Smoky quartz is a grey-brown to black variety of quartz. This common name is derived from from the appearance of smoke within the quartz crystal. Dependent on the location and the chemicals present during formation, smoky quartz can appear opaque black, however it’s typically translucent to some extent. It’s believed that the quartz gains this color from a combination of natural irradiation and aluminum impurities.
The dark color of smoky quartz is caused by a combination of irradiation (exposure to natural radiation inside the earth) and aluminum impurities within the crystals. The natural radiation will activate “color centers” around the aluminum impurities. The more radiation the crystals are exposed to, the darker the smoky quartz. Amethyst forms in a similar fashion just the impurities are iron instead of aluminum.
From a technical standpoint, aluminum atoms will replace silicon atoms to form [AlO4]- instead of SiO2 . To balance out the charge created by this replacement, free cations are naturally incorporated into the crystal lattice, forming what’s known as a “color center”. These cations have typically been found to be Hydrogen (H+), Lithium (Li+) or Sodium (Na+), likely depending on whichever is present at the time of formation.
Is Smoky Quartz Radioactive?
While radioactivity is often considered to be the driving force in smoky quartz coloration, the radioactive element content within the quartz is usually in very small amounts. More often than not, the surrounding rock contains more radioactive elements than the smoky quartz itself. The amount of radioactivity in would not be any health concern and would be less than the background radiation in a typical city.
Will Smoky Quartz Fade If Exposed To Sunlight?
The fading of color within a smoky quartz crystal can vary dependent on the crystals composition and the locality from which it came from. The UV rays from direct sunlight can cause fading following prolonged exposure, however, smoky quartz crystals have been found after laying in the sun for decades, still containing smoky coloration. Occasional UV exposure shouldn’t have any noticeable effect on the average natural smoky quartz crystal.
Synthetically irradiated smoky quartz will usually fade quicker than natural smoky quartz.
Can Smoky Quartz Be Synthetically Created?
It’s possible to give quartz a smoky appearance by exposing it to x-rays or radium. Often, this smoky quartz will be devoid of transparency and translucency, appearing completely black and unnatural looking. Because artificially exposing quartz to radiation to create smoky quartz mimics natural processes there is no definitive way to know if the color is natural or artificial.
Is Smoky Quartz And Topaz The Same?
No, smoky quartz and topaz are different minerals. Smoky quartz is a silicate with the chemical formula SiO2 and contains aluminum impurities with various free cations. Topaz is also a silicate mineral, though its common chemical formula is Al2(SiO4)(F,OH)2 . Topaz is more rare and expensive than quartz which can be problematic in jewelry. False advertising of “smoky topaz” gems isn’t abnormal, even though there is no such thing as smoky topaz.
Is Smoky Quartz And Citrine The Same?
No, smoky quartz and citrine are not the same. While they can be identical in chemical composition, the process from which they gain their color is different. Smoky quartz most commonly gains its color from irradiation or impurities, while citrine gains its color from the heat of its environment.
Natural smoky quartz is very common, while natural citrine is considered to be quite rare. There are a lot of heat treated smoky quartz and amethyst crystals that are on the market. The heat treating will turn the amethyst or smoky quartz (dependent on location) a deep orange color, while natural citrine is orange-yellow in color. If you come across a large citrine plate or crystal that is relatively low in cost, it’s likely too good to be true.
Where Is Smoky Quartz Found?
Smoky quartz is found throughout the world! Commonly known locations include China, Greece, United States, Germany, Australia, Morocco, Namibia, Italy, Brazil, Malawi, Romania, Switzerland and the Ukraine. The deposits that are considered to be of highest importance are located in Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique, Switzerland, Scotland, Australia and the United States.
Smoky quartz from Brazil is quite common and can often be found at shows or online. Brazil has multiple mines that produce large quantities of smoky quartz, as well as generic quartz and amethyst. These principal producing states within Brazil are Minas Gerais, Goiaz and Bahia.
There are a large variety of smoky quartz locations within the United States, though Jack Rabbit Mine in Colorado is well known for producing beautiful smoky quartz specimens that are often found associated with amazonite. Moat Mountain in Carroll County, New Hampshire is renowned for producing zoned smoky quartz that has a deep black-brown interior and a transparent quartz exterior, or vice versa.
What Are The Different Varieties Of Smoky Quartz?
-Smoky quartz can be a variety of colors, as well has have different names dependent on these colors.
-Cairngorm - Smoky yellow-brown or grayish-brown with some translucency, typically associated only with smoky quartz from the Cairngorm mountains.
-Black (Morion) - Opaque, black smoky quartz.
-Brown - Smoky quartz that is brown in color.
-Grey - Sometimes smoky quartz will exhibit more of a grey color, though this usually has a brownish tint to it.
-Smoky Citrine - Black/brown to yellow/orange in color. This is considered a rare variety of smoky quartz.
-Smoky Amethyst - Amethyst (a purple variety of quartz) with some black coloration. This is a relatively common variety of amethyst, though it is still considered to be highly sought after.
-Zoned Smoky Quartz - Quartz that displays its smoky color through zoning, meaning it forms and presents its colors as layers or phantoms.
-Brandberg Smoky Quartz - This type of smoky quartz is similar to some of the previously mentioned color varieties, for it is a blend of amethyst and smoky quartz. It's special in that it often contains phantoms, enhydros (water inclusions), unique inclusions and unusual crystal formations. This variety of smoky quartz is only found in Namibia, Africa.
Other Names For Smoky Quartz.
Very dark black-brown quartz is synonymous with the word “Morion”. The origin of this smoky quartz synonym is believed to have either come from the French word “moreau”, meaning “black”, or from the Greek term for “hideous”. Lighter black and yellow-brown smoky quartz crystals are also known as “Cairngorm”, named after the Cairngorm Mountains of the Scottish highlands from which these crystals were mined.
Smoky quartz can also be spelt “smokey quartz”, however the most commonly used spelling doesn’t contain the “e”.
Uses For Smoky Quartz?
Due to its high abundance and low price, smoky quartz has been used for a large variety of practices. Aside from its usage as a natural display piece, it’s also common to be used as practice material for those learning to facet gems. For hundreds of years it has been used to adorn weapons, decorate attire and used in various jewelry pieces.
Washington state has now joined over a dozen other states to put in place “shelter in place” or “stay at home” orders. While we agree this is the correct course of action, it will have a substantial impact on our business. It effectively shuts down much of our company for several weeks.
We will continue taking orders on our website and we will have a single staff member at our warehouse to facilitate shipping of these new orders. Depending on the order volume this may mean that we do experience some shipping delays, particularly with large or fragile items that require more packaging time.
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