Saturday, April 28, 2012

Saturday's Gem - Obsidian

Good morning friends.  Today's gem stone or mineral is Obsidian.  Basically Obsidian is just natures glass, made by rapid cooling of lava that has a high silica content and low water content. When lava would have more water content or is heated higher and cooled slower other minerals are formed such as pumice.  Pumice formed by the escaping water gasses giving that porous look. 

Obsidian on the other hand is just like glass it is smooth, translucent, has a conchoidal fracture and can form very sharp edges.  Because of these features it was very sought after by Native Americans and other ancient cultures to fashion tools and weapons for.  Often Obsidian was used to make arrow heads, the other popular mineral the was used was flint.
These arrow heads are a great example.  These were handmade and could be used even to make great pieces of jewelry.  You can buy these from WhiteDoveTreasures at
There are several types Obsidian that you will be able to find.  Here are some of the large variety that can be found: 
Mahogany Obsidian is brown with black or darker brown stripes and flecks

Snowflake Obsidians have beome devitrified with distinct centers often made by feldspar that will give it a look of white snow flakes on the black of the Obsidian host.

Rainbow Obsidian will refract light in such a way that it gives it an iridescence of multiple colors

Obsidian (regular) is usually dark brown to black with maybe some light banding of gray and dark browns.  It is translucent and light can be readily seen through the stone.

Apache Tears are small nodules of beach washed or worn Obsidian that are usually pretty close to round.  They are also translucent and are one of the first gems and minerals that I was shown as a kid.  I was hooked when I found out that A) it came from Arizona B)It was made by a volcano and C) it was a rock that I could see through when I held it up in the sun.  I was told about the legend of the name Apache Tears:  it was said that when a great Apache warrior was killed in battle that the earth cried and the tears formed the "Apache Tears."  What kid would not become a rockhound after getting a piece of this amazing stone?

You can purchase Apachen Tears at ButterflyInTheAttic to at

Obsidian is thought to be a a very good metaphysical stone.  Apache Tears are said to  provide protection when worn by those that are more sensitive.   Obsidian protects the wearer from emotionally draining people, it helps them avoid being mistreated and used.  Often those that believe in the metaphysical power will wear Obsidian when they are going into situations that they may not have the upper hand or be the stronger of the group; such as big board meetings or divorce court.  The black color filters all the bad energy keeping it away from the wearer.  But since it is such a protective stone the wearer should never gift or borrow their piece to anyone

Obsidian is one stone that I have actually had an opportunity to work with and make a necklace from.  At the time no one told me that the volcanic glass is one of the most challenging to make a cabochon from and by the time I found out it  out it was too late.  My first experience with making a cabochon and I pick the hardest material to use, oh well.  I was just making it for the experience not to sell.  But since then I have much more respect for those that do make jewelry from scratch and would like to share with you the process.  But first one HUGE disclaimer I am not a professional in any shape or form so the information I am giving you is not so much as how-to but so you understand why some pieces are so expensive.  It is a lot of work.

First I selected a pattern that I wanted to make it was just a simple tear drop shape.  Next I selected a large piece of Obsidian that I would have to cut into slabs.
This one has more Mahogany in it than the one I used but it is roughly the size.
I cut the stone using a special saw that is in a drum that has oil in it so that it keeps the saw cool and lubricated otherwise it would melt the metal blade before cutting the stone or start a fire.  Once I secured my rock in their I cut off one end then I opened the unit up and placed the stone in to cut the other end off giving me a slab.  Each cut took around 20 -30 minutes.
This is just an example not the actual one I used, just so you know what it looks like.  You can buy it on ebay at
 I cleaned the slab and traced on my pattern.  Once it was ready I used another rock saw to cut the pattern out.  This saw uses water to keep the blade cool and functioning.
The one I used was much older and not as nice again I am just using this one as an example.  You can purchase this from ebay too at
Next you will need to start forming the cabochon using several different grains of grinders.  All use water to keep it cool so needless to say I was soaked by the end of every day.
Same consept and again I didn't use this exact piece just wanted you to see what it looked like and where you can get it if you want it
 By the time I had it down to an appropriate shape I realized I was never going to make it into a perfect cabochon because I have no patience and I already spent 4 nights polishing this rock that was getting smaller and smaller.  Since I didn't intend on selling just wearing I cried "Uncle" and gave up.  I still like it so that is all that matters.

The last step was wiring the cabochon.  This was my first try and I wear it a lot so the back is now a little misshapened but I have had nice compliments on it so it overall turned out just fine.  But the entire process took at least an entire week out of my life to make so I therefore have decided to by my jewelry from ETSY.  I am sure over time the process will get faster but it is kind of like cross stitching with me; as long as I can buy the finished product I don't care enough to spend that kind of time making it.  I seriously think I would have been diagnosed with ADHD as a kid and there is no way I am ever going to spend that much of my life making one piece of jewelry again.  But it was an awesome experience and I am glad I did because now I know why I have to pay what I pay for a good piece.
Here are some wonderful treasures that you can buy Mom for Mother's Day made from obsidian:


Christie Cottage said...

What an informative post!

Lots of work goes into creating those cabs.


lana said...

love your blog!!