tugtupite is found in nearly every locale we visit in the Ilimaussaq Complex.  Sometimes it is the primary mineral (and those types are listed below) but often it is found as an accessory to other minerals, or is found in very small quantities, not justifying a "variety" page of tis own.

We have Tugtupite for sale here in our mineral shop!

Tugtupite under shortwave UV light


Tugtupite from the Kvanefjeld area is the most widely known fluorescent mineral from Ilimaussaq.  It is typically a bright gemmy red and is the source for the gem material used in making beautiful tugtupite cabochons.  A typical piece of gem tugtupite will be found in an analcime and lujavrite matrix, often along with aegirine crystals.  The natural color ranges from a light pink to a deep cherry red.  Under shortwave the red glow is unmistakable.  Commonly associated (fluorescent) minerals include chkalovite, beryllite, and sorensenite.

Taseq tugtupite displaying tenebrescence

Taseq Tugtupite

Found in veins towards the top of the slopes, this variety of tugtupite is quite different from that found on Kvanefjeld.  It consists of a coarse grained pink veining in massive crystals of analcime.  Often pieces are associated with aegirine (non FL) and what appears to be a spotty green fluorescent analcime (or remnants of chkalovite).  Many pieces have vugs where micro crystals of tugtupite can be found.  Daylight color ranges from a light pink to deep pink, This material is also usually quite phosphorescent.  It also usually shows a significant color change under midwave UV light.

Close up of pink tugtupite crystals

Tugtupite Crystals

One of our tour members in 2002 found a boulder of tugtupite on the eastern slopes.  When he cracked it open he found a cavity of wonderfully formed tugtupite crystals!  Since then, many pieces have been found with micro crystals but this piece was truly remarkable in size.  Although not a gemmy red, the tugtupite deepened in color to an intense pink.  A coating of what appears to be a uranyl activated green FL covered many areas on the specimens, along with a yellowish glow – perhaps from another associated (unknown) mineral.

Large piece of Tugtupite from Greenland

Kangerlussaq Tugtupite

A gem variety of tugtupite found in the Kangerlussaq Fjord area.  Usually associated with polylithionite, chkalovite, and sodalite.  Responses vary widely under different wavelengths and is very bright material.


Blue Tugtupite is an extreme rarity.

Few people have seen (or even know of) blue tugtupite. It's so rare that it is almost an urban legend. In the past 17 years we've been traveling to Greenland and dealing in the minerals we've only seen a couple of pieces. This is the best piece we have in our personal collection. It is from the same area the famous tugtupite mines are located on Kvanefjeld, Ilimaussaq Complex.

The pictures show it under white light and shortwave. Under UV it looks like any other piece of tugtupite - the typical bright cherry red SW and salmon LW. But the blue color in white light is simply amazing. There is an unsubstantiated rumor that exposure to UV will cause blue tugtupite to fade. We have not tested it and have no plans to. We also have not checked for tenebrescence.

The matrix on this piece is analcime.

Sodalite hackmanite from Greenland


Sodalite from Greenland displaying tenebrescence


Chemical formula: Na8Al6Si6O24Cl2. Hardness = 6.0, Density = 2.29

Greenland sodalite is found throughout the various complexes in large quantities.  Much of it is the typical gray or yellow variety, and almost all of it fluoresces a bright orange.  Walking along the mountain trials at night is much like night prospecting in the Franklin NJ dumps - but instead of the ever present orange glow from calcite, it's an orange glow from sodalite.

Certain areas are known for high-quality, vibrantly colored sodalite.  The Gronnedal-Ika Complex (near the Arsuk Fjord) contains vein fillings and dissemination of ultramarine-blue sodalite.  The color is intense and well suited for polishing.  Within the Ilimaussaq Complex there is an area which yields a highly tenebrescent green sodalite (variety hackmanite), mixed with brightly fluorescent green uranyl activated fluorescing mineral.  One type is so deeply tenebrescent we have nicknamed it "Chameleon Sodalite".

Sodalite ranges in (daylight) color from blue, white, pink, gray, green, yellow and most (to date) fluoresce a brilliant orange under long wave UV.  SW fluorescence varies depending on the type and locale, as does tenebrescence. The tenebrescent qualities of Greenland sodalite are perhaps one of the more technically interesting aspects of this mineral.  

Fluorescing green sodalite from Greenland

Green Sodalite

Found in the Kangerlussaq area, green sodalite is a vibrant green under day light, much of it gem quality.  When exposed to SW UV it is very tenebrescent.  Most pieces consist of sodalite interspersed in a lujavrite matrix, along with aegirine and occasionally steenstrupine.  Usually a green uranyl activated FL coats many of the pieces.

Red sodalite hackmanite


Found around the same area as the blue sodalite is a variety of sodalite which appears red in daylight.  The red color is due to the extreme tenebrescence of this material.  When exposed to sunlight it turns a reddish color.

An animation of blue sodalite under shortwave UV light and displaying tenebrescence

Blue sodalite

The southern shore of the Tunuliarfik Fjord yields an unusual blue (natural color) sodalite which is quite tenbrescent and very fluorescent (seldom seen in blue sodalite)

Yellow sodalite hackmanite


The Taseq Slopes offer many varieties of sodalite but none match the beauty of pieces which are a gemmy yellow color in daylight.  In addition to their brilliance under UV, these pieces exhibit a deep purple tenebrescense - one of the deepest color changes of all the minerals from the complex.


Some sodalite has the outward appearance of albite, but can glow a multitude of colors (this type of sodalite is often associated with many other minerals.


Each locality produces many varieties of sodalite, some very fluorescent, some tenebrescent - often mixed with other minerals to make unusual display specimens.  Those which do not assume a specific form or characteristic are listed here.

Gemstones and Minerals of Greenland (most recognized):








Fluorescent Minerals

Fluorescent Mineral History of Ilímaussaq:

Tugtupite reported in the ‘60s 

Occasional reports of sodalite over the years

2001 - Chkalovite, green sodalite (hackmanite)

2002 - New varieties of tugtupite, crystals, yellow sodalite

2003 - Ussingite, tug, chkalovite, polylithionite

2004 - discoveries on Taseq – major combos, analcime

2005 – new gem tugtupite mine

2006 – Expansion of Taseq locales

2007 – blue sodalite

2008 – red sodalite, new varieties in Taseq

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