Smoky Topaz and Quartz
From time to time we get requests from customers for a gemstone called smoky topaz. We have to deliver the disappointing news that there is no such gemstone. People are surprised to hear that, since smoky topaz seems to be widely advertised. How can that be?
The answer is that some less than scrupulous dealers sell smoky quartz - an attractive but inexpensive stone - under the name of the more expensive topaz. That's not only dishonest, but it fails to do justice to smoky quartz, which is an interesting and unique gemstone in its own right.
There are relatively few gemstones that occur in dark-brown or black. Gemstones that occur in these colors include black diamond, onyx and black tourmaline. Also, sometimes, dark-brown tourmaline, scapolite and agate can be found. It is a fairly rare and distinctive color.
Smoky quartz is a type of macrocrystalline quartz (silicon dioxide), the branch of the quartz family that includes amethyst, citrine and rose quartz. This type of quartz is made up of crystals that are large enough to be discerned by the naked eye. Macrocrystalline quartz is mainly transparent to translucent, with a vitreous luster.
The color of smoky quartz varies. It can be brown, smoky-gray or black. The characteristic color of smoky quartz occurs when rock crystal quartz is exposed to natural radiation from radioactive elements over long periods of time. The process by which the color change occurs is not entirely understood, though it is known that when transparent quartz is exposed to radiation, the oxidation states of impurities within the quartz structure can be altered.
Smoky quartz comes from many sources around the world. A few of the more noteworthy locations include Brazil, the world's largest supplier; the Pikes Peak area of Colorado, USA, where it is associated with green amazonite; and the Swiss Alps, where many tons of fine specimens have been mined.
The popularity of smoky quartz rises and falls with fashion. Recently it has been very popular as a gemstone for its earthy tone and tribal look. Since it is quite inexpensive and easily found in large sizes, it is popular for use as pendants. It can sometimes be found fashioned into innovative faceted cuts, as well as in cabochons and carvings. Throughout history, smoky quartz was the material used for the crystal balls of fortune tellers; and some of the mystique of this distinctive quartz seems to persist to this day.
- First Published: October-22-2008
- Last Updated: January-22-2019
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