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 subsequently enjoys great recognition among gem lovers and collectors.

This rare specimen of quartz is called the Herkimer Diamond. Yes, a quartz mineral denoted by the word ‘diamond’. But it is not a diamond so don’t get confused. We are going to clear up the origination of this name as well as many other aspects of this exceptional 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 in Arizona and 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 found within the last two or three hundred years. Historical anecdotes suggest that Native Americans and early settlers discovered this special stone somewhere around the 15th century in water streams. Its peculiar double-edged appearance immediately caught the interest of Mohawk Indians. These Herkimer discoverers not only use it as an ornamental object but also employed it in different tools because of its pointed nature.  

Why Call it a ‘Diamond’?

The Herkimer gemstone is called ‘diamond’ because of its naturally developed faceting on both ends. The formation of this 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 it thought of it as a diamond and from then on, the ‘diamond’ stuck to its name.

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

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

How Double Termination Develops

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

Geological Occurrence of Herkimer Diamonds

dolomitic rock in Cirque_de_Mourèze France
Dolomitic rock in Cirque_de_Mourèze France. Wikipedia.

As mentioned earlier, quartz is geologically formed in a host rock called Dolostone formations. And this is the case for Herkimer Diamonds as well. 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, the Herkimer diamond often contains liquid hydrocarbon inclusions which are not found in other excavated quartz crystals. Besides that, carbon dioxide gets trapped in its crystalline structure.

Solid inclusions for Herkimer diamonds are the 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 cases, enthusiasts try to mine them on their own. Small-scale mining is also feasible because it doesn’t need extensive and excavation that can only be carried out through specialized machinery.

Let’s have a look at the prevalent methods employed by gemstone 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 hunting expeditions in quartz mines to find these intriguing gems. Searching the rubble of broken-down rocks 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 mining involved cavity prospecting.

An Ornamental Item

Fine Herkimer diamonds are not just confined to stone collections. They are also used as ornamental objects and 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.

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