As the transparent variety iolite, it is often used as a gemstone. The name "iolite" comes from the Greek word for violet. Another old name is dichroite, a Greek word meaning "two-colored rock", a reference to cordierite's strong pleochroism. It has also been called "water-sapphire" and "Vikings' Compass", because of its ability to determine the direction of the sun on overcast days. This works by determining the direction of polarization of the sky overhead. Light scattered by air molecules is polarized, and the direction of the polarization is at right angles to a line to the sun, even when the sun's disk itself is obscured by dense fog or lies just below the horizon.  Gem quality iolite varies in color from sapphire blue to blue violet to yellowish gray to light blue as the light angle changes.
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