Iceland has no official “national crystal,” but if such a title were ever bestowed, Iceland spar would likely be a contender. Known alternatively as Icelandic spar or optical calcite, this crystal gained its name from its initial European introduction via the Helgustaðir mine in East Iceland during the 17th century (although the crystal is found in other parts of the world).
Iceland spar is celebrated for its unique optical properties, most notably its capacity for double refraction. This characteristic has made it a subject of extensive scientific inquiry. Historically, Iceland spar may have served navigational purposes. It’s speculated that Vikings used a “sólarsteinn” or sunstone, to determine the sun’s direction under cloudy skies or twilight conditions, and the likely candidate for this sunstone is Iceland spar.
We reached out to two gift shops in Reykjavík to inquire about the availability of Iceland spar. Only one shop sold the crystal – and it was imported rather than locally sourced.