I may chat about my books, what I'm writing or reading, or just general thoughts. You may read posts about my cats or just my crazy life in general. Comments are welcome, if anyone wants to interact with me. Maybe we can share war stories, whether it's writing related or just about life in general.

Friday, April 20, 2018

R is for Ruby

Ruby from Wikipedia

Ruby is a pink to deep red gemstone from the mineral corundum.  The red color is caused by chromium.  Ruby is one of the original cardinal gems, considered precious above other gemstones.  Other gems falling into this category are sapphire, emerald, amethyst and diamond.

Natural occurring ruby - Wikipedia

The quality and price of ruby is determined by its color, cut, clarity and weight, just like the other precious gemstones listed above.  Blood-red is the most valuable color for rubies.  The stone should have good clarity too, but not be too perfect.  Inclusions are trapped inside gems when they’re formed.  Looking at one that’s perfect could indicate it’s been treated because all rubies have needle-like inclusions of rutile, a mineral that’s primarily titanium oxide. 

Cut red ruby gemstone - Wikipedia

Cut pink ruby gemstone - Wikipedia

Other than diamond and moissanite, a naturally occurring silicon carbide used in industry, ruby is the hardest gem with a reading of 9.0 on the Mohs scale of hardness.  This scale was invented in 1812 by German geologist and mineralogist, Friedrich Mohs.

Victorian ruby and diamond brooch - Wikipedia

The world’s most valuable ruby is the Sunrise Ruby, which sold in auction by Sotheby’s, in May 2015 in Geneva Switzerland, for a whopping 30.42 million US dollars.

Ruby is the birthstone for July.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Q is for Quartz

Quartz from Tibet - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in Earth’s continental crust, behind feldspar.  There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones.  Since antiquity, varieties of quartz have been the most commonly used minerals for making jewelry and carvings.

Pure quartz is colorless and transparent.  The other colors of quartz are mixed with other minerals.  This colored quartz are semi-precious stones for making jewelry and other decorative pieces.

Amethyst - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

There are many varieties of these, but I’ll just mention a few.  Purple quartz is amethyst.  The largest deposit is found in Brazil.  Amethyst is formed when there is iron in the area.  

Citrine - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Citrine is a variety of quartz that ranges from pale yellow to brown due to the ferric impurities.  Natural citrines are rare.  Most commercial citrines are heat-treated amethyst, or smoky quartz's.  Brazil is the leading producer of citrine.  Citrine has been referred to as “money stone” due to the superstition that it would bring prosperity.

Rose Quartz - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Rose quartz is pale pink to rose red in color.  This is due to trace amounts of titanium, iron, or manganese.

A quartz crystal jug from the 16th century.  This piece is in the National Museum in Warsaw.  
Pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Quartz is very common in sedimentary rocks, such as sandstone and shale.  Quartz is a defining essential of granite.

Almost all of the quartz crystals used today in the electronics industry are synthetic.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

P is for Peridot

Peridot is gem-quality olivine, which is a silicate mineral.  It’s one of the few gemstones that occur only in one color, olive green.  The intensity and tint of the green depends on the percentage of iron that’s contained in the crystal structure.  Peridot can occur as pure green with no yellow or brown cast.

Peridot - pic courtesy of wikipedia

Olivine is often found in lava and meteorites.  A peridot formed in volcanic activity tends to contain higher concentrations of lithium, nickel and zinc.  Olivine is an abundant mineral, but gem-quality peridot is rare.  Olivine tends to exist in a heavily weathered state, thus making it unsuitable for decorative use.

A cut and polished Peridot gemstone - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

The largest cut peridot olivine is 310 carats and is in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC.

This is the birthstone for people born in the month of August.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

O is for Opal

 Rough opal specimen from Virgin Valley, NV - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Opal is classified as a mineraloid because of its amorphous character.  It’s a hydrated form of silica and may occur in fissures of almost any kind of rock, but most commonly in limonite, sandstone, rhyolite, marl and basalt.  Opal is the national gemstone of Australia.

Opal from Australia - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

The internal structure of opal makes it diffract light.  It can take on many colors, but usually is clear through white, gray, red, orange, yellow, green, blue, magenta, rose, pink, slate, olive, brown and black.  Black opals are rarest.  White and green opals are the most common.

Opal mined near Queensland Australia - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Opal was rare and very valuable years ago.  In Europe it was a gem prized by royalty.  Today the state of South Australia accounts for about 80% of the world’s opal.

Showing the "fire" in opal - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Opal pendant from Ethiopia - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

In the Middle Ages opal was considered a stone that could bring good luck.  It could also confer the power of invisibility, if wrapped in a fresh bay leaf and held in the hand.  

In Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Anne of Geierstein, opal acquired the reputation that it held supernatural powers.  In the novel, the Baroness of Amheim wears it as a talisman.  When holy water drops on the necklace, the opal turns into a colorless stone and the Baroness dies shortly thereafter.  Due to the popularity of this novel people began to associate opal with bad luck and death.  This had a great impact on the opal market.  Within a year of publishing Scott’s novel in April 1829, the sale of opals in Europe dropped 50% and they remained low for the next twenty years.

Opal is the birthstone for people born in the month of October.

Monday, April 16, 2018

N is for Nickel

Nickel is considered corrosion-resistant, but it will slowly oxidize by air at room temperatures.  It was used for plating iron and brass, coating chemistry equipment and manufacturing certain alloys that retain a high silvery polish.  About 9% of nickel production today is still used for corrosion- resistant plating.  It’s also been used to make coins, but in recent years is being replaced with cheaper metals.

Nickel most often occurs in combination with iron and Sulfur.  Nickel is commonly found in iron meteorites.  Australia and New Caledonia have the largest reserves of nickel.

Nickel coins - pic courtesy of Wilkipedia

Aside from some very early coins, nickel wasn’t a component of coins until the mid-19th century.

Nickel pic courtesy of Wikipedia

About two million tons of nickel is produced annually worldwide.  The Philippines, Indonesia, Russia, Canada and Australia are the world’s largest producers of nickel.  

Hydrated nickel sulfate crystals - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

Nickel is used in stainless steel, rechargeable batteries, electric guitar strings, coins, and plating on plumbing fixtures.

Nickel is the top confirmed contact allergen worldwide, partly due to its use in jewelry for pierced ears.  Many earrings are now made without nickel, or with a low-release nickel.  Contact dermatitis is marked by itchy, red skin and affects nearly 72.29 million people.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

M is for Malachite

Malachite is a beautiful stone with layers of light and dark green.  This makes it easy to recognize.  The lines can be straight, curvy or wiggly. 

Malachite, isn't this beautiful?

Malachite often results from the weathering of copper ores.  It is typically associated with copper deposits around limestone.  Sometimes it’s found as stalactites in caves.  Wouldn’t that be an amazing sight?

This malachite is from Arizona 

Malachite is found worldwide.  Arizona is the most notable place in the US.

Malachite specimens

Malachite can be used for ornaments, furniture and jewelry.  There are large vases in museums.

Malachite - this vase is in Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg

When I lived in Alaska in the 1970’s, we sold malachite and other gemstones, such as turquoise, in the leather store I worked in.  We had lots of items that used stone embellishments.  I still have a purse I made in the leather shop there and it has a drilled malachite closure.

Photos courtesy of Wikipedia and a gemstone site in the UK

Friday, April 13, 2018

L is for lead

Lead is a heavy metal that’s denser than most common materials.  Lead starts out as bluish-white, but tarnishes to a dull gray when exposed to air.  The abundance of lead and its low cost made it ideal for building materials. 

It’s been used in construction, batteries, bullets, solder, plumbing and white paint to name a few.  It’s easily extracted and highly melt-able.

Lead bullets - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

The toxicity of lead was recognized in the early 19th century and many of its uses have been phased out.  Lead is a neurotoxin that accumulates in bones and soft tissue.  It damages the nervous system and causes blood disorders. 

Lead is generally found combined with Sulphur and rarely occurs in its native metallic form.

Lead chunks - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

During the Roman Empire lead was used for making water pipes.  It’s application included pharmaceuticals, roofing, currency and warfare.  In the 13th century lead was being used for stained glass.  Lead was also used in drinking vessels that resulted in mass lead poisonings in the late 18th century.

Lead was one of the principles used in the printing press, invented around 1440.  The lead dust commonly inhaled by workers caused lead poisoning.  Lead was also used to make bullets for firearms and in the white paint worn by geishas and Western European aristocracy who believed a white face was regarded as a sign of modesty and feminine virtue.  This white face paint led to the invention of powdered wigs and eye liner that phased out with the French Revolution in the late 18th century.

Lead - pic courtesy of Wikipedia

By the mid 1980’s the United States had moved to phase out lead in non-battery products such as gasoline, paint, solder and water systems.  Old houses can still contain lead paint and it also is still found in tubing and insulation of electrical cords.  One must be careful when stripping old paint by sanding as it’s dusty and workers can easily inhale this dust.  Poisoning generally results from ingestion of food or water contaminated with lead.  It can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion and skin absorption.  Cigarette smoke contains, along with other toxic substances, radioactive lead.