The other night, I was discussing Eddie Murphy with a friend. Murphy, whose career has been up and down over the past 10 years had a bit of a comeback in 2019 with the film Dolemite is My Name. This is a comedic-bio-pic Netflix file is about blaxploitation film-maker Rudy Ray Moore. Nothing about the movie, except part of the name, Dolemite (which actually refers to a film that Rudy Ray Moore, played by Murphy, made in the 1970s of the same name) has anything to do with geology. But once I started thinking about dolomite, I went down the rabbit hole.
I thought I knew what dolomite. After all, I have some of it in my collection. It’s that creamy mineral you find in Indiana right? It turns out the history of the name and it applies to is a bit torturous and complicated. The name dolomite begins in the 18th century. A french geologist named Dieudonné Sylvain Guy Tancrède de Gratet de Dolomieu usually known as Déodat de Dolomieu, discovered in the old city of Rome, and later during a visit to the Alps of northeastern Italy, a calcareous rock which, did not effervesce when exposed to weak hydrochloric acid. This was unlike limestone. Dolomieu published this discovery in the journal Journal de Physique in March of 1792. The calcareous mineral he described was eventually named after him, as dolomite. In addition, a mountain range in northeastern Italy, part of the southern limestone alps, was named The Dolomites, also after Dolomieu.
Photo By James St. John – Put-in-Bay Dolomite over Tymochtee Dolomite (Upper Silurian; South Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio, USA) 6, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82969360
But what exactly was it that Dolomieu discovered? Limestone had been used as a building material for thousands of years. The ancient Egyptians used limestone to build the pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx. The Maya of ancient Mexico used it for carving. The ancient Athenians used it to build the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens during its golden age. The Romans used it to build the Colosseum in Rome. Jerusalem stone (limestone) was used to build ancient Jerusalem from mines located near the neighborhood of Yemin Moshe. But this new mineral, despite some similarities clearly wasn’t limestone. The stronger resistance to HCL proved that.
Both limestone and the new mineral, it turns out, were typically sedimentary carbonate minerals. Limestone is typically composed of calcite and aragonite, both forms of crystallized CaCO3. The new mineral turned out to be an anhydrous form of CaMg(CO3)2, and it turns out that the magnesium makes all the difference. For a long time the new mineral, named dolomite in Dolomieu’s honor, was applied to both the crystal and rock formations of the mineral. Confusion about the term Dolomite, which now referred to three distinct things, persisted until 1948 when geologists changed the name of the rock formation of calcium magnesium carbonate to dolostone. Dolomite from that point on only refers to the mineral and not the rock formation. The “Dolomites” is used to refer to the mountain range.
Sphalerite crystals atop sucrosic dolostone from Sandusky County, Ohio
Photo by James St. John – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/31282767801/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=101721070
Even though the mineral was discovered in Europe, it is found across the world include Spain, China, Brazil, and Ohio among other places. Spain used to be the source of the finest dolomite crystals, but now Brazil and China also produce world class specimens. Dolomite also appears as a bed on which showier crystals display – see the spakling example below of Dioptase from Tsumeb mine, Namibia, formerly of my collection.
Beautiful example of dioptase with calcite crystals on dolomite from the Tsumeb mine, Otjikoto region, Namibia. This piece was in our inventory previously and is now sold.
Click here to check out our selection of Dolomite for sale.
Main photo by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10148460
If you live in Ohio and want to get rich finding Emeralds then forget it. Your best bet for that is to move to the Asheville, NC. Our state just doesn’t have the Geology necessary for that sort of gemstone to be present. It’s true people do find gold and diamonds (six of those have been found in Ohio, not including those found in jewelry stores) in Ohio, but those are travelers that arrived courtesy of glaciers and deposited in glacial sedimentary deposits.
But just because you can’t fill a jewelry shop from our geology doesn’t mean that Ohio isn’t rich in crystal treasure. Our state is blessed with minerals that are used industrially and helped turn the state into an Industrial powerhouse. It also is a source of beautiful minerals perfect for a collection or as a display piece (Celestite, I am looking at you!) And don’t get me started talking about fossils! Cincinnati is famous for its rich troves of Ordovician era fossils on the Cincinnati Arch. You know where to go if you want a Trilobite.
Since most locals aren’t aware of our state’s Geology, let alone that we have a geology, or if we have one, where somebody may have misplaced it, how much it’s worth and whether you can trade it to rent Top Gun: Maverick on Amazon, we are presenting a curated list of the crystals and minerals found in the Buckeye state.
Photo credit for image above: Photo By James St. John – https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/33229612163/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=96284794
Sunlit Silurian calcite from Put-in-Bay in Ohio on Lake Erie.
Photo By James St. John – https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/50588186197/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=96284996
Calcite is found throughout Ohio in different forms as granular aggregates in black shale in eastern and central Ohio, and as crystal and granular aggregates in Western Ohio.
The name calcite comes from a Greek word meaning lime. This comes from its chemical component, Calcium Carbonate, which sometimes is mistakenly known as “lime.” Calcite is known in more than 300 forms of crystals. The scalenohedral crystals of Calcite, one of its most common varieties, ordinarily are known as “dogtooth spar” or “dogtooth calcite” because of their resemblance to a dog’s canine tooth. Another variety, transparent rhombohedral calcite, is used in optical equipment. Although they are not specific varieties of calcite, stalactites, stalagmites and other formations found in caverns are made of calcite.
Calcite is one of the most common minerals, making up about 4% by weight of the Earth’s crust. Calcite is common as vein fillings in many rocks in western and central Ohio. Silurian dolomites in northwestern Ohio yield clusters of large crystals ranging from clear to dark brown. Many have a golden color.
Crystals and granular aggregates in cavities and fractures of dolostones and limestones in western Ohio; granular aggregates commonly form veins in dolostone concretions and less commonly in ironstone concretions from black shales in central and eastern Ohio; more rare as an efﬂorescence.
Calcite (CaCO3) is a soft carbonate mineral that occurs in various colors, including white, yellow, brown, gray, black, and pink, and also can be colorless. Calcite is a common mineral that occurs primarily in limestone and dolostone, occasionally in concretions and rarely as an efflorescence.
Vug with aragonite crystals in arenaceous, ferruginous, fossiliferous limestone from Ohio
Photo By James St. John – Vug with aragonite crystals in arenaceous, ferruginous, fossiliferous limestone (Vinton Member, Logan Formation, Lower Mississippian; Mt. Calvary Cemetery Outcrop – Rt. 13 roadcut, Heath, east-central Ohio, USA) 3, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82971990
With a name that sounds like a heroic character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but originates from the territory of Aragon in Spain, aragonite is one of the three most common forms of calcium carbonate. Its crystal lattice differs from calcite, one of the other common forms of calcium carbonate. It has a host of industrial uses. Aragonite has been found in Coshocton County.
Crystal Cave is a small cave in Put-in-Bay on Lake Erie in Ohio touted as the world’s largest geode. An abundance of large, well-formed crystals of celestite cover the walls. The cave was originally mined for its strontium content, but enough nice crystals still remain to keep the site open as a show cave.
Photo by James St. John – Celestite (Crystal Cave, South Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio, USA) 16, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82969277
A soft sulfate mineral ore of strontium, in fact being the most common mineral that contains strontium. Celestite derived strontium is used industrially in fireworks, ceramic magnets, and toothpaste
Ohio is famous for having some of the best celestite deposits in the world. The mineral is found in 11 counties. The northwestern regions of Ohio amid the Findlay Arch produce celestite ranging in color from white to pale blue. The area of Serpent Mound southwestern Ohio also produces some celestite due to an unusual geological occurrence. South Bass Island is a huge vug filled with very large celestite crystals.
Close-up of a Monroe County, Ohio geode with sphalerite, barite, dolomite and quartz.
Photo by James St. John – Geode with sphalerite, barite, dolomite, and quartz (Monroe County, Ohio, USA) 2, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84692026
What can’t you not say about quartz? It is a hard silicate in the form of silicon dioxide. It’s useful in glassmaking, watchmaking, ceramics, metal casting, electronics, and the petroleum industry. But the enduring love it receives is because of it’s beauty and variety: rose quartz, lavender quartz, blue quartz, rutilated quartz, citrine, amethyst, enhydro quartz, prasiolite, ametrine and a variety of shapes including points, needles, and clusters.
In Ohio, quartz is found in flint beds in Coshocton, Licking, and Muskingum Counties; in Adams and Highland Counties; in septarian limestone concretions in the central portion of the state; and loose in streambeds and creeks in the Southeast.
An example of Ohio Fluorite from Stoneco Auglaize quarry (Maumee Stone County quarry), Junction, Paulding County, Ohio.
A 1.2 cm colorless cube with well-centered, distinct, rich purple color “phantom” inside. The crystal has very sharp faces and excellent gemminess. It sits upon a small amount of Dolostone matrix
Photo by Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10148353
Fluorite is a another name for calcium fluoride, a halide ore mineral of fluorine. It’s has several industrials uses including as a flux for removing impurities in the manufacture of steel and in the production of fluorine gas which itself is used in the refining of uranium.
While fluorite is found across the world, the quality and largest quantities are mined out of Europe and North America. In Ohio fluorite is found in 19 counties. Typically cubic crystals found in dolostones in northwestern Ohio particularly along the edges of the Findlay Arch and occasionally in the Serpent Mound area.
Some fluorite is UV reactive, fluorescing under exposure. Because of this property, it and it’s compounds are used to manufacture synthetic crystals with applications in laser and special UV and infrared optics.
Ohio Dolostone. In the past Dolomite was used to refer to both the mineral and the rock. Dolomite is now used to refer to the mineral and dolostone refers to sedimentary rock whose primary content is dolomite.
Photo By James St. John – Put-in-Bay Dolomite over Tymochtee Dolomite (Upper Silurian; South Bass Island, Lake Erie, Ohio, USA) 6, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=82969360
What relationship does Ohio have with a nineteenth century french geologist? The answer in one word is Dolomite! Named after Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu, Dolomite is found in over 19 Ohio counties. Dolomite differs from limestone in that it contains both calcium and magnesium.
More well known as an Indiana mineral, especially the Corydon area, this calcium magnesium carbonate occurs in small crystals in western Ohio and along the Huron river among other areas.
Dolomite has industrial uses including as a source of magnesium salts like magnesia and by builders as structural and ornamental stone.
The term dolomite used to refer both to the mineral dolomite and dolostone (a sedimentary rock of which is made primarily of dolomite).
Fluorite and barite from Marblehead Peninsula Ohio
Photo By James St. John – Fluorite and barite (quarry in Marblehead Peninsula, far-northern Ohio, USA), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=40022633
Found in over 26 counties in Ohio, this Barium Sulfate mineral often associated with calcite and other minerals is often white or colorless but can also have light blues, greys, yellows or browns. In the central and eastern Ohio black shale formations barite is found in concretions such as limestone, ironstone and pyrite. In the northwestern and southwestern Ohio crystalline or granular barite can be found in fractures and cavitiesof dolostones (dolomite sedimentary rock).
Barite is the primary ore for barium, and has varied industrial uses including paper, paint and glass manufacture as well medical radiology (as a dye) and in oil drilling.
Barites crystals found in Ohio can sometimes be massive in size.
Malachite – sadly from Zaire and not Ohio
Photo By JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7515677
Typically found in botryoidal, stalagmitic, or fibrous masses, beautiful green malachite is collectible, and displayable.
It was a little hard to believe that malachite is found in Ohio, but according to the state it actually is present. Since it’s a copper carbonate hydroxide mineral it obviously needs copper to be present to form, and I did find a reference to a copper mine in Cuyahoga county.
Photo By James St. John – Pyrite snake concretion (Ohio Shale, Upper Devonian; creek cut in Ross County, southern Ohio, USA) 8, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84692435
Iron Pyrite, commonly known as “fool’s gold”, is metallic iron sulfide mineral found in over 88 Ohio counties, typically in Devonian or Pennsylvanian shales. Pyrite has been used as an ore for sulfur and a source of iron.
The most common sulfide mineral, pyrite can form form in extremely well-crystallized examples of cubes, pyritohedrons, and octahedrons.
Sphalerite crystals atop sucrosic dolostone from Sandusky County, Ohio
Photo by James St. John – https://www.flickr.com/photos/jsjgeology/31282767801/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=101721070
Sphalerite is a sulfide mineral that is an ore of zinc, cadmium, gallium, germanium, and indium. It has a wide variety of colors including light/dark brown, red-brown, yellow, red, green, light blue, black, and colorless. It occurs in the Findlay Arch area, near Serpent Mound, and in Eastern Ohio.
Illustrative example of smithsonite – sadly, not from Ohio. This example is from the Kelley Mine in Soccorro County, New Mexico.
Photo by Bureau of Mines – http://libraryphoto.cr.usgs.gov/cgi-bin/show_picture.cgi?ID=ID.%20BOM%20Mineral%20Specimens%20016, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1825549
Smithsonite is named after English geologist and chemist James Smithson. Also known as zinc spar, this form of mineral zinc carbonate is a variably colored trigonal mineral.
Special Mention: Fossils
While not minerals, it would be unforgivable to not mention Ohio’s rich treasure trove of minerals. The greater Cincinnati area (which includes parts of northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana) sits atop what is known as the Cincinnati Arch, the eroded remains of a mountain range from Michigan to Alabama that was thrust up by collision of two ancient continents. The arch sank beneath a series of shallow inland seas filled with marine life ending up as deposits of fossils in what is known to geologists as the Cincinnatian Epoch.
The region is famous for a wide variety of marine fossils, but particularly Trilobites, a now extinct member of the arthropod family.
Example of Ohio Eldredgeops rana fossil
Photo by Daderot – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83993913
Graftonoceras – limonite-stained external mold of nautiloid in dolostone
Photo By James St. John – Graftonoceras fossil nautiloid (Lockport Dolomite, Middle Silurian; Coldwater, southern Mercer County, western Ohio, USA), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=36833417
Jade is a beautiful and highly desirable material. It’s valued for the fabulous and magnificent works of art that are created from it, and for the deeper meanings people attach to it. In different periods of Chinese history Jade was associated with heaven, as a symbol of authority. Confucius used jade into a metaphor for virtue, kindness, wisdom, justice, civility, music, sincerity, truth, Heaven and Earth. But sometimes, its not the cultural symbolism or monetary value of an object which is, but the personal sentiment. This story is one such example.
The story begins with the December 7th, 1941 Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which brought the United States into the Second World War. Through the first six months of the war the United States suffered a series of defeats – in the Philippines, Wake Island, and the Java Sea. Seeking a way to achieve a victory to raise American morale – and deal a blow to Japanese morale, a plan was conceived whereby the Japanese home islands would be bombed by U.S. Army Air Force B25-B bombers loaded onto and launched from U.S. Navy aircraft carriers.
The bombers were loaded onto the carriers Hornet and Enterprise on April 1st, 1942. The aircraft were launched 10 hours ahead of schedule on April 18th when the carrier task force was sighted by a Japanese ship. The aircraft dropped their bomb loads over Tokyo and other Japanese cities, causing minor damage to their targets but inflicting a major shock to the Japanese military and government. The consequence of launching earlier was the planes were launched 200 miles further from Japan than planned, making them unable to reach the landing bases prepared by Chiang Kai-Shek’s Nationalist Chinese forces – an ally against Japan. 15 of the 16 planes managed to reach the Chinese coast thanks to a lucky tailwind, the 16th plane reaching the Soviet Union.
Unfortunately, none of the places reached safe Chinese bases, instead running out of fuel in areas occupied by or threatened by Japanese troops. Chinese locals and military forces helped hide and rescue the American crews. The Chinese, who had already been at war with Japan for years before this, and had been taking blows from the Japanese were greatly appreciate of the counterblow delivered by the Americans. One of the rescued pilots, Lt. Travis Hoover, was presented with a gift by Mr. Tung-Sheng Liu, a Chinese district commissioner who also acted as an interpreter and guide for Hoover’s crew, helping them reach safety. The gift was a delicately carved piece of Jade. Today, this Jade is located and on display with artifacts from the Doolittle Raid at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, located on the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
The image for this post shows the U.S. Army Air Force crew of the North American B-25B Mitchell bomber (s/n 40-2292, Lt. Travis Hoover). They had left the aircraft carrier USS Hornet (CV-8) as No. 2 plane of the “Doolittle Raid” on 18 April 1942 and bombed Tokyo. After running out of fuel the plane crashed near Ningpo, China. Mr. Tung-Sheng Liu (劉同聲, third from right in white jacket) stands with the crew of Lt. Travis Hoover. He helped these men escape capture following the Doolittle Raid. He later immigrated to the United States and was one of four individuals names as honorary Doolittle Raiders.
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
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