Herkimer County, lying north of the Mohawk river in upstate New York, is known for two things: being the one of two production sites for the Remington Arms Company, and being the source of Herkimer Diamonds. Herkimer diamonds are actually unusual, naturally double terminated transparent quartz, whose clarity and natural faceting has led to the diamond nickname that range from colorless to smoky. These unusual crystals have eighteen faces – six on each end, and six in the middle. and were discovered in dolomite outcroppings by early settlers mining the dolomite, or plowing fields. Any number of inclusions, from microscopic to visible, can occur in the crystal including: salt, water, dolomite, liquid petroleum, calcite, pyrite, sphalerite, and even quartz. While similar naturally double terminated and faceted quartz can be found in other locations, only the material from Herkimer County is called Herkimer Diamonds.
The native Mohawks knew of and valued the crystals as well, and collected them from stream sediment using the material for tools or trading with other tribes. Eventually, “Herkimers” were supplanted among the Mohawk by glass beads brought by traders and settlers.
By Maatpublishing – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=75917823
It’s obvious that Herkimer diamonds are named after their place of origin, Herkimer County, but less obvious is their to the American Revolution, and through that to pop culture. Herkimer County, you see, was named after General Nicholas Herkimer, an American Patriot Militia leader of the American Revolution. An American born grandson of German Palatine immigrant Georg Herchheimer, he grew up in the Mohawk Valley region speaking English, German, and Mohawk. He acquired the rank of Captain in the local militia fighting in the region during the Seven Years war, a global struggle between France and England and their allies known locally in North American as the French and Indian War. He held some slaves, not unlike other settlers and their Mohawk neighbors in the region.
Herkimer’s fame derives from his actions during the siege of Fort Stanwix during the Saratoga Campaign of the American Revolution. By this time promoted to Brigadier General, his force was ambushed on August 6, 1777 by British regulars, Tory Militia and Mohawk warriors while marching to relieve Fort Stanwix. The engagement, later known as the Battle of Oriskany was one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution. With his horse shot, and wounded in the leg, General Herkimer directed the battle while propped up against a tree, rallying his two times to prevent panicked retreats. When his force withdrew his leg was dressed and he was carried home in a litter, but the wound became infected. The decision to amputate the leg was delayed ten days and the surgeon who was performed it was inexperienced because the brigade surgeon had himself been wounded in the fighting at Oriskany. The operation went poorly and General Herkimer bled to death.
Oil Painting titled “Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany“
By Frederick Coffay Yohn – Painting at the public library of Utica, New York. Images widely available on the web., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11839374
In addition to being a bona fide war hero, General Herkimer had his own Hollywood moment. Walter Edmond’s 1936 novel Drums Along The Mohawk was adapted into the 1939 John Ford film of the same name. General Herkimer is a character in both works. He is portrayed in the film by actor Roger Imhof, alongside the leads Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert. Not too shabby for war hero whose great claim to fame was 244 years ago!
Actor Roger Imhof who portrayed General Nicholas Herkimer in the file Drums Along the Mohawk, seen here in a role in the file Red Lights Ahead
By film screenshot (Chesterfield Motion Pictures Corporation) – https://archive.org/details/red_lights_ahead, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26512115
Movie poster for Drums Along the Mohawk. Note Roger Imhof’s name listed in the lower right corner of the playbill.
In a tragic footnote, the general’s younger brother militia Captain Johan Jost Herkimer was also at the Battle of Oriskany when the general’s column was ambushed – but with the other side. Johan Jost was a loyalist who supported the king during the revolution and was a Captain in the Tory militia.
Topmost photo By James St. John – https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/50717613196/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97564957
Of all the variety of minerals and crystals, perhaps the most beloved and widely collected is quartz. Named from the old Saxon word querklufterz meaning ‘cross vein ore’, it is popular with collectors, healers, artists, craftsmen, and people just looking for beautiful jewelry or items to display in their home. Quartz has something for everyone: a startling variety of colors; beautiful geometrically precise crystals; crystals ranging in size from druzy to monumental; strange and fantastical interior minerals such as hematite. Quartz is also the most abundant mineral on our planet.
Pure quartz is a colorless form of silicon dioxide, but there is a wide variety of both colored quartz and minerals that are not commonly understood to be a variety of quartz, such as amethyst, citrine, praseolite, chalcedony, and herkimer diamonds. Many of these varieties derive their color from impurities. Amethyst, for example owes its purple color to a combination of iron impurities trapped in the crystal along with holes in its structure from missing elections. Gray quartz similarly has missing electrons, but instead of iron impurities, it has aluminum impurities. Aside from color, quartz is usually grouped based on the size of the size of individual crystals or grains. If the individual crystal is too small to see using the naked eye, then the crystal is referred to as being cryptocrystalline quartz. If you can use your unaided eye to see the crystal, then it is classified as macrocrystalline quartz.
Rose quartz is a popular macrocrystalline form of quartz best know for its solid masses, beautiful glassy luster and translucent, even, milky pink color. The source of the color is still not well understood. One theory argues that it is due minor impurities such as titanium, manganese or even colloidal gold. The other theory argues that color comes from microscopic mineral fibers of dumortierite inside the rose quartz. Some examples exhibit asterism – a star effect when looking at the mineral from a particular angle when light is shone upon it. In general, rose quartz does not form crystals like you see with other forms of quartz.
Its delicate color has inspired art in other mediums including this glass vase on at the Chrysler Museum, and has its own color listing in the Pantone color library. Man has worked with the material back into antiquity. Beads made of the material have been discovered in the near east. The Chinese, particularly during the Qing dynasty, used the material for carvings. It was crafted in Latin America, and India as well.
Rose Quartz Vase
18th Century, Chinese, Qing Dynasty
Rose Quartz and Gold Double Bird Pendant 8th–12th century Coclé (Macaracas)
Dagger (Jambiya) 18th century Indian, Mughal
Steel, ivory (walrus), silver, ruby, rose quartz
Rose quartz was believed by the Romans, Egyptians and Greeks to be a useful talisman, and the Romans carved it into ownership seals. It was known during medieval times as the love stone, and the Chinese valued it’s properties in the practice of Feng Shui. Given the strong and ancient beliefs that the stone had special properties , it is no surprise that a strong literature has arisen around the material in modern times discussing metaphysical, healing, Reiki, or other spiritual properties of the material.
Ring, filigree with rose quartz
Greek or Roman, from Cyprus
Rose Quartz continues to inspire people, even in modern times. It’s a name given to a character in the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe. In the show, Steven is half-human and half “gem”, a type of ageless alien warrior that project human like forms from the gemstones in their core. Steven inherits his half “gem” lineage from his full-gem mother, Rose Quartz.
Rose Quartz (right), Steven Universe’s mother from the Cartoon Network show “Steven Universe”
By Hilary Florido, Katie Mitroff and Rebecca Sugar (authors); Cartoon Network / Time Warner (copyright owners) – Own screenshot, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50775788
Rose quartz is found today in southern Africa (Madagascar, South Africa, and Namibia) as well as Brazil (Bahia and Minas Gerais) and interestingly, South Dakota.
There is a second variety of quartz sometimes grouped under the name rose quartz, but also referred to as pink crystalline quartz or crystalline rose quartz or even just pink quartz. This variety is much rarer, forms beautiful crystals and the best examples hail from the Minas Gerais region of Brazil.
Located in east-central near the town of Irvine is Knob’s Region, a “u” shaped arc extending for nearly 230 miles that is home to Kentucky agate, the officially designated state rock of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Highly collectible, Kentucky agate is a beautiful form of agate particularly known for it’s deep red and black hues.
Agate is typically a chalcedony (silicon dioxide) variety of fine or microcrystalline quartz nodule or concretion that may contain banding, mottled or variegated coloring. While most agates from in igneous rocks, Kentucky agate is one of the rare exception that forms in sedimentary rocks, a list which also includes Montana agates and Fairburn agates in the Black Hills.
Kentucky agate tends to be prone to cracking, finding quality specimens without cracks tends to be a challenge, making specimens used in jewelry that are free of the cracks particularly prized, collectible and expensive.
Kentucky Agate is often used in jewelry such as this beautiful Red on Black Kentucky Agate Pendant. Note the micro cracks in the stone which is common with this variety of agate due to how it forms.
Agate nodule displaying reds, blacks and yellows. Note the micro cracks. From Estil or Powell County, Kentucky. Photo By James St. John – Agate (Borden Formation, Lower Mississippian; eastern Kentucky, USA) 6, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82926380
Agate nodule from Kentucky with dark reds, orange, black and whites. Photo by James St. John – Agate (Borden Formation, Lower Mississippian; eastern Kentucky, USA) 12, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82926386
Agate nodule from Kentucky, USA, photo By James St. John – Agate (Borden Formation, Lower Mississippian; eastern Kentucky, USA) 13, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82926390
July 14, celebrated every year in France as Bastille Day, commemorates the storming and seizure of the notorious medieval armory, fortress, and political prison known as the Bastille. It was a major event during the French Revolution, and it’s celebration in Paris includes one of the oldest and largest military parades in Europe. The actual storming of the Bastille has an unlikely connection to crystallography.
Why the Bastille was stormed is rather complicated, but the immediate cause was dismissal from the French Royal Government of one Jacques Necker, a Swiss born Genevan banker who to serve as finance minister for French King Louis XVI, the French monarch who was to famously lose his head by guillotine, along with his wife Marie Antoinette. Necker became a very popular figure among the people of France, not least of for his public release of state budget, the first time this had happened in France. At the time, France was staggering unders a complex series of misfortunes, poor policy, and bad financial decisions. Having lost a series of wars against the United Kingdom during the preceding century, in revenge France chose to back the American Revolution, both financially and with direct military aid and forces but the cost of this victory was crushing. Overpopulation, drought, and incompetant advisors brought the state’s finances to the brink. Necker, a rising star well known for financial competance was brought in to stabilize the situation. His relationship to the monarch and his other ministers was turbulent and Necker moved in and out of government positions repeatedly, finally as finance minister. Despite his best efforts, he was unable to salvage the situation. His firing in 1798 triggered crowds to storm the Bastille releasing the few prisoners being held there.
Necker navigated the turbulence of the subsequent Revolution and the Napoleonic era in his native Switzerland. His nephew, also named Jacques married a Albertine Necker de Saussure. a prominent biologist and the two cared for his uncle in his later years. The couple had a son named Louis Albert Necker de Saussure. Louis studied Geology in Geneva, and later Chemistry at Edinburgh University in Scotland. He studied the geology of Scotland and produced the first geological map of Scotland. Ill health compelled Necker to give up mineral collecting. He settled permanently in Scotland become something of a recluse on the Island of Skye.
Necker’s collection of fossils and minerals was donated to the Musée Académique between 1842 and 1845, following his mother’s death and his retreat to Skye. The collection is housed in two departments, the fossils in the Department of Geology and Paleontology and the minerals in the Department of Mineralogy and Petrography. His 650 fossils are kept as a separate collection. Nearly all are from around Geneva and probably collected by Necker or his students. About 400 mineral samples are identifiable as Necker’s in the MHNG mineralogy collection database.
Necker is best know for the Necker Cube, an optical illusion showing a 2D view of a 3D wire wire framed cube. Necker observed that the ambiguous cubic shape could spontaneously switch perspective, writing “The object I have now to call your attention to, is an observation… which has often occurred to me while examining figures and engraved plates of crystalline forms: I mean a sudden and involuntary change in apparent position of a crystal or solid represented in an engraved figure”.
Necker cube on the left, impossible cube on the right. By Gauravjuvekar – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17057834
The river is just about a mile wide at this point. Mud colored waves roll along gently, interrupted occasionally by pleasure craft or a mock riverboat filled with sightseers. I am far above the river looking into a blue sky interrupted by light blue steel girders and rock towers. I am standing on the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge with the Ohio River below, Covington, Kentucky behind me and the tall steel and concrete skyscrapers of Cincinnati reaching into the sky along the near horizon ahead. This bridge was completed in 1867 and in its time was considered the longest suspension bridge in the world at 1,057 feet in length.
Girders and Towers of the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, with Cincinnati, Ohio in the Background
by Cdv1014 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, hBy White-acre – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62604393
This bridge is named after, well, John Roebling, and it has an unusual connection to Geology. John Roebling was a Prussian born engineer. After his university studies (where he attended lectures by the philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, among others) he emigrated to the United States in 1831 with a group of like minded Germans who believed in the possibility of creating a technical based utopia. Quickly finding work, which had been scarce back in the German states, he was gainfully employed up until the American Civil War. The war had many impacts one of which was disruption, slowing or halting of infrastructure projects as money and resources were diverted to the war effort. The bridge over the Ohio was one of the projects affected. It was begun in 1856, but halted with the onset of the war, resuming again in 1863 and eventually completed in 1867. That same year John Roebling started work on an even more ambitious suspension span, this time to cross the East River in New York. This new project would eventually be known as the Brooklyn Bridge and also stand as a marvel of engineering in its day, but Roebling would not live to see its completed. He died of tetanus as a result of an accident, before the plans for the Brooklyn span had been fully drawn up. It was left to his son, Washington Augustus Roebling, thirty-two years old at the the time, to complete the task that his father had begun.
Plaque on the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge, Cincinnati, Ohio
by Cdv1014 – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=51857635
Colonel Washington Roebling was a civil engineer, like his father. His title was not honorary – he enlisted in the Union Army upon the outbreak of the Civil War and served until his resignation in 1865 to help his father with Ohio bridge. The colonel’s favorite hobby happened to be collecting rocks and minerals, a hobby he acquired while studying at the Rensselaer Polytechnic institute in Troy, NY. Later in life he would revisit his hobby when, while personally supervising the building of the Brooklyn span, he spent so many hours under high atmospheric pressure while working on sinking the caissons for the foundation of the bridge that he developed a case of the bends. It was so bad that it permanently injured his health, forcing him direct the work on the bridge from a convalescent bed. Casting about for something with which to relax from the stress of the bridge project he turned his attention back to his hobby. Wealthy, but unable to travel while convalescing, he collected specimens by correspondence.
Over the years Col. Roebling dealt with nearly every dealer and collector of importance in his time. He set his sights on the goal of a representative collection – one with a sample of every known mineral in his day, no matter how interesting or insignificant. Over his lifetime he accumulated over 16,000 specimens of unusually high quality. In the end, his came close to achieving his goal: at the time of his death, of the 1,500 established known mineral species at the time, his collection lacked less than 15. Among the many outstanding examples of his collection were: Brazilian and Siberian topaz, California and Madagascar tourmaline, phenacite, paramelaconite, roeblingite, peridot, opal, Russian malachite (“Brought from Russia about 1874 by the Grand Duke Alexis and given by him to Henry A. Ward, of Rochester, for a mounted buffalo head”), kunzite, Brazilian euclase, Arkansas diamond, chrysoberyl, Brazilian beryl, zoisite, afghanite, pyromorphite, apatite, and a beautiful example of carved quartz (variant chrysoprase).
Photograph of a group of fluorites from the National Gem Collection showing a range of colors, Namaqualand, Western Cape, South Africa, Africa, Washington A. Roebling Collection
Afghanite, Koksha Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan, Asia, Washington A. Roebling Collection
Roebling was quite generous, freely letting his specimens be used for scientific purposes, thereby contributing directly to the publication of important papers, although he himself was not inclined to research. He never catalogued the collection, but he did label every specimen personally. Roebling developed a friendly relationship with the National Museum in Washington, D.C. an institution that would eventually become the Smithsonian, and this no doubt played a role in the decision of his son to donate the collection, as well as $150,000 for its maintenance, to the Smithsonian upon Roebling’s death on July 21, 1926.
Opal, Querétaro, Mexico, North America, Washington A. Roebling Collection
Forsterite (var. peridot), Zabargad Island, Egypt, Africa, Washington A. Roebling Collection
Colonel Roebling had deep contacts in the mineral collecting community, so much so that the mineral roeblingite was named after him in 1927 by Samuel Lewis Penfield and Harry Ward Foote. He was also a charter member of the Mineralogical Society of America which was founded in 1919. He served as Vice President in 1924, and made a $45,000 gift to the Society not long before his death. The Society named the Roebling Medal in his honor. Among the many recipients of the medal are two Nobel Laureates Linus Pauling (laureate in chemistry “for his research into the nature of the chemical bond and its application to the elucidation of the structure of complex substances.”) and Lawrence Bragg (laureate in physics “For their services in the analysis of crystal structure by means of X-rays“).
Perhaps no finer tribute to Roebling’s passion for minerals can be made than that of Alexander H. Phillips 1927 memorial to Roebling in the pages of American Mineralogist:
He would always ask a visitor what mineral he was interested in, or what mineral he wished to see, with that quiet touch of pride which is a pardonable companion of a conscious knowledge of completeness. However rare the mineral, the Colonel could go directly to the proper drawer and produce a specimen. He has often remarked that he had a specimen of every known mineral and variety; then he would always add “with few exceptions.” The Roebling collection was never catalogued, nor was a specimen ever numbered to connect it with its label. For this reason he seemed to be very particular in the handling of his specimens, as he had the constant fear of getting the labels misplaced. Very often the history of a specimen would be found neatly folded in the tray, with the opinion of noted mineralogists in regard to it, together with notes by the Colonel, often written in a humorous strain, in that fine and perfect script. The Colonel’s quiet humor was always the delight of his friends, and this is reflected all through the collection. Here and there a tray will be empty, with a note “This specimen has been loaned now for two years. Time it was returned.” These remarks were not always complimentary, but he would record a joke on himself with equal fairness. He loved each specimen, as his collection in his later years was his enjoyment, his pleasure, his complete interest, his life. Near the end, when his sight was failing, he remarked: “My life is over, as I can no longer see my minerals.” He was always willing to sacrifice specimens for research or analysis; and many were the calls for rare minerals or type specimens, and it was indeed seldom that he failed to deliver the material.
By RPI Library Collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15725762
Top photo by Derek Jensen (Tysto) – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=122754
We are located in Cincinnati, Ohio not far from the banks of Ohio River. Visit our rock, mineral, and crystal shop in person, or browse our selection of crystals, minerals, rocks, meteorites and fossils online by clicking here.
March 22nd, 2022, 21:22 UTC. A small object plunges from the frozen depths of space into the earth’s atmosphere above Iceland. On the other side of Europe the fiery descent is noticed by a middle-aged Geography teacher who also happens to be the head of the Hungarian Astronomical Association. Krisztián Sárneczky – that very same teacher – happens to be at a private observatory in Budapest that evening. Watching from the Piszkésteto Mountain Station, part of Konkoly Observatory – when he notices the 3m wide object. The object, now recognized as an asteriod and posthumously named 2022 EB 5, entered the atmosphere at around 11 miles per second, rapidly burning up. Less than two hours after it’s discovery, 2022 EB 5 disappeared, a brief romance doomed from the start. Did it survive? No one knows. No meteorite debris from it have been discovered yet. Goodbye 2022 EB 5 – we hardly had a chance to get to know one another.
While we don’t have a photograph of 2022 EB 5, we have a substitute to entertain you with. Above is a woodcut showing the fall of the Ensisheim meteorite on November 7, 1492 from the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel (1493). We also have a variety of meteorites for sale.
Woodcut showing the fall of the Ensisheim meteorite on November 7, 1492. From the Nuremberg Chronicle by Hartmann Schedel (1493).
Fifteen miles or so from the Egyptian coastline of the sparkling Red Sea stand a series of crumbling structures. Standing upon an area known in antiquity as “Mons Smaragdus”, these ruins in the Egyptian Eastern Desert are all that remains of Sikait, the Roman Empire’s only emerald mine. Archaeological work conducted in 2020 and 2021 by the University of Barcelona suggests that as the Empire’s grip on the area loosened and eventually receded, some of the buildings were occupied or possibly even built by a nomadic tribe, the Blemmyes, which gained influence in the area.
The Blemmyes appear in written records starting from the 7th century B.C. and disappear sometime around the 8th century A.D. they are mentioned in Strabo’s Geographica in the 1st century A.D. as essentially non-bellicose nomadic raiders. Their cultural and military power increased to the point they formed a kingdom on the flank or Roman Egypt requiring repeated intervention of the Imperial army to keep them from causing trouble.
The researchers believe that the Blemmyes took over not just the site but also the mining activities at the site, possibly also making improvements to building some of the structures on the site.
Remarkable among the finds of the researchers are ancient inscriptions including at least one by a members of a Roman Legion. This inscription would be the first evidence that the Roman army was involved in exploitation of Egypt’s emerald mines, not just to defend them but also probably to help construct them. It was not uncommon in the empire for the legions to be used for civilian construction projects. Not only would this kind of work keep the troops in good physical shape between campaigns, it would keep them busy and productive. It was a Roman belief that a busy army was less likely to mutiny. The legions were involved in the construction of town walls, roads, aqueducts and mining related buildings and equipment such as water mills, stamp mills and dewatering machines.
Roman necklace originating in Egypt made of gold, blue stone and emerald, A.D. 2nd century
Beryl intaglio with portrait of Julia Domna A.D. 200-210.
Julia Domna was wife of Emperor Septimus Severus and mother of Emperor Caracalla. The Egyptian mine at Sikait is the only source of Emerald, a form of Beryl, within the Empire, and thus the likely source of the material for this object if it was not imported.
Roman gold and emerald necklace 1st – 2nd century A.D.
Ruins at Sikait, Egypt
In the mountains along the Red Sea coast of Egypt, across from Sinai, lie the remains of Sikait, location of the only emerald mine in the Roman Empire. This photo shows the ruins of the most impressive building complex at the site, known as Tripartite Building.
By Roland Unger – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=71533171
Goldstone. You know it, that gorgeous with a glittering star field that comes in blue, red, green or purple. It’s used for jewelry. It looks wonderful on your desk as a paperweight, or on a shelf as an eye-catching display object. Kids love it because of the sparkles. Adults love it too – take a deep look into a dark blue example and after a few moments you lost in what feels like the star field in the opening of Star Wars. But what exactly is Goldstone, and were does it come from? What mine do they dig the stuff out of?
Well, as it turns out, it comes from no mine. Even though it sure likes an amazing example of mother nature’s artistry, perhaps helped along with human assistance and a tumbler, it is actually man made. That’s right, it is synthetic. But not synthetic in a bad way, and certainly not synthetic in the modern sense such as with Ruby, which is created by fusing potash alum at a high temperature with a little chromium as a pigment. No, Goldstone is no lab or factory born. It’s birth is traced to the hand of the artist and artisan. But before we look at origins, let’s look at exactly what Goldstone is.
What is Goldstone?
Goldstone is form of man-made glass. It has a glittering, metallic character luster caused by flat faced and highly reflective inclusions of copper. The luster is caused by heating molten glass to the temperature necessary to dissolve copper oxide granules added to the molten glass. The melt is then cooled slowly allow the copper ions to grow into uniformly dispersed octohedral shaped crystals. The size of the copper crystals formed is directly related to the length of time taken to coll the melt. The longer the cooling, the larger the crystals. It is these copper crystals that creates the glittering luster.
But wait, you ask. What make gives the goldstone it’s red, or blue, or green, or purple color in which the copper stars are fixed? Well, the answer to that differs with each color of goldstone. Glass itself is typically colorless, and goldstone is no exception. Red goldstone is red because of reflection off the copper crystals. Blue, green, and purple goldstone use metals other than copper, but the background color doesn’t come from the metal, but rather from the addition of other elements to the glass itself. The blue in blue goldstone is caused by the addition of cobalt to the glass, green from the addition of chromium, and purple from the addition of manganese. Goldstone without copper is easier to work with when reheated, because of less stringent reduction requirements and higher melting points of manganese and cobalt.
Regardless of the metal used to create the particular color of the star field pattern, the glitter effect is intensified when a piece of goldstone is moved under light, when a lighting source is moved over the goldstone, or when the observer is in motion relative to a piece of lighted goldstone. If that sound technical, then think of it like this. A lighted piece of goldstone gets a whole lot glitterier if either you move it, you move yourself, or you move the light.
History of Goldstone
Goldstone dates as far back as the period between the 12th and 13th centuries A.D., the earliest known goldstone object being an amulet excavated in Iran with an inscription dedicating it to one of the rulers of Syria during that period. It was being manufactured in Italy by the 17th century, in Murano and Venice. The Motti family of Venice was granted an exclusive license to manufacture the material by the Doge (think “Duke”, they both originate from the same word) of Venice. The Chinese were making goldstone around the same time as the Italians with bottles made of the material by the Imperial Workshop handed out by the Qing Emperor’s court as gifts and rewards.
Goldstone is actually a more recent name for the material. An earlier common name for it aventurine glass, based on the Italian “avventurina” meaning “by chance” or “accident” in reference to the tale that the discovery of how to make the material was an accident. Goldstone should not be confused with the mineral aventurine, which is a feldspar or quartz with a mica inclusion that can also be glittery. In point of fact, the mineral was named after the goldstone because it’s glittery luster was reminiscent of of goldstone.
Party Tricks with Aventurine
So the heading is a bit of joke – there will be no party tricks discussed here. Instead let’s talk a little bit more about the name aventurine, the early name for goldstone. Besides gifting it’s name to the natural mineral aventurine, goldstone has lent it’s original to several technical terms used to describe that glittery loveliness goldstone is in possession so much of.
First is the term “aventurescence” which refers to the phenomena that occurs when a material with light-reflecting particles that produce a sparkly or glittery luster.
Then we have the term “aventurescent” which describes (also see the definition of adjective) materials that exhibit the phenomena of aventurescence. Usage examples include: aventurescent quartz, aventurescent feldspar, aventurescent iolite, and aventurescent soda pop. Actually that last item is joke, but soda pop beside shimmery and bubbly right after pouring does remind one of goldstone, well, a bit.
Cousins of Goldstone and Other Curious Facts
There are other types of glass that have some similarity to goldstone. For example, there is transparent red copper ruby glass and also opaque “sealing wax” purpurin glass, all of which have beautiful reddish colors of which are created by colloidal copper. The key difference among these is the size of the copper crystals. Goldstone has macroscopic (large) reflective crystals; purpurin glass has microscopic (small) opaque particles; copper ruby glass has submicroscopic (very small) transparent nanoparticles.
The outer layers of a batch of goldstone often has a duller color and less glittery goodness, characteristics usually dues to poor crystallization which decreases the size of the reflective copper crystals and makes the surrounding glass more opaque with non reflective particles. This may also be due to partial oxidation of the copper which may lead the crystals dissolving leading to a transparent blue-green glass.
Sometimes goldstone only displays the glittering effect from two directions rather than from any vantage point.
Goldstone is actually popular for cutting jewelry. As rough pieces, it is usually sold as broken chunks and as slabs suitable for cutting cabochons. Smaller pieces might be rock tumbled, while larger chunks might weight over 50 pounds. A single batch of goldstone usually weighs in at 100 pounds or more, before being cut into smaller chunks. The quality of the goldstone due to variability from the manufacturing process will dictate the end use.
Metaphysical, Spiritual, and Healing Properties of Goldstone
Even though goldstone is synthetic, many believe it has spiritual or metaphysical properties, and can be used in physical healing. The specific properties and effects of the goldstone vary depending on who you consult, and their particular perspective. One thing is certain, contemplating the start field of a beautiful example of goldstone can be a calming and meditative experience!
Top photo depicting a piece of ‘red’ or ‘brown’ Goldstone glass under magnification to show the crystals inside – by Albionfireandice – website, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=104498606
Poor Afghanistan. It is the country that never seems to catch a break. Remote, poor, land-locked, and yet highly strategic because of its position as the gateway to India and its position athwart the ancient silk road trade route to China, it has seen armies pass through from Alexander the Great to the Moghuls (think the creators of the Taj Mahal), to the British and Russians, and finally the Soviet and Americans.
Afghanistan Mineral Resources
Photo By This file was contributed to Wikimedia Commons by National Archives at College Park – Cartographic as part of a cooperation project. The donation was facilitated by the Digital Public Library of America, via its partner National Archives and Records Administration.National Archives Identifier: 159081989Source record: http://catalog.archives.gov/id/159081989DPLA identifier: a982bb69e64e77d42e7d7f8e0a1c5f33, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=96782925
One ever-constant bright spot for the nation has been the enormous mineral wealth it sits above. A massive upheaval about 40 million years ago between the Indo-European, the African, and Asian plates created the towering mountains upon which the nation sprawls. This also created a wide variety and enormous quantity of mineral wealth, particularly in the north and northeast of the country All told there are over 1,400 mineral fields encompassing barite, chromite, coal, copper, gold, iron ore, lead, natural gas, petroleum, precious and semi-precious stones, salt, sulfur, lithium, talc, and zinc, rare earth minerals, and high-quality emerald, lapis lazuli, red garnet, tourmaline, turquoise and ruby just to name a few examples. This enormous wealth has been well know for over a century from surveys conducted by the British and Russians. During their occupation the Soviets conducted their own survey. Most recently, a United States Geological Survey estimate prepared after the overthrow of the Taliban that there was perhaps a trillion dollars worth of mineral wealth in Afghanistan.
An early turquoise mine in the Madan village of Khorasan
Photo by Major Henri De Bouillane de Lacoste (tr. by J. G. Anderson) – “Around Afghanistan” as digitised by the Internet Archive’s text collection., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3850890
The mineral wealth can be divided into industrially useful and specimens & gemstones. Just in Baghlan Province one finds important deposits of clay, bauxite, gypsum, limestone, and coal. Clay in particular has been used since ancient times. Other industrially useful minerals include chromium, mercury, copper, gold, silver, iron ore, lead, tungsten, zinc, lithium, beryllium, cobalt, marble, sulfur, tin and talc. Perhaps the world’s largest copper lode exists in Aynak.
An Afghan Marble Factory
Photo by USAID Afghanistan – 100525 Hirat Marble Conference 133, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15375462
Green Tile with Star Design, 12th–13th century, Earthenware; molded decoration, monochrome glazed, Attributed to Afghanistan
Gem Producing Regions
Afghanistan is particularly noted for it’s rich gemstone wealth. Lapis Lazuli, Kunzite, Morganite, Emerald, Aquamarine, Tourmaline, Beryl, Spinel, Sapphire, Topaz, Fluorite, Garnet, Corundum (Ruby), and Green Serpentine are all present. Indeed, the Black Prince’s Ruby and the “Timur ruby” in the British Crown Jewels (both actually Spinel and not Ruby) are both believed to have originated in or near Afghanistan. Most recently, and perhaps controversially Hiddenite (or “Hiddenite-like”) has been discovered.
There are four main gem-producing regions: the Panjshir Valley for emeralds, the Jegdalek area for rubies and a range of fancy colored and blue sapphires, Badakhshan for lapis lazuli, and Nuristan for a wide variety of semi-precious gems including as tourmaline, kunzite, aquamarine, spodumene and beryl.
The Panjshir emerald deposit may refer to the ‘smaragdus (green stones) from Bactria’ in Pliny’s in his ‘Natural History’, written in the first century AD. The emeralds occur at altitudes of between 3000 and 4000 meters. The clarity of these emeralds rivals that of the world-famous Colombian emeralds. The remote and inaccessible Panjshir valley, is also the home of the Northern Alliance – the main Afghan resistance to both the Soviets and the Taliban in the 1970 – 2000s. The same inaccessible terrain makes extracting the emeralds a challenge.
Photo by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10135249
Jegdalek Gandamak rubies are mined in Kabul Province from Proterozoic calcite-dolomite marble bed between 500 and 2000 m thick in a regionally metamorphosed marble cut by Oligocene granitic intrusions. This mine was worked to provide marble for the Taj Mahal – but it is uncertain whether rubies were actively mined at that time. Jegdalek rubies range from nearly colorless to deep red and purplish red with strong UV fluorescence. True rubies form about 15 % of production, along with pink sapphires (75 %) and blue sapphire (5 %), and 5 % mixed blue and red-to-pink corundum. Clean faceting quality rubies from this mine are said to match the very best in the world.
Photo by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10448845
Afghanistan is world famous for its lapis lazuli, a rock composed of the feldspathoid minerals lazurite, hauyne, nosean and sodalite, with other minerals including calcite and pyrite and lesser amounts of diopside, amphibole, feldspar, mica and other silicates. Lapis from Badakhshan in the north of the country is still regarded as the world’s premier source in terms of quantity and quality. The name derives from a mixture of Latin and Persian: the Latin ‘lapis’, meaning ‘stone’ and the Persian ‘lazhward’ meaning ‘blue’. Then material is used to make beads, boxes and other decorative articles, often carved into figurines and is popular for men’s jewelry.
Lapis is mined on the right bank of the Kokcha River in Badakhshan in an area known as the ‘Blue Mountain’ in skarn lenses 1–4 m thick in marble. At one time there were as many as seven lapis mines there is only one, the Sary-Sang deposit at an elevation of around 3500 m where, on because of low winter temperatures, mining occurs only between June and September.
The highest quality lapis lazuli in the world is from northeastern Afghanistan (northern Kuran Wa Munjan District, southern Badakhshan Province)
Photo by James St. John – Lapis lazuli (lazuritic gneiss) (Sar-e-Sang Deposit, Sakhi Formation, Precambrian, 2.4-2.7 Ga (?); Sar-e-Sang Mining District, Hindu-Kush Mountains, Afghanistan) 1, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83302689
Lazurite, Pyrite, marble Locality: Sar-e-Sang District, Koksha Valley (Kokscha; Kokcha), Badakhshan (Badakshan; Badahsan) Province, Afghanistan. A well-formed euhedral crystal of lazurite (lapis lazuli) – not to be confused with lazulite
Photo by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10175015
Afghanite on Calcite, Koksha Valley, Badakhshan, Afghanistan, Asia
The fourth major gemstone region is Nuristan on the eastern side of Afghanistan bordering Pakistan, an area dotted with high mountains cut by numerous steep-sided valleys. The region is notable for its pegmatite fields, a late-stage crystallisation from molten rock, hosting a wide variety of minerals and gems commonly of unusual size and quality. Gem-quality tourmalines in a wide range of colors from pink though pale blue, indigo blue (indicolite), green, and emerald green. In addition, rare two-colored stones of green-pink and blue-green are much sought after. The crystals are beautifully formed, elongate with a distinctive ‘rounded triangular’ cross-section.
Photo by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10448930
Some of the world’s oldest mines are believed to be in Afghanistan. Production in antiquity focused on precious stone production as well gold and silver extraction. Lapis lazuli was produced in the region of Badakhshan as early as 8000 B.C. Lapis was traded to the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Akkadians, Babylonians to be made into amulets, seals and other objects. The Aynak copper mine has been in use for at least two thousand years based on the coins and tools found on the site. Afghan ruby and spinel is mentioned in writing of many travelers from the Muslim world from the mid-900s onward. Rich iron, metal, gold, copper and silver deposits are indicated by a strong metal working tradition, and the deposits of lapis, marble, alabaster and other materials led to a strong stone carving tradition.
Shoe Buckle in the Shape of a Recumbent Ram, Bactria, 1st century B.C.–1st century A.D. Gold inlaid with turqoise.
Khyber Knife, made of steel and iron, Afghanistan, 18th – 19th centuries. Afghanistan has significant iron deposits.
Bronze Age Seated female, ca. late 3rd–early 2nd millennium B.C., Steatite or chlorite, alabaster, Bactria-Margiana
Capitalizing on its sovereign mineral wealth has always been challenging for Afghanistan. Corruption, civil war, occupation, have meant problems extracting, and transport minerals, and great difficulty in the wealth being used to improve the well-being of the population. Mineral extraction, particularly in the high mountain mines remains exploitative and dangerous. These challenges are compounded now by the renewed takeover of the country by the Taliban. Traditionally, whichever party ruled the nation tried to exert control over the mineral wealth, and the Taliban are no exception. There is discussion of the government imposing new taxes on the mineral extractors, transporters, and exporters. Will any of the taxes make their way into the common good? Will those who labor at the bottom the industry benefit? Will the money simply support the Taliban? Will the endemic corruption inhibit or expedite the mineral extraction? All of these questions remain to be answered.
In addition to all these factors, Afghanistan is now the subject of new geo-strategic maneuvering. In the wake of the U.S. withdrawal and the collapse of the Republic of Afghanistan, new players are angling for power and influence to exploit the mineral wealth. Players like Iran, and Russia are making moves to strengthen their hand with the Taliban, and the discovery of vast deposits of rare earth mineral (in reality not terribly rare, but that’s another discussion entirely) and the newly recognized importance of the lithium deposits for use in electric car batteries has led to keen interest and competition by the Chinese in and Afghanistan. How this all plays out remains to be seen, but unfortunately it is most likely that little will change for the common laborer working in the mines of Afghanistan.
It’s not often in Geology that you have an opportunity to personally link an item to a historical figure but thanks to Freeman’s auction house we can tie a beautiful piece of jade to one of the later Qing Dynasty emperors. Little did the Qianlong Emperor (born Aisin Gioro Hongli) and sixth emperor of the last Chinese imperial dynasty suspect one of his personal items would appear in an internet auction catalogue, but life is stranger than fiction. The item for sale is a gorgeous pale and luminous high relief carved jade seal in a celadon white tone. The carving depicts three qilong (unicorns) which are symbols of good luck among carved scrolling clouds which likely refers to the Chinese saying “Canlong jiaozi”, which may be translated as “The Eastern [blue] dragon teaching his son[s]”, probably referring to the personal situation of the emperor.
Jade is a traditional carving material in China. In ancient days in China jade was symbolized the inner beauty within humans. This certainly isn’t the first jade imperial seal. The first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huang, created the first Imperial seal, in 221 B.C., also of Jade. By the time of the Ming dynasty (starting in 1368) the first imperial seal was lost. Until the Ming dynasty seals were typically reserved for Imperial use. A Chinese seal (印章 yìnzhāng) is a device used to mark important documents, pieces of art, contracts, or any other item that requires a signature – in effect similar to a signet ring or in modern times an ink signature stamp. These seals were usually carven stone, but sometimes were made of wood, bamboo, bone, or ceramic. They would be dipped in either red ink or cinnabar paste.
We may not have any imperial seals, but we have plenty of jade for sale. Check out our selection of Jade. If you don’t see something that tickles your fancy, contact us as we only post only a portion of our inventory online.
The Qianlong Emperor in court dress. Top image by Giuseppe Castiglione – Palace Museum, Beijing, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15172620
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