Let’s get started by clarifying that the term “Quartz” goes deeper than the stones commonly called Quartz. Understanding how the mineral term is used can be useful information, especially if you’re trying to cut your own material or make educated guesses about a stone in your stash whose name you’ve forgotten. We’ll be doing a special DS School of Rocks episode soon to talk more about this.
Natural Quartz comes in three varieties, but today’s blog is all about the Crystalline variety, which is what we know and love as “Quartz” as a stone type.
Crystalline Quartz is a natural stone, but the gem and mineral markets are full of gemstones that have been enhanced, treated, and even created.
Enhancements can include:
• Dying and coating the stones to strengthen or change their colors or add a colorful surface
• Heating a gemstone to enhance clarity or change the color
• Irradiation to restore colors that have been lost or faded
Created gemstones may be either lab-grown crystals or glass.
Why does this matter?
• Price. Why is one strand more expensive than another?
• Durability. If the gemstone has been enhanced, is the color stable & permanent? Or will the color fade or scratch off?
• Knowledge. Is the gemstone real, or “man-made”?
• Reputation. With the interest and popularity of metaphysical healing and therapy there’s a demand for natural stones. People with these interests rely on the authenticity of their stones.
• Distinction. Establishing yourself as a knowledgeable, honest resource distinguishes you from designers or bead stores dealing in lower priced or mass-produced items of unknown origin.
If all you or your client cares about is the outward appearance, then many of the following points may not be of interest. However, if you deal in gemstones, you’re likely to be asked at some point about whether a stone is natural.
Buy from a knowledgeable and trusted vendor. If the vendor buys rough material directly and then has the factory cut the beads, the vendor has the most knowledge of any treatments. If your vendor is buying existing factory stock, they’re relying on the factory to disclose the origin and treatments of the material. There’s a higher likelihood of mistakes if you aren’t buying from a vendor with a close relationship with their suppliers. Your vendor should be able to tell you if a product has been created or enhanced. If they don’t know, they should disclose that.
Let's get this clear, quartz can naturally have a single or double termination. Tibetan Quartz and Herkimer Diamond naturally grow within a host rock. They come out of the ground resembling a cut gem. They may get a helping hand from polishing and drilling, but otherwise, they're 100% natural. Since most natural Quartz crystals grow out from a host mineral they must be separated from their host and have only one termination. When looking at a natural Quartz point, one end will showcase the natural termination point, and the other will be a bit irregular and flat. This is where the point was cut away from the host material. Natural points may also be tumbled to smooth their edges and create a high shine. Tumbled natural points will have a rounded, but still defined, point on one end, and a flatter, possibly more jagged end.
Sometimes, if a Quartz crystal is not perfect (or broken); a skilled gem cutter will enhance and polish the crystal’s shape. This is especially true for stones like Amethyst and Quartz which have naturally occurring termination and immense popularity. These components can be incredibly beautiful, but it's good to know that this may not be the stone's natural shape. People drawn to stone jewelry for its energetic or metaphysical gemstone properties often consider the shape of the stone and a natural termination is preferable.
Colorful Quartz crystals:
There are two types of natural colorful Quartz crystals.
Clear crystals naturally colored by a few atoms of different elements embedded in the crystal’s molecules: Amethyst, Citrine, Rose Quartz, Smokey Quartz, etc.
Other natural, colorful Quartz crystals get their color from inclusions of other crystals and materials.
Rutilated Quartz with golden to reddish-brown needles. Because the natural colors of Rutilated Quartz are so vibrant, it's not commonly enhanced- even if the needle-like inclusions of the Rutile aren't highly defined.
Tourmalineated Quartz with black and green needles.
Phantom Quartz is just Quartz that formed over other minerals. Depending on the size and type of mineral inclusion the "phantoms" may be clearly visible or simply alter the shade of the Quartz.
Champagne Quartz - It might be natural if it's hanging out at a higher price point. If it's beautifully cut and pricey, it's most likely natural. Since it's a rarer stone, it's far more likely to have a showy, high-quality cut.
Mystic / Aura Quartz - It's been treated in a vacuum chamber with platinum and magnesium to create a new layer (not a plating). It's considered an electrostatic metal coating, which, for practical purposes, means it's more durable than a plating, but should still be treated with care. Some, but not all, see the addition of these elements as a value-add since different metals are also said to have energetic properties.
Aqua Quartz - Much like Opalite, this is a euphemism, for glass. Like Opalite, it's often also found hanging out with stones.
Lemon Quartz - Can occur naturally, but only very, very rarely. It's most likely that Lemon Quartz beads have been irradiated and heat-treated. (Don't worry, there's no residual radiation, it's safe according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission). It's virtually impossible to visually identify between natural and treated Lemon Quartz, lab testing is the only way to be certain. Cherry Quartz - can occur naturally, but is most often a synthetic.
Strawberry Quartz - can also occur naturally, but may be treated- if it's especially vibrant and relatively low cost, proceed with caution.
At the end of the day, what matters the most is that you create with materials that speak to you. Information about natural vs. synthetic vs. treated stones can be useful information. In working with stone, at some point, you're likely to get a customer asking if a stone is natural. If you're not sure about any of our products, contact us. Since we're the manufacturer, we know everything that's happened to our beads from mine to design.
Erin, Dakota Stones
Specials thanks to California-based stone expert Ken Rogers. Ken has been an uncredited resource for Dakota Stones for years and we're privileged to work with him.