Friday, March 11, 2011

Crystal In Handmade Jewelry - Part Two: Crystal versus Glass Structure

Our 11" Suncatcher Talisman showing
off a variety of crystalline solids, such
as a smoky quartz faceted crystal
teardrop.
In Part One of my series of posts on 'crystal' I talked about many of the different definitions and uses for this common word in handmade jewelry business.  As this series continues, I am going to focus on each of the various views of 'crystal' and hopefully dispel some of the ambiguity.

A common place to find confusion is in the use of 'crystal' versus 'glass' in the materials listed for a handmade piece.  To a geologist, these terms have a specific difference based on structure.  To a bead artist, these terms are more likely to be differentiated based on chemical content.  Let's talk about structure first ...

'Glass' is a solid substance where the structure of the atoms is irregular and amorphous (and which will turn into a liquid when enough heat is applied).  There is no large scale order to be found in 'glass'.  Conversely, the structure of a 'crystalline' solid is very regular.  The internal matrix of a crystal is repetitive and highly ordered.

It is possible to have a 'glassy' form of a material that has the exact chemical composition as a 'crystalline' form.  The most most well known crystal is quartz, made of silicon and oxygen, SiO2, in a nice repeating pattern.  But SiO2 is also the major constituent of 90% of the glass in our everyday lives.  A crystalline substance can be formed by cooling a liquid slowly, allowing the atoms to line up into a nice, repeating pattern as the stuff becomes solid.  A glassy substance can be formed by cooling a liquid very quickly.  The stuff becomes a solid before the atoms have time to line up.

This means that any 'crystal' in a necklace need only be made of a solid with a repeating structure to be referred to as 'crystal'.  A designer that uses quartz crystal in a necklace will call it crystal, and be absolutely correct.  Yet this can be misleading if you imagine all crystal means 'Swarovski.'

I'll post soon about crystal versus glass - composition!

Jennifer

4 comments:

  1. Ah, this interesting. I'm glad to have this information. I didn't realize glass had an irregular atomic structure. Does it break more easily than crystal or does it depend?

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  2. Using quartz crystal is an excellent way to take healing upon oneself. Crystal healing uses specific crystals to bring about healing and positive changes in the mind and body. The idea behind crystal healing is that gemstones carry vibrational rates, which can change a the vibrational rates of a person's aura.

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  3. Amy - Crystal solids tend to be stronger, but that's not a universal truth. The natural 'faults' in crystals can be points for breakage.

    Meg - Thanks for the comment! Quartz does indeed have some unusual vibrational properties, which is how we can use quartz crystals under stress to regulate watches and clocks.

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  4. The stones are appreciated for their healing effects and the beauty. It is nice to see the blog on them.
    eyebrow rings

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