Category Archives: Uncategorized

Earth’s Oldest Rock Found on the Moon

The Moon RockA rock from Earth on the moon! How can this be? Aliens? Well, not so fast, as there is a logical explanation as to how this happened.

Let’s start with a little history of the Apollo space program. The objective of the program was to facilitate human landings on the Moon as well as the astronaut’s safe return. The program consisted of six missions, namely Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15 16 and 17 (the ascending numbering is in the chronological order).   

The Apollo 14 Mission went to the moon in 1971 and explored its Cone Crater. The astronauts on the excruciation also brought some rocks, which were arbitrarily picked from the crater.  All the lunar specimens brought back to the Earth have been inspected and studied to not only understand planet Earth’s lone natural satellite but also the planet itself. Scientists have also been studying them in connection with the evolution of our own planet.

In one such study, astronauts have put forward some amazing inference regarding one of the lunar relics collected by the Apollo 14 team. According to the team of geologists and astronauts analyzing the specimens brought by the Apollo 14 mission, one of the rock specimens was actually a four-billion-year-old chunk from planet Earth!

If this deduction is further established in the future, then this specimen will easily become Earth’s oldest rock.  You may be wondering how on earth (pun intentional) a rock from this planet ended up on the moon. Before your mind starts weaving conspiracy theories regarding extraterrestrial phenomena, we are going to burst the bubble of how this terrestrial rock ended up on the moon, leading us to an astonishing tale of this stone ’s journey from the Earth to the moon and back.

An Asteroid or Comet Impact: The Initial Point of This Journey

Billions of years ago, when life hadn’t materialized on Earth, the collision of large asteroids and comets with our planet was pretty common. Scientists believe that this terrestrial rock ended up on the moon, due to such impact.

According to their hypothesis, a large comet or asteroid collided with Earth that resulted in the splatter of rocks from the Earth’s crust into the outer space, similar to splashes from a water-filled glass when an ice cube hits its surface.

These rocky splashes scattered into outer space and some of them landed on the Moon. It is important to mention that the moon was three times closer to the Earth then it is now. On the moon, these Earth specimens eventually got mixed up and buried with other lunar substances.

Why Scientists Are So Sure About the Terrestrial Origin of the Stone?

This is the first time when scientists have made such an astounding claim regarding any lunar specimen. Moreover, they are quite confident of the veracity of their hypothesis. The main reason for this confidence is the presence of mineral traces in the rock.

Geological Makeup of the Moon is Free of Minerals

Apollo 14 Saturn V rocket blasting off
Apollo 14 Saturn V rocket lifts off for the moon

The geological studies about the lunar crust have shown that it’s underneath environment is not suitable for the formation of minerals like the inner layers of the Earth’s crust. Scientists believe that minerals might be part of the core of the moon and they are really sure that the sample in question is not from that innermost layer of the natural satellite.  

Zircon, Feldspar, and Quartz Are Present in the Rock

Scientists have identified traces of zircon, feldspar, and quartz in the rock. This discovery is the foundation of an hypothesis that this rock has splashed on the moon from the Earth. These minerals are fairly common within the Earth’s crust. However, no other lunar specimen contains any minerals, let alone these three distinctive gem minerals. It will be fitting to have a brief discussion of these three minerals.  

Zircon: As the name suggests, zircon is the silicate compound of the zirconium element. Some fine specimens of this stone are used as diamond simulants. From transparent options to purple and pink, zircon has an entire array of natural colors that depends on the type of impurity it contains. Some zircon specimens also contain radioactive traces. Such specimens undergo the process of metamictization before the gemological faceting and processing.

Feldspar: This tectosilicate mineral makes up more than 41% of the Earth’s crust in the form of many sub-minerals. From typical rock-like structures to gems such as olivine, a whole range of unique mineral specimens are part of feldspar family. Scientists are yet to disclose which type of feldspar traces have been detected on that terrestrial-lunar rock.

Quartz: Quartz is one of the most abundant minerals present in the Earth’s crust. It has many different uses. Some fine quartz crystals are used in the manufacturing of ornamental items. On the other hand, it is also used in many electronic and mechanical devices due to its piezoelectric properties. On Earth, it is found in nearly every mineral environment. But on the moon, there is no sign of this mineral at all.

The Possible Explanation

The Cone crater from where the Apollo 14 team picked that stone was created some 26 million years ago. Craters are formed when small celestial bodies collide with planetary bodies in high velocities. So, the impact that created the Cone crater actually resulted in the excavation of rocks buried under the lunar surface. The Apollo 14 team just picked one of those excavated rocks among which one had terrestrial mineral traces.

Pre-Lunar Journey of the Stone

Scientists believe that the rock with all its mineral traces was created approximately 20 kilometers beneath the Earth’s surface. According to their studies, the Earth’s crust was the budding ground of mineral formation four billion years ago.

This discovery has also given traction to another conjecture that the entire Earth’s crust had a similar composition with traces of different minerals before the manifestation of biological life on the planet. However, this theory doesn’t have much logical backing in its favor to be taken as a serious scientific assertion.

Graphite: The Mineral of Extremes

Close focus on sharp pencil and pencil shavings on white paper Photo by jack-sooksanyayimages.com

It’s impossible to hear the word ‘graphite’ and not think of pencils. To most of us, that is the only use we know of this mineral.

What if we tell you that graphite is much more than just pencil lead? What if we tell you that in the near future when electric cars will be dominating the roads, it’s possible that graphite would be the hottest commodity in the market? What if we tell you that diamond and graphite have the exact same composition but totally different properties? In fact, the properties between the two are quite contrary.

The mineral graphite might not be shiny, dazzling, and precious-looking like its close relative, but it does brighten our lives nonetheless.

Let’s learn about graphite, which is otherwise known as the mineral of extremes:

What is Graphite?

This naturally occurring mineral is a form of crystalline carbon. This non-metallic carbon polymorph is found lying deep within metamorphic and igneous rocks.

It is opaque and blackish-silver in color and has a dull metallic sheen. This famous mineral has many nicknames. In addition to being called mineral of extremes in colloquial form, it is also often referred to as black lead or plumbago–because of its resemblance with metal lead.

Graphite showcases strange contradictory properties. At one hand, it is extremely soft and cleaves with the lightest of pressure; it also has low specific gravity. On the other hand, it is extremely resistant to heat, to such an extent that it remains inert under heat pressure–hence its famous nickname, the mineral of extremes.

It is because of these extreme properties that graphite has become one of the widely used minerals in manufacturing and metallurgy.

Geological Formation

Graphite is a metamorphic mineral that occurs when carbon encounters heat and pressure in the upper mantle and in the Earth’s crust. It goes through a transformation deep under the ground as a result of the heat range, which is 750 degrees Celsius, and pressure range of 75,000 pounds per square inch.

Graphite is commonly found in the form of flakes or crystalline layers in metamorphic rocks. Marble, schist’s and gneisses are some of the common rocks that host graphite. This mineral might also be found in organic-rich shales and coal beds. In these cases, graphite may have formed because of organic matter such as dead bacteria or plants. It then goes through a metamorphic transformation to turn into graphite.

Graphite also occurs in meteorites and veins; in rare cases, it also occurs in basalt.  

Since there are so many different locations of this mineral’s formation, it leads to variations in its type of property, even within the same deposit.  In order to determine the quality of the graphite, mineralogists try to understand the geological history of the deposit before mining.

Diamond and Graphite

Both diamond and graphite are composed of the element carbon. The reason why these two minerals are so vastly different is because they are subjected to different conditions. Diamonds undergo extreme pressure and heat in the mantle. Graphite, on the other hand, is found near the earth’s surface, and it transforms at lower temperature and pressure range within the crust.

However, the two minerals have nothing in common when it comes to properties. In fact, they have contrasting properties.

Here’s how the two differ:

    • Graphite is the softest mineral, whereas diamond is the hardest.
    • Graphite is an excellent conductor, while diamond is a good insulator  
    • Diamond is typically transparent, however, graphite is opaque.
    • Graphite makes an excellent lubricant, whereas diamond is often used as an abrasive. 

It is believed that diamonds found near the Earth’s surface are gradually changing to graphite. It’s a long process, but eventually, there will come a time when most diamonds will turn into graphite.

Uses of Graphite

In Electronics

Basic battery charging

As mentioned, graphite is an excellent conductor and as such, it can be used in a variety of ways to power electrical devices.

You can try some experiments with graphite as a conductor here.

As a Lubricant

Graphite makes a perfect dry lubricant because of how slippery it is. If you have ever tried picking up a broken pencil lead, you’d know what we are talking about.

When graphite reacts with water vapor in the atmosphere, it deposits a thin layer over adjoining surfaces and very effectively reduces the friction between them.

It is because of this lubricating property that graphite is very commonly used in the manufacturing of lubricants of machine parts and metal locks. The mineral is also present in grease.

  • As a Refractory Material

As we mentioned before, graphite is extremely resistant to heat. It can withstand high temperature without showing any changes in its chemical formation.

This property makes graphite an excellent choice for refractory material in steel and glass manufacturing industry. It is also used commonly in the iron processing industry.   

For Manufacturing of Graphene Sheets

Graphen sheets

Graphite is used in the manufacturing of graphene sheets. These sheets are noted to be 100 times stronger than steel. They are also 10 times lighter. Some uses of graphene can be found here.

In Sports and Medical Goods

Graphite is used to make graphene sheets, and these sheets are recognized as one of the strongest materials.

Graphene sheets are one of the best choices in the production of various high-quality, super-strength, and lightweight sports equipment. While the uses of graphene sheets in the production of medical equipment are limited at the time, the future possibilities seem endless.

  • In Writing Materials

One of the first uses of graphite was as a writing material. In fact, the word graphite is derived from the Greek word graphein, which means “to write”. In the 16th century, when the mineral was first discovered in Cumbria, in North England, people thought it was coal. However, it did not burn, so the locals discovered its other use, as an excellent marker of sheepskins.

Today, it even helps astronauts take notes in space.

The lead in pencils, however, is not purely graphite. It is a mixture of clay and graphite.

The carbon family is quite intriguing. Where one mineral is all sparkly and dazzling, the other is not. However, the uses of graphite are much more versatile and valuable. From shiny golf clubs to aircraft, graphite has found its place in many industries.

There are experts in this area of geology that say that graphite or more precisely graphein is going to be an up and coming item of need in this growing environment of technology. We just have to wait and see.

Rarest of the Rare: Unique Gemstones of the World

Alexandrite Mineral
Alexandrite (variety of chrysoberyl)

In all the naturally occurring substances, gemstones catch our attention the most. Due to their color, shapes, sizes and textures, gemstones are intrinsically rare and always an eyecatcher. And among all the elite and rare stone types, there are some which are considered as the rarest due to their scarcity of nature.

Let’s find out some details about these gemstones that are the rarest of the rare.

Alexandrite: Emerald by Day, Ruby by Night

Named after the Russian tsar Alexander-II, Alexandrite belongs to the family of Chrysoberyl family. It was first found in the Ural Mountain range in Russia in early 18th century. Due to some digression from Chrysoberyl minerals, it became one of the rarest gemstones on the face of the earth. Alexandrite is famous for exhibiting hues of emerald and ruby when seen in the presence of light and darkness respectively.

When it shines under different light sources, it appears with different shades of green, magenta and blue which clearly indicate that Alexandrite possesses splendid color features. The impurities of iron, titanium and chromium are supposed to be the reason why it stands alone among all the other Chrysoberyl gemstones.

Tanzanite: A Gift from Foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro 

This gemstone belongs to the family of zoisite gemstones with blue color. The rarity of this stone can be understood by the fact that the only known deposit of this stone is found in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro in Northern Tanzania. Therefore, this zoisite gem is even named after the country.

The bluish-purple stones are found and mined in decades, and therefore it is considered rarer than diamonds. Tanzanite also exhibits different hues under different crystal orientations and light conditions.

Red Diamonds: A Rare Tale of Romance

The combination of red color and diamond stone can be the ultimate gesture of love. Red diamonds are considered to be the fanciest and rarest diamonds. Unlike other fancy diamonds which get their color from different impurities, diamonds get red hue due to a rare bend in its atomic structure known as plastic deformation. There are very few red diamonds in the world (some estimates suggest that only 30 diamonds exist with such color formation).

Grandidierite: Madagascar’s Another Natural Offering

Grandidierites are extremely rare gemstones only found in very few places such as Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Namibia. They were first discovered in Madagascar in the early 19th century by a French mineralogist and named after Alfred Grandidier who is thought to be the first authority on the natural history of the region.

Grandidierite comes in bluish green color patterns, shades which come from the tinge of iron impurities in it. They come in orthorhombic crystal structures. The typical rare Grandidierite appears completely transparent.

Poudretteite: An Exquisite Pink Gem

Poudretteite was first discovered in Canada and named after the family which operates the quarry from which this stone was discovered. Even after more than 50 years, it can only be found in two locations in Canada and Myanmar which makes this gemstone incredibly rare.

The color of Poudretteite depends on the optical phenomenon in which different the color appears when observed at different angles. However, Poudretteite shows light pink and purple hues mostly. Manganese is the color giving element present in Poudretteite, so the color saturation depends on the amount of Manganese present in the stone’s crystal structure.

Benitoite:  A Californian Rarity

Benitoite is a rare gemstone that is extracted from the only and limited deposit near San Benito River in California. It was discovered in 1907. Benitoite comes in blue and purple shades and glows like blue chalk when put under UV light.

Due to its unavailability, Benitoite is not used as a typical gemstone in jewelry items. It is almost impossible to find in the open market and is usually part of rare gem collections.

Musgravite: Distinctive among all the Taaffeite

Musgravite is a rare oxide gemstone belonging to the family of Taaffeite gemstones. Musgravite was first discovered in the Musgrave Range of South Australia. It is very difficult to differentiate them from all the other Taaffeite stones and only an expert can do this. Musgravite exists in grey, mauve, grey purple and light olive green shades.

Emeralds: A Part of Ancient Religious and Cultural History of The World

red diamond 3d rendering
Red Diamond Emerald

Since ancient times, the Emerald has caught the interest and fascination of humans. Like many other gifts of nature found in lush green shades, real emeralds are also found in stunning green color. There are other green gems such as peridot and tourmaline but none are as famous, beautiful and rightfully expensive as emeralds. In this article, we will try to shed some light on the historical significance of the stone. Let’s start with its name origin and some ancient history.   

Emerald’s name origin

Historians are agreed on the fact that the word ‘Emerald’ is the distorted form of a Greek word ‘smaragdus’ which means ‘green’.

Trace back of emerald in the history

The first mining of emerald was reported in the ancient Egypt dating back to 300 BC. In Egypt, emerald was revered as a precious gemstone.  Cleopatra, the last ruler of Ptolemaic Egypt considered the manifestation of beauty, was fond of emerald and it is used as part of many of her royal adornments.

History also suggests that Roman were also fond of this magnificent gemstone. According to the writings of famous Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, in ancient Rome people stared into emerald to relieve tediousness and exhaustion.  

In the following discussion, we will try to look into the importance of emerald in different cultural and religious symbolism.

Emerald: Equally loved by ancient gods

In many religious beliefs, offering emerald to the spiritual deity results in different rewards for the people. For instance, Hindus were the belief that people who offer emerald to the god Krishna become high in heaven and god rewards these generous offerings with the knowledge of soul and eternity.

There is another historical trace of people offering emeralds to their gods.  A Spanish historian from the 16th century AD, who had extensively researched on the north of South America, also hinted about the emerald offering of the natives to their gods. According to him, people used to burn emeralds and gold before the depictions of the Moon and Sun which are considered the highest divinities.

Emerald used as a rewarding gift to gods implies that not only humans but gods were also fond of this gemstone.

 

Emerald: A stone embedded in the breastplate of Aaron

The breastplate of Aaron, which is discussed in the Old Testament, had different gemstones embedded in it. Scholars are still debating the type of those gemstones because revision to the original text has changed the names and categorization of the stones. Apart from that, the linguistic changes through the course of time have also altered the names of different gemstones.

It has been cited that a greenstone was used in the breastplate of Aaron. It could be the real green emerald, green feldspar or any other green stone but historical indications are stronger towards the use of emerald. Emerald began to be mined near the ancient site of Nubia, Egypt before the era in which the breastplate got made.

The Peruvian goddess made of emerald

In the 15th century, when Spanish kingdom was roaring around the South America, people of the city of Manta in present-day Peru used to worship a goddess named Umina. The goddess was made of an emerald of the size of an ostrich egg. It was displayed to the public only on feast days by the priest.

According to their dogmatic belief, followers can worship the goddess by only bringing her daughters. Small size emeralds were called the daughters of the Umina. When the city was captured and conquered by the Spaniards, they found plenty of emeralds there however they failed to trace the emerald goddess Umina.

Spaniards also waste many of these precious gemstones in order to determine their originality. They smashed emeralds on anvil because they were of the thought that original emerald is the hardest gemstones and it can withstand this smashing.

Emerald Symbolism embedded in depiction of mystic and mysterious cities

There are many tales and folklore in India which talks about the mysterious cities and forts with walls, facets and entire temples made of gold and other precious elements. There are paintings which depict these cities and their features. According to the pictorial depictions of those wealthy cities, leaves of plants and trees have dripping emeralds and rubies.  

From the above discussion, it is quite clear that emerald has always been an important part of different historical religious and cultural reference spread all across the world.

 

Formation of Gemstones

Valuable gemstones are extracted from the earth’s core and include mineral rocks, diamonds and stones in a variety of colors;, for example, rubies, emeralds and sapphires. While the diamond is still the world’s most precious and well-sought after stone among all, we can see a rise in demand for various other gemstones as well. Not that they were not valued any time before, but in recent times, people have shifted their interests towards gemstones other than diamond, and in fact, most of the engagement and wedding rings now hold a semi precious gemstone in center.  However, just as their demand and value has been on the rise, so is the need to authenticate their originality.

Almost all gemstones are found in the crust of earth. However, there are two which are found deep below in earth’s mantle: Peridot and diamond. There are kimberlitic pipes below the earth which is the main passage for diamonds to surface up. Through these pipes, molten magma flows and as it reaches the surface, it collects foreign rocks known as xenoliths on its passage. Diamond is one of the rocks, which are assimilated on the way and brought up the surface through volcanic eruptions.

Igneous rocks

Igneous rocks are those that are formed when the molten magma beneath the earth cools down and starts to crystallize. Igneous rocks include two further types further: intrusive, which are formed beneath the surface when the magma cools down, and extrusive, which are formed when lava cools down above the surface of earth.

At the time of cooling, there are many minerals present which starts to combine and form a crystallized structure. This is how gemstones are formed. Environment, cooling time, pressure, temperature – all these factors play an important role in forming each of the gemstone. Larger gemstones will be formed if the cooling process is slower. Diamonds, spinel, Peridot, quartz, moonstone, topaz, tourmaline, zircon, citrine, and amethyst – these all are the most common types of igneous rocks.

Sedimentary cycle

Sedimentary cycle is the second most important process in the rock formation. Rocks formed through this cycle are not actually formed, but rather found. Due to the process of weathering over the time, many rocks are washed down with rain, wind and river and deposited into the sea or riverbanks. There, they keep accumulating along with other organic and inorganic material mixing into it, such as plants, mud, shells. As the time passes, these mixtures are compressed and compacted to form hard rocks. Most of the time, those rocks will be found in sedimentary rocks that have been originally weathered from their parent rocks, which then can be igneous or metamorphic in nature. Common rock minerals found in these sedimentary deposits include Beryl, Opal, Turquoise, Malachite, Azurite, Chrysoprase, Chrysocolla.

Third source of gemstones are the metamorphic rocks. As the name suggests, these rocks are formed when already existing rocks goes through a change process due to pressure changes or changes in temperature. The process is called recrystallization, since during this process, molecular structure of these rocks is broken down and restructured, forming a completely new rock, with same basic composition but different structure. Some of the common metamorphic rocks are garnet, tanzanite, sapphire, ruby, kyanite and emerald.

Top Five Largest Diamonds in the World

“Diamonds” by whatleydude is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What is it that we have not seen or heard about diamonds? From being a girl’s best friend to a creating a political fiasco, diamonds never fail to be the center of attention. They have potential to capture anyone’s eye; especially the bigger stones.  People are still fascinated by diamonds as they were in ancient times. Promising strength due to their non-breakable nature, diamonds are also a symbol of love and commitment.

When it comes to diamonds, size is a huge attraction and increases the value of the stone. Here is a list of the top 5 largest diamonds in the world.

Sergio

Weighing 3167 carats, Sergio is the largest rough diamond in the world. It was discovered from Brazil in the year 1893 and is one of the rare black diamonds that still have scientists debating about the origin of this category of the stone. It has mythical stories attached to it and is thought to hail from meteoric origins; but regardless of anything being said, Sergio enjoys the title of being the largest diamond of the world.

The Cullinan

The Cullinan weights a magnificent 3106.75 Carats and ranks second in the list of the largest diamonds in the world. It is famous around the world due to numerous reasons. Weighing 1.37 lbs when discovered, it made a striking gift for Edward II, the then King of United Kingdom. Later on, the Cullinan was taken to Amsterdam where it was cut into 9 large and as many as 96 small gems. Today, it values to be an estimated $2 million.

Excelsior Diamond

Excelsior Diamond had the honor of being the largest diamond of the world until 1905, when The Cullinan was discovered. It was founded in the year 1893 in Jagers Fontein Mine. Later on it was cut into 10 stones with the largest one weighing 69.68 carats. It is a beautifully stunning white diamond that reflects a hint of blue as well.

Star of Sierra Leone

Discovered in 1972, this beautiful stone made it to the hands of Harry Winston, a famous American jeweler. Since it was in rough form, this magnificent diamond was cut into 17 smaller gems, some of which were used to craft the famous Star of Sierra Leone brooch.

Incomparable Diamond

Incomparable weighs 890 carats and is a discovery of 1989. Found in Congolese by a young girl, it was years until experts cut the magnificent stone into smaller gems. The final result was a uniquely triangular shaped diamond in the shade of yellow and brown. Most recently, it was up for auction on Ebay in 2002. Surprisingly, no one bought this beautiful piece.

Gemstones have high value due to their size, shape, color, cut, and weight. In case of diamonds, it enjoys a very special status that has a abstract meaning and worth as well.

Four Cs of Diamond Grading

The Gemological Institute of America (GIA) was the first to implement a universal diamond grading system. Before 1953, there was no agreed upon standard for judging diamonds. The founder of GIA, Robert M. Shipley, created the Four C’s grading system in 1953 which became the international standard for determining diamond quality. The Four C’s stand for color, clarity, cut, and carat weight.

Color

Gem-quality diamond color evaluation is based on a lack of color. The most perfect diamond is colorless and has no hue. The scale of color starts with D, the rarest, and continues on to the letter Z. Many of these color differences are extremely subtle and are not seen by the untrained eye. However, these differences can be quite big when it comes to a diamond’s quality and price. Excellent value diamonds have a color grade of D, E, F, G, and H. These are also best set in platinum or white gold.

Clarity

Diamonds are a result of carbon being exposed to intense heat and pressure under the earth’s mantle for over a billion years. This long process can add internal and external imperfections called inclusions and blemishes, respectively. The number, size, nature, and position of these imperfections affects the clarity of the stone. The clarity scale has six categories: flawless (FL), internally flawless (IF), very, very slightly included (VVS1 and VVS2), very slightly included (VS1 and VS2), slightly included (SI1 and SI2) and included (I1, I2, and I3). FL diamonds account for less than 1% of the current diamond supply while it accounts for less than 3%, these are the highest valued diamonds.

Cut

The cut refers to proportions, and not shape. Diamonds are the only naturally occurring gemstone with a refractive index greater than 2, meaning they are very sparkly, this sparkle is called fire in the gem industry. A diamond’s cut will affect its fire, brightness, and scintillation. The cut scale contains five grades: excellent, very good, good, fair, and poor. An excellent cut allows light to enter the stone and disperse it properly throughout the diamond, reflecting back through the top. When a diamond’s cut is too shallow or too deep, the light can escape through the bottom of the stone.

Carat

Many think that a diamond carat refers to size, when it actually refers to weight. As carat weight increases, so does the rarity and price of a diamond. A metric carat is defined as 200 mg. Each carat can be divided into 100 points. This allows precise measurement to the hundredth decimal place. A 25 point diamond weighs 0.25 carats. Many times, a diamond can look bigger but be a lower carat based on shape and size. Since prices are based on carat, one can usually get a better deal for a diamond that ends in .9 carats. A 2.9 carat stone can look bigger than a 3 carat stone and cost less, simply based on size.