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Beautiful Bejeweled Amethyst’s History as an Art Medium

Amethyst intaglio portrait of Julius Caesar, Roman, 50-40 B.C.E.

The February birthstone is amethyst. A form of non-fluorescing hard stone quartz whose typically purple shading comes from irradiation of iron or transition element impurities, amethyst was once considered one of the cardinal, or most valuable, gemstones. Occasionally exhibiting secondary shades of blue or red, the beautiful stone is highly popular among mineral collectors, crystal healers, art lovers, lapidaries. While not considered as valuable as it once was due to recent discoveries of large deposits of the mineral, amethyst often produces stunning jewelry.

Traditionally most carved gemstones in the west are a form of quartz, the carving techniques adopted for quartz also apply to amethyst. Amethyst deposits have been found on almost every continent and it’s availability was a key factor in it’s popularity as a carving medium of artisans in antiquity. Deposits have been found in Brazil, Uruguay, Austria, Russia, Zambia, and Korea, as well the eastern and southern areas of the United States, including Texas, North Carolina, and the Lake Superior Region.

Amethysts was carved and treasured by cultures such as those of Japan, Iran, Greece, Rome, Egypt, the Anglo-Saxons and others. Different cultures each put their own spin on the importance, meaning and value of the stone. It was highly treasured by Russian Empress Catherine who sent thousands of miners into the Ural mountains seeking the gemstone. In ancient Rome, the purple color of the gem was associated with the purple color reserved for the elite and the emperor. The medieval Catholic church’s bishops prized amethyst’s color. The ancient Egyptians worked the material into amulets for protection against harm. Moses the prophet is said to have described amethyst as representing the spirit of god. The ancient Greeks believed the stone offered protection from drunkenness. The Tibetans created rosaries from the stone and considered it sacred to Buddha. Leonardo Da Vinci wrote that amethyst quickened intelligence and dissipated evil thoughts. The Anglo-Saxons fashioned beads, while was used for intaglio.

In this article we present a visual tour of the different ways amethyst has been used in art, both ancient, antique, and modern.

Amethyst intaglio portrait of Julius Caesar, Roman, 50-40 B.C.E.

Amethyst intaglio portrait of Julius Caesar, Roman, 50-40 B.C.E.

Byzantine Jeweled Bracelet of gold, silver, pearls, amethyst, sapphire, glass, quartz

Byzantine Jeweled Bracelet of gold, silver, pearls, amethyst, sapphire, glass, quartz, 500-700 C.E.

1st Century Greek or Roman Amethyst Oval

1st Century Greek or Roman Amethyst Oval

Amethyst, Copper, Gold and Silver Frankish Disk Brooch, 550-650 C.E.

Frankish Disk Brooch, c. 550-650 B.C.E. with Amethyst Jewel

American Brooch by Theodore B. Starr, 1900, Amethyst, Gold, Garnet, Enamel

Amethyst, Garnet, Gold and Enamel Brooch by Theodore B. Starr, American, 1900

Egyptian Amethyst Scarab, Middle Kingdom, 1981-1950 B.C.E.

Egyptian Amethyst Scarab, Middle Kingdom, ca. 1981–1950 B.C. The scarab beetle was a potent symbol of creation and regeneration among the ancient Egyptians.

Chinese Amethyst Qing Dynasty Seal, Late 19th-early 20th Century

Chinese Qing Dynasty Amethyst , Late 19th – Early 20th Century

Chinese Qing Dynasty Snuff Bottle of White, Green, and Brown Jadeite with Amethyst Quartz Stopper 1736-95

Chinese Qing Dynasty Snuff Bottle of White, Green and Brown Jadeite with Amethyst Stopper, Qianlong Period (1736-1795)

Spanish Clip Earrings, mid-19ths Century, Gold, Metal and Amethyst

Mid-19th Century Avant-Garde Spanish Clip Earrings, Amethyst, Silver, Metal

We may not have antique carvings, but you can check out our lovely collection of amethyst for sale.

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Electrifying Petrified Wood Discovery on the Island of Lesbos, Greece

The Greek island of Lesbos is notable for it’s Petrifed Wood forest, a protected national monument. The forest is located on the western portion of the island and was formed from the Late Oligocene to Lower–Middle Miocene and consists of  silicified remnants of a sub-tropical forest that going back 20–15 million years ago.

Petrified Forest on the Island of Lesbos, Greece, by C messier – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8926168

Recent discoveries in the rich Petrified Forest have been electrifying. First was the rare discovery of a spectacular 19.5 meter long log , with accompanying roots, branches, and trees, the only found to date in over 25 years of excavations. Weeks later, the excavators uncovered over 150 more petrified wood logs and petrified wood stumps including conifers, fruit producing trees, sequoia trees, pine, palm, cinnamon and oak trees. The finds were all discovered in the same pit.

The excavation team has been working since 2013 excavating along a 20km stretch of highway and have made 15 major finds, but these all pale to this most recent discovery, which was actually the result of a lucky accident. One the excavators notices a leaf in a stretch of the highway about to get asphalted, and halted the road work.

The park has been designated a UNESCO Global GeoPark. There is an excellent museum well worth visiting. If you visit the park, remember that the removal and transfer of fossilized material is prohibited by law. The forest includes six parks. The fossilized trees include mainly huge sequoias and primitive pine trees in an ecosystem closest to the coniferous forests of North America.

While we haven’t been to Lesbos we do have some of our own spectacular Petrified Wood finds available for sale in our catalog.

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Short Crystal: Quartz and the Fossilized Bird

A recent study in Frontiers in Earth Science reveals that researchers discovered quartz crystals in the stomach of a bird that lived alongside the dinosaurs. The bird, a member of the Enantiornithes clade of fossil birds, appeared to be a sensational discovery, as previously there had never been a find which preserved any traces of food in the fossils stomach which would clue researchers in to the diet of the animal. Many modern birds have what’s called a gizzard, a thick and muscular portion of the stomach used to help digest food. Often birds swallow small stones know as gizzard stones, which make their way to the gizzard itself where it helps to crush tough or difficult to digest food. These stones are know as gastroliths and have been found in some dino and bird fossils providing hints as to the diet of those animals. The presense of stones in the stomach, though isn’t defiinitive as to the purpose of the stones. There are some modern birtds of prey that swallow rocks to help move material through their digestive tract, cleaning it out, and it’s hard to differentiate between a gastrolith and a gastrolith that is a gizzard stone without knowing anything about the diet and habits of the animal using the stone. In the end, the reesearchers determined that the quart material found where the birds stomach would have been probably was a gastrolight at all. After exposing the supposed gastroliths to X-rays and a scanning electron microscope it was determined that the rocks were actually chalcedony crystals, quartz that grew in sedimentary rocks. There is evidence of chalcedony crystals forming with a clamshell, or replacing minerals in fossil bones. Furthermore, the crystals in this case were all connected in a thin sheet rather than separate rocks. The rocks were also much larger than would be expected of rocks swallowed by a bird that size. In the end there just wasn’t enough evidence, and some negative evidence against the idea that the rocks were in the birds stomach. Just goes to show, never count your gastroliths before they’s been swallowed.

We don’t have any examples of Enantiornithes, but you can check our our collection of fossils for sale here.

Photograph of the holotype of Zhouornis hani, a type of Enantiornithes
Photograph of the holotype of Zhouornis hani, a type of Enantiornithes,
By Yuguang Zhang, Jingmai O’Connor, Liu Di, Meng Qingjin, Trond Sigurdsen, Luis M. Chiappe​ – https://peerj.com/articles/407/, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33060650
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Martian Geology, Meteorites and the Perseverence Lander

Perseverance’s First Full-Color Look at Mars – Source: NASA

On February 18th, the most recent of NASA’s Martian exploration probes, Perseverence, landed on Mars after a seven month transit through space. An evolution of the design of the Curiosity rover which landed in 2012, Perseverence was designed with four objectives in mind: to identify environments that in the past could supported microbial life; looking for actual signs of that past microbial life; testing oxygen production from the martian atmosphere as a first step in considering how to prepare Mars for humans; and finally collecting rock and soil samples. In honor of NASA dropping yet another mechanical rock hound onto the surface of Mars, we’ve decided it’s time to briefly review Martian geology.

Perseverance’s Big Wheels , How This Mechanical Rockhound Gets Around – Source: NASA

What is known of the geology of the red planet comes from three sources: Martian meteorites that have ended up on earth, samples collected by rovers on the Martian surface, and remote measurements taken by orbiters, spacecraft, spacecraft etc. The first category, Martian meteorites finds on earth are rare but have been discovered. The oldest suspected Martian meteorite is ALH8400, an achondrite orthopyroxenite rock found in the Allan Hills of Antarctica in 1984 estimated to be around 4.1 billion years old (plus or minus a lot of years). Now housed in the Smithsonian, this meteorite was famously and controversially reported as having features resembling certain modern terrestrial bacteria in their appendages. According to Wikipedia “Orthopyroxenite is an ultramafic and ultrabasic rock that is almost exclusively made from the mineral orthopyroxene, the orthorhombic version of pyroxene and a type of pyroxenite. It can have up to a few percent of olivine and clinopyroxene.” ALH84001 is not only unique for its possible or possibly not connection to Martian life, it is also the only member of the Martian orthopyroxenite group of meteorites. Quite a feat.

Martian Meteorite ALH84001
Martian Meteorite ALH84001 – by Jstuby at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=47556214

Besdies ALH84001, Martian meteorites are broadly classified as shergottites, nakhlites, chassignites and ungrouped. Most fall into the shergottites, named after the the meteor fall ar Sherghati, India in the mid 1800s. These are igneous rocks sub-classified as basaltic, olivine-phryic, or lherzolitic based crystal size and minteral content. In an attempt to be even more confusing this shergottites can also be classifed according to their rare earth content, and the two classification systems don’t line up with each other. Nakhlites, named after the fall in El-Nakhla, Egypt are igneous and rich augite fromed from basaltic magma on Mars from what is believed to be at least 4 separate volcanic eruptions approximately 1.5 billion years which spanned a 90 million year period. It is believed that the nakhlites in the very distant past were suffused with liquid water. The chassignites, named for the fall a Chassigny, Haute-Marne, Franceis a category consisting of two falls – the being found in the Western Sahara in 2000. Other than ALH8400, a number of other specimens fall into the other category, including the Kaidun meteorite fall from Yemen which may have originated on the Martian moon Phobos because Phobos has similarities to C-Type asteriods, and because the Kaidun is a carbonaceous chondrite which may contain fragments of material from the Martian surface. Needless to say, real martian meteorites are rare and valuable.

Slice of Martian shergottite meteor
Slice of Martian shergottite meteor – by Steve Jurvetson – Flickr: It came from Mars, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23387404

The data retrieved from orbiters, spacecraft and other sensors in space on on the other are more complicated to explain and there aren’t any neat rock pictures to show, so we’ll move on to the rovers and their rock sampling. If turquoise, amethyst or malachite were discovered by the martian rovers it would rewrite the geology and history of Mars, not to mention spurring some of us Terrans to rush to Mars to begin setting up local rock shops to cater to the inevitable rock hounds who would start streaming there. But it’s an extremetly unlikely event. The Martian surface falls somewhere between basalt and andesite rocks of Earth. This means that some minerals formed similar to what is found on Earth. The presence of iron oxide gives the red rust color to the surface. Perchlorate in high percentages makes the soil highly saline, but also opens the possibility of extract water. Carbonate and phyllosilicate minerals formed when water was present in large amounts in the past.

The Jake Rock on Mars
The Jake Rock on Mars, an igneous rock found to be high in elements consistent with feldspar, such as sodium, aluminum and potassium, and lower concentrations of magnesium, iron and nickel than other such rocks previously found on Mars – By NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS – http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16192 (direct link), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22020571

Among the phylosilicates present are kaolinite, monmoillonite, mica, and serprentine. Felsic minerals present inclute quartz, feldspar and maklynite. Gypsum, percholorate, ikaite, aragonite, ankerite, jarosite, olivine, pyroxene, augite, pigeonite, clinopyroxene, hematite, magnetite, and limenite are also present. Jarosite, incidently has been found on earth, rarely, usually as a result of mining waste exposed to rain and air, but also deep in the antarctic ice.

Adirondack - a Martian rock
Adirondack – a Martian rock, a hard, crystalline rock. The peaks large and small in Adirondack’s electromagnetic spectrum reveal that the minerals in the rock include olivine, pyroxene and magnetite – a common composition in volcanic basalt rocks on Earth – By NASA – NASA, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3521006

Of the mission seeking for life, well, that also has a geological slant. The rover is looking for something similar to a stromotolite, a material is formed from layerd microbial mats of photoshynthetic cyanobacteria that trap and bind sediment that can create a kind of living fossil. The belief is that if early microbial life existed on Mars, fossilized remains like stromotilite would be the most likely way to detect traces. While we wish Perseverence the best of luck in its search for life, our money is on its finding petrified wood – possibly Green Chromium Petrified Wood. That would be something. Not only would it rewrite Martian history as we know it, it might make that local Martian rock and crystal shop a profitable venture.

2.7 billion year old Tumbiana Stromatolite from an ancient lake environment on the souther margin of Pilbara Craton in Western Australia. – Source: NASA

We may not have any Martian meteorites in stock, but check out our selection of meteorites for sale on GeoRarities.com

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Welcome Stranger Gold Nugget Anniversary

This week marks the 152nd anniversary of the discovery of Welcome Stranger, the largest alluvial gold nugget ever found. Discovered 1869 in Moliagul, Victoria, Australia, the Welcome Stranger nugget had a calculated refined weight of 3,123 troy ounces and measured 2 feet by 1 foot in size.

The mid 1850s in Australia was a period of great excitement. Just as in California, gold had been discovered, and thousands traveled to Victoria looking to make their fortune. In September of 1852 gold was found in the area of Moliagul – an area which would later become famous for the discovery of Welcome Stranger.

Miners and their wives posing with the finders of the nugget, Richard Oates, John Deason and his wife. The Welcome Stranger Nugget was discovered on 5 February 1869

One of the William Parker re-enactment photos. William Parker was a photographer who had a studio in Dunolly.

Pictured are Miners & Their Wives (Including Richard Oates, John Deason & His Wife) Posing With a Replica of the Welcome Stranger Nugget

Image by William Parker – http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/primo_library/libweb/action/dlDisplay.do?vid=MAIN&reset_config=true&docId=SLV_VOYAGER1719441, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=34745693

John Deason, a former tin dresser, and Richard Oates were two of the many miners who rushed to the area to make their fortune. Originally from Cornwall, England they had both staked claims in the area of Moliagul and set up small farms to support their operations. Deason was breaking the soil on his claim plot around the roots of a tree in Bulldog Gully near Moliagul in February of 1869 when he struck something hard about 3 cm below the soil. Originally thinking it was a rock, he hit it a second, then a third time. Finally clearing away the soil he discovered the massive gold nugget. Deason’s son quickly ran to the farm of Oates, his father’s partner, who was plowing his nearby paddock. Oates came over and helped cover up the nugget and they waited until dark when it would be safer to remove it. After they dug out the nugget, they held a party in order to reveal Welcome Stranger to their friends and neighbors.

Deason and Oates took the nugget into the town of Dunolly protected by a bodyguard composed of friends and sold the nugget at the London Chartered Bank of Australia for 10,000 pounds, or around $3-4 million in todays money. At that time there weren’t any scales capable of weighing this large of a nugget, so they had Dunolly based blacksmith Archibald Walls break the nugget into three pieces. The nugget was then melted down and the gold sent to Melbourne as ingots to be forwarded on to the Bank of England, leaving Australia on February 21st. The original nugget is believed to have weighed 241 lbs before being trimmed.

A story detailing the discovery was run in the Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express February 12th 1869, excerpted below:

The Dunolly district after having turned over a multitude of nuggets that puts every other goldfield in the Colony in the shade has at length, in the words of the Melbourne journals “beat the world” in producing the largest mass of gold on record. The ‘Welcome Stranger’ was found by two men, named John Deason and Richard Oates, on Friday last, February 5, 1869, near the Black Reef, Bull-dog Gully, Moliagul, a short distance from Wayman’s Reef, and only about a mile from the celebrated Gypsy Diggings. Deason and his mate have been working in the ground for several years past, and as is well known, had got, in digging parlance, so ‘hard up’ as to have been refused credit for a bag of flour a week or so ago, and we believe the very day before the discovery, were reminded by a tradesman that they were indebted to him for a few shillings. Still they persevered, until on the daynamed, Deason in working round the roots of a tree, at about two inches below the surface, struck something hard with a pick, and exclaimed, “D—n it, I wish it was a nugget” and had broken the pick. On stooping down to examine the obstacle, he found that the object of his dearest wish was lying at his feet, and it seemed as if the monster was so large as to be immovable. It was, however, at length released from its virgin soil, and carefully removed. The question then arose as to what was to be done with it, and the first intention was to convey it to Melbourne. When the men got to Dunolly with their prize, they were advised to take it to the bank and forthwith carried it to the London Chartered. The news of the discovery soon spread, and the bank was crowded with eager spectators, amongst whom was a number of Chinamen; and a constable was sent for to guard the prize. The weight in the gross was then found to be two hundred and ten pounds troy, and preparations were at once made to break the mass to pieces and smelt it. The appearance of the ‘Welcome Stranger’ in its pristine state was something wonderful, and it seemed impossible to realise the fact so great a mass of gold could be collected in one lump. But so it was. Many efforts were made to lift it, and many exclamations of surprise expressed at its immense weight and compactness. A sledgehammer and cold chisels were brought into requisition and several of the latter broken in the attempt to reduce into fragments the ‘Welcome Stranger’. It was found to be as solid as it looked, and as chip after chip and piece after piece was dissevered from it, its appearance was as clean as a well-cut Cheshire cheese. At length, after no less than five hours hammering, the monster was pounded up and smelted, the result being 2268 oz. 10d wts. 14 grs. of solid gold, exclusive of at least a pound weight, which was given by the delighted finders to their numerous friends, who were each anxious to retain a piece of the largest mass of gold the world has yet seen. Over nine thousand pounds were advanced on the nugget by the bank, the final value awaiting the result of assay. Some interest has been manifested as to the comparative size and value of the ‘Welcome Stranger’ and the ‘Welcome’ nugget found at Ballarat, to set which at rest we give the following particulars: -‘Welcome Nugget found in the claim of the Red Hill Company, Bakery Hill, Ballarat, on the evening of the 9th June, 1858. Weight 2,217 oz. 16d wts’. It will thus be seen that the ‘Welcome Stranger’ whose total weight (inclusive of the pieces distributed, and retained as referred to below, before being smelted) was in round numbers 2,300 ounces, being over 80 ounces heavier than the ‘Welcome’. Henceforth the almanacs, which have hitherto chronicled the Ballarat monster nugget, as the largest piece of gold on record will have to change the name to the ‘Welcome Stranger’, found in the Dunolly district, near Moliagul. Several interesting incidents might be published in connection with the finding and finders of the nugget. Oates has, we believe, neither kith nor kin with whom to share his prize, but probably soon will have. Deason has a wife and family at Moliagul, where he holds 80 acres of land under the 42nd section, which we believe he intends to settle down upon and cultivate. Oates, we understand, intends shortly to visit his home at Lands End.

Excerpt from Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express February 12th 1869, by gracious permission of the Dunolly Museum, Victoria, Australia

The Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express February 12th 1869 continued…

Since writing the above we have visited the locality to be henceforth rendered world wide in its fame. The spot where the nugget was found is marked by a post, and was pointed out to us by the two fortunate finders of this truly ‘Welcome Stranger’. Messrs. Deason and Oates inform us that they came to the colony in the year 1854. On the 19th February in that year they reached Bendigo, and from that time have been engaged as working miners, with the varied successes and difficulties appertaining to digger life. On the whole they have just managed to make a living by dint of hard work and thrift. About seven years ago they settled down at Moliagul, and have been steadily working there ever since chiefly, washing about nine inches to a foot of the surface soil in an old fashioned horse puddling machine. Mr Deason informed us that they had many times washed a whole week for half an ounce of gold, while at other times they were very fortunate. Within about a hundred yards from the spot where the ‘Welcome Stranger’ was unearthed they, some time ago, found two other nuggets, one weighing 108 ounces, and the other 36 ounces. They have stripped and washed the surface soil from several acres of land and their working are easily traced by the red clay they have bared. They informed us that this red clay contained a little gold, but not enough to pay, consequently they do not wash it. They pointed out to us a peculiar kind of red clay similar to half burnt brick, which they regard as indicative of gold, and which has always been found associated with their larger finds, and particularly so with the immense mass of gold found by them on Friday last. It is much to be regretted that this, the largest mass of gold ever found, at any rate of which there is any record, should have been melted before any model of it was made, and the fortunate owners expressed to us their regret that such had been the case. But when they discovered it the mass, as may be supposed, was unwieldy, so much so that it had to be forced from its bed by a large lever, and the place is a very solitary one, anything indeed but such a place as one would care to keep ₤10,000 worth of gold, or to risk making its discovery known until it could by surrounded by the necessary protection. The mass when found was taken to Mr Deason’s hut and placed in the fire for the purpose of rendering the quartz friable, and Deason sat up the whole of Friday night burning and reducing the mass into a somewhat manageable shape, and the debris containing it is estimated about a pound and a half weight of gold. This done, they took it to Dunolly, as previously stated, and it was at their request that the nugget was at once broken up and smelted. Some golden stone was also broken out of the Black Reef itself, specimens of, which are preserved. It is worthy of remark that at the time of our visit, Deason and his mate were working away in their shirtsleeves at the claim as if nothing had happened out of the ordinary. We are glad that the monster has fallen to the lot of such steady and industrious men.

Excerpt from Dunolly & Bet Bet Shire Express February 12th 1869, by gracious permission of the Dunolly Museum, Victoria, Australia

A wood engraving of the Welcome Stranger published in The Illustrated Australian News for Home Reader on 1 March 1869

Wood Engraving of Welcome Stranger Published March 1st, 1869 in The Illustrated Australian News for Home Reader

Image by Unknown author – http://sinpic.slv.vic.gov.au/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?DB=local&BBID=49297 [dead link]http://search.slv.vic.gov.au/MAIN:Everything:SLV_VOYAGER1690285, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15058593

There were other large nugget found in Australia, including the Holtermann Nugget discovered at Hill End, New South Wales in 1872, which weighed 290 kg. The Holtermann nugget is the single largest gold mass ever discovered, but whether it is technically a nugget remains a bit controversial. One characteristic of a nugget is that it left the lode at some point in the past and is no longer within the host rock, in other words it has broken off from the original lode of gold and has been carried away by water or erosion. The Holtermann was what was called “reef gold” after the quartz reefs often sought ought by the hard rock miners. The hand of Faith gold nugget was found in 1980 near Wedderburn, Australia and weighs in at 875 troy ounces (61 lbs, 11 oz). Other famous nuggets have been discovered in California, Alaska and Montana in the United States.

Deason returned to live in Moliagul and his descendants are still in the region,, but Oates later returned to Cornwall.

A monument consisting of a large stone obelisk surrounded by a fence was erected near the spot of the discovery of Welcome Stranger in 1897. The top image above is a replica of the nugget. A replica of the nugget is located in today in Melbourne, Victoria in the Old Treasury Building. The descendants of Deason own another replica now on display in the the town of Dunolly.

Deason and Oates Monument in Redruth, Cornwall, UK. Cornwall Gold Marketing Manager, Rachel Little; Cornwall Gold Managing Director, Dervla Jarratt; The London Mint Office. Historian, Justin Robinson; and Councillor Deborah Reeve, Mayor of Redruth. Picture courtesy of The London Mint Office. Photo reused by gracious permission of the Dunolly Museum, Victoria, Australia
Welcome Stranger 150, descendants. Picture Philip Ashton. Photo above by gracious permission of the Dunolly Museum, Victoria, Australia

Left to right (spelling to be confirmed): Harriet Caldwell; _ Mulqueen; Darcy Caldwell; Jill Caldwell; Hannah Deason; Stella Deason at rear next to Arthur Deason. Seated, Suzie Deason with Maisy Deason and Henry Deason. Black hat at rear, Jamie Deason; John Deason; Julie Deason; Pamela Deason; young bloke in red is a ‘ring in’ not related; Seated with nugget Peta Hutchinson; William Deason Ray Smith in black hat, descendant of Edward Eudy; Jim Oates; Tom Deason; Athur Deason; Lola Deason; John Deason; Kath Deason.

View our our selection of fine rocks, minerals, crystals, and metals for sale.

Top image by photographer:Rodney Start, Museums Victoria, https://collections.museumsvictoria.com.au/articles/3019

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This Week’s Mineral Spotlight: Gorgeous Green Malachite

Malachite from Zaire

If the mineral is green and gorgeous there is a good chance it’s malachite. Like its copper cousins Turquoise, Azurite, and Chrysocolla, Malachite is found in copper deposits. It first became useful to humans as an ore used by the ancients to produce copper metal. Today, its primary use is decorative: bracelets, necklaces, pendants, as a gemstone and cabochon, and other types of jewelry. It’s also popular as a tumbled stone and as a standout display specimen for rock and mineral collections.

North American deposits include Mexican deposits in Milpillas; American deposits in Bisbee, Morenci, Bingham Canyon and others; African deposits in Namibia, Gabon, Zambia, Uganda, and The Democratic Republic of Congo (Zaire). Russia was at a one a major source of Malachite, particularly gem quality stones, however most of these deposits have been mined out and eclipsed by the quantity and quality of the African deposits. African mines product spectacular massive malachite specimens as well as gem quality malachite, and plancheite, cuprite and carrollite are also present in these deposits.

Malachite from a Smelter's Crucible

Malachite from a Smelter’s Crucible, Egyptian, Joint reign of Hatshepsut and Thutmose III, ca. 1479–1458 B.C., 18th Dynasty

Copper deposit don’t typically yield huge amounts of malachite. Previously, Russia was the only significant source of a large volume of gem-grade malachite, but as the Russian mines have declined and the African mines became available the African finds have far exceeded Russian production. African banded layers malachite is sometimes over a foot thick with very tightly packed submicroscopic needle crystals. Since the opening of the African mines, the mineral market has great cutting-grade malachite with bands of very light green to almost black- green.

Malachite was well known to the ancients.  It’s Latin name, “Molchitis” derives from the Greek “molochites lithos” whose meaning is “mallow green stone” due to the mineral’s resemblance to the mallow plant’s leaves.  Some evidence exists o Malachite mining in Britain at the Great Orme Mines perhaps as far back as the 3rd and 4th millenia B.C. There is also archaeological evidence of Malachite mining and smelting to produce copper 3,000 years ago in the Timna Valley, associated with King Solomon’s Mines in modern day Israel, where it is still mined to today to produce copper. 

Lapidary, work with malachite requires a facemask. The copper carbonate dust from Malachite is poisonous. Most lapidaries use water to cut down on the dust in the air. Undercutting is often a problem during polishing, since each malachite band has a slightly different Mohs hardness, however experienced lapidaries shouldn’t have a problem. Banded malachite is always beautiful no matter how it is used.

Qing Chinese Malachite Carving, Late 18th – Early 19th Century. Seated Luohan With Servant

Above is an outstanding example of carved malachite. A Qing era Chinese art work originating in the late 19th through early 20th century, it depicts a seated luohan, or one who has achieved enlightenment. This particular luohan is identified as Nakula who sits in meditation with a rosary; a boy-servant attends at his feet. From his long eyebrows and position beneath a tree. Carved writing in the upper right corner is a poem of praise for Nakula in the upper right was authored by the Jiaqing emperor (r. 1796–1820) and inscribed in the hand of his elder brother Yongxing (1752–1823).

Malachite Monumental Vase

French Monumental Malachite Vase. Lapidary Work Early 19th Century, Pedestal And Mounts By Pierre Phillippe Thomire

The monumental vase above is crafted from Russian malachite, bronze, gilt bronze and a filling material. Malachite grows in layers of tiny crystals its colors correlating with different crystal sizes, creating the pattern. During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, most malachite came from Russian mines by the noble Demidov family. The family exploited hardstone quarries and metal deposits located on their estates in the remote Ural Mountains. In the 1820s on of the great discoveries in the history of semiprecious stones happened when an enormous malachite boulder around five hundred tons was unearthed there. Malachite is extremely brittle, so only small display objects can be cut from single blocks of the material. Large objects require a core structure, to which the malachite can be attached in thin pieces, effectively a veneer. Russian craftsmen developed a method to use the stone’s natural pattern and a precision cutting technique to form a continuing or “endless” ornamentation. This type of veneering appears nearly seemless and is called “Russian mosaic”.

The Demidov family used the flashy appearance of malachite to improve their social status, filling their palaces with the material and even decorating an entire room with the green stone, which inspired Czar Nicolas I to commission the famous Malachite Room in the Czar’s Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg.

The monumental vase above is modeled on an ancient Roman bell-shaped krater, the most famous example of which is the first-century Medici Vase, now in the Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence. This shape was quite much admired through the early nineteenth century. Count Nikolai Demidov commissioned this particular malachite vase for his villa at San Donato, near Florence. Unlike with the Russian mosaic technique, large areas of this vase’s surface is composed of small malachite particles mixed with filling substance in the same way as modern terrazzo. This raw malachite was probably transported from one of his mines to Florence to be shaped and finished by local artists not trained in the specialized Russian technique. The vase would then have been sent onwards to Paris to be fitted with its mounts and pedestal.

The gilded bronze winged female figures on the body of the vase represent Fame. Their trumpets are shaped like handles, although the vase is too heavy to be lifted like a loving cup. A gilded bronze laurel garland of laurel (Laurus nobilis) runs under the lip mount. The laurel had been adopted by Lorenzo de’ Medici (who was also a lavish patron of the arts) as an emblem of his house with the motto “Ita ut virtus,” or “Thus is virtue”— that is to say, virtue is evergreen. It’s use here implies that the Demidov’s hoped that their fortune would also be evergreen.

The mounts and bronze pedestal were made by Pierre-Philippe Thomire (1751–1843), known throughout Europe for his bronze decorations and ornamental sculpture. He established a reputation before the French Revolution with beautiful mounts for Sèvres porcelain vases. In 1804 he founded a workshop that produced furniture as well as luxury bronzes.

Malachite and Azurite

Malachite with Azurite

Malachite Thumbnail

PropertyDescription of Malachite
Chemical Composition:Cu2(CO3)(OH)2
Mohs Hardness:3.5 to 4.0
Specific Gravity:3.6 to 4.0
Crystal System:Monclinic
Cleavage:Perfect in one direction, fair in a second direction
Diaphaneity:Most examples are opaque while crystals are translucent
Luster:Polishes to a very bright luster. Large specimens tend to be dull and earthy. Silky luster in fibrous examples. Unusual crystals trend from vitreous to adamantine.

Even though chyrsocolla and azurite are both copper based minerals, malachite is a better indicator of the presence of significant copper deposits. The Copper Queen mine in Brisbee was created on the basis of malachite deposits.

Malachite Copper Crescent Zaire Congo

Malachite Copper Crescent from Zaire (Democratic Republic of Congo)

Malachite Under a Stereoscopic Microscope

Image of Malachite Taken Under a Stereoscopic Microscope

Malachite has a number of different cultural meanings and associations. For the Chinese, Malachite is a lucky stone for those born in the Year of the Rabbit or Year of the Tiger. For the ancient Egyptians, the color green was associated with death and the power of resurrection – as well as new life and fertility. They believed that the afterlife contained the “Field of Malachite”, an eternal paradise resembling their lives but with no pain or suffering. They also used the material in powder form for cosmetics, particularly to try to resemble Horus, the falcon headed god Those who believe in crystal healing, crystal spirituality believe the stone has any number of healing, or metaphysical properties on the body, spirit or chakra.

View our collection of beautiful malachite specimens for sale, perfect as display piece on your table or mantle, for your collection, or for use in spiritual or crystal healing.

Learn more about Malachite at Mindat.

First image by JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7515677 .

Fifth image by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10148274.

Sixth image by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10130475.dex.php?curid=10148274.

Seventh image by Karolina Fok – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84931097.rg/w/index.php?curid=10148274.

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This Week’s Mineral Spotlight: Beautiful Blue Sodalite

sodalite mineral specimen

Description of Sodalite

A gorgeous blue mineral occurring in silica poor igneous rocks which contain other silica poor minerals and no quartz. , Sodalite’s distinctive color ranges from royal blue to light blue and white. It is often confused with lazurite, lazulite and azurite. Less common forms varieties include Hackmanite (found in Afghanistan) which is a tenebrescent violet-pink. Other forms include transparent Sodalite, which is very rare, and grayer and paler samples which sometimes fluorescent. Sodalite-bearing rocks include: nepheline syenite, trachyte, and phonolite and deposits are found in Namibia, Greenland, Russia, Brazil, Italy, and Canada (Ontario and British Columbia).  Small colorless crystals are found at Monte Somma, Vesuvius and at Vico Lake, near Viterbo in Italy. Sodalite deposits in the United States are found in Arkansas and Maine.

Hackmanite, a Variety of Sodalite, from Afghanistan

A Remarkable, Sharp, Isolated Hackmanite (Sodalite) Crystal from Koksha Valley, Badakhshan Province, Afghanistan

Origin of the Name Sodalite

The name Sodalite is derived from the sodium content of the mineral and was by a Glasgow chemist, Professor Thomas Thomson. The mineral was first described after being discovered in  the Ilimaussaq Alkaline Complex, Narsaq, Greenland. Technically the name refers to a group of minerals with a similar isometric structure and related chemistry, and named after the most common of these minerals, also named sodalite. The Sodalite group is a member of the feldspathoid minerals. Other members of this mineral group include: Nosean, Hayne, and Lazurite.

Azul Bahia Granite - sodalite metasyenite from the Precambrian of Brazil.

Azul Bahia Granite – Sodalite Metasyenite from the Precambrian of Brazil.

Other Neat Facts!

Primarily used for decorative purposes particularly as cabochons for jewelry, beads and tumbled stones. Sodalite is one of the few blue rocks used for that purpose that is still reasonably priced.

Crystal sodalite tends to be rare, but large granular masses have been found near Bancroft, Ontario. Nearly 130 tons was of the material was mined from the Bancroft deposit and shipped to the U.K to decorate Marlborough House mansion in London – the headquarters of the Commonwealth of Nations and at one time the residence of the Princess of Wales.

sodalite mineral specimen

Close Up View of Sodalite


View our collection of beautiful sodalite specimens, perfect as display piece on your table or mantle, for your collection, or for use in spiritual or crystal healing.

Other names for sodalite include alomite, bluestone and canadian lapis.

Learn more about sodalite at Mindat.

First image by Philippe Giabbanelli licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Bottom image: By The original uploader was Tillman at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9433359.

Second image by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10451113.

Third image by James St. John – Azul Bahia Granite (sodalite metasyenite, Itabuna Syenite Complex, Neoproterozoic, ~676 Ma; Fazenda Hiassu, Bahia State, Brazil) 12, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58087558

Fourth image by Philippe Giabbanelli licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. Bottom image: By The original uploader was Tillman at English Wikipedia. – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons., CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9433359.