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.

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