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The divergence or spreading of the different coloured rays of a beam of composite light when refracted by a prism or lens, or when diffracted, so as to produce a spectrum, especially in reference to the amount of this dispersion. (O.E.D.)
The power of a transparent medium to separate the spectrum colours.the figures being usually the result of the subtraction of the figures of refractive index for the red ray ("B" line at 6867Ä.) from the figures of the refractive index for the violet ray ("G" line at 4308Ä.). (Gemmologist's Compendium by Webster)
Dispersion is the difference between the amount of refraction of different colours of light. White light is actually composed of light of all different colours. A highly dispersive material will split light strongly into its component colours to give a "prism" effect showing a "rainbow" or spectrum.
Dispersion is often know as "fire".
Diamond owes most of its beauty to its high dispersion, whereas white sapphire, with low dispersion tends to look "dead" or glassy.
You may wish to visit some of our other pages:-
Hardness - Moh's Scale
Specific Gravity or Density
A to Z of Gemstones
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