Monday, September 19, 2011

Gemstones as Minerals

I am fascinated by minerals.  We so often see gemstones in a final form as faceted stones or polished beads that it can be easy to forget what these substances look like in their native state.  The Lyman Museum in Hilo, Hawaii has a small but excellent collection of minerals.  Each specimen is notable either for size, rarity, or beauty.  Here are a few that particularly caught my eye ...

I spotted a huge, beautiful brown zircon, cubic, almost two inches on a side.  Never seen one that shade or that size.  There was a pyrite sample with the characteristic cubic box shape.  This one had several "boxes" stuck together at the corners, the largest appeared to be about 2.5 inches on a side.  The pattern isn't unusual for pyrite, but this one was smooth and perfect.  The surface of the crystals was shiny and almost mirror-like.

Some of the minerals had colors that surprised me.  There was a flourite sample with colors ranging from orange and burgundy to teal and lime.  A stunning chrysocolla from Arizona was a vibrant, glowing, light blue green.  An azurite sample was a deep, dark midnight blue, and sparkled like stars from reflections off of the facets of hundreds of tiny crystals.  Even the rose quartz was notable.  It was a perfectly uniform gorgeous pink, studded over with crystals.

The collection contained a sample of carved minerals.  This included ones I'd seen before, such as jade, carnelian, and malachite.  But there were other carved items from minerals I haven't seen used this way very often, such as lapis lazuli carved into a statue of a horse, and a head carved from aquamarine.

The petrified wood samples were excellent.  There were not simply small chunks, but full circular cross sections from trees, with rings preserved now as stone.  The process of turning something like a tree into a stone is amazing, and in this case left behind small crystal filled geodes right in the "wood."

Such a wonderful visit is always inspiring.  The next time I pick up a smooth bead of azurite, I will remember the spectacular mineral of midnight blue, with stars flashing. 

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