The Process of Crafting Jewelry Explained

jewerly in gold and diamonds
Photo antpkr – yayimages.com

If you’ve ever visited a jewelry outlet, then the thought of how they create these embellishments and adornments may have crossed your mind at one point or another. The entire process can be quite fascinating when considering how a raw product from Earth’s top layers is transformed into a stunning masterpiece of shiny, sometimes colorful and many times expensive works of art.   

Our aim is to detail the various steps that are involved in the process of creating jewelry from these vast amounts of minerals, especially diamonds. First and foremost, we will inspect the most commonly used method, which is called the lost wax procedure. The reason it is called lost wax is that the object that will be created is sculpted out of wax to the exact specifications that the finished product will look like.  

Primary Steps 

Assorted Jewelry

The art of creating jewelry involves the amalgam of the most innovative techniques and sophisticated research. The procedure is defined as a composite process which includes a meticulous and lengthy step. Each and every phase from start to finish is detailed and the end result is a treasured piece of fine jewelry.

The natural components of jewelry are stones, metals, and its accessories. Every article is set apart through an investment of time and craftsmanship. With the notable exception of personalized jewelry, which is generally handcrafted, the vast majority of jewelry manufacturing is executed using cast machines.  

The primary concern is to concoct a design that is unique in terms of aesthetics and appearance. Expert designers first make a sketch, which acts as a blueprint and which marks the beginning of the process.

Each article created on paper (or on computer) is merely just a concept at the start. It is essentially a rough draft that is established through a collaboration between the designer and the craftsman. This concept is used by the model maker in order to create the piece that will eventually end up on a woman’s finger or used as a bracelet or maybe even on a mantlepiece.

This brings us to the actual process where the artisan assumes control and oversees every step until the article reaches fruition.

Wax Carving

It begins with a simple block of wax. The metamorphosis begins in earnest with craftsmen heating the wax model until it turns into liquid form. Once this is done, it is molded around the gemstone.

The artisan uses the tools at their disposal which include hand tools such as blades. The wax model may be shaved or carved to create the proper impression and the process continues until the craftsman is content with the form of the wax model.

The next step involves embedding the wax carving in a metal mold that is supposed to be filled with plaster. Once the plaster is added, the blend is left to harden. The mold that contains the hardened plaster is heated in an oven at a considerable temperature.   

This results in the termination of any wax traces. Depending on the artist, the plaster model may then be altered into gold or other mineral during the jewelry casting process.

Gold Casting

Victorian Hair Mourning Jewelry
Victorian Hair Mourning Jewelry
This part of the process is where the wax model is turned into gold. Since time immemorial, jewelry makers have exercised the option of pouring gold into molds shaped in stone and plaster. The process varies depending on the gold components involved in the process as well as the purity of the model.

Each model is made at different temperature cycles and processes that are unique to the metal component alloy as well. Also, the casted gold model is soldered and welded later and then set with a gemstone.  

Welding

The next stage in the crafting process is welding. In this phase, metal is fused to each other through exposure to an extreme temperature that is applied to the specific area in a bid to create a commodity that is both durable and wearable.

Welding is typically done by torch. Once the pieces are assembled together, the craftsman cleans any telltale indications of the welding by using hand-held tools and then bathing the article in acid in order to remove signs of any scale on the metal.

Furthermore, the next step involves soldering if it is required. Stone setting and jewelry polishing to gives the jewelry its glistening touch. An excellent video below describes the jewelry making process in more detail.

Soldering

The vast majority of pieces of jewelry that are crafted are soldered because of their complexity and unique designs. Soldering may be done using a small and thin torch. It enables the artisan to tenderly attach smaller segments of jewelry to create a beautiful work of art.

Moreover, when using a pair of tweezers, surgical precision and accuracy are required. Heating the item to the molten point without melting it or damaging the parts to which it is bonded.

Gemstone Setting   

Setting gemstones on the item represents one of the final stages of the jewelry making process. This is where makers ensure that the jewelry that stays firmly in its position. Stone setters are faced with the challenge of securing diamonds and gemstones in a manner that is least invasive. They have to use the least amount of materials in a bid to fasten the gem in its rightful place but offering maximum durability.

Polishing

The final step is polishing the item before it is complete. After this step, the item is given to the quality control experts. Polishing is done using rotary wheels and soft muslin tools that allow the craftsman to augment is luster.

Once the desired polish is accomplished, textures and other finishes may be applied to enhance the design aspect of the finished article and distinguish it from other pieces.

Carats: A Unit Used to Weigh and Value Gemstones

Luxury Diamond Jewel Gemstone Round Brilliant CutGemstones and other rare earth metals are primarily made of solid particles. For that matter, their amounts are scientifically measured through units of weight. These units, such as kilograms, grams, pounds and metric tons are extensively used and therefore, people have a fair idea about them.

However, when it comes to measuring the weight of a gemstone, all these prevailing units prove to be way bigger. For instance, barring exceptions, you can’t find gemstones in grams, let alone other larger units. Therefore, the gem industry has standardized a different weight unit to quantify gemstones to assess their value. This unit is called ‘carat’.

Since the carat is exclusively used in the gem industry, many people don’t know what this unit entails. In this article, we are going to discuss it in detail so that you are better aware when dealing with gems.

The Connection between Carat and Carob Seed

Like many existing systems with their roots in interesting historical anecdotes, the story of carat coming into existence is also an intriguing one. It is said that some gem traders somewhere in the 16th and 17th century decided to set the value of precious stones in proportion to their exact weight. During that time, businesses were run without any established unit system for any type of measurement.

Carob Seed
Carob Seeds. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ceratonia_seeds.jpg

Traders who used to work in the African marketplace are aware of carob seeds. The interesting bit regarding these seeds is that all of them are identical in their shape, size, and mass. Carob seeds were once part of a staple diet of many African nations because of its rich sugar content.

The uniformity of carob seeds sparked the idea to use them as counterweights for precious and small items i.e. gemstones. There use in a balance scale as a counterweight became quickly popular because of the reliability provided by the consistent shape and weight of carob seeds. Soon after this experiment, it became a norm in the gem industry to weigh gemstones against carob seeds.

After the advent of sensitive weighing machines, it was found that a single carob seed approximately weighs 200 milligrams. Meanwhile, the pronunciation of ‘carob’ had also been distorted with its use as a weighing unit in different parts of the world. After some years of this standardization, people had started calling it ‘carat’. So, when it was formally reorganized as a weight unit at the beginning of the 20th century, it was given the name ‘carat’, the distorted term which had become more popular than the original term.

Carat or Karat

It is really important to discuss the confusion surrounding these two words with the same phonetics. The term ‘karat’ is mostly associated with gold, which is not a gemstone but revered and valued as one.

To put in simple words, karat is an arbitrary unit used to measure the purity of gold. Pure gold is considered 24-karats. Since pure gold is extremely soft and malleable, it is mixed with other minerals (copper, nickel etc) for stabilization. Coins, jewelry and other gold items that we usually see are not made of a pure specimen. Let’s try to understand karat and its distinction from carat through numbers.  

An 18-karat gold item is made of a 75% pure mineral. This means 18 parts of gold is mixed with six parts of other minerals to stabilize the contrived object. In a similar manner, every object made of gold is divided into 24 parts to measure its purity. A 12-karat gold specimen would include 12 parts of pure gold and 12 parts of stabilizing minerals.    

Therefore, karat and carat are not one and the same. Karat is not a weighing unit and neither is it used for any material except gold. But carat is a standardized metric unit of mass and the entire worldwide gem trade uses it to weigh and value precious stones.   

Subdivisions of Carat

Not all gemstone are equal in their exhibition and value. A carat of opal can’t be equal to the same weight of an emerald or ruby. And then there is a gem of all gems i.e. diamond.  People who have brought this king gemstone in the form of jewelry would be well aware of the value of a carat of diamond.

In most of the diamond rings, the stones used are way less than one-carat. For that matter, jewelers have subdivided one carat into 100 pointers. A single pointer is equal to two milligrams. If a diamond cut weighs 0.25 carat, it can be referred to as a ‘twenty-five pointer’ stone.

Diamonds and Carats

Diamond cut history diagram
Diagram of different diamond cuts
As mentioned earlier, carat measurements are very essential when it comes to measuring diamond cuts. The price of a diamond is actually derived by the shape of the cut, color of the specimen, clarity of the stone and its weight in carats.

The Craze of Magic Sizes

In terms of their carat weight, diamonds also come in some ‘magical sizes’. Diamond cuts with the definite carat measurements are usually referred by this term. For instance, one-carat, half-carat, and even three-quarter carat diamonds are called magic sizes and have a price higher than the regular specimens with arbitrary carat or pointer measurements. Diamonds can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars and even millions. Their price all depends upon their cuts, color, clarity and their weight in carats. 

The craze among gem lovers with respect to magic sizes can be understood by the fact that a one-carat diamond specimen can be 20 percent more expensive than a 0.99-carat cut. It is important to mention here that both these specimens look exactly the same in ornamental objects and even an expert can’t tell them apart without measuring their weight.

Researchers Stunned by the Deepest Manhole Ever Created

”Cross section diagram of the earth's crust
Photo by antkevyv – yayimages.com

s a human species, we like to say we that we are able to explain just about everything that happens or has happened on our planet, whether it be from pride or just plain arrogance, but whatever the reason, something new come to bust our bubble.

Besides trying to find out everything about what’s on the surface of our planet, we’ve also tried to find out more about what’s below the surface. Russia and the United States both took on projects which saw them digging deep into the surface in order to unearth what lies below. What was found was more than what we expected. Here’s a little bit on what we’ve been able to find under the surface.

Inner Core

A few decades ago, we started becoming more and more adventurous in our endeavors to find out what lies under our feet. 1936 saw Inge Lehmann – a renowned seismologist of the time – discovered a distinctive inner core of the planet, which was different from the outer core. This distinction between the  solid inner core and the molten outer core was discovered by her when she was studying the seismograms during earthquakes, which took place in New Zealand. Her findings were the first major step in discovering what goes on deep within our planet.

Outer Core

Compressional waves were passed through the Earth to further understand the molten outer core. The manner in which the waves were deflected showed that there was clearly a molten outer core in the planet. Discovering the solid inner core was not as easy as it was to find out about the outer core. It wasn’t until 2005 that the compressional waves properly passed through the outer core to the inner core that we found out there is a solid inner core beyond the molten outer core.

Competing Superpowers

For the longest time, there were two superpowers in the world – The United States and the Soviet Union. Both of them were vying for dominance in every respect there was and this competition with each other became an immense motivation factor to learn more about the happenings below the surface.

Diagram of Earth's Inner Layers
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Earth%27s_Inner_Layers_denoting_the_LAB.png

Researchers from all over the world wanted to be the first to discover and share findings of our planet. Both sides were watching each other make more attempts to learn about the Earth’s composition and tried out-doing one another.

The Race For Space

While both of the superpowers were competing to find out what was below the surface, the main point of conflict was being able to go beyond the planet’s atmosphere and into space. This “Space Race” was not just specific to reaching beyond the atmosphere of the planet. It was a race to discover more than the other in multiple avenues.

The Soviets were the first to launch a satellite into space but the US took the cake by landing the first man on the moon in ’69. Fast forward a few years and the US and USSR worked together to orbit the Earth in ’75 with a combined crew of American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts. The dissolution of the USSR saw greater cooperation levels between Russia and the US.

Super Drills

While both parties still wanted to become the first to know more about the planet’s composition, neither was in a hurry to just drill a hole and send scientists into it. There was a lot of caution being taken as the scientific communities of both countries were funded to find out more.

With a lot of work still left, the prospect of giant drills was finally being considered as a realistic option to find out more about the inner core of the planet. There was already a consensus that the planet would be much warmer on the inside so they designed these super drills that were capable of digging through without burning up or melting. This took an extensive amount of time to put together.

The Mohole

Refraction of P-waveThe assignment that the US took on for discovering more information was known as “Project Mohole”.  In 1909, a scientist named Mohorovicic discovered the boundary which separates the crust from the mantle (the layer just below the crust and before the inner core) and this boundary was called the Mohorovicic Discontinuity or Moho for short.

Both the US and the Russians wanted to reach the Mohole through their digging expeditions, which was 10 kilometers below the ocean floor and around 90 kilometers below the continental crust. It was clear to both of them that reaching the Moho would be the ideal manner to assert dominance over the other.

More Than What Was Expected

With plenty of digging and drilling being done to reach the Mohole, both parties managed to discover a lot more on their way, from the fossils deep below the surface of the earth to the organisms living in the previously unknown depths of the ocean.

At 49,000 feet, the Russians discovered the Mohorovicic discontinuity. At this point, things started to get a little too hot in a literal manner. The expected temperatures were far below what they actually turned out to be. The unprecedented temperatures of above 350 degrees Fahrenheit were seen and this borehole eventually became known as the Hole to Hell.

The Hole to Hell

The Kola Borehole stumped the scientific community at large because of how big an obstacle it became but it was not an endeavor without success. It led to massive geological studies and even more amazing discoveries such as the findings of 24 living organisms so deep below the surface.

The ‘Hell hole’ was labeled that because there were rumors of screams coming from the borehole and the people working on the project felt that they’d reach the depths of hell before they finished the project.

Amazing Event

While the prospect of actually discovering a Hole to Hell was dismissed, there have been more projects that focus on interesting findings based on these previous endeavors. The Borehole at Kola and the Mohole Project were put aside but led the way to the sharing of information by both scientific communities.

The more we know, the more we realize how clueless we are about our planet and as long as we keep asking the right questions, our curiosity will help us to learn more about the planet that we live on.  

Spinel: A Gemstone Long Known as Ruby and Sapphire

Spinal Minerals in a black backgroundYou would certainly not like it if your identity is taken by someone else even by mistake. Spinel would feel the same way if it was a living being. Spinel is a gemstone that has been around for centuries and also has a great demand as a precious stone but under other identities. Gemologists have noted that spinel has been used in many historic and prized ornamental items but wrongly attributed as a ruby or sapphire.

Color: The Primary Reason behind Incorrect Identification for Spinel

Hundreds of years ago, when people were not able to identify gems on the basis of their physical and chemical properties, color was the only feature that would help people in differentiating various gemstones. Among gem traders, all sparkling red stones were rubies and all deep and pure blue gemstones were sapphires.

It is important to mention that spinel is a gemstone that exists in both colors. For that matter, red and blue specimens of spinel were treated and used as rubies and sapphires, respectively. Both of these infamous gemstones actually belong to corundum family, an aluminum oxide mineral found in nearly every type of rock formation.

Geological Sites of Spinel Deposits

Like corundum, spinel is an oxide mineral, formed through the same process. However, this gemstone is found in slightly different geological sites as compared to corundum. Geologists have identified three common sites from where spinel is usually excavated or obtained.

  • Spinels are found in alluvial deposits, which look like pebbles. They actually end up down the stream from the water coming out of spring sources and other water reservoirs. These spinels actually break away from rock formations because of the pressure of water torrent exerted on the large stones. Many of the spinel specimens used as a ruby were actually found in alluvial deposits.
  • Some of the spinel deposits are also found in igneous rocks in the form of randomly-shaped grains.
  • Spinels are also formed as crystals in dolomite and limestone deposits after they have undergone contact metamorphism.

Difference between Spinel and Corundum

With technological progressions leading to better tools and techniques in the field of geology and gemology, it has now been firmly verified that spinel is fairly different from ruby and sapphire. Let’s have a look at the characteristics through which one can tell spinel apart from corundum minerals.

Chemical Composition

Assortment of Crystals_of_spinel_and_chondrodite
Crystals of spinel and chondrodite
Spinel and corundum both are aluminum oxides. However, the former also contains magnesium. The presence of an entire metal element in every molecule of the mineral changes many of its properties.

Crystal Lattice

The microscopic crystal lattice of both minerals is different. The addition of magnesium converts spinel’s crystal plane into an isometric form. On the other hand, sapphire and ruby remain hexagonal at their molecular crystallization.

Geometrical Shape

Gemologists have also found out that spinel and corundum gemstones are dissimilar to each other by their geometrical shapes. When faceted and treated, corundum specimens usually come out in the shape of a prism or hexagon, whereas spinel specimens transform into dodecahedrons or octahedrons.

Hardness

Sapphire and ruby are slightly harder than spinel. The Mohs hardness of spinel usually lingers between 7.5 and 8 while corundums are 9 on the scale.

Historically Famous Spinels with Mistaken Identity

As mentioned earlier, spinels have been treated as other precious gemstones throughout history. Here, we are going to discuss a couple of famous ones.

The Timur Ruby

Timur Ruby is one of the most famous spinels with a mistaken identity. It was found from Afghanistan during British rule in India during the 17th century. It is believed that it originally belonged to the collection of Timur the lame, the famous Turco-Mongol emperor of the 12th century. In 1849, the stone was presented to Queen Victoria by the East India Company with many other precious stones. It was later appended in the necklace of the Queen. Right now, this spinel known as ruby is a part of British Royal Collection.

The Black Prince’s Ruby

This is another famous spinel being mistaken as ruby. As historians cite, the first known owner of this 170-carat sparkling red spinel was the Moorish Prince of Granada during the 14th century. From then on, the stone saw many owners and eventually ended up as the crown jewel of the United Kingdom. Currently, it is affixed on Imperial State Crown of the Kingdom sharing the space with infamous Cullinan II, a diamond weighing more than 3,000 carats.

Spinel as Gemstone

Now when identifying gemstones has become rather easy, spinels of different colors are popular among gem lovers. Yes, spinels also have colors other than red and blue. Pink, purple, orange and colorless spinel variants also exist. Nevertheless, red and blue spinels are still more popular because of their resemblance with ruby and sapphire.

Red and Blue Spinels are Rare

Red and blue spinels are rare, so much so that they are even less abundant than the real rubies and sapphires. But this rarity doesn’t translate into a hefty price tag. This shows that the rarity of gemstone doesn’t always dictate its price. Apart from blue and red variants, spinels with red and orange shades also get some traction in the gem industry. In general, gem-grade spinels are not extensively prospected and mined. For that matter, jewelry trade doesn’t promote the stone like other popular gemstones.

Birthstone for the Month of August

In order to spread the awareness regarding the frequently overlooked stone of spinel, the groups Jewelers in America and the American Gem Trade Association declared spinel as the gemstone for the month of August two years ago. Now peridot and spinel share the status of August Birthstone. Inclusion in the list of birthstones will definitely provide spinel with the much needed continuous promotion.  

Before we wind up the article, it is worth mentioning that spinel is also produced synthetically. It has a similar chemical composition as the real specimen but not produced for the gem and jewelry industry. It is majorly produced to be used as refractory on metallic tools.   

The Intriguing Contrasts Between Diamonds and Coal

Lump of CoalsHumans have been intrigued by diamonds since time ancient times. These stones have always been in demand and will continue to be until the culmination of life on the planet. Interestingly, we have made the enigma of the diamond more interesting and inviting by adding coal to the equation, all thanks to scientific evolution and many misconceptions.

We all have heard diamonds and coal in the same sentence because of the falsified association that has been developed in the last few decades. In this article, we are going to discuss the interesting dichotomy of diamonds and coal—why they are linked to each other—how they are different and are diamonds really made out of coal?

Carbon: The Common Substrate of Both Geological Elements

During the 20th century when studies and research on the microscopic structural arrangement of the elements and materials were initiated, the world came to know about this interesting trivia that both coal and diamonds are made of carbon. This is the primary reason behind its widespread misconception that diamonds are actually the refined, enhanced and extravagant form of coal.

Popular Culture Strengthens this Misconception Further

The fact that carbon is the common substrate of both these elements also made its way into popular culture and inspirational quotes. “A diamond is just a lump of coal that did well under pressure”, “Perhaps time’s definition of coal is the diamond” and other similar paraphrased quotes have become popular among the masses. These adages might inspire some people to handle their stress in a better manner and to wait for the right time. But there is no truth in the assertion that with more time and under extreme pressure, coal is converted into diamonds, not at least according to what geologists and scientific studies tell us.

Similarly, the most iconic superhero of our time has also helped in peddling this misconception. Superman, the Kryptonian visitor on Earth, has been shown in many comic strips and cartoon films to convert a lump of coal into diamonds by just crushing them in between his palms.

Of course, this continuous yet unintended spread of false information has also led many into believing that coals and diamonds are distant brothers from the same father. Or coal is just a premature form of the diamond.

Why do People Love to Discuss Coal and Diamonds Together?

Innate human tendencies are also responsible for this unsubstantiated association. There is a huge disparity between the worth, uses and general social discernment regarding coal and diamonds. Coal is an industrial mineral majorly used to produce energy with no aesthetic value whatsoever. In contrast, the diamond is an elite gemstone and we think it has now become redundant to go into the details of the diamond’s aesthetical features.  

Regarding the worth of both these geological specimens, let’s illustrate an interesting scenario: Without any permission and authorization, you can easily pick a carat or even more of a coal sample without anyone even batting an eye. On the other hand, one may have to plan an entire heist to get the same amount of diamonds in a similar manner. So, amid all these stark different realities of the two specimens, the thought that diamonds and coal are actually the same feeds the human fascination.

How Diamonds and Coals are not Related?

Diamond MineralNow, let’s have a look at the scientific and geological reasons how these minerals are not related to each other.

 

 

The Site of Formation

Diamonds and coal are formed at pretty different locations beneath the ground. The diamonds are formed from carbon and its derivatives, some 200 miles and more beneath the surface. On the other hand, coal formation usually takes place way closer to the surface of the earth. Even a distant coal mining site is only deep as Two miles into the ground.

Secondly, their excavations also suggest that they are different geological specimens. The majority of coal mining is done at the same location where this sediment rock is naturally formed. However, that’s not the case with diamond mining.  Miners don’t dig 200 mile long trenches (it’s not even possible) to excavate diamond deposits. The mined diamonds are actually the ones that come close to the surface of the earth from their original site of the formation during volcanic eruptions.  

The Form of Carbon

Diamonds and coal are derived from carbon. But that doesn’t mean the similar carbon composition is used in the formation of both. Diamonds are made from the purest carbon deposits. This is one of the reasons behind the exceptional clarity of the diamond specimen. Meanwhile, carbon used in the formation of coal is decked with impurities such as nitrogen, oxygen, sulfur, and selenium. These impurities are also the reason why coal-burning leads to greenhouse emissions.

The carbon used in the formation of the diamond sometimes contains minor traces of these impurities, but that doesn’t change the basic structure and appearance of the gem. In fact, different natural shades and color tinges in some diamond specimens are present because of them.

In addition, the sources of carbons are also pretty dissimilar for both specimens. Diamonds are made from carbon deposits that are inherently present in the earth’s crust. In contrast, the majority of coal deposits are actually formed from the carbon present in decomposed ancient plants.   

Temperature and Pressure Treatment

The components of the process of their formation also differentiate these two geological specimens. Carbon gets into a particular form to become a diamond under extreme temperature and pressure conditions that are only found within the mantle of the planet. Similarly, the heat and pressure treatment is followed by a long cooling process that develops the characteristic hardness of the diamond. The formation of coal also involves temperature and pressure changes. However, they are nowhere near the process of a diamond is formed.

All the above discussion has made it quite clear that diamonds and coals are not related to each other. Apart from the difference of color and hardness, there are many other divergences between these two carbon specimens that we have thoroughly covered in this article.

Meteorites: The Celestial Objects Existing on Earth

The human fascination for what lies beyond earth has always been intriguing, even in the primitive times. By the virtue of this unrelenting fascination and general curiosity, we have succeeded in traversing the space that exists further than our planet.

Our excursions to space only started during the later years of the 20th century. On the other hand, Earth has been welcoming foreign bodies from in the form of meteorites thousands of years before our missions to space in the 20th century.

Meteorites are the infinitesimal debris originating from a variety of celestial bodies within our solar system. They are mostly the fragments of comets, meteoroids, and asteroids, which withstand the atmospheric entry to our planet and fall on Earth. In this article, we will discuss some basic aspects of these minor spatial bodies that end up on our planet and deemed valuable specimens by many stone collectors, hobbyists, and professionals, such as geologists, astro scientists and natural history museums curators.

Meteor, Meteoroid or Meteorite?

There is a general confusion regarding the terms meteors, meteoroids, and meteorites. Many people wrongly interchange these terms. So, before we move to discuss meteorites in detail, it will be fitting to lay this confusion to rest once and for all.

  • Meteor: The term is actually used to describe the streak of light blazing through the atmosphere due to burning celestial debris.
  • Meteoroid: It is that interplanetary object that burns up in outer space to produce a ‘meteor’.
  • Meteorites: They are those few meteoroids and their remnants that don’t get vaporized upon entering the atmosphere of earth.

Micrometeorites

Whenever we talk or think about spatial and interplanetary things, it is usually underlined with the assumptions of colossal masses and gargantuan planetary balls. But it is interesting to note that most of the interplanetary stuff that ends up on earth is really small in size, even by the non-astronomical size and dimension standards.

For instance, most of the celestial mass that ends up on earth has a size smaller than 100 micrometers per specimen and hence called micrometeorites. All these micrometeorites don’t survive the atmospheric entry and transform into dust. But this dust from far off planets and stars collectively add somewhere between 30,000 and 40,000 tons to the mass of earth every year.

Classification of meteorites

Classification of meteorites is usually carried out on two criteria i.e. how they are found on the ground and which elements they are made of. Let’s have a look at them one by one.

Finds and Falls

Meteorites that are discovered way too long after their fall on earth are called Finds. On the other hand, meteorites falling that is witnessed by observers and later collected through planned quests by collectors are called Falls. The latter type of meteorites is more sought-after among the collectors. However, some exceptional Finds specimens also get good money to its discoverers.

Iron meteorites

These meteorites have the prefix of iron because they are primarily (90-95%) made of the metal. According to astronomical studies, iron meteorites are believed to be part of the inner mantle of planets that perished hundreds and thousands of years ago. It is also said that iron meteorites found on earth are mostly the fractions of asteroids present in the belt of interplanetary objects between Jupiter and Mars.http://streaming.yayimages.com/images/photographer/brandonhot/343eec9eb3ce52ab66bbadf4b2c2b649/iron-meteorite.jpg

Unlike normal geological stones, iron meteorites are way heavier. This exceeding weight is due to the densely packed iron molecules. If you have ever lifted a cannonball with your bare hands then you can get an idea of how heavy an iron meteorite is. Besides iron, traces of nickel and other metals are also present in this type of meteorite.

Kamacite: An Alloy Found in Iron Meteorites

Some iron meteorites also contain a naturally developed alloy of iron and nickel called Kamacite. The formation of this alloy introduces crystallization changes in the meteorite that can be seen through aesthetical patterns and color combinations when the specimens are cut, polished and treated by a mild nitric acid solution.

Stone Meteorites

These are the most abundant meteorites found on the earth surface. Stone meteorites are made of the external crust of interplanetary bodies and hence look pretty similar to any earthly rock specimen. People with no meteorite hunting expertise can’t tell them apart.

However, stone meteorites that have recently fallen on earth get a peculiar black crust because of their smoldering upon entering the earth’s orbit. Stones meteorites have lesser demand in the collector’s industry in comparison to iron meteorites. However, there are some special specimen stone meteorites that are sought-after because of their visual appeal and history.

Chondrule-laden Stone Meteorites

There are some stone meteorites that contain unusual, grainy and vibrant inclusions called ‘chondrules’. This ‘impurity’ makes meteorite specimens more attractive. Apart from that, collectors are also intrigued by these specimens because of the history of chondrules.

It is believed that chondrules were once part of the solar nebula. This means these tiny grains are the most ancient item present on the earth surface even predating the formation of our planet and the life that has ever existed here.

Miscellaneous Types of Meteorites

Besides these two mostly occurring meteorites, some other rare specimens are found.

Stone-Iron Meteorites

They make up two percent of all the meteorites found on earth surface. Because of this extraordinary arrangement of two different materials, these meteorites are popular among collectors, which also make them relatively expensive. They are often framed or showcased after receiving some treatment (polishing and acid treatment).

Lunar and Martian Meteorites

Some really rare meteorites have also been discovered that originated with the impact of other celestial bodies on the surface of the Moon and Mars. Lunar and Martian meteorites are extremely rare and therefore can be sold with a hefty price tag. They are often priced as per their weight like any precious gemstone or rare earth metal.

You can learn more about observing and finding meteorites on the Astronomical League website.

Understanding the Mohs Scale and the Durability of Gemstones

Whenever you talk about the hardness of minerals and gemstones, you might have heard people from the industry measure the hardness on the Mohs Scale. The rating on the Mohs scale is actually one of the most important tests for the quality of mineral specimens and this comes in handy when you are looking to purchase jewelry.

For example, if you buy a ring that contains Gypsum, you might want to rethink that since this stone has a hardness rating of 2 on the Mohs Scale, which is low and subsequently it may often get scratched due to the continuous movement and friction to other materials when working with our hands. Deciding to wear it as an earring would be more practical. We are going to take a look at exactly what is the Mohs scale and some other qualities of gemstones which allow us to properly determine the durability of them.  

What Is The Mohs Scale?

The Mohs Scale or the Mohs Hardness Scale was created in the early 1800s by a man called Friedrich Mohs. He was considered to be one of the most renowned mineralogists at the time. He created this measure in order to find out and determine the comparative resistance that a mineral has to scratching.

The Mohs Hardness scale was revolutionary for the mineral and gemstone industry because right after the creation, people were able to use this scale to classify the durability of gemstones. However, if you are looking for a truly durable gemstone that can withstand the test of time, there is more to determining just durability besides the hardness on the Mohs Scale.

This scale is essentially based on a resistance factor that a mineral has to scratching. It is considered to be the only characteristic that is used to measure and determine the rank of the gemstones on the scale.

According to the findings of Friedrich Mohs and the Mohs Scale that he created, a gemstone can only be scratched by another gemstone that ranks higher. For instance, you cannot expect Topaz to be able to scratch Quartz because Topaz has a reading of ‘8’ and Quartz has a reading of seven. That means Quartz is softer than the Topaz. Similarly, you can expect Corundum to be able to scratch Topaz because Corundum registers at ‘9’ on the Mohs Hardness Scale.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Mohs Scale is not necessarily a linear one. This means that even though diamonds register at a reading of 10, they are not 10 times as hard as Talc, which registers as ‘1’ . The Mohs Scale is only a measure of resistance that a stone has to surface scratching.

While the Scale is considered to be one of the most important factors to determining the durability of a gemstone, it is only a single aspect of it. The overall durability of a gemstone can be different from the surface resistance that it has since surface resistance is only one factor when testing durability. For instance, an emerald has a Mohs Scale rating of 8 but it does not wear as well as a Topaz which also rates as 8. This is because there are additional characteristics within the emerald stone that make its overall durability different.  

Other Factors that Determine Gemstone Durability

If the Mohs Scale is not enough to determine the overall durability of a gemstone, what are the characteristics of gemstones that make them totally durable?

Ther additional properties and characteristics to determining the durability or how well they respond to the test of time are: cleavage, molecular bonds, stability, treatments and enhancements among other things.

Let’s take a look at some of the most important determining factors for the durability of a gemstone.

Cleavage

The gemstone cleavage is its ability to break cleanly along a certain distinct line. This depends on the crystalline structure that the different kind of gemstones have. Gemstones can have either a perfect cleavage, a completely non-existent one or anywhere in between the two extremes.

Diamonds have perfect gemstone cleavage. It means that a diamond can be split into two pieces by striking it at the perfect spot even with a softer mineral. The cleavage is particularly important when it comes to the shaping and polishing of stones. Lack of knowledge about the cleavage of a gemstone can ruin even the hardest gemstones on the Mohs Scale.

Stability

The stability is based on how well the mineral can endure different conditions in the environment; such as, pressure, chemicals, and temperatures. Some gemstones like the unheated amethyst can lose their natural color upon exposure to heat. Opals are minerals that are particularly susceptible to changes in temperature. They can even crack if there is a sudden temperature change. which indicates that they are not one of the most stable minerals.

Molecular Bonds

The crystalline structure or the molecular bonds of a gemstone are another important factor in determining overall durability. There are stones that have a high rating on the Mohs Hardness Scale but their overall durability happens to be low because their molecular structure is not that strong. Jade happens to have a 7.0 rating on the Mohs Scale but the overall durability of the mineral is much more than that because it has a strong molecular structure.

Treatments & Enhancements

Several gemstones go through different processes of treatment when they are being refined. The processes involved is usually done in order to improve either the color or the overall integrity of the stone, based on how it is needed. The most common form of enhancement to gemstones is heat treatment. It can be used to affect the color of some gemstones that are susceptible to heat. The different treatments can have their own impact on a minerals overall durability depending on the qualities of that particular stone.

Final Thoughts

It is important to be familiar about mineral durability if you have an interest in gemstones. Knowing this information will help you to find not only the most beautiful stones but the ones that will stand the test of time.

Herkimer Diamonds: The Rare Form of Quartz

Herkimer DiamondsQuartz is a silicon mineral naturally found in crystalline form in all parts of the world. Even though they are excavated in the form of crystals, the specimens don’t have any noteworthy financial demand in the gem industry. However, there is a rare form of quartz that has a different appearance from regular specimens, and thus it enjoys great recognition among gem lovers and collectors.

This rare specimen of quartz is called Herkimer Diamond. Yes, a quartz denoted by the word diamond. But don’t get confused because we are going to discuss the origination of this peculiar name and many other aspects of this exceptional quartz crystal in this article.

Why Herkimer?

These peculiar quartz specimens were first discovered in Herkimer County in the state of New York. Now, they are also mined from Arizona. Globally, this particular mineral has been discovered in China, Norway, and Afghanistan.

The discovery of the Herkimer Diamond in the US doesn’t imply that it was discovered in last two, three hundred years or so. Historical anecdotes suggest that Native Americans and early settlers discovered this special quartz stone somewhere in the 15th century in water streams. The peculiar double-edged appearance of the stone immediately got hold of the interest of Mohawk Indian. The early discoverers of Herkimer diamond didn’t only use it as an ornamental object but also employed it in different tools because of the pointed nature.  

Why Diamonds?

These quartz crystals are called diamonds because they have naturally developed faceting on both ends. This natural formation of the quartz crystal looks more attractive and has a bit of a diamond’s brilliance when it is polished. It is also said the people who originally discovered this quartz specimen thought of it as a diamond and from then it has acquired its name.

What’s the Difference between Regular Quartz and Herkimer Diamonds?

Now it’s time to kill the suspense and discuss the underlying reasons which make Herkimer Diamond different from regular quartz crystals. Herkimer diamonds stand apart among other quartz crystal because of their double termination trait. Yes, that’s the same characteristics which naturally provide the crystals with facets on both ends. Quartz innately appears elongated because of its hexagonal structure. And in Herkimer Diamond, this elongation becomes more apparent because of the pointed (faceted) two ends of the stone.

How Double Termination Develops

Quartz is formed in and around rock hosts after millions of years of chemical and physical changes affecting the crystal formation involving silicon and oxygen. Herkimer diamonds crystals are also formed through the same process except that they don’t get in contact with its rock formation during crystallization. The environment in which Herkimer diamonds are produced provides them enough roam to get natural faceting on both ends.

Geological Occurrence of Herkimer Diamonds

As mentioned earlier, quartz is geologically formed in a host rock. So similar is the case for Herkimer Diamonds. The peculiar quartz specimen is found in Dolostone formations. These rock formations came into existence nearly 500 million years ago with the cavities from where most of the Herkimer Diamonds are mined from.

Properties of Herkimer Diamonds

Most of the physical properties of Herkimer Diamonds are like any other quartz specimen and they also exhibit a smoky appearance. However, there are some differences. For instance, Herkimer diamonds often contain liquid hydrocarbon inclusions which are not found in other excavated quartz crystals. Besides that, carbon dioxide also gets trapped in their crystalline structure.

Solid inclusions for Herkimer diamonds are same as regular quartz crystals which include dolomite, sphalerite, and pyrite. Minute quartz particles are also present in some Herkimer diamond specimens. The specific gravity and hardness of Herkimer diamonds also got the same value as any regular quartz crystal.

Mining of Herkimer Diamonds

Bucket Wheel Excavator
Bucket Wheel Excavator

The mining of the Herkimer diamond on a large commercial scale is done rarely. In most of the cases, enthusiasts try to mine them on their own. Small-scale mining is also feasible because it doesn’t need extensive drilling and excavation that can only be carried out through specialized machinery. Let’s have a look at the prevalent methods employed by gem and stone buffs to mine Herkimer diamonds.

Break and Find Mining

Enthusiasts find Dolostone rock formations and break them open with sledgehammers. Those who get lucky find some double-faceted quartz from the inside. It is important to note that Dolostone is not a soft rock specimen. Collectors have to work hard and long to smash these stones, which are also further reinforced because of the added layers of silica.  

Scavenging

Many people just go on a hunting expedition in quartz mines to find Herkimer diamonds. Searching the rubble of broken down rocks and mines floors is another way by which many collectors have succeeded in acquiring some tiny specimens.  

Mining after Cavity Prospecting

This is somewhat a commercial method employed by collectors to get to the large deposits of Herkimer diamonds. Large wedges and sledgehammers are used to drill through the quarry walls and floors to reach the Herkimer diamond-laden cavities present in Dolostone formations. This method is used to find the large deposits in a single mining location. One has to be extremely good with the use of tools for the mining with cavity prospecting.

An Ornamental Item

Fine Herkimer diamonds are not just confined to stone collections. They are also used as ornamental objects. They can be used in a wide range of jewelry items. From bracelets to necklaces and earrings, they can fit into any jewelry piece since they are naturally found in many different shapes.

A good Mohs Hardness measurement also ensures that they provide better functionality as ornamental objects. This means these quartz crystals are resistant to scratching and other everyday abrasions. People who believe in metaphysical attributes of stones often possess Herkimer Diamonds for its different healing and mystical benefits. People who follow Chakra’s healing techniques also use this mineral for balancing the energies within the body.

Pyrite: The Mineral Known as the Gold Imposter

”Pyrite in its natural form"
Photo by PiLens – yayimages.com

Human fascination with gold is as ancient as the civilization itself. Throughout the timeline of history, this bright and yellow mineral has always been considered a precious and prized commodity. Such was the appeal and requisition for the mineral that people even tried to produce synthetically. It is often said that the foundation of modern chemistry was laid down with the attempts of producing gold in labs.

Due to its prized stature, gold is also often used to carry out fraud, directly or indirectly. For instance, its imitations are often sold as original to rip off uninformed consumers as many naturally occurring minerals resemble gold.

Pyrite is one such example that bears a resemblance to gold in its naturally occurring and refined states. For that reason, it is also called fool’s gold since people who can’t tell gold and pyrite apart can easily be scammed by the latter as the expensive precious metal. In this article, we are going to discuss pyrite and the methods that can be used to tell it apart from gold.

Pyrite: A Sulfide Mineral

Pyrite is one of the most common sulfide minerals in nature.  If one breaks down pyrite chemically, then a single molecule of pyrite is composed of one atom of iron and two sulfide ions. The natural form of pyrite displays a dull brass yellow color. However, it can be processed and furnished to give a bright metallic luster. This is the reason why it starts to look like a gold specimen, particularly to all those who are not expert in distinguishing different minerals.

Whether, it’s ingenious, sedimentary or metamorphic rock formations, small deposits of pyrite can be found in every geographic setting. This is the reason why pyrite is an inexpensive mineral and worth nothing when compared to gold.  It is important to mention that some traces of original gold can be found in some naturally occurring pyrite deposits though, but never enough to consider this element to be worth anything of value.  

Practical Uses of Pyrite

There are two notable practical uses of pyrite. Let’s take a look.

Pyrite as Sparking Material

Pyrite has been used as a sparking material for centuries. Sparking characteristic of the mineral is also the reason behind the name ‘pyrite’. The word is derived from a Greek word ‘pyre’, which means ‘fire’. With industrial processes getting modernized really fast, this use of pyrite has also been reduced. Nevertheless, it is still used in flintlock guns as a sparking material.

Production of Sulfur and Sulfuric Acid

These days, pyrite deposits are largely used to produce sulfur and sulfuric acid on a commercial level.

Use of Pyrite in Feng Shui Practice

Feng Shui is a thousands-year-old Chinese tradition of controlling the energies in the environment for a happier and content life. This ancient practice associates the energies emitting out of pyrite with wealth and abundance. The Feng Shui use of pyrite entails keeping it in the home as a decoration or wearing it in the form of a pedant.  

Differentiating Gold and Fool’s Gold  

Mineralogists often carry out destructive and non-destructive tests to distinguish apparently similar minerals. Several destructive and non-destructive tests are used to differentiate gold and pyrite. Destructive tests usually involve physical and chemical tests. Therefore, they are not used if there are strong chances that the given specimen is actual gold and not pyrite. Let’s have a look at all such tests used to tell the difference between actual gold and fool’s gold (pyrite).

Non-destructive tests

Color

The color of the naturally occurring specimen is another characteristic that can be used to tell gold and fool’s gold apart. Natural and unrefined gold specimen has bright yellow to golden tinge. In contrast, pyrite exhibits brassy tinge. Many naturally occurring gold specimens are often alloyed with silver deposits, giving the extracted piece a whitish yellow color.

Tarnish

Some minerals already have tarnish on their surface when they are found in nature. So, analyzing this feature can be used as one of the non-destructive tests. Naturally occurring gold flecks and lumps are usually untarnished and already bright. On the other hand, pyrite specimens often contain some sort of tarnish on their surface.

Shape

Gold and pyrite specimens can be differentiated on the basis of shape as well. However, this non-destructive test alone should not be used to differentiate the two because some of their naturally occurring crystalline specimens can exhibit a similar crystal habit. Otherwise, pyrite is usually found with angular edges, giving its specimen the shape of cube, pyritohedron or octahedron. In contrast, gold specimens are found in rounded shapes.

Striations

Many pyrites deposits are found with fine parallel striations on their surface. Striations are not present on gold.

Specific Gravity Test

The specific gravity (SC) of the pure gold specimen is 19.3 while pyrite has SC value of 5. Even the naturally occurring alloyed form of gold has specific gravity more than 5. So, this is another way to differentiate between gold and pyrite. Specific gravity is a simple lab test that can be carried out with a beaker and weighing machine.  

Destructive Tests

Hardness

The hardness of both minerals is also considerably different from each other. Gold and fool’s gold have a hardness of 2.5 and 6.0 on the Mohs scale respectively. Copper has a Mohs hardness of 3.0. This means gold specimen can’t scratch copper. However, fool’s gold or pyrite can do that.

Streak Test

Streak test of minerals entails observing their color in finely powdered form. Gold streaks appear yellow, whereas fool’s gold exhibits greenish black tinge in its amorphous form.

Ductility

Gold is extremely ductile. It can easily be bent into shapes even with a pin or soft wooden stick. On the other hand, pyrite either resists or gets broken into pieces upon the application of pressure.

Sectility

Sectility is a physical property of any material to be cut into pieces. Gold has an extremely good value of sectility as compared to fool’s gold. This implies that even the small pieces of gold can be cut into additional pieces. However, small pyrite pieces can’t be further minimized.

Beryl: A Lesser Known Gemstone

Albite-Beryl-weillaqua2
Albite-Beryl-weillaqua2
The beryl family of mineral has bestowed us with many gemstones. Some of them, such as emeralds and aquamarine, are widely known and sought-after. However, some lesser-known beryl stones are also mined throughout the world. Among them, the most striking is goshenite. This stone is usually found as a white and colorless specimen in nature. According to some mineralogists, goshenite is the most abundant beryl in nature. Chemically, it is the purest beryl stone.

However, the abundance of this mineral doesn’t mean that the each and every excavated specimen of the stone is worthy of being faceted into a gem. Jewelers usually prefer to facet only those goshenites into ornamental stones that are transparent and free of every impurity. It is important to mention that the goshenite is also considered the mother of crystals because of its pure existence in nature. The naturally occurring specimens of this crstal contains nearly no chemical impurities.

Goshenite is a Modern Gemstone

Unlike many gemstones that have been in human use for centuries, goshenite is comparatively a modern gemstone. People only came to know about this variant when it was discovered from a small mine in Massachusetts as slightly white and opaque during the 19th century. Soon after that, miners started to look for this gem in other geographical locations. Now, it is found in nearly every part of the world. However, the most notable goshenite mines are in South America and the gem-grade goshenite is mostly mined from Brazil.

The Name of the Stone

Since this mineral is a modern gemstone, no Greek or Latin etymologies are attributed to its name. The gemstone is named after the locality where it was first found. Goshen, a small town in Hampshire County, Massachusetts had a small area from where the first goshenite specimen was mined.

Goshenite and Similar Gemstones

Beryl-ed11dBecause of its transparent and whitish appearance, goshenite resembles many other minerals. For instance, it will be difficult to distinguish for a non-expert if a specimen is placed among white zircon, white sapphire, or white quartz.

Goshenite and Diamond

Some really fine and transparent pieces of this gemstone can also give the impression of a diamond. However, such specimens are really hard to find. Moreover,  this rare mineral can be distinguished from diamonds by analyzing one definitive gem characteristic called fire

Fire is a geological term for dispersion. It entails the ability of a gemstone to break down the light into a spectrum when exposed to a light source. The dispersion or firing capability of a diamond is second to none. One can easily tell diamond and goshenite specimens apart by observing them from different angles in an illuminated space. The diamond specimen would produce quick flashes on the exposure of light. On the other hand, goshenite stones can’t produce the same flickers in a similar setting.

One can also tell goshenite from diamonds specimens by conducting a hardness test. Goshenites are way softer than diamonds. Therefore, they can easily get scratched. Nevertheless, it can be used as an inexpensive alternative to diamonds in jewelry items. Many jewelers offer goshenite-laden necklaces, rings, and pendants. Amid all its use as an ornamental article, the greater demand for this gemstone is attributed to stone collectors.

Goshenite and Metaphysics

Two Hands Together
Hand Healing Energy 

The metaphysical uses of minerals have been discussed several times in this section. There are many people who strongly believe in this branch of philosophy and subsequently use several everyday items in accordance with the principles of metaphysics. Like any other naturally occurring stone, there are many metaphysical uses of goshenite. It will be fitting to discuss some of them in this article.

Healing Energies of Goshenite

People who believe in healing energies of gemstones call goshenite as a crystal of the moon. All those stones associated with moons are believed to improve the balance of hormones and bodily fluids. Therefore, the stone is used by some to treat mood disorders stemming from postnatal depression, PMS and bipolar disorder.

Goshenite and Chakra Therapy

Chakra therapies are based on the ancient Sanskrit dogma that our physical and spiritual being is governed by seven wheels (chakras) of energy located at different positions on the body. Different gemstones are believed to activate these chakras to benefit the treated individual.

Goshenite is known to activate the Crown Chakra that is located at the top of the head. This chakra is believed to expand our understanding of the world beyond the existing reality. It is also known to provide a gateway to our beliefs, universal energy and truth. In short, the use of goshenite in Chakra therapies entails a peace of mind while providing more clarity regarding the surrounding universe. During Chakra therapies, goshenites are used with other stones to enhance their healing properties. In addition, it can also be used on any of the seven Chakras to clear and revitalize the given body area.

Goshenite as a Zodiac Stone

Like any other beryl stone, goshenite is considered a Zodiac stone for Taurus. However, it is deemed suitable for Cancerians as well. Due to its association with the moon, it is known for clamping down the predisposition of impulsively charging ahead.

Goshenite and Feng Shui

Feng shui (Chinese characters)
Chinese Lettering for Feng_Shui
Feng Shui is an ancient Chinese practice of controlling the energies of the surroundings to create an optimal living environment. Mineral stones play an important role in controlling and managing the energies of a Feng Shui environment.

For instance, goshenite is associated with metal energy. This Feng Shui energy can be optimally harnessed in the west and northwestern portion of a residence or room. Metal elements, as described by Feng Shui, school of thought, fetch the attributes of determination and concentration in our lives and residential settings.

Feng Shui experts recommend the use of goshenite in the residential spaces used for any work of concentration or group tasks. It is believed that the presence of this stone in its surrounding helps in solidifying the determination and the efforts being made in a particular space.

Howard Fensterman Minerals