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In some minerals color is directly related to a metallic element, is characteristic, and can be useful in identification. As examples,  azurite as shown in Figure 1A, is always blue due to the presence of copper, and rhodochrosite, shown in Figure 1B, is always pink to red due to the presence of manganese,. However minerals such as fluorite, colorless in it self, can be yellow, blue, purple, or green due to low concentrations of metal impurities.

Accordingly color alone, generally is insufficient for identification, but when linked with knowledge of other properties of a mineral can be useful in its identification.

Understanding of the roles of metals as sources of colors in a mineral, particularly when augmented with knowledge of its location where found, can be useful in identification. In this Blog I’ll describe how the presence of a transition metal element, present intrinsically or as an impurity, and certain structural features within the mineral are sources of colors or when present, can modify the appearance of the mineral. 

Figure 1A. Azurite, Czar Mine, Copper Queen Mine, Queen Hill, Bisbee. Cochise County, Arizona[Ref1]
Figure 1B. Rhodochrosite, N’Chwaning Mines, Kuruman. Kalahari Manganese 
Field, Northern Cape, South Africa[Ref2]


The color of a mineral that we see arises from transmission of light over the visible wavelengths of light within the visible light spectrum which are framed by one or more regions of wavelengths that are absorbed as shown in Figure 1C. 

Figure 1C. With absorption of specific wavelength{s) of white light spanning wavelengths of red to purple results in transmission of light over a wavelength range imparting color[Ref3]

Extensive studies have shown that light absorption by a number of processes are among the causes of the colors in minerals as summarized in TABLE I[Ref4].

Absorption of light by electrons in transition metals present intrinsically or as impurities are involved in light absorption processes and the excitation of electrons within their intrinsic energy distribution within conductors and semiconductors upon light absorption also imparts colors in other minerals which are conductors and semiconductors. Excitation of an electrons or a hole (hole = absence of a negatively charged ion or electron) associated with color centers which reside in defects within the crystal lattice imparts colors in some minerals

Structural features in minerals with sizes of the order of the wavelengths cause physical optical effects: light scattering, interference, and diffraction of light. These can either introduces colors or add optical features to the appearance of the mineral.


Light Absorption by Transition Metals[Ref4,5,6]

Among the causes of color in minerals listed in TABLE I[Ref4] are the ions of transition metals that contribute to the color of many minerals through selective light absorption over the visible light spectrum. They can be present as a major constituent such as manganese (Mn) in rhodochrosite(MnCO3) giving it its pink-red color, present as a low concentration impurity in a mineral such as chromium (Cr)substituting for aluminum (Al) in Ruby giving its red color and the formula {Al,Crminor)2O3, and as ions of iron, chromium , manganese, titanium(Ti) participating in intervalence charge (electron) transfer between two of their ions and with the oxygen ion[Ref5].

Transition metals are present as a formulaic constituent and some as an impurity are shown along with their associated colors in TABLES II and III.

In a transition metal ion with a partially filled d-shell the electrons in the outer region of the  d-shell are unpaired. The surrounding oxygen ions of the crystal lattice exert forces on the outer d-shell electrons dermining their occupied and empty energy levels[Ref5]. The forces and energy levels depend on the strength and nature of the bonding as well as the valence of the transition metal ion. These energy levels are quantized so that a absorption of a specific amount energy is required to to increase an electrons energy to another level. Absorption of light of that energy at the corresponding wavelength provides the energy required for excitation of the unpaired electron to a higher level. 

As an example consider absorption and transmission of light in the ruby. The sumation of surrounding forces on the chromium ion Cr3+ result in two energy levels, C and D, avialable for an excited electron as shown in Figure 2[Ref3]. Symmetry conditions deny occupancy of level B by an excited electron [Ref]. 

As shown in Figure 3 light of 414 and 561 nm wavelengths is absorbed . With abosrbtion of these wavelengths light in the regions of 480 nm and greater than 620 nm are transmitted imparting the red color of the ruby.

Figure 2. Excitation of d-elecrons in Cr3+ in a ruby crystal upon absorption of 414 nm (2.99 eV) ultraviolight light and of 561 nm (2.21 eV) yellow- green light[Ref]. The peak abosorption and transmission of light within the ruby at these wavelengths are shown in the two spectra shown in Figure [Ref3]
Figure 3. Transmittance spectrum (Right) of a 1-cm thick ruby crysta[Ref4]. Absorptioon of light is greatest at 414 nm and 561 nm and transmittance in the blue at 480 nm and in the red at wavelengths greater than 620 nm in the red.


Light Absorption By Charge Transfer Between Transition Metal Ions and Between oxygen ions and Transition Metal Ions[Ref7,8]. 

Transition metals can exist in different valence states. These ions can form covalent bonds with oxygen in which electrons in outer shells can travel between the ions upon being supplied sufficient energy. This can result in charge transfer in the form of an electron upon absorption of light with wavelengths in the Ultraviolet through Visible into Near Infrared light ranges. Charge transfer from an adjacent oxygen to a transition metal ion and charge transfer between neighboring transition metal ions connected by an oxygen atom can occur. The direction of transfer charge is from the ion of least positive valence number to the neighbor of higher valence. For example the deep violet-blue color of cordierite var. Iolite as shown in Figure 4 results from the neighboring absorption peak centered at 600 nm due to charge transfer from a ferrous ion Fe2+ to a neighboring ferric ion Fe3+, and extending through the blue range of the spectrum as shown in Figure 5[Ref10]. Other examples of the processes of charge transfer in minerals with their associated colors are given in TABLE IV.

Figure 4. Cordierite var. Iolite, Mogok, Pyin-Oo-Lwin District, Mandalay Region, Myanmar[Ref9].
Figure 5. Absorption spectrum of cordierite var. Iolite from Tamil Nadu, India[Ref10].
Note that the wide absorption peak in the 400 to 600 nm range results in a transmission window in the violet.


Charge TransferColor and Mineral*Reference
Oxygen to Metal Transfer

O2-  Fe3+Yellow to Brown: beryl/heliodor, quartz/citrine11
O2–  Fe4+Purple: quartz/amethyst11
O2-  Cr6+Yellow to red: Crocoite11
O2- U6+Yellow: uranophane
Intervalence Charge Transfer

Fe2+–O—Fe3+Violet: jadeite Blue: lazulite, vivianite, 11,12
Fe2+–O—Ti4+Blue: berlaquamarine, corundum/sapphire, cordierite, amphibole,11
Mn2+–O—Ti4+Greenish-yellow: tourmaline11

Fe2+Ti4+ and both Fe3+ and Cr3+Orange, sapphire13

*For information on any mineral Google “Mindat.org + Mineral name”

Light Absorption By Color Centers[Ref4]

Unpaired electrons can be located on a non-transition metal ion or on a defect in the crystal lattice form color centers as shown in the Fluorite structure and quartz structure shown in Figures 5 and -6. An electron present at a lattice vacancy forms an electron color center and absence of an electron from where an electron pair is normally present forms a hole (lack of a negatively charged ion) center. 

In fluorite the absence of a fluorine ion F-1 from its normal position forms an F-center occupied by an electron as shown in Figure 6. Absorption at longer wavelengths by the F-center is responsible for a purple color in fluorite[Ref5].

In smoky quartz the presence of an aluminum ion Al3+ as a low level impurity substituting for a silicon ion Si4+ is required[Ref5]. Removal of an electron from an oxygen ion O2- adjacent to aluminum ions by radiation results in the formation of a singly negative oxygen forming an electron-hole. To preserve charge neutrality a positive hydrogen ion H+ is present. Aluminum not substituting for silicon does not form smoky quartz. The same mechanism accounts for the yellow color of citrine[Ref11].

Figure 6. Schematic of normal fluorite structure (A) and fluorite with an 
F-center occupied with an electron (B)[Ref5].

Figure 7. Schematic of the normal quartz structure (A) and containing impurity aluminum ions Al3+ replacing silica ions Si4+ in the lattice (B)[Ref5]. Radiation has removed an electron  from oxygen leaving a hole center of smoky quartz. To preserve charge neutrality a positive hydrogen ion H+ is present. Aluminum not substituting for silicon does not form smoky Quartz. 

Light Absorption in Metals and Semiconductors: Band Theory[Ref5]

The band theory treats electrons as belonging to the crystal as a whole and capable of occupying bands or ranges of energies as shown for metals and semiconductors in Figures 8 and 9.[Ref5]. Colors of representative minerals described by band theory are shown in TABLE IV.


The Band Theory of Metals[Ref5]

In a metal such as copper or iron each metal atom contributes its outer electrons to a common pool in which they are free to move freely through the crystal accounting for the large electrical conductivity of metals as well as the metallic luster and specular reflection of metals. In a typical metal which contains 1023 electrons per cm-3 all essentially equivalent to each other, such that quantum mechanically 

the energy levels are broadened into bands as shown in Figure 8A. The density of electrons each energy level is limited and states are filled to the maximum Fermi surface (level). Upon absorption of light electrons are excited to empty bands of higher energy with density of states varying with as shown in Figure 8B.

If the efficiency of absorption decreases with increasing energy in the blue-green spectrum as in gold and copper the spectrum features the yellow and reddish colors of gold and copper upon reemission of the electrons as shown by the reflectance spectra shown in Figure 9[Ref18]. The spectra of silver and aluminum in the figure show that light across the visible spectrum is absorbed and re-emitted leading to their white color.

Figure 8. Energy band of a typical metal (A) and showing energy transitions upon light absorption (B)[Ref5]. The Fermi Surface is the maximum energy of an electron in the valence band.
Figure 9. Reflectance (or fraction of light reflected) spectra of aluminum (Al), Silver (Ag), gold(Au), and copper(Cu)[Ref14] as also shown in the specimens in Figures 10-12.
Figure 10. Native silver on native arsenic, Pohla-Tellerhauser mine, Pohla, Saxony, Germany[Ref15].
Figure 11. Group of twinned native gold crystals, Round Mountain Mine, Round Mountain, Round Mountain Mining District, Toquima Range, Nye County, Nevada[Ref16].
Figure 12. Twinned crystals of native copper, Chino Mine, Santa Rita, Santa Rita mining district, Grant County, New Mexico[Ref17].
Figure 13. Energy bands in a typical semiconductor (A), energy transitions upon light absorption in (B), the dependence of color on energy(C), and the color stemming from a band gap of that energy (D)[Ref5].

The Band Theory of Semiconductors[Ref5]

Many sulfide minerals are semiconductors that exhibit substantial electrical conductivity, high refractive indices, and often a metallic luster[Ref4]. In minerals where bonding is predominantly covalent or ionic the sulfur electrons occupy a valence band as shown in Figures 13A and 13B. A band comprised of empty metal electron orbitals exists at higher energies separated from the valence band by an energy gap as shown in Figure 13. Absorption of light by electrons of energy greater that the gap energy excites them into the conduction band as shown in the Figures 13C and 13-D. If the band gap is smaller that the energy of the visible light range all of the light is absorbed and the mineral behaves like a metal and appears black or grey as shown in Figures 13–C and13 -D and by tetrahedrite with a band gap of 0.000 eV[Ref21] and galena with a band gap of 0.993 eV[Ref 22] and shown in Figures 14 and 15. As the band gap energy increases the wavelengths excited in the spectrum become shorter and colors shift through red to yellow. The band gaps of those semiconductors such as diamond and sphalerite with band gaps of about 5.5 and 3.5 eV are greater than available energy at the lowest wavelength (highest energy) of the visible spectrum and the light is absorbed. With an intermediate band gaps of 1.99 eV and 2.197eV, respectively cinnabar appears red and orpiment yellow-orange as shown in Figures 16 and 17[Ref23].

Figure 14. Hopper crystal of tetrahedrite, Romania[Ref26]. The crystal is black because with a band gap of 0.000 eV tetrahedrite absorbs all visible wavelengths[Ref18,19].
Figure 15. Galena, Sweetwater mine, Ellington, Reynolds County, Missouri[Ref20].

Figure 16. Cinnabar, Almade’n mine, Almade’n, Almade’n Mining District, Ciudad Real, Castle-La Manch, spin[Ref21].
Figure 17. Orpiment, Twin Creeks Mine,  Potosi Mining District, Osgood Mountains,
Humboldt County, Nevada[Ref22].

Light Absorption and Colors in Impurity and Defect Semiconductors[Ref5]

Certain impurities can cause light absorption in large band gap minerals. Absorption of light nitrogen and boron impurity centers as shown in Figure A and –B results, respectively in yellow and blue colored diamonds. 

Yellow Diamonds

Figure 18. Light absorption in the blue-violet spectral range by a 
nitrogen impurity results in  the yellow color of a diamond[Ref23].
Figure 19. Yellow diamond of 32.77 carats[Ref27].

Blue Diamond

Figure 20. The boron acceptor atom accepts electrons with energies corresponding to the green to red region of the visible spectrum resulting in transmission of the blue color[Ref23].
Figure 21. The blue Hope diamond[Ref28].

Green Diamond

A green color in a diamond arises from absorption of light in the yellow to red wavelength region by electrons associated with defects in the periodicity of the diamond crystal lattice as shown in Figure [Ref24].

Figure 22. The defects in the diamond lattice that are responsible for a green color in a diamond: In Figure 2.A, absorption by unbonded electrons surrounding a lattice vacancy (missing carbon atom); in 2.B light absorption by unbound electrons surrounding a lattice vacancty associated by a pair of neighboring nitrogen atom impurities; in 2.C light absorption by electrons associated with a hydrogen atom with a neighboring nitrogen atom impurity; in 2.D absorption of light by a defect comprised of two neighboring carbon lattice vacancies with an associated nickel atom[Ref24].

Pink Diamond

Color defect centers developed along deformation planes in the diamond crystal lattice diamond are responsible for the coloration in pink diamonds as shown in Figure23[Ref25,26].

Figure 23. Pink Diamonds, Argyle Mine, East Kimberly region, Australia[Ref39].

Colors and Features Caused by Physical Optics

Play of color due to structural characteristics of the gemstone can be useful in mineral identification. Iridescence, opalescence and labradorescence, chatoyancy, and asterism are characteristics of a limited number of minerals.


Opalescence is an opal-like play of light producing flashes of different colors as in an opal as shown in Figure 24[Ref40]. The various colors are produced by diffraction from regions with layers of different thickness of formed by silica spheres of different uniform diameters[Ref41] 

Figure 24. Structure of precious opal showing uniform layers of silica spheres[Ref30].
Figure 25. The “Virgin Rainbow” opal, Coober Pedy, Australia[Ref31]


Labradorite is a feldspar mineral comprised having striations of exsolved lamellae of nanometer of albite in the 10s to 100sof nanometers size range in anorthite with both having different calcium and sodium concentrations. Accordingly their refractive indices are unequal[Ref39,40] and the striations diffract light giving the colors according to the thicknesses of the lamellae giving the labradorescence as shown in Figure 25[Ref44].

Figure 26. Labradorite cabochon showing striations with alternating lamellae of albite and anorthite of different thicknesses, hence different colors[Ref32].


Iridescence is the play of colors produced in a thin film of different refractive index than in the surroundings and varying thickness such as the wall of a soap bubble or layer of oil on water[Ref45]. Like diffraction the colors depend on thickness and angle at which viewed. The iridescence of some specimens of the copper mineral chalcopyrite as shown in Figure is a classic example of iridescence on a mineral surface where the colors range from blue to red with increasing thicknesses of the film.

Figure 27. Iridescent chalcopyrite, Greystone Quarry, Lezant, Cornwall, 


Chatoyancy is an effect of preferential light scattering by parallel aligned rod like mineral inclusions like the fibers of crocidolite (asbestos) cemented in quartz of the gemstone tigers eye as shown in Figure 28[Ref35,36]. Aligned needle-like microcrystals crystals of rutile are responsible for the chatoyancy of chrysoberyl as shown in Figure .[Ref37]  

Figure 28. Chatoyant tigers eye showing aligned structure of crocidolite[Re38].


Ref 1. https://www.mindat.org/photo-257370.html

Ref 2. https://www.mindat.org/photo-83179.html

Ref 3. http://gemologyproject.com/wiki/index.php?title=Causes_of_color

Ref 4. . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ruby_transmittance.svg

Ref 5. http://www.minsocam.org/msa/collectors_corner/arc/color.htm

Ref 6 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transition_metal

Ref 7. https://www.higp.hawaii.edu/~gillis/GG671b/Week02/Readings/Deep%20Reading/Burns_CrystalFieldTheory_Ch2and3.pdf

Ref 8. https://www.gia.edu/doc/SP88A1.pdf

Ref 9. https://www.mindat.org/photo-650677.html

Ref 10. http://minerals.gps.caltech.edu/files/Visible/cordierite/Cordierite2016_India.gif

Ref 11. https://www.gia.edu/doc/SP88A1.pdf

Ref 12.  http://minerals.gps.caltech.edu/color_causes/ivct/index.htm

Ref 13.  file:///Users/millardjudy/Downloads/[20834799%20-%20Advances%20in%20Materials%20Science]%20Heat%20treatment%20enhancement%20of%20natural%20orange-red%20sapphires.pdf

Ref 14. https://eng.libretexts.org/Bookshelves/Materials_Science/Supplemental_Modules_(Materials_Science)/Optical_Properties/Metallic_Reflection

Ref 15. https://www.mindat.org/photo-109627.html

Ref 16. https://www.mindat.org/photo-112379.html

Ref 17. https://www.mindat.org/photo-78563.html

Ref 19. https://materialsproject.org/materials/mp-647164/

Ref 20. https://materialsproject.org/materials/mp-21276/

Ref 21. https://i.pinimg.com/originals/72/26/67/7226674458e6dd34ba15b72f4034130f.jpg

Ref 22. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hopper_crystal

Ref 23. https://materialsproject.org/materials/mp-641/

Ref 24. https://www.mindat.org/photo-85601.html

Ref 25. https://www.mindat.org/photo-83818.html

Ref 26 https://www.mindat.org/photo-56538.html

Ref 27. http://www.webexhibits.org/causesofcolor/11A0.html

Ref 28. https://www.gia.edu/gems-gemology/spring-2018-natural-color-green-diamonds-beautiful-conundrum

Ref 29. https://www.gia.edu/doc/Characterization-and-Grading-of-Natural-Color-Pink-Diamonds.pdf 

Ref 30. https://br.pinterest.com/pin/27092035231593578/

Ref 31. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/travel/the-hope-diamond-102556385/

Ref 32. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/AaGzMFSFFrs9vFLxcvJNl4g6FGLK1W2_i5FGc6i82BuZSmK7fjG7pJ0

Ref 33. http://www.uniqueopals.ch/opal-play-of-colour.htm

Ref 34. http://www.uniqueopals.ch/opal-play-of-colour.htm

Ref 35. https://www.geologyin.com/2016/07/worlds-most-expensive-opal-literally.html

Ref 36. https://www.mindat.org/min-2308.html

Ref 37. https://www.britannica.com/science/exsolution

Ref 38. https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=refractive+index+of+albite

Ref 39. https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=refractive+index+of+anorthite

Ref 40. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/diffraction-grating

Ref 41.  https://austinbeadgallery.com/what-to-look-for-in-labradorite-cabochons/

Ref 42. 


Ref 43.  https://www.crystalclassics.co.uk/product/chalcopyrite-(irridescent)/

Ref 44. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chatoyancy

Ref 45. https://www.asbestos.com/blog/2020/04/20/asbestos-jewelry-mesothelioma/

Ref 46. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/rosetta-stones/tiger-s-eye-a-deceptive-delight/

Ref 47. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chrysoberyl#Cymophane


The atoms within the crystal of a mineral are arranged in a regular fashion to form a lattice, and the crystal exhibits a shape with surface regularity which reflects its internal symmetry[Ref1]. The shape of a crystal is often typical of a mineral. and often typical the location where found; thus, crystal shape comprised of crystallographic forms modulated by crystal habit can be a useful tool in mineral identification. 

The crystals of all minerals fall into seven families defined by their required symmetries as given in the table in Figure 1[Ref2]. The hexagonal family comprises two crystal systems as seen in Figure 1. Planes and shapes which enclose space as shown in Reference 3 are the crystallographic forms which comprise the shapes of crystals exhibited by minerals. The basic forms exhibited by the seven crystal systems are shown in Figure 2. Environmental conditions during deposition can influence the both the forms present on the crystal and the habit of a crystal in influencing its shape [Ref5]. 

Figure 1. The crystal families, systems, and their required symmetries[Ref2].

Figure 2. Forms of the basic prisms exhibited by the six crystal systems[Ref4].

Gallery of Crystal Systems, Forms, and Habits

In order to introduce some of the forms and habits of crystals I’ll use examples of minerals we often have enjoyed seeing in the literature and at lapidary and mineral shows as shown in Figures 3-9.


Figure 3. Skeletal or hoppered crystals of galena on sphalerite, Madan Ore Field, Rhodope Mountains, Bulgaria [Ref5,8].


Figure4. Tabular crystal of wulfenite, Los Lamentos Mountains, Chihuahua, Mexico[Ref5,9].


Figure 5. Acicular crystals of mesolite on green hydroxyapophylite, Pashan quarries,
Pashan Pune District, Maharashtra State, India[Ref5,10].


Figure 6. Bipyramidal crystals of quartz paramorph after hexagonal beta quatz, with hematite crystals, Florence Mine, Egremont, Cumbria, England, UK[Ref3,11]. 
Figure 7. Crystal of Beryl var. emerald displaying faces of the hexagonal and dihexagonal prisms, of the hexagonal pyramid, and of the basal pinacoid, Muzo Mine, Muso Municipality, Boyaca’ Department. Colombia[Ref3,12].


Figure 8. Phantomed schalenohedral crystals of calcite, Mariposa Mine, Terlingua District, Brewster County, Texas[Ref 6,13]
Figure 7. Rhombohedral crystals of calcite, Gonsen Mine, St. Gallen, Switzerland[Ref3,14].


Figure 8. Crystal of gypsum (selenite), with faces comprising  two domes and six pinacoids, Gilbralter Mine, Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico[Ref3,5,15].


Figure 9. Crystal of Axinite-(Fe) with 7 pinacoidal faces, Pulva Mount. Tyumenskaya, Urals Region, Russia, Asia[Ref5.16].


Ref 1. https://www3.nd.edu/~amoukasi/CBE30361/Lecture__crystallography_A.pdf

Ref 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_system

Ref 3. https://www.tulane.edu/~sanelson/eens211/forms_zones_habit.htm

Ref 4. http://www.geologyin.com/2014/11/crystal-structure-and-crystal-system.html

Ref 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crystal_habit

Ref 6. http://www.galleries.com/minerals/property/habits.htm

Ref 7. http://www.minsocam.org/msa/collectors_corner/id/mineral_id_keyi8.htm

Ref 8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_g3r79mG9s

Ref 9. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/369506344411688204/

Ref 10. https://www.mindat.org/photo-303305.html

Ref 11. https://www.irocks.com/minerals/specimen/42517

Ref 12. https://www.rockngem.com/uncommon-emerald-exhibit-opening-sept-26/

Ref 13. https://www.spiritrockshop.com/Calcite_Mariposa.html

Ref 14. https://www.fabreminerals.com/LargePhoto.php?FILE=Calcite-SH47AB1f.jpg&LANG=EN

Ref 15. https://www.irocks.com/minerals/specimen/38370

Ref 16. https://www.crystalclassics.co.uk/product/cc19390/



Cleavage in a mineral is the tendency for the crystal to split along definite  crystallographic planes as exemplified by the rhombohedron cleaved from a calcite crystal shown in Figure 1[Ref1]. These planes of weakness are present within a regular repeating array of atoms and ions within the crystal and are always parallel to a potential face of the crystal. The weakness arises from the chemical bonds between cleavage planes being fewer in number or weaker than those between ions and atoms within the cleavage planes. Accordingly the crystal will tend to split between the cleavage planes and along a plane of relative weakness. When present, it is the uniqueness of the mode of cleavage in a mineral that makes it a tool in its identification.

Mineral crystals exhibit modes of cleavage along six families of planes as shown in Figure 1. Identification of the mode of cleavage and descriptions of its appearance and ease of cleaving can be used as steps in the use of Mineral Identification Keys and data compendiums as listed in References 2-7

The excellent YouTube video of Reference 2 shows how to experimentally develop and evaluate modes of cleavage, parting, and fracture in crystals in their identification. Note that use of eye protective wear is a must while performing these experiments.

Figure 1. Cleavage rhombohedron from a calcite crystal from Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico[Ref9].

Figure 1. Six families of cleavage planes exhibited by minerals[Ref10]

As demonstrations of the effects on cleavage of the density and strength of chemical bonds crossing the cleavage plane compared to the cleavage plane itself, consider its behavior in the mica family of minerals, in calcite, and in the diamond.

Cleavage in Muscovite Mica

Muscovite of the mica family, as the other members, only cleaves along planes parallel to the basal plane[Ref11] of a crystal with resulting thin sheets as shown in Figure 2. The structural relationship of the cleavage plane to the relative strengths of chemical bonds between the atoms in the lattice of the muscovite crystal is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 2. Sheets of muscovite mica parallel to the basal crystal plane[Ref12].
Figure 3. The basal plane of the muscovite crystal is parallel to the layers of potassium ions (blue) and to the intervening layers of silicon and aluminum atoms covalently bonded to oxygen atoms to form layers[Ref13]. The strengths of these covalent bonds  are greatly stronger than the electrostatic attraction between the positive charges of potassium ions and the negative charges of the hydroxyl ions OH2—on the surfaces of the layers; thus, cleavage occurs between the covalently bonded sheets, not through them.

Cleavage in Calcite

Calcite crystallizes in the trigonal crystal system[Ref15] and cleaves along six planes into rhombohedrons as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Rhombohedrons with shiny flat cleaved surfaces as cleaved from a calcite crystal[Ref15].
Figure 5. Calcite cleavage rhombohedrons and lattice structure of calcite showing the relative arrangement of the calcium ions Ca2+ and carbonate ions CO32_[Ref9] . 

The angles between the legs of the rhombohedral faces are 78.5° and 101.5°.[Ref16] Note that the six cleavage planes lie between extended chain-like arrays of calcium ions and of carbonate ions, and minimal density of bonds crossing the cleavage planes. 

Cleavage in Diamond

Cleavage in a diamond crystal can proceed any on of eight octahedral planes which parallel the octahedral faces of a diamond crystal as shown in Figures 6-9. The video shown in Reference 17 demonstrates cleaving of a diamond crystal and the relationship the cleavage plane to the density of bonds crossing the plane.

Figure 6. The basic cubic lattice structure of the diamond crystal with 
the diagonal octahedral plane is shown in blue[Ref18].
Figure 7.  View of the diamond crystal lattice showing planes with fewer
bonds crossing it lying between two parallel octahedral planes, each
with larger densities of atoms and bonds than the plane between them[Ref19].

Figure 8. View of the diamond crystal showing that cleavage occurs between the octahedral planes[Ref19]. 

The parallelism of both a cleavage plane and octahedral faces of a diamond crystal is shown in Figure 9. A representative perfect cleaved surface of a diamond crystal is shown in Figure 10. The white linear features are presne on the outer surface of the cleaved crystal.

Figure 9. Octahedral diamond crystal with cleavage along a plane parallel to two of 
Its octahedral faces[Ref20].
Figure 10. Smooth and shiny cleavage surface of 

Descriptors of Cleavage for Use With Mineral Identification

In Mineral Identification Flow Charts [Ref3] and Mineral Data Tables[Ref4,5,6] not only the mode of cleavage, but descriptions of the quality and ease of cleavage for each mineral also are used as part of the body of information used in identification. 

Descriptors of the quality of cleavage are summarized in the table in Figure 11. In addition the difficulty in achieving is described as easy, hard, and difficult to produce[Ref3].

Figure 11. Descriptions of cleavage used in mineral identification[Ref].


Ref 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleavage_(crystal)

Ref 2. .http://www.minsocam.org/msa/collectors_corner/id/mineral_id_keyi6.htm

Ref 3. http://www.minsocam.org/msa/collectors_corner/Id/mineral_id_keyi1.htm#TOC

Ref 4.  www.mindat.org

Ref 5. http://webmineral.com/

Ref 6. https://www.minerals.net/MineralMain.aspx

Ref 7. Mineralogical Society of America – Mineral-Related Links

Ref 8. https://www.jstor.org/stable/30063973?seq=15#metadata_info_tab_contents

Ref 9. https://www.treasuremountainmining.com/4.3%22-Gemmy-Double-Refracting-PINK-ICELAND-SPAR-Calcite-Crystal-Mexico-for-sale

Ref 10. https://images.slideplayer.com/20/5954014/slides/slide_21.jpg

Ref 11. https://www.mindat.org/min-2815.html

Ref 12. https://www.pitt.edu/~cejones/GeoImages/1Minerals/1IgneousMineralz/Micas.html

Ref 13. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/How-flat-is-an-air-cleaved-mica-surface-Ostendorf-Schmitz/9138459a4a23daf157b9cfd22e08eee2aaf32087/figure/0

Ref 14. https://www.mindat.org/min-859.html

Ref 15. https://www.witchcraftsartisanalchemy.com/viking-sunstone-natural-rhombohedral-iceland-spar-optical-calcite-crystal/

Ref 16. https://chemdemos.uoregon.edu/demos/Properties-of-An-Ionic-Salt-0

Ref 17. https://www.britannica.com/science/calcite

Ref 18. https://jgs.lyellcollection.org/content/176/2/337

Ref 19 . https://vimeo.com/20281170

Ref 20. https://www.google.com/search?q=image+of+a+diamond+clevage+surface&client=firefox-b-1-d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjS3pLQ_drtAhWSLH0KHemBBy4Q_AUoAXoECBEQAw&biw=1382&bih=911#imgrc=jAnPo_wrqLUWNM


Fracture in mineralogy is the texture and shape of the surface formed when the mineral is fractured. Fracture differs from cleavage and parting, which involve clean splitting along a plane surface, as it produces rough irregular surfaces [Ref1]. The appearance of fracture surfaces among minerals is highly varied and is a useful tool in identification. In this part of my Blog I’ll describe the fracture surfaces broadly seen in minerals.

Conchoidal fracture is characterized by smoothly curving nested arcs as those on a  seashell[Ref2].

Figure 1. Conchoidal fracture in rose quartz[Ref3,4].

Earthy fracture results in dull, clay-like surfaces without crystalline appearance[Ref2].

Figure 2. Earthy fracture in massive limonite[Ref5,6].

Fibrous fracture is typified by elongated crystal forms[Ref2]. 

Figure 3. Fibrous fracture in chrysotile (asbestos) [Re7,8].

Granular fracture is produced in aggregates of crystals[Ref2].

Figure 4. Granular fracture in an aggregate of arsenopyrite crystals[Ref9,10]

Hackly fracture produces torn edges and surfaces[Ref2].

Figure 5. Hackly fracture in copper producing torn edges[Ref11,12].

Irregular fracture presents an irregular fracture pattern[Ref2]

Figure 6. Plagioclase feldspar showing an irregular fracture surface[Ref13,14].

Splintery fracture produces thin long cleavages or partings[Ref 2].

Figure 7. Splintery fracture in actinolite [Ref15,16].

Uneven fracture features flat surfaces in a random pattern[Ref2].

Figure 8. Flat surfaces unevenly arrayed on blue sodalite[Ref17,18].


Ref1 . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fracture_(mineralogy)

Ref 2. http://csmgeo.csm.jmu.edu/geollab/kearns/Minerals/Fracture.html

Ref 3. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/109564203407418361/

Ref 4. https://www.mindat.org/min-3337.html

Ref 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fracture_(mineralogy)#/media/File:Limonite_bog_iron_cm02.jpg

Ref 6. https://www.mindat.org/min-2402.html

Ref 7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fracture_(mineralogy)

Ref 8. https://www.mindat.org/min-975.html

Ref .9 https://sanuja.com/blog/ore-minerals-and-rocks

Ref 10. https://www.mindat.org/min-305.html

Ref 11. https://geology-fundamentals.fandom.com/wiki/4241978/hackly-fracture

Ref 12. https://www.mindat.org/min-1209.html

Ref 13. http://www.pitt.edu/~cejones/GeoImages/1Minerals/1IgneousMineralz/Feldspars.html

Ref 14. http://webmin.mindat.org/data/Plagioclase.shtml#.YADaz-BlCV4

Ref 15. https://www.minerals.net/Image/2/9/Actinolite.aspx

Ref 16. https://www.mindat.org/min-18.html

Ref 17. https://www.minerals.net/mineral_glossary/uneven_fracture.aspx

Ref 18. https://www.mindat.org/min-3701.html


Structural failure of a mineral crystal can occur by cleavage, by parting, or by fracture.  The characteristics of any of these failure modes exhibited by a mineral can be useful as tools towards its identification. In this Blog I’ll discuss the properties of cleavage and their use in identifying minerals and follow with a second Blog discussing the properties of parting and fracture in identification.


Cleavage in a mineral is the tendency for the crystal to split along definite  crystallographic planes as exemplified by the rhombohedron cleaved from a calcite crystal shown in Figure 1[Ref1]. These planes of weakness are present within a regular repeating array of atoms and ions within the crystal and are always parallel to a potential face of the crystal. The weakness arises from the chemical bonds between cleavage planes being fewer in number or weaker than those between ions and atoms within the cleavage planes. Accordingly the crystal will tend to split between the cleavage planes and along a plane of relative weakness. When present, it is the uniqueness of the mode of cleavage in a mineral that makes it a tool in its identification.

Mineral crystals exhibit modes of cleavage along six families of planes as shown in Figure 1. Identification of the mode of cleavage and descriptions of its appearance and ease of cleaving can be used as steps in the use of Mineral Identification Keys and data compendiums as listed in References 2-7

The excellent YouTube video of Reference 2 shows how to experimentally develop and evaluate modes of cleavage, parting, and fracture in crystals in their identification. Note that use of eye protective wear is a must while performing these experiments.

Figure 1. Cleavage rhombohedron from a calcite crystal from Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico[Ref9].

Figure 1b. Six families of cleavage planes exhibited by minerals[Ref10]

As demonstrations of the effects on cleavage of the density and strength of chemical bonds crossing the cleavage plane compared to the cleavage plane itself, consider its behavior in the mica family of minerals, in calcite, and in the diamond.

Cleavage in Muscovite Mica

Muscovite of the mica family, as the other members, only cleaves along planes parallel to the basal plane[Ref11] of a crystal with resulting thin sheets as shown in Figure 2. The structural relationship of the cleavage plane to the relative strengths of chemical bonds between the atoms in the lattice of the muscovite crystal is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 2. Sheets of muscovite mica parallel to the basal crystal plane[Ref12].

Figure 3. The basal plane of the muscovite crystal is parallel to the layers of potassium ions (blue) and to the intervening layers of silicon and aluminum atoms covalently bonded to oxygen atoms to form layers[Ref13]. The strengths of these covalent bonds  are greatly stronger than the electrostatic attraction between the positive charges of potassium ions and the negative charges of the hydroxyl ions OH2—on the surfaces of the layers; thus, cleavage occurs between the covalently bonded sheets, not through them.

Cleavage in Calcite

Calcite crystallizes in the trigonal crystal system[Ref15] and cleaves along six planes into rhombohedrons as shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4. Rhombohedrons with shiny flat cleaved surfaces as cleaved from a calcite crystal[Ref15].

Figure 5. Calcite cleavage rhombohedrons and lattice structure of calcite showing the relative arrangement of the calcium ions Ca2+ and carbonate ions CO32_[Ref9] . 

The angles between the legs of the rhombohedral faces are 78.5° and 101.5°.[Ref16] Note that the six cleavage planes lie between extended chain-like arrays of calcium ions and of carbonate ions, and minimal density of bonds crossing the cleavage planes. 

Cleavage in Diamond

Cleavage in a diamond crystal can proceed any on of eight octahedral planes which parallel the octahedral faces of a diamond crystal as shown in Figures 6-9. The video shown in Reference 17 demonstrates cleaving of a diamond crystal and the relationship the cleavage plane to the density of bonds crossing the plane.

Figure 6. The basic cubic lattice structure of the diamond crystal with 
the diagonal octahedral plane is shown in blue[Ref18].

Figure 7.  View of the diamond crystal lattice showing planes with fewer
bonds crossing it lying between two parallel octahedral planes, each
with larger densities of atoms and bonds than the plane between them[Ref17].
Figure 8. View of the diamond crystal showing that cleavage occurs between the octahedral planes[Ref19]. The parallelism of both a cleavage plane and octahedral faces of a diamond crystal is shown in Figure 9. A representative perfect cleaved surface of a diamond crystal is shown in Figure 10. The white linear features are presne on the outer surface of the cleaved crystal.

Figure 9. Octahedral diamond crystal with cleavage along a plane parallel to two of 
Its octahedral faces[Ref20].

Figure 10. Smooth and shiny cleavage surface of 

Descriptors of Cleavage for Use With Mineral Identification

In Mineral Identification Flow Charts and Mineral Data Tables not only the mode of cleavage, but descriptions of the quality and ease of cleavage for each mineral also are used as part of the body of information used in identification. 

Descriptors of the quality of cleavage are summarized in the table in Figure 11.  In addition the difficulty in achieving is described as easy, hard, and difficult to produce[Ref3].

Figure 11. Descriptions of cleavage used in mineral identification.


Ref 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleavage_(crystal)

Ref 2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4XwyV8pW9N8

Ref 3. http://www.minsocam.org/msa/collectors_corner/Id/mineral_id_keyi1.htm#TOC

Ref 4.  www.mindat.org

Ref 5. http://webmineral.com/

Ref 6. https://www.minerals.net/MineralMain.aspx

Ref 7. Mineralogical Society of America – Mineral-Related Links

Ref 8. https://www.jstor.org/stable/30063973?seq=15#metadata_info_tab_contents

Ref 9. https://www.treasuremountainmining.com/4.3%22-Gemmy-Double-Refracting-PINK-ICELAND-SPAR-Calcite-Crystal-Mexico-for-sale

Ref 10. https://images.slideplayer.com/20/5954014/slides/slide_21.jpg

Ref 11. https://www.mindat.org/min-2815.html

Ref 12. https://www.pitt.edu/~cejones/GeoImages/1Minerals/1IgneousMineralz/Micas.html

Ref 13. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/How-flat-is-an-air-cleaved-mica-surface-Ostendorf-Schmitz/9138459a4a23daf157b9cfd22e08eee2aaf32087/figure/0

Ref 14. https://www.mindat.org/min-859.html

Ref 15. https://www.witchcraftsartisanalchemy.com/viking-sunstone-natural-rhombohedral-iceland-spar-optical-calcite-crystal/

Ref 16. https://chemdemos.uoregon.edu/demos/Properties-of-An-Ionic-Salt-0

Ref 17. https://www.britannica.com/science/calcite

Ref 18. https://jgs.lyellcollection.org/content/176/2/337

Ref 19 . https://vimeo.com/20281170

Ref 20. https://www.google.com/search?q=image+of+a+diamond+clevage+surface&client=firefox-b-1-d&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjS3pLQ_drtAhWSLH0KHemBBy4Q_AUoAXoECBEQAw&biw=1382&bih=911#imgrc=jAnPo_wrqLUWNM


To the great advantage of the beauty of their art, Chinese carvers of jade were guided by themes and decorative motifs in the shaping of their carvings and the choices of decorative motifs adorning them[Ref1-7]. 

In the Neolithic Era of China ritual jade carvings found in burials reflecting the cosmology of the heavens and the social status of the buried person appeared. The bi disc appeared circa 3400 BC and the cong appearing circa 3300 BC were complementary to each other[Ref8,9]. The circular bi disc with a hole at its center as shown in Figure 1 represented the heavens and the cong with its square cross section with a hole at its center as shown in Figure 2 represented the earth below appeared. Jade carvings of burial objects which reflected attributes of social status, such as authority and power such as the beautiful blade shown in Figure 3 and the coiled dragon amulet shown in Figure 4 appeared in the late Neolithic era 

Themes and design motifs from the philosophies of Taoism beginning in the 3rd-4th Centuries BC[Ref10] and Confucianism beginning within the time span of 551-479 BC[Ref11], the Buddhist Religion from the 1st Century AD[Ref12], and mythology with a timeline spanning from 36,0000 years before The Creation to 2852 BC[Ref13] have been lasting influences in jade and jadeite carving into the present day

Taoism embraces nature in its emphasizing the coexistence and harmony between humanity and nature[Ref14]. These relationships can be seen in the jade mountain carvings featuring notable men, such as scholars or leaders of society or of villagers in forest settings as shown in Figures 5 and 6 Appreciation of nature in Taoism also appears in the rich symbology accorded to both animal and plant forms adorning carved jade art objects as shown and described in Figures 7-10. 

The innate respect accorded to men of learning and leaders of the royal court and of society in Confucianism[Ref15] may also have influenced the symbology of jade mountain carvings and statues of court functionaries as shown in Figures 11-15.

Four categories of images of different levels of beings in Buddhist cosmology are found in Chinese jade carvings: images of The Buddha, images of Bodhisattvas, images of deities, spirits, heavenly beings, kings of wisdom, and guardian god that serve as protectors of Buddhism[Ref17]. Carved images of The Buddha and other deities are shown and described in Figures 16-22.

Themes from Chinese mythology have been richly incorporated in jade carvings. Carvings of historical humans, animals, plants, and places from Chinese mythology are shown and described in Figures 23-29.

Neolithic Ritual and Ornamental Jade Carvings

Figure 1. Late Neolithic Bi disc carved from nephrite jade, Liangshu culture circa 3300-2400 BC[Ref18].

Figure 2. Late Neolithic cong carved from nephrite jade Liangzhu culture circa 2200 BC[Ref19].

Figure 3. Ritualistic Chinese jade blade, Neolithic Longshan culture (2900 Bc to 2100 BC)[Ref 20,21]

Figure 4. Neolithic carved jade dragon amulet, Neolithicc[Ref22]

Jade and Jadeite Carvings with Taoist Themes and Motifs

Figure 5. Carved jade mountain depicting gathering of scholar-officials composing poetry at Lanting, the Orchid Pavilion[Ref23]. Carvings of mountains embody respect for nature and the desire to find refuge in tranquility[Ref14]. The presence of scholars reflects the respect for them embodied in Confucianism[Ref23,24,25].

Figure 6. Carved jade mountain with villagers working in the field with poem by Emperor Quinlong praising village farmers[Ref27].

Figure 7. Carved jade tree with birds[Ref28].

Figure 8. Carved jade deer which are symbols of wealth and long life[Ref29,30].

Figure 9. Carved jade vase decorated with a Zingzhi mushroom which a symbol of long life[Ref30,31].

Figure 10. Carved jadeite peach with monkeys; the peach is a symbol of both
Longevity and springtime, where somewhat ironically the monkey can symbolize trickery[Ref]30,32.

Jade Carvings with Confuscian Themes and Motifs

Figure 11. Carved jade mountain with Confucius and student[Ref33]

Figure 12. Statue of General Kwan Guan carved from white jade[Ref34,35].

Figure 13. Carved mossy jade statues of male and female court officials[Ref36,37].

Figure 14. Decoration on Royal Seal of  the Chinese Emperor Quinlong. 18th Century AD[Ref38].

Figure 15. Printing surface of Royal Seal of the Chinese emperor Quinlong, 18th Century AD[Ref38].

Figure 16. Chinese carved jadeite statue of The Buddha, Qing Dynasty, 1644-1912 AD[Ref39,40]

Figure 17. Jade statue of reclining Chinese Emperor Shouhao[Ref41,42].
Figure 18. Celadon jade statue with pearls of the Buddha Shakyamuni,
the founder of Buddhism, Quinlong Period (1736-1795)[Ref43,44].

Figure 19. Chinese carved jade statue of the Maitreya Buddha (Happy Buddha)[Ref45.46].

Figure 20. Chines carved white jade statue of Vidyaraja a Wisdom King and deity in Buddhism[Ref47.48].

Figure 21. Jadeite statue of the Bodhisattva Guan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion

Figure 22. Jade carving of a lotus blossom, the flower of Buddhism[Ref51,52].

Jade and Jadeite Carvings with Themes and Motifs from Chinese Mythology

Figure 23. Celadon jade statue of a recumbent Qilin (Dragon Chimera)[Ref53,54].

Figure 24. Chinese grey-green and russet jade mountain with Pangu, the 
Creator of earth, holding a shovel and emerging a cave with whorls of
smoke and a dragon beneath[Ref55,56].

Figure 25. Chinese yellow jade carving of monkey[Ref57].

Figure 26. Nephrite jade carving of a Rui Shi (Guardian Lion, Foo Dog)[Ref58,59].

Figure 27. Carved jade mountain with Yu the Great subduing the Great Flood with hammers, axes, and levers by redirecting the flow of water[Ref60,61].

Figure 28. Chinese jade carving of a Fenghuang (Phoenix) with lotus flower[Ref62.63.

Figure 29. Jade carving of Nuwa, the mother goddess of Chinese mythology, repairing the sky[Ref64,65].


Ref 1. https://www.gia.edu/doc/Jade-Forms-from-Ancient-China.pdf

Ref 2. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/daoi/hd_daoi.htm

Ref 3. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/budd/hd_budd.htm

Ref 4. 


Ref 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_jade

Ref 6. https://jadenature.com/blogs/jade-culture/ramble-on-the-connotation-and-value-of-jade-culture-in-confucianism-buddhism-and-taoism

Ref 7. http://chinabuddhismencyclopedia.com/en/index.php/The_Mythology_of_Jade

Ref 8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bi_(jade)

Ref 9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cong_(vessel)

Ref 10. Taoism Origins, Taoism History, Taoism Beliefs

Ref 11. Professing Faith: For Confucius, teaching and service was his prayer – Redlands Daily Facts

Ref 12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Buddhism

Ref 13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_Chinese_mythology

Ref 14. https://news.cgtn.com/news/3d3d674d7a45444f34457a6333566d54/index.html

Ref 15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucianism

Ref 16. https://www.masonkay.com/chinese-art-symbols

Ref 17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_deities

Ref 18. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316736522_Timeless_Destinations_Stories_of_the_People_behind_Wu_Dacheng’s_Jade_Cang_Bi_Orientations_47326-33/figures?lo=1

Ref 19.  https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/imperial-china/neolithic-art-china/a/jade-cong-and-bi

Ref 20. https://www.bidsquare.com/online-auctions/artemis-gallery/large-ritualistic-chinese-longshan-jade-blade-1396348

Ref 21. https://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/history/prehistoric/longshan_culture.htm

Ref 22. 


Ref 23. https://collections.artsmia.org/art/4324/jade-mountain-illustrating-the-gathering-of-scholars-at-the-lanting-pavilion-china

Ref 24. https://www.gia.edu/doc/Jade-Forms-from-Ancient-China.pdfhttps://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/zhejiang/shaoxing/orchid_pavilion.htm

Ref 25 https://www.travelchinaguide.com/attraction/zhejiang/shaoxing/orchid_pavilion.htm

Ref 26. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/schg/hd_schg.htm

Ref 27. http://harn.ufl.edu/linkedfiles/k-12resource-chinesejades.pdf

Ref 28. https://www.bukowskis.com/en/auctions/580/208-a-large-chinese-carved-jade-pine-tree-with-birds-20th-century

Ref 29. https://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/a-pair-of-chinese-carved-jade-deer-decorations-50-c-f6145aaa8a

Ref 30. http://factsanddetails.com/china/cat7/sub40/item260.html

Ref 31.  https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2012/ceramics-vo-hk0393/lot.3256.html

Ref 32. https://www.chairish.com/product/834647/green-jadeite-carving-of-peach-with-young-monkeys

Ref 33. https://www.pinterest.ch/pin/433893745335753018/


From the late Neolithic Age (circa 3500 BC-2070 BC) into today the crafting of jade art objects in China has produced beautiful and magnificent art objects which exhibit remarkable diversity of both color and form as shown by the carved nephrite jade pendant with phoenix pattern and the funerary Bi Disc with rain pattern in Figure 1[Ref1]. In this blog I’ll describe the tools and techniques with their technological advances and show corresponding art objects of increasing complexities of design and execution.

As shown in Table 2 of Reference 1 as presented in Figure 1 below, shaping techniques, such as cutting, grinding, carving, drilling, piercing, carving to egg shell thinness, and polishing began in the Neolithic Age (approximately 10,000 BC-3000 BC[Ref2] and are still practiced today, with the benefit of improved technologies which have evolved over time.  

The authors of Reference 2 propose the evolution of jade rotary carving tools to have proceeded over five generations as described in the text and summarized in Table 2 of the Reference.

Figure 1. Carved nephrite jade amulet with phoenix pattern and funerary Bi disc with grain pattern; Han Dynasty, ~275-141 BC[Ref1].

Table 1. Table reviewing the advance of jade shaping tools and craftsmanship[Ref2]

First Generation Advances in Jade Carving, ~3500 BC – ~2070 BC[Ref2].

In the First Generation a primitive rotary jade carving machine first appeared in Neolithic Longshan[Ref2,3,4] and Liangjiatan (Liangzhu[Ref5]) cultural sites and featured tools surfaced with natural materials such as stone wood, and bone. Major features of the primitive carving machine allowed the operator to be seated and the fixed shaft of the tool to be manually rotated, both probably lending better control than that obtainable with hand held tools.

The cong shown in Figure 2, is a ritual vessel used in burials[Ref6]. It is an exceptional example of a nephrite jade object carved during the era of the Liangzhu Culture. The use of the surfaces and shaped edges of rotating grinding tools such as discs with abrasives in shaping and polishing of the structural features of the cong seems evident. Also the use of a rotating hollow tube with an  abrasive in generating the eye features of the masks at the corners of the cong is evident . Use of the surfaces of small wheels with abrasives to generate relief curves such as those on edges and eyebrows of the mask also seems evident.

Figure 2. Carved nephrite jade cong, Late Liangzhu Culture, ~3000-~2500 BC[Ref7].

Second Generation Advances in Jade Carving ,~2070 BC- ~ 6 AD[Ref2]

Use of a bronze rotary machine began during the Xia and Shang Dynasties, 2700-1046 BC was in use to the early to mid-Chunqiu Period, 9~620 BC[Ref8,9.10]. Operators may have been kneeling and able to obtain higher rotational speed through the forward thrusting of both the upper body and arm rather than the use of the arm of  seated person. Continued use of grinding tools with symmetric rotating forms is evidenced in the carved human face shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Carved jade human face ornament, Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC)[Ref11].

Third Generation Advances in Jade Carving, ~6th Century BC– ~581 AD[Ref2]

The manually driven iron rotary machine first appeared over the Chunqiu Period until the Nan-bei Dynasty, 770-589 BC[Ref10,12]. Operators still kneeled when using the machine.  The newly developed iron grinding tools were sharper and maintained their sharpness and shapes longer than bronze tools. Finer detailed carving could be realized as shown by the carved jade sword sheath in figure . Use of iron tools enabled the appearance of Han badao carving in which deep narrow cuts were used to define the shape of carved objects such as the pigs shown in Figure 4. Burial suits in which small plates of jade are stitched together with metal wire as shown in Figure 6 appeared in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 8 AD).

Figure 4. Pair of jade pigs carved in the Han badao style, Western Han dynasty 9206 BC-8 AD [Ref13]. They seem to present a modern appearance.

Figure 5. Carved jade sword sheath with bird and dragon decorations[Ref14]. Not the fineness of the carved detail.

Figure 6. Jade burial suit sewn with gold wire, Han Dynasty (206 BC-8 AD)[Ref15].

Fourth Generation Advances In Jade Carving, ~581-AD-1960 AD[Ref2]

The treadle-driven table-type iron rotary machine as shown in Figures – and – with tools as those in Figure – has been used from the Sui and Tang Dynasties, 581-618 AD and 618-907 AD[Ref 16,17] into the 1950s. the switch in seating followed the availability of indoor furniture. The use of the foot-driven treadle freed both hands for manipulation with finer control of the jade object during carving as evidenced by the carved lady and horse, respectively in Figures 7 and 8.

Figure 7. Carved jade flying lady, Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD)[Ref18].

Figure 8. Carved jade horse, Tang Dynasty, 618-907 AD[Ref19]

Figure 9. A restoration of a fourth-generation table-type iron Rotary machine[Ref2].

Figure 10. A fourth-generation iron rotary carving machine[Ref20]. 

Figure 11. Rotary tools used in treadle-driven rotary machine of Figure–[Ref20]. 

Fifth Generation Advances in Jade Carving,1960-Present[Ref2]

The modern rotary carving machine was first introduced in the 1960s and now takes the forms of a fixed or hand-held precision tool on a flexible shaft and a computer-controlled precision machine with motion in three mutually perpendicular directions and three mutually perpendicular rotary tools for carving complex 3-D shapes. Additionally the emergence of synthetic diamond and carborundum (silicon carbide) abrasives and polishing agents have enabled better tool performance. With the increased precision of tools a number of carving techniques flourished. Use of a modern rotary tool is shown in Figure 12 and a computer controlled machine in Figure 13.

Carved objects became more elaborate post 1960. Qiaose carving in which the carved form capitalizes on regions of color variation in the jade to enhance the aesthetics of the object, such as the carved jade Chinese cabbage shown in Figure  was better enabled[Ref]. New precision rotary machines could be used to carve vessels with egg-shell thin walls and forms of egg-shel thickness as shown in Figures 15,16 and17. Use of the computer-controlled machine enabled carving of more complex patterns for inlay of gems in jade objects such as the Quing Dynasty white nephrite egg-shell bowl of Islamic style, 2010 shown in Figure [Ref2].

Figure 12. The head of the rotating tool can be fixed and used as shown in the upper-left and lower-left panels with the object controlled by both hands of the operator or
With use of the flexible shaft used withboth the position of the tool and object changeable as shown in the lower-right panel. Multishaped tools are shown in the panel on the upper right[Ref2].

Figure 13. Computer-controlled engraving and shaping machine. The jade piece is held on the table which can move in two mutually perpendicular directions as well as up and down. With the machine a jade object which would require 20 days to carve manually can be made in three to four days[Ref2].

Figure 14. Carved jadeite Chinese cabbage, Quing Dynasty, 1889 AD[Ref21]

Figure 15. Egg-shell thin nephrite jade vase with an even, thin (~0.1 cm) wall and small scale intricate surface relief carved with use of a computer-controlled machine, 2015[Ref2]. The vase measures ~ 34.6 x 11.0 cm.

Figure 16. Nephrite jade egg-shell carving titled “To Mountain” symbolizing “diligence” as the path to the mountain of knowledge”[Ref2]. The wall segments taper from 2.53 to 0.085 cm.

Figure 17. Islamic jade egg-shell bowl of white nephrite jade inlaid with gems and gold, Quing Dynasty, 1644-1911 AD[Ref2]. Numerous jade art objects made in China reached India during the Mughal Era[Ref 21,22].


Ref 1. https://culture.teldap.tw/culture/index.php?option%3Dcom_content%26id%3D1960:art-in-quest-of-heaven-and-truth-chinese-jades-through-the-ages

Ref 2. https://www.gia.edu/doc/SP20-chinese-jade-carving-evolution.pdf

Ref 3. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-arthistory/chapter/the-neolithic-period/

Ref 4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hongshan_culture

Ref 5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liangzhu_culture

Ref 6. https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/art-asia/imperial-china/neolithic-art-china/a/ritual-implements-cong-and-bi

Ref 7. http://www.alaintruong.com/archives/2018/05/31/36449097.html

Ref 8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xia_dynasty

Ref 9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shang_dynasty

Ref 10. https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Spring_and_Autumn_Period

Ref 11. https://veryimportantlot.com/en/lot/view/a-jade-human-face-ornament-shang-dynasty-1600-104-60278

Ref 12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_and_Southern_dynasties

Ref 13. https://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2017/chinese-art-hk0732/lot.309.html

Ref 14. https://www.jstor.org/stable/4101594?seq=5#metadata_info_tab_contents

Ref 15. http://europeanmuseumacademy.eu/mnha-exhibition-the-origins-of-chinese-civilization-archaeological-treasures-from-henan/mnha-jade-suit-sewn-with-gold-thread-western-han-dynasty-206-bc-9-ad-henan-museum/

Ref 16. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sui_dynasty

Ref 17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tang_dynasty

Ref 18. https://www.invaluable.com/auction-lot/tang-dynasty-chinas-hetian-jade-carved-flying-lady-72-c-e244cc99f2

Ref 19. https://www.chinafurnitureonline.com/index.php?option=com_virtuemart&view=productdetails&virtuemart_product_id=438621&virtuemart_category_id=13914&Itemid=159

Ref 20. 


Ref 21. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jadeite_Cabbage

Ref 22. https://www.livehistoryindia.com/living-history/2019/06/09/the-romance-of-mughal-jade

Ref 23. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughal_Empire


Since ancient times jade[Ref1] has been used by artisans to create beautiful jewelry and works of art. Art objects of jade have been carved in China for more than 6000 years[Ref2] as exemplified by the jade dragon carved during the Zhou Dynasty (5th – 4th century BC) as shown in Figure 1. In Central America, the Mesoamerican cultures, the Olmecs, Mayans, and Aztecs[Ref3,4,5,6] prized jade for jewelry and religious objects as evidenced by the art objects in Figures 2-4. Since the arrival of the ancestors of the Maori in New Zealand in the 13th century[Ref7] jade, also called greenstone, or pounamu in the Maori language, has been imbued with spiritual significance and used to fabricate beautiful jewelry and objects such as shown in Figures 5-7[Ref8].

In this Blog I’ll describe those properties of the color and toughness of jade that underlie its long use as a gemstone in creating jewelry and artworks. I’ll also describe the current global sources of rough jade and jadeite and their geological origins. Also, in two subsequent Blogs I will describe first the long history jade as a gemstone, and present second a Gallery of jewelry and art works from around the ancient world.

Figure 1. Jade carving of a dragon, Zhou Dynasty[Ref9].
Figure 2. Carved jade Olmec mask, Mexico, 900-400 BC(Ref10].
Figure 3. Mayan jade funeral mask and jewelry of the Mayan king of Palenque, K’inich Tanaab’ Pakal . 603-683 AD[Ref11,12].
Figure 4. Caved jade statue of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc, Central Mexico, 13th – 16th 
Figure 5. Maori style jade modern carving 
of a fishhook (Matau)[Ref 14,15].
Figure 6. Jade carving of a human figure, an Hei tiki which represents the first man in Maori myth, 1700-1847Ref14,16].
Figure 7. A jade (greenstone) hand club, a gift to the Duke of Windsor, 
April-May 1920[Ref14,17].
Figure 8. Nephrite jade Maori carving of a spiral (koru)


Jade is a cultural term that encompasses a very durable silicate rock material which has been used in tool-making, sculpture, and jewelry, and other objects for over 5,000 years[Ref9]. Jade as a gemstone encompasses two rock types nephrite and jadetitite, the latter primarily comprised of the mineral jadeite[Ref1]. The amphiboles of the tremolite-actinolite series of minerals are the major components of nephrite jade. Mineral compositions of nephrite and Fen Sui Jadeite are described in Table I.


NEPHRITE [Ref19,20]JADEITITE [Ref21,22,23,24,25]
Major MineralsMajor Minerals
Felted amphiboles of the tremolite-actinolite seriesJadeite-Kosmochlor mineral series, which are pyroxenes

Minerals in Minor QuantitiesMineral in Minor quantity
diopside, grossularitic garnet, magnetite, chromite, graphite, apatite, rutile, pyrite, datolite, vesuvianite, prehnite, talc, serpentine, and titanite.Diopside, also a pyroxene

Properties of Jade As a Gemstone

A number of the properties of jade underlie its wide use as a gemstone. Its many rich colors and its soft luster underlie its wide aesthetic use in jewelry and art objects. Its hardness and toughness allow its use in forms of jewelry susceptible to wear. In this section I’ll describe the sources of the various colors of nephrite and jadeite jades, and describe its physical properties underlying its use in its durable jewelry.

Sources of colors in nephrite jade

Absorption of visible light by iron, chromium, and manganese ions present in the members of the Tremolite-Amphibole mineral series which comprise nephrite jade underlies its colors. Results of a study to determine the identity of these metal ions that was made on over a broad sampling of colored nephrites from China have determined the color-metal-source relationships shown in Table 4 of Reference – as presented in Figure – below. The visible light absorption spectra of the colored specimens are shown in Figure 7 of the reference.

Figure 9. Metals and mechanisms responsible for the colors of nephrite jade[Ref].

Among the mechanisms the electron (charge) transfer responsible for colors, elevation to a higher energy d-orbital of a transition metal ion and decay back to the ground level such as indicated by the excitation of an impurity manganese ion, 

Mn3+  (4Eg)-> 5T2g and by the excitation and decay of a constituent iron ion, chromium ion Cr3+ (4A2) ->4T2,, or iron ion Fe3+ ( 6A1) -> 4E + 4A1(4G).  Also electron (charge) transfer from an ion richer in electrons to one less rich such as between oxygen and iron ions O2- -> Fe3+, between iron ions Fe2+ -> Fe3+, and between iron and titanium ions Fe2+ -> Ti4+ can contribute absorption peaks to the absorption spectrum of nephrite jade. Annotated absorption spectra of nephrite jade specimens of various colors shown in Figure — of Reference– illustrate the relationship between  absorption peaks and transmission windows within each spectrum[Ref25]..

Micron-sized iron oxide mineral impurities listed in TABLE – also can lend colors to nephrite jade, and also contribute to the yellow to black range of colors in jadeite.


YellowLimoniteFeO(OH) – nH2O, n is arbitrary
Black ChromiteFeCr2O4
BrownCombinations of Limonite,
Hematite, and Magnetite
As above

Sources of colors in jadeite

Iron, chromium, manganese, and silicon ions in the lattice of jadeite (NaAlSi2O6) are responsible for its green blue, and lavender colors as summarized in TABLE  –[Ref1]. In jadeite with hues of green both the ferric Fe3+, chromicCr3+ ions substitute for aluminum ion Al3+.  In blue and lavender jadeite ferrous, and ferric ion, Fe2+ and Fe3+, and the manganese III ions Mn3+ substitute for aluminum ions. The titanium ions Ti4+ substitute for the Silicon ion Si4

Light absorption by the ferric ions in jadeite produces a peak in the blue at 437 nm and absorption by chromic ions results in peaks at in the 580-700 nm range[Ref1].

In blue and violet jadeite absorption of light by a ferrous ion which results in transfer an electrons through an oxygen site to a neighboring titanium ion (charge transfer) results in a wide absorption peak at  630 nm[Ref1,3].  

Micron-sized iron oxide mineral impurities listed in TABLE – can lend colors to nephrite jade, and also can contribute to the yellow to black range of colors in jadeite.


GreenIron and Chromium Cr3+, Fe3+Figure 9 in Ref 28.
Greyish GreenIronFe3+Figure 13C in Ref 28.
BlueIron and Titanium Fe3+,  *Fe2+ -O- Ti4+ Figure 12 in Ref 28.
Lavender (violet)Iron, Manganese, and TitaniumFe3+, Mn3+,  *Fe2+-O-Ti4+Figure 13D in Ref 28.
Lavender (Purple)Iron and ManganeseFe3+, Mn3+Figure 13B in Ref 28.
Yellow, Brown, Red, BlackIron, Oxygen, and HydrogenFe2+, Fe3+, O2-, OH1-29
*Charge transfer complex[Ref3]

Figure 10.  Neolithic nephrite axe from the Chinese Lingshu Culture, approximately 3300-2220 BC[Ref]32,33.]

Strength properties of jade

The hardness of a material is its ability to resist abrasion; the toughness of a material is its ability absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing under stress[Ref31]. These features underlie the use of nephrite in ancient times in fabricating durable tools such as the axe shown in Figure 10 of fabricated in China during the era of the Liangshu Culture in approximately 3300-2220 BC.The range of Mohs Hardness values of nephrite jade lie in the range of 6.0-6.5[Ref], and are less than those of jadeite, which lie in the range 6.5-7.0[Ref]. The hardness of both lie just below that of 7.0 for quartz[Ref]. 

In the 1973 study of Bradt, Newnham, and Biggers values of the fracture toughness and fracture strength of both nephrite and jadeite jade were determined with their measured values interpreted in terms of their microcrystalline structures[Ref38]. Comparison of the values of these quantities for both varieties of jade and with the values of fracture toughness for both quartz and corundum, both well-known as gemstones, are presented in TABLE  .


Nephrite2.22 x 1092.26 x 1057. 7 x 108
Jadeite1.02 x 1091.21 x 1057.1 x 108
Quartzite—–4.32 x 1037 x 107
Alumina(Polycrystalline aluminum oxide, corundum)—–1.5—5.0 x 1053.5-4.4 x 108
Quartz Crystal—–1.03 x 1035.0 x 107
Corundum Crystal—–6.0 x 10 27.0 x 107

Examination of the TABLE IV shows the values of fracture strength, fracture free energy, and fracture toughness of nephrite and jadeite to exceed those of alumina and quartzite, both also being polycrystalline materials, and far exceed those of single crystals of quartz and corundum, both also known to be durable gemstones.

The results show that propagation of cracks across crystals and along boundaries between crystals require considerably more energy than propagation along cleavage and parting planes in crystals. Propagation of cracks across and between crystals of jadeite and crack propagation along boundaries between elongated crystal grains and bundles of grains in nephrite are shown in Figures -,-,-. Both fibrous structure and trans-granular fracture impede crack propagation and toughen the material.

Figure 11. Nephrite and jadeite microstructure[Ref38].
Figure 12. Fracture surfaces of jadeite showing trans-granular 
Figure 13. Fibrous fracture surfaces of nephrite with interlocking 
amphibole crystals[Ref38].

Geology and Occurrences of Nephrite and Jadeitite

Both nephrite jade and jadeitite jade are found world wide as shown in the map of Figure 14.

Figure 14. Sources of nephrite jade and jadeite are distributed worldwide[Ref39].

Among known world-wide sites of jade production, the main sources of nephrite production are in the United States and British Columbia[Ref39,40]; the main sources of Jadeite are in Myanmar, Russia, Central America, and Japan[Ref40]. 

Examples of jadeite rough and nephrite rough materials from current sources are shown in Figures 15 and 16.

Figure 15. Boulder of jadeite rough from Myanmar[Ref]. 
Figure 16. Boulder of Canadian nephrite jade[Ref].

The sources  of both jadeite (jadeitite) and nephrite as shown in the map of Figure 14 are located along the boundaries of colliding tectonic plates comprising the earths lithosphere which underlie the continents and ocean beds and meet at boundaries at which the continental plates override the oceanic plates as shown in Figure 14[Ref39,43]. 

Geological processes in formation of jadeite

The geological processes of the formation of jadeite are summarized below in Figures 17-19.

Figure 17. The crust of the oceanic plate  undergoes subduction underneath the crust of the continental plate[Ref44].
Figure 18. The sinking oceanic plate drags fragments of the sedimentary rocks of the continental plate[Ref44].
Figure 19. At lower depths chemical reactions in fluids released dissolved metal salts and silicates which crystallized into jadeite at pressures in the range 87,000 507,500psi and 250-600° C at depths of 20-129 km[Ref44]. Subsequent geological processes exposed the rocks containing the jadeite.

Geological processes in formation of nephrite jade

Most nephrite occurs along fault contacts between serpentinite [Ref46] and in basic to acidic igneous rocks or sandstone following obduction[Ref47] of the serpentinite body by the oceanic plate. It forms by the action of calcium- and silica-rich fluids on the serpentinite with the nephrite replacing the serpentinite. under low pressure-temperature conditions[Ref48].

Nephrite can also from in dolomitic marble from calcium- and silica-rich solutions from intruding molten magma of granite composition[Ref49].


Ref 1. https://www.mindat.org/min-10403.html

Ref 2. https://www.ancient.eu/article/1088/jade-in-ancient-china/

Ref 3. https://www.jadeite-atelier.com/blogs/jade-articles/history-of-jade-in-mesoamerica

Ref 4. https://www.ancient.eu/Olmec_Civilization/

Ref 5. https://www.ancient.eu/Maya_Civilization/

Ref 6. https://www.ancient.eu/Aztec_Civilization/

Ref 7. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C4%81ori_people

Ref 8. https://teara.govt.nz/en/pounamu-jade-or-greenstone

Ref 9. https://www.ancient.eu/image/6778/zhou-dynasty-jade-dragon/

Ref 10. https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/310279

Ref 11  https://www.ancient.eu/Kinich_Janaab_Pacal/

Ref 12.

Ref 13. http://www.clevelandart.org/art/1966.361

Ref 14. https://www.mountainjade.co.nz/about-jade/greenstone-meanings-and-designs/

Ref 15. https://www.earthboundkiwi.com/shop-by-designs/nephrite-jade-maori-prosperity-fish-hook-necklace/

Ref 16. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/555878

Ref 17. https://collections.tepapa.govt.nz/object/555878

Ref 18. https://thestunzfamily.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/double-koru-pounamu1.jpg

Ref 19. https://www.mindat.org/min-10403.html

Ref 20. https://www.mindat.org/min-42720.html

Ref 21. https://www.mindat.org/min-40527.html

Ref 22. https://www.mindat.org/min-42720.html

Ref 23. https://www.mindat.org/min-2062.html

Ref 24. https://www.mindat.org/min-52021.html

Ref 26. http://geohavens.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=140&Itemid=649

Ref 27. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jmps/111/5/111_151103/_pdf

Ref 28.   https://www.gia.edu/gems-gemology/spring-2017-japanese-jadeite

Ref 29. http://geohavens.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=140&Itemid=649

Ref 30. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charge-transfer_complex

Ref 31. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toughness

Ref  32.  https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/Lot/a-jade-axe-liangzhu-culture-circa-3300-2200-6237516-details.aspx

Ref 33. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liangzhu_culture

Ref 34. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohs_scale_of_mineral_hardness

Ref 35. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nephrite

Ref 36. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jadeite

Ref 37. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quartz

Ref 38. http://www.minsocam.org/ammin/AM58/AM58_727.pdf

Ref 39. https://ebcky.com/2018/09/16/jade-beauty-under-pressure/

Ref 40. https://www.eurojade.fr/en/british-columbia-nephrite

Ref 41. https://www.gia.edu/gia-news-research/witnessing-the-56th-myanma-gems-emporium

Ref 42. http://www.geologypage.com/2017/09/nephrite-jade-sources.html

Ref 43. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plate_tectonics

Ref 44. https://ebcky.com/2018/09/16/jade-beauty-under-pressure/

Ref 45. https://nsm.utdallas.edu/~rjstern/pdfs/SternGeology13.pdf

Ref 46. https://www.sandatlas.org/serpentinite/

Ref 47. https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F3-540-31080-0_72

Ref 48.


Ref 49. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1674987118302329


In this Blog I’ll describe how biomaterials including animal and plant fossils are included and preserved in amber formed from tree resin, which by its stickiness can entrap objects which contact its surface as shown in Figure . With further addition of the resin the object is sealed within the resin and out of the surrounding biotic environment. With the passing of geological time amber forms from the resin and encloses the organism as described in the legend of Figure 1-[Ref1,2].

Figure 1. Taphonomy (Process of the formation) of amber with preserved organisms[Ref16].

In the environment external to the tree in which the amber forms, oxidation and temperature extremes and biotic factors such as bacteria and scavengers accelerate decomposition of an organism; instead the environment within the tree resin capturing the organism provides protection against the biotic environment, allowing the preservation processes to proceed to fossilization. Following entrapment of the organism within the resin, the continuing loss of volatile oils called olio-resins from the resin, which continues through evaporation, coupled with polymerization reactions of terpenoids to form a large network of molecules and other organic compounds result in the formation of amber with time. Under conditions that are not extreme, the amber is impervious to the outside environment and shields the fossilized material during its preservation. Studies of factors affecting preservation have shown that the type of tree resin, hence its chemistry and possible chemical attack on the material, the degree of dehydration, and activity of gut microorganisms are some major factors affecting the preservation of soft tissues of organisms[Ref16,17].

Gallery of Some Fossils Preserved in Amber

Some of the most extraordinary discovered fossils range from insects to plants and animals preserved in amber. —“[Ref3]. To illustrate, a Gallery of some unusual, and representative preserved fossils which I found very interesting are shown beautifully in the following figures.

Figure 2. Lyme Disease spirochete-like bacteria (Borrelia burgdorferi)are present in a tick preserved in15-20 million-year-old Dominican amber[Ref4]. The bacteria are present as the approximately 1-mm sized brown-black spheres located between the juncture of the legs and the body of the tick.
Figure 3. The flea Atopopsyllus cionus, a genus entirely new to science, is preserved in 20 million-year-old Dominican amber[Ref5]. The brown-colored rod-like and spherical bacteria seen within the flea are similar to the bubonic plague bacteria (Yersinia pestis). This fossil specimen may show an early connection between insects and pathogenic microorganisms.
Figure 4. A millipede preserved in 99 million-year-old Burmese amber differed in appearance from those of the order existing today, Callipodia, and was called Burmanopetallum inexpectatum[Ref6].
Figure 5. A baby salamander of the extinct species Palaeoplethodon hispaniolae preserved in 20 million year-old Dominican amber[Ref7]. The fossil revealed that salamanders once lived on an island in the Caribbean Sea where they are now absent. The lack of a forelimb reveals attack by predator before entrapment in the parent resin with following containment in amber.
Figure 6. Tufted tube-likeand protofeathers of a dinosaur preserved in 78-79 million-year-old Canadia amber{Ref8,9,10]
Figure 7. A 47.5 millimeter-long baby snake preserved in 99 million-year-old Cretaceous amber found in Myanmar[Ref11]. Its taxonomy is connected to snakes from Argentina, India, and India.
Figure 8. Mammalian hair preserved in amber which 100 million years ago
In the Cretaceous in Era and found at Charentes, France[Ref12,13]. With the scale bar in Panel “a” being 100 μm length the diameter of the hair is seen vary between 32 and 48 μm and the hair to be ~ 2.4 mm in length. In panel “b” the fossil hair is seen to comprise be hollow surrounded with a layer of brown carbonaceous material replacing the cuticle and with irregular shaped grey carbonaceous debris. In Panels “d” and “e” the wavy scale pattern and markings on the cuticle are shown clearly.
Figure 9. Leaves of the carnivorous plant Roridula gorgonias preserved in Eocene Baltic Amber between35 and 47 million years-go and found near Kaliningrad, R.ussia[Ref14]. The venom containing glands project laterally from the surface region of the leaf away from the axis of the plant. Scale bars: A and B; 1mm, C 100μm.
Figure 10. Flower of the plant species Strychnos electri preserved between 
45 and 15 million years ago in Dominican amber[Ref15]. Being of the Genus Strychnos; the plant may have been poisonous.

Biomaterials Found Preserved in Amber

Preserved biomaterials range from biochemicals to fossilized cells, tissues, and entire organisms. Representative examples of these preserved biomaterials are presented below in TABLES I, II, III, and IV.

None of the structural biomolecules of animal and plant life forms are preserved intact in amber. Instead chemical reactions acting on the chitin within the cuticle of arthropods and within the cell walls of fungi and plants, and on the proteins within feathers, cuticle, and soft tissues of animals, respectively form polysaccharides and amino acids as summarized and referenced in TABLE –. Of pigmented biomolecules red hemeporphyrins and melanin are preserved as seen in the table while carotenoids are not.

Recovery of geologically ancient DNA would be of immense value to biology.

However, according to the paper by Hebsgaard, et al[Ref18], the authenticity of the reports of the presence of DNA being found preserved in amber, References 12,16,17,19,23,24 in the paper, is questionable. As stated in the paper by Hebsgaard et al in Box 2 of their paper, “It is concerning that all claims published to date on DNA surviving over geological time spans have not followed the most fundamental of these authentication criteria.” 

Biochemicals which have been found in amber are summarized in TABLE I. Examples of preserved bio-materials ranging from bio-chemicals are described with illustrated references in TABLE I, and from tissues to organisms are described in the text and summarized with illustrated references in TABLE II, and in TABLE & III. 


N-acetylglucosamine Fungus Chitin Cretaceous,  138-6619, 20
β-1,3 and β- 1,4-linked polysaccharidesFungus ChitinCretaceous, 138-66 Mya19
Amino Acids

Feather Keratin

Insect Protein
Cretaceous extending into Eocene, 99-44
Tertiary – Creataceous 130-40 Mya


MelaninFeatherEocene, 66-23 Mya23

Cells and both soft and hard tissues are found preserved in amber as shown in TABLE II.


Flight Muscle, fibers and mitochondriaFlyMiocene 23-5 Mya24Figure 2C
Neural,  axons & glial cells BeetleOligocene 34-23 Mya25Plate1,  Figures 5 & 6
Eye, Lens, pigment cells, crystalline coneFlyEocene, 45 Mya26Figure 1
Cuticle scalesCockroach, Beetle, Grass-hopperCretaceous, ~130 Mya27Figure 8
*Cuticle & soft tissues in sectionsFly
Blood, Red Blood CellsMonkey, TickOligocene,   30-15 Mya30Three figures
FeathersDinosaurCretaceous, ~ 105 Mya31Three figures
BoneLizardMiocene, ~20 Mya32Figures 1, S1 & S2
Cypress Plant—-Eocene, ~45 Mya33Figures 1 & 2
Fern—-Cretaceous. ~98 Mya34Figures 1 & 2
Liverwort—-Cretacwous ~100Mya35Figures 1-10
*Images obtained by micro CT scanning.

Some animals from the Cretaceous Era into the Miocene Era found preserved in amber are presented in TABLE III.



SnailCretaceous ~9936Figures 1-7
AmmoniteCretaceous ~9937Five figures

FlyCretaceous 135-6538One figure
BeetleCretaceous ~10039One figure
BeeCretaceous ~10040Ten figures
MillipedeCretaceous ~9941Two figures
ScorpionMiocene 23-1542Three figures

SalamanderOligocene 30-2043One figure
LizardCretaceous ~9944One figure
SnakeCretaceous ~9945One figure
DinosaurCretaceous ~9946,47k-one figure., l-one figure
BirdCretaceous ~9948One figure


Some plants living from the Cretaceous Era into the Eocene Era found preserved in amber are presented in TAVLE IV.



MossesTertiary 66-2.6501-15
LiverwortsEocene, ~48-34511-3

PineEocene, ~48-3452One
ConiferCretaceous  ~100-9453,54

Flower similar to Christmas BushCretaceous ~10055Three
Asterid flowerOligocene into Miocene, ~ 2556,57One


Ref 1.https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/brv.12414

Ref 2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/brv.12414


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Ref 8. https://www.forbes.com/sites/shaenamontanari/2015/08/13/the-six-most-incredible-fossils-preserved-in-amber/#25cc68e97664

Ref 9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feathered_dinosaur

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Ref 12. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/44597148_Mammalian_hairs_in_Early_Cretaceous_amber

Ref 13. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charente

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Ref 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5886561/

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Ref 30. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/first-fossilized-mammal-blood-found-amber-encased-tick-180962784/

Ref 31. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/lice-filled-dinosaur-feathers-found-trapped-100-million-year-old-amber-180973727/


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Ref 38 http://www.sci-news.com/paleontology/science-assassin-flies-burmese-amber-01874.html

Ref 39. https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/fossilized-beetle-reveals-ancient-plant-insect-interactions-64649

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Ref 41 https://www.cnet.com/news/millipede-trapped-in-amber-for-99-million-years-gets-its-moment-to-shine/

Ref 42. https://www.reddit.com/r/Amberfossil/comments/ip8lg8/a_rare_male_scorpion_preserved_in_amber_was/

Ref 43. https://www.cnet.com/news/ancient-salamander-in-amber-is-a-scientific-surprise/

Ref 44. https://cosmosmagazine.com/biology/the-history-of-life-in-golden-stones/

Ref 45. https://newatlas.com/prehistoric-snake-amber/55519/

Ref 46. https://www-staging.nationalgeographic.com/news/2016/06/dinosaur-bird-feather-burma-amber-myanmar-flying-paleontology-enantiornithes/

Ref 47 https://www.sciencealert.com/99-million-year-old-dinosaur-wings-found-preserved-in-amber

Ref 48. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/06/baby-bird-dinosaur-burmese-amber-fossil/

Ref 49. https://www.wired.com/2010/05/tiny-treasures-100-million-year-old-mammal-hairs-trapped-in-amber/

Ref 50. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jhbl/74/0/74_249/_pdf

Ref 51. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128130124000127

Ref 52 https://www.ambertreasure4u.com/index.php?route=product/product&product_id=2575

Ref 53. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5218381/

Ref 54. https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=geological+cenomanian+age

Ref 55. https://www.iflscience.com/plants-and-animals/stunning-100millionyearold-flowers-found-perfectly-preserved-in-amber/

Ref 56. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2077484-beautiful-amber-fossil-flower-reveals-plant-history-of-new-world/

Ref 57. https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/anthophyta/asterids/asterid.html


Amber is a hard resin formed from tree sap by fossilization and is many millions of years old[Ref1]. Since Neolithic times (about 9000-3000 BC) and before the Copper Age[Ref]2) amber has been highly valued as a gemstone and used to create beautiful jewelry and artworks. Wide use of amber in Early Europe and in the area of the Mediterranean Sea is shown in jewelry and artworks displayed in Figures 2-7. Works from the Medieval Era to the present are shown in Figures 8-13. 

In this Blog chemical and physical properties of amber which underlie its beauty and use as a gem are described in descriptions of its chemical and mechanical properties, and the sources of its colors. Also preservation of fossils of insects and other organisms in amber is described briefly.


As shown in Figure 1 amber from sites (red) where amber was found in Ancient Europe were distributed widely from their greatest concentrations along the coast of the Baltic Sea and along the North Sea coast along Jutland. As indicated by the routes indicted in black and red movement of amber could proceed from the North and Baltic Seas to Mediterranean countries terminating in what are now Italy and Greece[Ref]. Collateral routes led to the Black Sea, Syria, and Egypt[Ref3]. Amber was moved further Eastward along the Great Silk Road to China and Southeast Asia[Ref4]. Collateral routes between sites of origin over what is now Europe to the major North-South routes served to distribute locally mined amber around the continent. 

Figure 1. Amber sources and trade routes in
Ancient Europe[Ref3].


Figure 2.Etruscan pendant, Foreprts of a wild boar, 525-480 BC[Ref5].
Figure 3. Italic carving of horse head in profile, 500-400 BC[Ref5].
Figure 4. Italic or Etruscan necklace with carved amber scarab beetle and large carnelian beads mounted in gold, 550-=400 BC[Ref4].
Figure 5. Greek gold necklace with amber beads mounted in gold. 6th-4th Century BC[Ref5]
Figure 7. Amber intaglio finger ring, Egypt, New Kingdom, 1550-712 BC[Ref5].
Figure 6. Roman amber amulet carved in shape of gladiator’s helmet, circa 1st-2nd Century AD[Ref6].
Figure 7 Roman die carved from amber, 100-200 AD[Ref5]
Figure 8. Amber Paternoster, Middel European, circa 1260 AD[Ref7].
Figure 9. Amber greyhound pendant, Czecj 1600[Ref8].
Figure 10. Amber in gold earrings, Georgian Era, 1714-1830 AD[Ref9].
Figure 11. Necklace with amber set in gold, Italian, circa 1860-1870[Ref10].
Figure 12. Egyptian Revival amber and opal necklace set in gold, Art Nouveau, 
Figure13. Art Deco styled amber earrings set in Russian Silver Gold Vermeil, Recent[Ref12].


The fossilization of tree sap into amber proceeds by crosslinking of di-terpenoid and tri-terpenoid molecules by free-radical polymerization[Ref13,14]. Over the millions of years during which crosslinking occurs to form polymers; polymerization, and cyclisation also occur resulting in new chemical compounds[Ref13,15,16]. The resulting mixture of substances can be described in terms of its carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen contents by the formula C10H16O. Sulfur comprising up to 1% of chemical species may also be present[Ref].


Figure 14. Colors of Baltic amber[Ref17].


Studies[Ref18-27] on specimens of amber gathered from worldwide sources have shown that members of the chemical terpenoid family[Ref13] as well as other chemical species can contribute to the yellow to brown, red, and black colors of amber as shown by specimens of Baltic Amber in Figure 14. 

As an example a study conducted on Baltic amber separation by liquid chromatography* showed separation of terpenoids and unsaturated organic compounds showed colors ranging between yellow, shades of red, and brown as shown in Tables I and II [Ref25]. These colors have been found in amber gathered from around the world.

*In separation of chemical species by liquid chromatography[Ref27] specific chemicals are used to sequester other chemical species which transport at different rates during separation by gravity resulting in degrees of separation from their collective position which range between 1.00 and 0.00 as shown by the example in Figure 15 . 

Figure 15. Positions of separated chemical compounds in thin film chromatography. The positions of each is unique[Ref27].


Some amber from the Dominican Republic exhibits a strong Cobalt Blue fluorescenceas shown in Figure 16[Ref28]; some amber found in the Baltic, the Ukraine, Far-Eastern Russia, and Sumatra also exhibit blue fluorescence[[29,32]. Studies on these ambers have shown that the blue fluorescence in ambers from the Dominican Republic and Sumatra stems from the ring-like organic molecule perylene[Ref28,30,31] and that from the amber from Far-Eastern Russia stems from the pyrene eximer[Ref29,34,35].

Figure 16. Blue-colored amber from the Dominican Republic. The color is due to fluorescence[Ref27].


Being an organic resin amber is amorphous with no crystalline structure; accordingly it is not classified as a mineral but as a mineraloid, a mineral-like material[Ref36]. It’s Mohs Hardness is in the range 1-3 and it fractures in brittle fashion but is tough in its tenacity at temperatures near room value.[Ref36]. At 

higher temperatures near210°C amber can be bent, allowing repair of amber pipe stems, as well as formed by pressing and sintering pieces together[Ref37.38]. The latter process allows construction of art objects such as a box as shown in Figure 17. [Ref39].

Figure 17. Box constructed of pressed and heated Baltic amber[Ref39].


Organisms and organic matter such as a feather can be trapped and ultimately over long time become inclusions in amber. With initial entrapment on the surface of amber and subsequent deposit of more amber organism can be entrapped as shown in the sequence in Figures 18 and 19. A great variety of organisms can be preserved as shown in Figure . Following initial and subsequent deposits of sticky amber and entrapment episodes a volume of amber containing fossils is attained[Ref40].

Figure 18 . Organisms preserved in amber. The legend for this Figure is shown in 
Figure 19 [Ref40]. 
Figure 19 . Legend for organisms in Figure 18. {Ref40].


Ref 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber

Ref 2. https://www.ancient.eu/Amber/

Ref 3. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Amber_sources_in_Europe.jpg

Ref 4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber_Road

Ref 5. http://museumcatalogues.getty.edu/amber/objects/37/

Ref 6. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/373869206562406397/

Ref 7. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/438397344957150618/

Ref 8. http://shewhoworshipscarlin.tumblr.com/post/134242133432/greyhound-pendant-1600

Ref 9. https://www.1stdibs.com/jewelry/earrings/dangle-earrings/georgian-amber-gold-earrings/id-j_202058/

Ref 10. http://theebonswan.blogspot.com/2014/01/amber-gold-necklace-set-1860-70.html

Ref 11. https://www.1stdibs.com/jewelry/necklaces/drop-necklaces/art-nouveau-egyptian-revival-amber-opal-gold-necklace/id-j_136992/

Ref 12. https://boylerpf.com/products/russian-sterling-silver-gold-vermeil-vintage-amber-earrings  

Ref 13. https://www.scienceinschool.org/2011/issue19/amber

Ref 14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terpenoid

Ref 15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymerization

Ref 16. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_cyclization

Ref 17. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amber

Ref 18. https://www.zmescience.com/science/long-process-amber-creation/

Ref 19. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-09385-w

Ref 20. https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0111303

Ref 21. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/08120099.2014.960897

Ref 22. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/319594193_Remarkable_preservation_of_terpenoids_and_record_of_volatile_signalling_in_plant-Animal_interactions_from_Miocene_amber

Ref 23.  http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0103-50532011000800015

Ref 24. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0146638086800250

Ref 25. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terpenoid

Ref 26. [PDF] Some possibilities of thin layer chromatographic analysis of the molecular phase of Baltic amber and other natural resins

Ref 27. https://www.slideshare.net/VinarsDawane/high-performance-thin-layer-chromatography-hptlc-fingerprinting

Ref 28. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ambre_bleu_dominicain_21207.jpg

Ref 29. Blue-fluorescing amber from Cenozoic lignite … – TerraTreasures

Ref 30. https://www.flickr.com/photos/bob_81667/13427898544

Ref 31. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326740492_Photoluminescence_of_Baltic_amber

Ref 32. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316487330_Ukranian_amber_Luminescence_Induced_by_X-rays_and_ultraviolet_radiation

Ref 33. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perylene

Ref 34. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrene

Ref 35. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excimer

Ref 36. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mineraloid

Ref 37. https://rebornpipes.com/tag/bending-amber-stems/

Ref 38. https://patents.google.com/patent/US445285

Ref 39. https://www.etsy.com/listing/669103884/century-box-unique-handmade-natural?gpla=1&gao=1&utm_campaign=shopping_us_InkliuzijaBoutique_sfc_osa&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_custom1=0&utm_content=13988748&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3aWArL3G4QIVC77ACh1B0Q2xEAQYASABEgKsvPD_BwE

Ref 40.  https://www.palaeontologyonline.com/articles/2015/fossil-focus-amber/


Meteorites are stuff from outer space; each is a solid piece of debris which formed from dust within the protoplanetary disc or from object such as an asteroid, planetesimal, or planet, and which travels through space and falls through the atmosphere to the surface of earth. As alien objects which fall dramatically they have evoked interest and wonder among many people. I remember vividly at the age of ten watching with my dad the meteorites fall during a Perseid Meteor Shower such as shown in time lapse photography in Figure 1. We both were greatly excited by the sights of the darting meteor trails and the awe felt by both of us felt was almost palpable. This fond memory has prompted me to write about meteorites in hopes of further acquainting my readers with them. 

I will write three blogs about meteorites; in the first I’ll consider both iron and stony-iron meteorites, and the following blogs will be about chondrites and achondrites, both classes of stony meteorites, and lastly about chondrules, which are constituents of chondrites and are sub-millimeter to millimeter-sized spherules containing silicates and another minerals and are often quite beautiful.

The three major classifications of meteorites based on their mineral compositions are: stony meteorites which are comprised of silicate minerals, iron meteorites which primarily are comprised of an alloy of iron and nickel, and stony-iron meteorites which are comprised of a mixture of iron-nickel alloy and silicate minerals. Iron-nickel meteorites can also contain sulfide, carbide, phosphide minerals of iron, nickel, cobalt, and chromium, as well as native carbon. The class of stony-iron meteorites are comprised of two subclasses, pallasites and mesosiderites[. The distribution of classes of meteorites found world-wide are shown in TABLE 1 and examples of them are Figures 2-5.

Figure 1. Time-lapse photograph showing meteors falling during a Perseid Meteor Shower[




Meteorites containing an iron-nickel alloy are classified as the iron meteorites, and the stony iron meteorites, the latter including the pallasites and the mesosiderites.

In the iron meteorites the iron-nickel alloy is present as two minerals: kamacite which contains up to 7.5% dissolved nickel in solution with iron and taenite with more than 25% nickel in solution. Other minerals which contain iron, nickel, cobalt, phosphorous, oxygen, sulfur, and carbon in lesser abundance may be present in iron meteorites. These minerals with their compositions are summarized in Table 2. Each minda.org reference contains representative photographs of the mineral.


Figure 2. Canyon Diablo meteorite, Barringer Meteor Crater region, Coconino County, Arizona. Note the sculpting of its form by ablation and loss of the molten surface layer of iron alloy formed by frictional forces during its fall through the air.
Figure 3. Etched slice of a Canyon Diablo meteorite, Barringer Meteor Crater Region, Coconino county, Arizona[Ref28]. Note both the brown crystal of troilite with a grey rim of cohenite and the  The angular Widmenstatten are comprised of angular interleaving bands of the iron-nickel alloys kamacite and taenite referenced in TABLE 1.

The Structure and Metallurgy of Iron-Nickel Meteorites

Iron-nickel meteorites are thought to be remnants of the cores of planetesimals following collision between them . With slow cooling during solidificaiton of the core the liquid alloy mixture of iron and nickel results in a mixture of the two minerals kamacite and taenite. With sufficiently slow cooling to 912 deg C and below discrete visible crystals of each mineral form separately as shown in the iron-nickel phase diagram.  The interleafed arrangement of the crystals results in the arrangement called Widmanstatten Figures as shown in Figure 3 which become visible upon etching with an acid. The different grey-tones of the crystals develop from different etching susceptibilities which arise from the different atomic arrangements within face-centered cubic kamacite and body-centered cubic taenite.

Structure, Mineral Composition, and Formation of Stony-iron Meteorites

Stony-iron meteorites consist of approximately equal parts of iron-nickel alloy and silicate minerals as opposed to stony meteorites which primarily are made up of silicate minerals. Stony-iron meteorites are divided into two groups, the pallasites and the mesosiderites  Pallasites have silicate minerals, mostly olivine embedded in the meteoric iron. Mesosiderites are breccias comprised of fragments of meteoric iron interspersed with fragments of silicate minerals.


Results of a recent study suggest that pallasite meteorites may have formed in a glancing impact between a body with a largely solidified core surrounded by a molten layer and a larger body. It is assumed that loss of the solid core and formation a body comprised of aggregates of fragments of olivine surrounded by molten iron-nickel alloy ensued. Solidification of the molten alloy results in cementation of the olivine fragments which results in the structure shown in Figure 4

Figure 4. The olivine usually is present in a 2/1 volume ratio with the iron-nickel matrix. The boundary regions between an olivine crystal and metal may contain thin layers of a mineral such as troilite, schreibersite, or chromite.


Mesosiderites are considered to have formed from fragments of iron-nickel alloy and silicate minerals which resulted from collision of metal-rich and silica-rich asteroids. The fragments may be of the igneous rocks, basalts, gabbros, and pyroxenites of igneous rocks as well as fragments of the minerals orthopyroxene, olivine, and plagioclase. The Iron-nickel metal is mostly in the form of millimenter or sub-millimeter grains admixed with grains of silicate minerals in the same size range surrounding the larger fragments of rocks and minerals. These structural features are shown in Figure 5.

Figure 5  . Mesosiderite, found at Gillio, Libya in 1985. Metal nodules, pyroxene, on Ca-pyroxene fragments, plagioclase, pyrrhotite, chromite, and both kamacite and taenite are present.

Precious Coral

Both precious red and black corals are bottom-dwelling sessile marine branched animals that have been harvested at depths between 60 and 20,000 feet [Ref 1, Ref 2]. They have provided lapidarists and other artisans with materials they use to create extraordinarily beautiful jewelry and objects of art, as witnessed by Figures 1 and 2.  In this Blog, I’ll describe the physical properties and the sources of the colors of the corals that underlie their use in jewelry making and in carving fine objects of art.

As shown in Figure 1, the Chinese Qing Dynasty red coral sculpture, featuring four carved figures of Buddha, capitalizes on the flowing branched nature of the coral to produce a beautiful and graceful carving. The flowing shapes of the branches

of black coral are an interesting contrast to the disciplined shapes of the gold fittings set with gems, as seen in Figure 2.

Figure 1.  Chinese Qing Dynasty carving in branched red coral with four figures of Buddha, circa 1862-1874 [Ref 3].
Figure 2. Black coral necklace with accents of green and pink tourmaline, blue topaz, amethyst, citrine, and fire opal set in 18-carat gold [Ref 4].


Gemstones of red and black coral comprise the hard tissue core or skeleton which supports the soft tissues of the organisms as shown in Figures 3-5.

Figure 3. A red coral in situ with white soft tissue supported by the red coral tree. The soft tissue contains the polyps, the feeding organ of the coral and tissues connecting them [Ref 5].
Figure 4. Sections of branches of the red coral skeleton. The section on the left has been bleached. The furrows on the surface of the skeleton contain the part of the soft tissue which distributes nutrients [Ref 6].
Figure 5. A black coral (Cirrhipathes sp.) with yellow soft tissue surrounding the hard tissue core is shown on the left and the same specimen with its soft tissue removed is shown on the right [Ref 7].


Gemstones of red and black coral comprise the hard tissue core or skeleton which supports the soft tissues of the organisms as shown in Figures 3-5. The physical and chemical properties of each coral underlie its usage in jewelry and art objects.

Physical and Chemical Properties of Precious Red Coral

The hard tissue of the skeleton of red coral is comprised of aggregated nanometer-sized crystals of magnesium-rich calcite {(Ca.Mn)CO3} which are arranged in rings  separated by an annular layer of organic matrix containing glycoproteins and glycosaminoglycans[Ref 8]. The annular arrangement of the mineral and organic matrix is shown in the cross-section of a stem in Figure. The organic matrix is highlighted by a purple stain and the layer of magnesium-rich calcite is unstained [Ref 9]. The axial region rich in magnesian calcite is indicate by the letter 

A and the spaces occupied by the longitudinal canals, the regions of soft tissue which transport nutrients are labeled by the letter B.

Figure 6. Cross-section of a stem of red coral in which the soft tissue has been stained purple [Ref 10].

Pigmentation in Precious Red Coral

The red pigment in precious red coral has been determined to be canthaxanthin, a member of the family of retinoids which are ubiquitous in red-colored organisms [Ref 11]. Its location in the outer soft tissue and organic matrix is demonstrated by its red color in Figures 7 and 8. The range of hues of the red color of the coral as a gemstone is shown in Reference 12.

Figure 7. The localization of the red pigment canthanxanthin in the organic matrix is demonstrated by the lack of color in the sclerites (spicules) [Ref 10].
Figure 8. Further demonstration that the red pigment is present in the organic matrix [Ref 13]. 

Mechanical Properties of Precious Red Coral [Ref 14]

The values of Mohs Hardness in the range 3-4 for red coral are comparable to that of 3 for black coral [Ref 14]. With its axial core of magnesian calcite, red coral is brittle with an irregular or splintery fracture, and cannot be bent to assume complex shapes as can be done with black coral. Natural shapes and those obtained by carving are similar to those in black coral jewelry and art objects as can be seen in comparing the jewelry and art objects in Figures 9-17 to those in Figures 18-26.


Figure 9. Necklace incorporating branches of red coral [Ref 15].
Figure 10. Red coral bracelet with gold fittings [Ref 16].
Figure 11. Italian good-luck-horn pendant
[Ref 17].
Figure 12. Goddess Flora carved in red coral [Ref 18].
Figure 13. Red coral necklace with silver beads, Yemeni [Ref 19].
Figure 14. Figure of Mulan carved in red coral [Ref 20, Ref 21].
Figure15. Carved flower pendant set in 14 carat gold [Ref 22].
Figure 16. Red coral rose set in sterling silver ring [Ref 23].
Figure 17. Carved red coral snuff bottle. Chinese [Ref 24].

Physical and Chemical Properties of Black Coral

Some black corals are branched, while others have long and straight stems or spirally twisted stems, as shown in Figures 18 and 19. The stem or branch of the black coral skeleton is not composed of a core of magnesian-rich calcite as in red coral, but consists of laminated composites comprised primarily of protein and chitin fibrils [Ref 24]. The growth of the diameter of a stem or branch proceeds by accretion of layers, as shown by the polished cross section of a stem in Figure 18 [Ref 25]. The black color seen throughout the stem is due to the melanin [Ref 25], a black pigment widely distributed in both the animal and plant kingdoms [Ref 26].

Figure 18. Branched black coral [Ref 27].
Figure 19. Spiral black coral with and without the external tissues which resides on the central skeleton [Ref 28].
Figure 20. Transverse polished section of black coral. (Leiopathes species
showing layers of chitin after removal of proteins. The fine structure of 
concentric rings is evident. The diameter of the stem is ~ 7 mm {Ref 29].

Mechanical Properties of Black Coral

To compensate for the lack of stiffness, due to the absence of a skeletal core of rigid magnesium, as in red coral layers, the chitin fibrils [Ref 30] comprising the strong part of the skeleton, is spirally wound in the concentric layers [Ref 30] comprising the stem and branches as shown in Figures 8-10. Such a winding scheme works to prevent kinking of the stem due to bending and twisting of the stem due to torsional forces. This scheme compensates for the lack of a stiff mineral axis as is present in red coral. Values of the mechanical measures of the strength of the skeleton of black coral are summarized in Table I taken from Ref 30.

Figure 19. View of two layers of chitin fibrils in two layers the stem of black coral. 
The fibrils are wound in spiral fashion about the axis of the stem. The scale bar 
is 10 microns (0.0010 cm) [Ref 30].
Figure 20. Sketch showing different spiral patterns in layers of chitin fibrils in two black coral species [Ref 30].


Mohs Hardness33
Micro-indentation Hardnesshardness along the long axis (pounds/mm2)26,000 lb/in231,663 lb/in2
Micro-indentation hardness along a diameter (pounds/mm2)28,968 lb/in232,516 lb/in2
Extensibility (%)7.373.84

The Mohs hardness of 3, of black coral, is comparable to the range of values 3-4 of red coral, so that expectations of resistance of both to wear, particularly scratching are similar. Values of micro-indentation hardness in the range of 26,000 to 32,516 lb/in2 are approximately one-half the value of 58,064lb/in2 estimated for the rhombohedral surface of calcite estimated from Figure 1. These values of Mohs and micro-indentation hardness suggest care in wearing black coral jewelry. Jewelry such as pendants, earrings, and necklaces of this coral will have longer scratch-free life expectancy. 

The large room-temperature values of the extensibility of the two black coral species of 3.845% and 7.37%, especially augmented by the thermoelasticity, [Ref 31], of the coral at higher temperatures underlie the shaping of jewelry with intricate shapes. The softness of black coral underlies the use of carved shapes in jewelry. Working the coral at an elevated temperature would further enable attaining intricate shapes with finer carved relief.

Figure 18. Transverse polished section of black coral. (Leiopathes species) showing layers of chitin after removal of proteins. The fine structure of concentric rings is evident. The diameter of the stem is ~ 7 mm [Ref 32].
Figure 21. Black coral cuff obtained by bending [Ref 33].
Figure 22. Turtles carved in black coral set in gold [Ref 34].
Figure 23. Galloping steed carved in black coral [Ref 35].
Figure 24. Flowing shape carved in black coral and set in gold [Ref 36].
Figure 25. Dragon bracelet fabricated by carving and bending black coral [Ref 37].
Figure 26 Miniature caravel with hull fabricated by carving and sails fabricated by both carving and bending black coral [Ref 38]. 


Ref 1. https://coral.org/coral-reefs-101/coral-reef-ecology/how-coral-reefs-grow/

Ref 2. https://ocean.si.edu/ecosystems/coral-reefs/deep-sea-corals

Ref 3. http://www.alaintruong.com/archives/2013/11/09/28391538.html

Ref 4. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/57702438948445952/

Ref 5. https://www.gia.edu/doc/Spring-2007-Gems-Gemology-Pink-Red-Coral-Guide-Determining-Origin-Color.pdf

Ref 6. https://www.gia.edu/doc/Spring-2007-Gems-Gemology-Pink-Red-Coral-Guide-Determining-Origin-Color.pdf

Ref 7.https://www.advancedaquarist.com/2014/11/corals

Ref 8. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/D_Vielzeuf/publication/234720020_Nano_to_macroscale_biomineral_architecture_of_red_coral_Corallium_rubrum/links/00b4951d5313abbd26000000/Nano-to-macroscale-biomineral-architecture-of-red-coral-Corallium-rubrum.pdf

Ref 9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3142144/

Ref 10. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/D_Vielzeuf/publication/234720020_Nano_to_macroscale_biomineral_architecture_of_red_coral_Corallium_rubrum/links/00b4951d5313abbd26000000/Nano-to-macroscale-biomineral-architecture-of-red-coral-Corallium-rubrum.pdf

Ref 11. https://www.academia.edu/19398320/Determination_of_canthaxanthin_in_the_red_coral_Corallium_rubrum_from_Marseille_by_HPLC_combined_with_UV_and_MS_detection

Ref 12. https://www.gemdat.org/gem-42717.html

Ref 13.


Ref 14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precious_coral

Ref 15. https://www.shellhorizons.com/details.asp?ProductID=CR1-2&Page=1

Ref 16. https://www.enjoythecoast.it/en/the-coral-jewelry

Ref 17. https://jjpjewelry.com/products/good-luck-coral-horn

Ref 18. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/480829697690763070/

Ref 19. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/480829697706273935/

Ref 20. http://ahwilkens.com/portfolio/chinese-finely-carved-red-coral-figure-mulan/

Ref 21. https://www.ancient-origins.net/history-famous-people/ballad-hua-mulan-legendary-warrior-woman-who-brought-hope-china-005084

Ref 22. https://www.amazon.com/Arthurs-Jewelry-Genuine-natural-enhancer/dp/B01H4U0DSM

Ref 23. https://www.qvc.com/American-West-Red-Coral-Carved-Rose-Sterling-Ring.product.J271747.html

Ref 24. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Chinese-Exquisite-Red-Coral-Hand-Carved-Monkey-model-Snuff-Bottle-Z338-/192760671008?oid=264004014902

Ref 25.


Ref 26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9451820

Ref 27. https://www.flickr.com/photos/searchoflife/12464176455

Ref 28. https://www.advancedaquarist.com/2014/11/corals

Ref 29. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234720192_Variability_in_growth_rates_of_long-lived_black_coral_Leiopathes_sp_from_the_Azores_Northeast_Atlantic

Ref 30.https://www.jstor.org/stable/1542113?read-now=1&seq=14#metadata_info_tab_contents

Ref 31. http://www.minambiente.it/sites/default/files/archivio/allegati/cites/manuale_identificazione_CORALLI.pdf

Ref 32. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234720192_Variability_in_growth_rates_of_long-lived_black_coral_Leiopathes_sp_from_the_Azores_Northeast_Atlantic

Ref 33. https://www.collectorsweekly.com/stories/127806-black-coral-cuff-bracelet

Ref 34. https://www.mauidivers.com/collections/black-coral-jewelry

Ref 35. https://www.ebay.com/itm/Item-Details-A-superb-and-rare-galloping-carving-beautifully-hand-carved-from-/262077498896?_mwBanner=1&nma=true&si=wZz1N7MV99LfoWfWtLDCDZ3oG1c%253D&orig_cvip=true&nordt=true&rt=nc&_trksid=p2047675.l2557

Ref 36. https://www.mauidivers.com/collections/black-coral-jewelry

Ref 37. https://www.etsy.com/listing/641051675/dragon-carving-akar-bahar-black-coral?gpla=1&gao=1&&utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=shopping_us_a-jewelry-bracelets-bangles&utm_custom1=12efb5ca-cff4-4b3c-b7cd-593581c87464&utm_content=go_270950435_21143556995_69017212115_pla-106552239395_c__641051675&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI7saqko2j3wIVA9vACh3x8APoEAQYBSABEgIkxfD_BwE

Ref 38. https://www.tripadvisor.com/LocationPhotoDirectLink-g147365-d6480217-i124668994-Artifacts-Grand_Cayman_Cayman_Islands.html

Art Deco Rubies

Art Deco is my favorite style of jewelry, with its flair of design and the use of unusual combinations of gemstones. Art Deco is a style of architecture and design which first appeared in France just before World War I, reached its high point during the 1925 Paris Exposition of Decorative Arts, and extended into the 1940’s. Today, authentic Art Deco period jewelry and art objects, as well as reproductions, remain esteemed by wearers of jewelry and collectors. In the following gallery I’ve included ruby jewelry and art objects which greatly appeal to me.


Figure 1. Art Deco brooch with carved ruby and surrounding diamonds [Ref 1].
Figure 2. Art Deco diamond and ruby floral cluster setting in a platinum ring [Ref 2].
Figure 3. Art Deco ruby and diamond decorated onyx compact [Ref 3].
Figure 4. Art Deco carved ruby and emerald, diamond, onyx, and enamel 
pendant brooch [Ref 4].
Figure 5. Art Deco carved jade, diamond, ruby, and platinum card case [Ref 5].
Figure 6. Art Deco ruby and diamond necklace and brooch [Ref 6].
Figure 7. Art Deco ruby, onyx, and diamond set platinum brooch [Ref 7].
Figure 8. Art deco carved ruby, sapphire, emerald, and diamond “Tutti Frutti” bracelet [Ref 8].
Figure 9. Art Deco ruby and diamond yellow gold watch [Ref 9].
Figure 10. Art Deco carved jade, ruby, and onyx
Pendant brooch [Ref 10].


Ref 1. http://www.gemscene.com/art-deco.html

Ref 2. https://www.carters.com.au/index.cfm/item/387782-an-art-deco-style-diamond-and-ruby-ring-of-floral-cluster-design/

Ref 3. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/509751251551385459/

Ref 4. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/509751251547056346/

Ref 5. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/94716398384257546/?lp=true

Ref 6. https://www.flickr.com/photos/clivekandel/6839720818

Ref 7. https://www.1stdibs.com/jewelry/brooches/brooches/1920s-art-deco-ruby-onyx-diamond-platinum-canvas-brooch/id-j_1323593/

Ref 8. https://www.christies.com/features/Cartier-jewels-collecting-guide-9582-1.aspx

Ref 9. https://www.1stdibs.com/jewelry/watches/wrist-watches/1940s-art-deco-112-carat-ruby-101-carat-diamond-yellow-gold-watch/id-j_4725961/

Ref 10. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/354799276872845520/

Ancient Rubies

In this continuation of blogs about the corundum gem varieties, sapphire and ruby, I will first describe the trade routes that first brought the gems, from their mines in the East, to the Roman Empire, then to the rest of Europe. I will also present a gallery of ruby jewelry and artworks designed and made by artisans of the Grecian and Roman Empires and those of the Victorian Era, as well. 


As shown in Table I, sapphires and rubies were mined in the East, before 543 BC in what is now Sri Lanka; before 600 AD in what is now Myanmar; before 951 AD in Afghanistan; before 1408 AD in what are now Thailand and Cambodia. Mining began in 1879 in the Kashmir province of India. Interestingly the mines in the East were the sole sources of sapphires and rubies until the discovery of these gems in Madagascar.

The overland and maritime routes of the Silk Road between the East and West served to bring sapphires and rubies from their sources in the East to the Mediterranean, and particularly to coastal cities of the Roman Empire [Ref 1, Ref 2]. The relationship of the port locations serving the Silk Road, to the sources of the gems, are shown in Figure 1. As seen in the figure, sources of rubies and sapphires in what is now Thailand, Cambodia and Sri Lanka, were in close proximity to the ports serving the maritime routes. Trade along the Silk Road, beginning in 2 BC, provided sapphire and ruby gemstones to the Etruscan and Roman Empires, as well as to Europe, later on. Both overland and maritime routes also served to bring the gemstones to the Mughal Empire in what are now India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.  


Before 543 BC [Ref 1,2,3] Sri Lanka Gemstones appeared in Etruscan jewelry  (700 BC to late 4th Century BC).
Before 600 AD [Ref 1] Myanmar (Burma) Mentioned in ancient legends. Europeans reported source in 15th century.
Before 951 AD [Ref 1] Afghanistan Ruby mines on border with Tajikistan since 10th century.
Before 1408 AD [Ref 1,4]  Thailand/Cambodia More sapphire and ruby deposits in Thailand than in Cambodia
1879 [Ref 5] Kashmir State, India Blue sapphires discovered in Padar region.
After 1891 [Ref 1] Madagascar Sapphire and ruby occurances first described in 1547.
1895 [Ref 6] Yogo Gulch, Montana, USA Noted for deep blue color
1950 [Ref 1] Tanzania Ruby deposits still being discovered.
1973 [Ref 1] Kenya Most important deposit near Mangari in SE Kenya.
1970’s [Ref 1] Vietnam First major discovery in province of Luc Yen. Major commercial mining began 1980’s.
2008 [Ref 1]
Mozambique Deposit found near Zambia border.


In a search of the web for examples of ancient ruby jewelry and art objects from the Roman and Hellenistic Era to the Victorian Era, I found a dearth of examples of ruby jewelry, in contrast to finding examples of both sapphire and garnet jewelry. Studies from ancient sources show that ruby jewelry was extremely rare and that the red garnet was the most popular gem in the Helenistic Era, but somewhat less popular in the Roman empire [Table, PP 175-176 Ref 1]. 

Accordingly this gallery presents examples of ruby jewelry and art works from the Medieval Era [Ref 9] to the Victorian Era

Medieval Era

Figure 1. Gold ring brooch set with rubies and sapphires, English circa 1275-1300[Ref 10].
Figure 2. Crown of Princess Blanche with rubies, sapphires, and pearls, English probably 1370-80 [Ref 11, Ref 12].
Figure 3. Reliquary brooch, set with rubies and other gemstones, 
Bohemian(?) mid-14th century [Ref 13].
Figure 4. Ring with ruby and opal set in gold, circa 1300-1325 [Ref 14].

Renaissance Era [Ref 15]

Figure 5. Pendant with baroque pearls and set with rubies, diamonds, and sapphires, known as The Canning Jewel, English, 16th century [Ref 15, Ref 16].
Figure 6. Portrait frame, worn as a pendant and set with rubies, emeralds and pearls. English, 1547-1619) [Ref 17].
Figure 7. Gold Gimmel Ring with ruby and diamond, German dated 1631[Ref 18, Ref 19].
Figure 8. Enameled gold scent holder (pomander) set with rubies, emeralds, and diamonds, Netherlands 1600-1625 [Ref 20].
Figure 9. Gold snuffbox set with rubies, diamonds, mother of pearl. Berlin, circa 1765 [Ref 21].]

Victorian Era [Ref 21] 

Figure 10. Victorian Burmese Ruby and diamond necklace, English, circa 1850 [Ref 22, Ref 23].
Figure 11. Diamond and ruby pendant necklace, French circa 1900 [Ref 24].
Figure 12. Ruby and diamond set gold ring, 1890s [Ref 25].
Figure 13. Ruby and diamond pendant, circa 1900 [Ref 26].
Figure 14. Gold cross pendant set with rubies and 
green sapphires with cannaetille work, late Victorian Era [Ref 27, Ref 28].
Figure 15. Dutch East Indies Javanese Royal Presentation cane set with rubies and diamonds, Java 1800-1900 [Ref 28, Ref 29].


Ref 1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236881270_Mining_and_minerals_trade_on_the_Silk_Road_to_the_ancient_literary_sources_2_BC_to_10_AD_Centuries

Ref 2. http://studiopjj.blogspot.com/2007/05/east-and-west-ancient-gem-trade-between.html

Ref 3. https://www.langantiques.com/university/Ruby

Ref 4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etruscan_civilization

Ref 5. https://gem-a.com/news-publications/media-centre/news-blogs/gems-from-gem-a/gem/ancient-sapphires-and-adventures-in-ceylon

Ref 6. http://www.lotusgemology.com/index.php/library/articles/276-moontown-a-history-of-chanthaburi-thailand-and-pailin-cambodia

Ref 7. http://www.ruby-sapphire.com/r-s-bk-india.htm

Ref 8. https://gemgallery.com/yogo-sapphire-gemology

Ref 9. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Ages

Ref 10. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/89931323788019900/

Ref 11. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crown_of_Princess_Blanche


Ref 12. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blanche_of_England

Ref 13. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155937205834052921/

Ref 14. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/155937205826166727/

Ref 15. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renaissance

Ref 16. https://www.britannica.com/art/jewelry/The-history-of-jewelry-design

Ref 17.  https://theframeblog.com/category/16th-17th-century/

Ref 18. http://www.medieval-rings.com/exhibitions/cycles-of-life-35062/rings/renaissance-gimmel-ring-with-memento-mori-42534

Ref 19. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimmal_ring

Ref 20. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/370772981794628769/?lp=true

Ref 21. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/335799715956345727/

Ref 22. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victorian_era

Fig. 23. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/151574343680238550/

Fig 24.  http://www.alaintruong.com/archives/2008/10/12/10923843.html

Ref 25. https://www.kalmarantiques.com.au/product/antique-ruby-and-diamond-ring-made-in-the-victorian-era/

Ref 26. https://www.1stdibs.com/jewelry/necklaces/pendant-necklaces/antique-victorian-ruby-diamond-pendant-platinum-circa-1900/id-j_4838913/

Ref 27.  https://www.the-saleroom.com/en-us/auction-catalogues/gorringes/catalogue-id-srgo10026/lot-5c8d439e-5052-4618-b7c2-a72f00d0c0ed

Ref 28. https://www.langantiques.com/university/Cannetille

Ref 29. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dutch_East_India_Company


Along with the colors and crystal forms of minerals, their mechanical properties such as the hardness. tenacity, and habits of structural failure can be very useful tools in identifying an unknown mineral. In this first Blog on the use of mechanical properties in identifying minerals I’ll focus on hardness and describe the Moh’s Hardness Scale, the standard reference scale for minerals, and briefly describe how to use it. I’ll also list those often available objects which can be usedinstead of a mineral member of the scale as hardness references for comparison with the mineral.

The Mohs Hardness Test and Scale were invented in 1812 by the German mineralogist Fredrich Moh[Ref1,2] as a means to rank minerals according to their relative hardness in resisting scratching. Its ease of use has resulted in its wide application by mineral collectors and lapidarists. The ten-point scale begins with the softest mineral talc assigned a hardness of 1 and ends with the hardest mineral diamond assigned a hardness of 10. Minerals with intervening hardness values between 2 and 9 are: gypsum (selenite) at a hardness of 2, calcite at 3, fluorite at 4, apatite at 5, orthoclase (feldspar) at 6, quartz at 7, topaz at 8, and corundum (ruby, sapphire) at 9. In Figure 1 shows the hardness scale, and as well, includes everyday objects of known hardness which can also be used in hardness testing[Ref2]. The relative hardness values are obtained by determining which mineral scratches one of lesser hardness and is scratched by a mineral or an object of greater hardness. Testing is done by placing a sharp point of one mineral or another testing agent against the surface of another and attempting to scratch it. One of the following results may be observed:

If mineral A scratches mineral B then A is harder than B.

If A doesn’t scratch B then B is harder than A.

If A and B are relatively ineffective in scratching each other they are of equal hardness.

If A can be scratched by B but not by C the hardness o A is between the hardness of B and C.

The Mohs Hardness Test is performed using the steps and tips as described in

Figures 2 and as shown live in the YouTube video accompanying this brief presentation. An example of testing using a knife and a penny are described in Figure3.

Figure 1. Mohs Hardness Scale collection and mineral identification[Ref3]. The copper penny must be dated no later than 1982; pennies issued subsequently were minted using a softer bronze alloy[Ref4].
Figure 2. Steps in performing Mohs Hardness Test[Ref5].
Figure3. An example of a Mohs Hardness test using a knife and a penny[Ref5].


Ref 1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Mohs

Ref2. https://geology.com/minerals/mohs-hardness-scale.shtml

Ref 3. https://www.lindahall.org/friedrich-mohs/

Ref 4. https://www.nbc12.com/story/17003531/jens-coin-story/

Ref 5. http://www.rocksandminerals.com/hardness/mohs.htm

Sapphire – Art Deco

Art Deco is my favorite style of jewelry with its flair of design and the use of unusual combinations of gemstones.  Art Deco is a style of architecture and design which first appeared in France just before World War I, reaching its high point in the 1925 Paris Exposition of Decorative Arts, and extending into the 1940s.  Today, authentic period jewelry, art objects and reproductions remain esteemed by those who wear and collect it.  In the following gallery I’ve included jewelry and art objects which greatly appeal to me.


Figure 1.  Art Deco brooch with sapphire cabochon set in an onyx frame with rubies set in gold.  The material on which the gems are mounted is not identified [Ref 1].
Figure 2.  Art Deco sapphire and diamond inlayed silver cigarette case [Ref 2].
Figure 3.  Art Deco diamond and sapphire ring [Ref 3].
Figure 4.  Cuff links with ruby cabochon and sapphire set in white gold with black onyx trimmed stud [Ref 4].
Figure 5.  Art Deco diamond, sapphire, and platinum watch [Ref 5].
Figure 6.  Art Deco tiara with diamonds and sapphires set in white gold [Ref 6].
Figure 7.  Art Deco diamond and sapphire bracelet, circa 1920 [Ref 7].
Figure 8.  Art Deco brooch in Egyptian style set with sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds [Ref 8].
Figure 9.  Diamond brooch set with sapphire accents [Ref 9].
Figure 10.  Art Deco watch with cameos, set with sapphires and diamonds [Ref 10].


Ref 1.  http://www.doitjewelry.com/02/21/a-beautiful-and-rare-art-deco-brooch-french-circa-1930-centring-a-round-sapphire-cabochon-within-an-onyx-frame-and-further-set-with-calibre-rubies-mounted-in-gold-illegible-makers-mark-6-x-3c-3/

Ref 2.  https://www.rubylane.com/item/821070-RT-4365/Art-Deco-Diamond-Sapphire-800-Silver

Ref 3.  http://www.antiquejewel.com/en/2ndpage.asp?dtn=15033-0048

Ref 4.  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/383861568224232322/

Ref 5.  http://www.macklowegallery.com/search-antiques.asp/currentPage/-1/art-nouveau-antique-estate/art%20deco

Ref 6.  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/368732288212254566/

Ref 7.  https://www.langantiques.com/university/Art_Deco_Era_Jewelry

Ref 8.  http://www.gemscene.com/art-deco.html

Ref 9.  https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&biw=1180&bih=952&tbm=isch&sa=1&ei=4SMEXPngL4LMjgSM7IKgBA&q=sapphire+jewelry+and+art+made+in+art+deco+era&oq=sapphire+jewelry+and+art+made+in+art+deco+era&gs_l=img.12…8687.29358..31068…3.0..0.98.2380.32……0….1..gws-wiz-img.cb574UrAC_k#imgrc=ROK8ATGFQOWIgM:

Ref 10.  http://www.antiquejewel.com/en/2ndpage.asp?dtn=13119-0030

Ancient Sapphires

In this blog I’m displaying examples of jewelry and art objects from ancient Asia and the Mughal Empire.  I also include examples of jewelry from the Roman Empire and the Medieval Victorian Eras in Europe.


Figure 1.  Sapphire and gold finger ring, Central Asian, circa 4th century BC – 1st century AD [Ref 1].
Figure 2.  Various types of beads found in burial grounds dated to 1000 BC in Sri Lanka [Ref 2].
Figure 3.  Turban ornament set with sapphires, emeralds, rubies, 
from the Mughal Empire, created after 1526 [Ref 3, Ref 4].
Figure 4.  White jade scent bottle set with sapphires, rubies, diamonds, and emeralds set in gold, Mughal Empire,18th/19th century [Ref 5].
Figure 5.  Gold turban ornament set with a sapphire
cabochon with other gems of rubies and emeralds, 
Mughal Empire [Ref 6]


Figure 6.  Roman sapphire cameo with gemstone source attributed to Sri Lanka,
1st century AD [Ref 7].
Figure 7.  Roman sapphire and gold ring, Sri Lankan, circa 1st -2rd century AD [Ref 8].
Figure 8.  Roman sapphire in gold earrings.  The other gemstones are not identified [Ref 9].
Figure 9.  Roman sapphire and gold dress pin carved from a single crystal, 
100-130 AD [Ref 10].
Figure 10.  Roman gold bracelet with sapphire, emerald, and glass settings, 375-400 AD [Ref 11].


Figure 11.  Sapphire and gold ring with beading characteristic of the Viking period, 10th-11th centuries AD [Ref 12].


Figure 12.  Brooch set with sapphires, garnets, pearls, and enameled, German, 1359 AD [Ref 13].

Figure 13.  Carved sapphire seal mounted in enameled gold, England, Circa
1580 AD [Ref 14].


Figure 14.  Sapphire, diamond and gold cross, Russia, 1898 [Ref 15].


Ref 1.  https://onlineonly.christies.com/s/ancient-jewelry-wearable-art/central-asian-gold-sapphire-finger-ring-30/63724

Ref 2.  https://www.internetstones.com/ancient-technology-sri-lankan-gemstone-beads-carvings-cameos-intaglios-carnelian-rock-crystal.html

Ref 3.  http://portobelloantiques.blogspot.com/2010/05/indian-turban-ornament.html

Ref 4.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mughal_Empire

Ref 5.  https://www.reenaahluwalia.com/blog/2013/6/20/splendors-of-mughal-india-i

Ref 6.  https://bellatory.com/fashion-accessories/Mughal-Jewelry-Royal-and-antique-jewelry-of-North-India

Ref 7.  https://gem-a.com/news-publications/media-centre/news-blogs/gems-from-gem-a/gem/ancient-sapphires-and-adventures-in-ceylon

Ref 8.  https://medusa-art.com/roman-gold-ring-with-sapphire.html

Ref 9  https://www.google.com/search?q=ancient+roman+sapphire+jewelry&hl=en&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjMy_OcqYTfAhVOEawKHW4EAxkQ_AUIDygC&biw=1236&bih=951#imgrc=BNm3q6dbCiYfDM:

Ref 10.  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/82824080622310428/

Ref 11.  http://www.getty.edu/art/collection/objects/16310/unknown-maker-bracelet-roman-about-ad-379-395/

Ref 12.  http://www.thehistoryblog.com/archives/12180

Ref 13.  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/229050331032972074/

Ref 14.  http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O114861/seal-and-case-unknown/

Ref 15.  http://romanovrussia.com/antique/1800s-sapphire-cross/

Largest Star Sapphire/Ruby

We usually think of star sapphires and rubies as stones in the few carat range, not in hundreds and thousands of carats. But some are an amazing size. At the top, are the World’s Largest which are truly awesome. In this blog I’ll describe the worlds largest blue star sapphire, star ruby, and black star sapphire, as well as gems ranking near their size but just below the record. I’ll also include a short history of each gem. 

Worlds Largest Blue Star Sapphire: The Star of Adam [Ref 1, Ref 2]

The world’s largest star sapphire weighs an amazing 1,4O4 carats, and when held, largely occupies the palm of a hand, as shown in Figure 1. 

Figure 1. Star of Adam

The stone was found in the fall of 2015 at mine in the famed alluvial gem deposits near Ratnapura, Sri Lanka [Ref 1 Ref 2]. At first sight, the owner estimated the value of the gem at $175 million. As of January 2016, the owner was pondering whether to auction the gem or to display it. A diligent trip over the internet disclosed no further information about any attempt to auction the gem. However, the gem may have been sold in a private transaction.

World’s Largest Black Star Sapphire: The Black Star of Queensland [Ref 3, Ref 4, Ref 5]

The Black Star of Queensland, as shown in Figure 2, weighs 733 carats, and was the world’s largest sapphire until being displaced by the Star of Adam. This gem is also seen to fill the palm of a hand but does not have the cabochon height of the Star of Adam.

Reportedly, the rough stone was found by a twelve-year old boy, Roy Spencer, in the mid-1930s, in the Reward Claim near Anakie, Queensland, Australia [Ref 3]. The boy’s father, Harry Spencer, assumed it was merely a black crystal and the family used it as a doorstop for over a decade. A second look disclosed the gem.

The stone was sold by Spencer in 1947 to the jeweler Harry Kazanjian for $18,000AU which funded a new house for the family. The subsequent history of the stone has been shared by owners and institutions. The gem was loaned to the Natural History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution in 1969. In 1971 it was seen around Cher’s on television show. To fulfill a childhood dream, the artist and jeweler, Jack Armstrong, and his wealthy girlfriend, Gabrielle Grohe, convinced the Kazanjian family to sell the gem in 2003 [Ref 4]. In 2010 [Ref 5], the pair squabbled over the stone and Armstrong agreed to pay $500,000 for Grohe’s share,  but failed to pay, and due to a judge’s ruling he lost all right to the gemstone. 

Figure 2. Worlds largest black star sapphire [Ref 6].

World’ Largest Star Ruby: the Appalachian Ruby Star [Ref 7]

The Appalachian Ruby Star weighs 139.43 carats and barely edges out the Rosser Reeves Star ruby, that weighs in at 138.72 carats, as shown in Figure 3. The Appalachian Star ruby was cut from a rough ruby, which also yielded three additional stones. The weight of the group of four star rubies became known as the Mountain Star Ruby Collection and is shown in Figure 4. The aggregate weight of the rubies totals 342 carats.

The rough ruby was found in 1990 by Wayne Messer, a fishing guide in Western North Carolina. He had noted traces of corundum in a stream bed and traced the alluvial stones back to their source. Upon digging some eight feet, found the rough ruby. The quartet of star rubies was cut by Sam Fore from the rough stone which weighed 377 carats.

The Appalachian Star ruby was exhibited in 1992 at the Natural history Museum in London, drawing an estimated 150,000 people. Several attempts were made over the years to sell the collection, appraised at a value close to $100 million. Only recently, following the death of Messer, was the collection offered for sale.

Figure 3. The Appalachian Star, World’s Largest Star ruby [Ref 7].

Figure 4. The four star rubies, cut from the large rough ruby which gave the Appalachian Star [Ref 7].

The Rosser Reeves Ruby [Ref 8, Ref 9]

At a weight of 138.7 carats, the Rosser Reeve Ruby is the world’s second heaviest star ruby, and was found in Sri Lanka. The gem is named after Rosser Reeves a pioneer in the advertising industry. Rosser donated the gem to the Smithsonian Institute in 1965. Despite his attractive tale of buying the gem at an auction in Istanbul, he actually bought the gem from Robert C. Nelson Jr.  At purchase, the stone weighed just over 140 carats, but was scratched and so was re-polished, which also helped to re-center the star on the Cabochon. Fortunately for museum goers, this beautiful gem still can be seen at the Smithsonian institute. As a note, the Wikipedia article used as the reference for this segment of the blog was written by Brendan Reeves, great grandson of Rosser.

Figure 5. The Rosser Reeves star ruby [Ref 9].


Ref 1. https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2016/01/10/worlds-largest-blue-star-sapphire-found-worth-300-million/#6a06d4f075d1

Ref 2. https://www.mindat.org/loc-3147.html

Ref 3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Star_of_Queensland#cite_note-5

Ref 4. https://www.upi.com/Feature-Legendary-sapphire-for-sale/10481044491153/

Ref 5. http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/05/local/la-me-blacksapphire5-2010jan05/2

Ref 6. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/863987509737025682/

Ref 7. https://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/wilderness-resources/blogs/extremely-rare-star-rubies-found-fishing-guide-could-fetch-millions

Ref 8. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosser_Reeves_Ruby

Ref 9. https://geogallery.si.edu/10002811/rosser-reeves-star-ruby

October 26th Field Trip to Alpine Az

This was the clubs second field trip for October with the intention of collecting Luna Blue Agate in New Mexico.

A new friend from the Prescott club was to meet us Saturday afternoon  in Alpine to lead us to Reserve , New Mexico to collect Agate on Sunday October 27th.

Thirteen members arrived in Alpine, Arizona around noon at the motel and from there we headed east on the 180 towards Luna N.M. We made several stops south of Luna at mile marker 10 and then at mile marker 4. 

Good material was collected at MM4  in the road cuts, some Luna Blue was found and Druzy. Not a real productive site but still a good start for what awaited in Reserve on Sunday.

After breakfast Sunday morning we followed Allen Valley to Reserve N.M. where Allen had made arrangements to cross over private property onto State Land which was about a 3 mile drive uphill on uneven dirt road through three closed gates to a plateau in a forested setting. A vast expanse of forest land was covered in Banded Agate with Druzy. It was an overwhelming amount of material. It was hard not to pick it all up, but we had to be selective when we realized how much there actually was.

We spent the day there trying several locations and coming away very happy. 

Sunday evening at dinner Allen made arrangements with a local from Alpine to lead us back into N.M. to several locations that turned out to be not so productive. It is my feeling our local guide did not want to take us to any secret spots thinking we would come back at some point and clean them out, can’t blame her for that, but she shouldn’t have offered to waste a whole day driving around. Beautiful country but we wanted rocks too. All in all this was a successful trip.

Members that attended :

Lowen & Cheryl

Sandy & Wendy

John & Beth

Andrea & Linda A

Clint & Erica 

Alan Cartwright 

Marty & Linda


Saturday morning a group of 12 signed in for the two and a half hour drive south to Sycamore Creek.   We met Larry Jensen who led our group on a 2 mile dirt road where we all found places to safely pull to the side of the road at a dry wash to search for Red Jasper. Weather was warm and comfortable.

Being a Saturday there were many dirt bikes traveling the road as well as weekend campers to keep us busy. Most of the group canvased the wash area for Jasper and a few of us brought out the 15 pound sledge hammer and steel chisels to assist breaking apart  rocks suspected to be hiding  good cutting material. I saw members carrying 5 gallon buckets of Red Jasper back to their vehicles so I assume we all found a little something to work with.

Next time when we return I would prefer a weekday trip as there are three locations to collect material and we only saw the first site because of the off-road vehicle traffic.

 Attending Members:

Alan & Linda

Clint & Erica

John & Beth

Rob & Sue

Alan Cartwright

Kathy S

Marty & Linda