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Monday, April 30, 2018

Z is for Zirconia

Most of you know this as synthetic diamond and probably a few of you have some of these gems at home.  They are sparkly and beautiful and can be almost any color.

It may surprise you to know that the main use of zirconia is in the production of ceramics as in dentistry.  It’s used in reconstruction, such as crowns or bridges.  Stabilized zirconia is used in oxygen sensors.  It also has potential applications as an insulator in transistors.

A brilliant cut cubic zirconia - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

When used in jewelry it has a high index of refraction and the same crystal structure as diamond.  It’s very difficult to determine the difference of a diamond and zirconia by visual testing alone.  A thermal conductivity test needs to be performed.  Diamond is a good thermal conductor where zirconia isn’t.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Y is for Yuksporite

Yuksporite - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

This is a rather pretty color mineral found in Russia.  This is a silicate mineral.  It contains rare elements of strontium, titanium and niobium, as well as the commoner metallic elements potassium, calcium, sodium and manganese.  It was found in Russia in 1922 and was named for the locality, near Mount Yukspor.

Yuksporite - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

The mineral is brownish-pink, rose pink or yellowish in color.  It has a silky vitreous luster.  Its makeup is similar to quartz but closer to tourmaline.  So far, the only occurrences of this mineral have been in Russia.

Friday, April 27, 2018

X is for Xyloid jasper

Xyloid jasper - courtesy of Wikipedia

This one is very interesting.  This is petrified wood that has fossilized.  All the original chemicals have been replaced with minerals, making a stone-like replica of the original wood.

Xyloid jasper - courtesy of Wikipedia

Xyloid jasper can be found all over the world, if conditions are right.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

W is for Wulfenite

Wulfenite - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

This is found in tabular crystals with bright orange-red or yellow-orange color.  It’s found in many localities associated with lead ores.  In fact, the yellow form is sometimes called “yellow lead ore.”  Its also a secondary ore of molybdenum and is sought by collectors.

Wulfenite - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Wulfenite was first discovered in 1845 in Austria and is named for Austrian mineralogist, Franz Xavier von Wulfen.

Wulfenite - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Different colors of wulfenite seem to be found in different mines.  In Arizona the crystals are deep red in color.  In Mexico they’re thick tabular orange crystals and in Slovenia they’re yellow.  In 1997, the crystal was depicted on a stamp by the Post of Slovenia.

It’s soft and brittle and probably better as a crystal specimen instead of a candidate for jewelry.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

V is for Vulcanite

Here is an interesting one.  This mineral is also called ebonite.  It’s a hard, moldable polished dark color of brown or black.  This was early rubber.  Vulcanite was produced by adding Sulphur to vulcanized rubber.  It was used for combs, ornaments and buttons.

Vulcanite - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Hard rubber fountain pin bodies, hockey pucks, battery cases and mouthpieces for clarinet and saxophone are other uses for vulcanite.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

U is for Uranium

This is a metal that can be used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons.  Uranium can also be used as a dye for stained glass and pottery.  This was the main use until people found out it was radioactive. 

Uranium - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Uranium is a dangerous substance.  It’s silver-gray and forms a black coating in the air.  Where there is uranium you will usually see the radioactive hazard sign.  This metal can be found all across the United States. 

There are many problems with mining and milling this metal.  Many workers are exposed to high levels of radiation.  Radon gas can be inhaled by miners underground.  Accidental releases from uranium mines can also be a hazard.  Many mines are abandoned today.  This is a good thing in my opinion.

Monday, April 23, 2018

T is for Turquoise

Turquoise - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Turquoise is an opaque green to blue mineral.  This mineral is a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum.  It’s been known by many names but ended up with the name turquoise because its arrival in Europe in the 17th century was through Turkey from mines in Persia.

Turquoise is typically found in arid regions, suggesting climate plays a big part in its formation.

Turquoise - pics courtesy of Wikipedia

Turquoise was among the first gems ever mined.  The mining is done by hand in small scale operations.  It’s often discovered as a byproduct of large scale copper mining in the United States.  Copper mines are also found in Iran and on the Sanai Peninsula.  The southwest United States is a significant source of turquoise.  Sometimes in an attempt to meet demand, turquoise is treated or enhanced.  Sometimes these treatments also include  waxing or dyeing.

Even though turquoise was used in ancient times, it didn’t become significant until the 14th century following a decline in the Roman Catholic Churches influence which allowed the stone to be used in secular jewelry.

Turquoise - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Turquoise was thought to change color with the wearers health and protect him or her from untoward forces.

Turquoise was widely used by the Aztecs, Pueblo, Navajo and Apache tribes.  They cherished turquoise as amulets.

Turquoise - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Turquoise is fragile and sensitive to solvents and even perfume.  Care must be taken so as to avoid contact with body lotion, sunscreen and cosmetics.  It’s also best to keep turquoise away from direct sunlight, as it can fade with prolonged sun exposure.