The first commercially significant deposit of kunzite was discovered in 1902 in the Pala region of California. Kunzite and was named after the gemologist George F. Kunz, the legendary gemologist and gem buyer for Tiffany & Co at the time. The largest faceted kunzite is an 880ct. specimen on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.
The perfect cleavage, brittleness, sensitivity to heat and splintery fracture of kunzite make it one of the most difficult gems to cut. Although it is surprisingly resistant to abrasion, it is sensitive to knocks and will chip if hit too hard.
Kunzite is a relatively fragile stone but its appealing color, good clarity, and availability in larger sizes make it a popular gemstone. Indeed there is no other stone of comparable color available in the price range and all other lilac colored natural gemstones are more expensive. Kunzite shows its best color in larger sizes. Small gems are seldom cut from kunzite because kunzite is so difficult to work with and because smaller sizes are usually too light in color. It is rarely seen in rings, necklaces, or any other forms of jewelry where small stones are required. It is most often used as a pendant stone or as a large decorating stone on ornamental objects.
Kunzite is known for its strong pleochroism showing lighter and more intense coloring in different directions. For this reason, it is always cut to show the deepest pink color through the table of the stone. The deeper darker and more saturated colors of kunzite are considered to be the most valuable.
Kunzite may fade in strong light. Some deep pink stones have turned nearly colorless from fading. Although the color-fading effect is not this drastic in most kunzite, it is still important not to expose kunzite gems to strong light (especially sunlight) for long periods. Kunzite is sometimes called "evening stone" for this reason. The color of some kunzite can be restored or intensified by irradiation.
Today most kunzite is mined in Brazil, Afghanistan, and Madagascar often found in association with morganite and pink tourmaline.