Why do we care about the identification of our stones, crystals, minerals, and rocks?
Different stones have different energies; it’s possible for you to work with your stones without identifying them, if you’re especially sensitive to their energies, and use them in a purely intuitive manner. However, knowing what you’ve got means you can get an idea of what to expect when working with your crystals. Forewarned is forearmed, and knowing what a crystal excels at helping you with can lead you to making stronger connections, and better energetic workings.
Knowing what your crystals are can help you understand where they came from, how they’re structured, and, once you have a grasp on their etymology, you can anticipate their energetic associations. Where and how a mineral formed informs the energy it carries; the path that stone took from formation to your collection and hands also carries meaning, and that can inform your magick. In addition, similar classes of minerals often carry similar energies. Knowing one can help you understand another.
The first and most common split when discussing gems and crystals is the divide between Precious and Semi-Precious stones. There are only four Precious stones: Diamond, Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. Everything else is Semi-Precious. However, don’t make the mistake of thinking that the Precious stones are more important or valuable. Some especially striking examples of some Semi-Precious stones are very expensive indeed!
Precious and Semi-Precious stones are both graded on Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat. Cut refers to how the stone has been cut for display. Brilliant cuts are used for stones meant to sparkle, like diamonds. Flat cuts are used for stones to show off their interior structures and inclusions, like Emeralds. Cabochons are often rounded and smoothed, and are excellent for Star Rubies and Star Sapphires, which contain inclusions that produce a ‘cat-eye’ or chatoyancy effect. Color is used to grade a stone on how near to the ‘ideal’ color a specific stone is. Clarity refers to degree of inclusion, or how much cloudiness or obvious mineral intrusion is in the stone. For diamonds, as little inclusion as possible is prized, whereas in emeralds, the lack of inclusions proves the stone is lab grown or otherwise false. And Carat refers to the size of the stone, with one carat being equal to 0.2 grams.
Let’s talk about corundum
A Corundum is aluminum oxide, AlO2. Corundums can be found in every color in the rainbow, and are readily created in laboratory conditions. A lab grown corundum provides exactly the same mineral composition and crystal structure as a ‘natural’ corundum. When the corundum is red, it’s called a Ruby. When it’s other colors, it’s a Sapphire. Some ‘fancy’ colors are given special names. The orange sapphire is also known as a Padparadscha Sapphire, and comes from India.
An especially prized Ruby variety is the Burmese Ruby. The mines that produced the deep purple/red corundum called the Burmese Ruby are played out. All the mineral has been mined, there is no more. As a result, Burmese Rubies are rare, expensive, and nigh impossible to get ahold of.
There are some very famous stones called ‘rubies’ that aren’t corundum. Spinel, MgAlO2, magnesium aluminum oxide, also appears in a red form, and before we had the ability to perfectly identify the difference between a red corundum and a red spinel, both stones were called “ruby”. The Black Prince’s Ruby in the Crown Jewels of England is a red spinel, not a corundum at all!
Both corundum and spinel can be produced in laboratories, and thus can be found for relatively cheaper prices, with perfect clarity and color.
Beryllium Aluminum Cyclosilicate is the scientific name for Beryl, a mineral that can be green, blue, yellow, red, or even black. Pure Beryl is colorless, but the mineral is tinted by inclusions that give it a color. Green Beryl is Emerald, Blue is Aquamarine, and Yellow is Morganite. And knowing that an Emerald and Aquamarine are both Beryls can give you some insight into how arbitrary the split between ‘Precious’ and ‘Semi-Precious’ really is!
Beryls tend to be soft and easily fractured; Aquamarine and Emerald are both fragile stones, and should be cared for as if they could fracture at any moment. Neither should be cleaned in an ultrasonic (a device commonly used to clean jewelry) as the vibrations can make fractures worse and crack a stone clean in half.
The odds are good that you have SiO4 in your collection already. The second most common mineral on the planet, Quartz is ubiquitous. It’s a gemstone, has applications in industry, and has been made into countless things.
Some quartz varieties: Herkimer Diamond, Rock Crystal, Amethyst, Citrine, Ametrine, Rose Quartz, Chalcedony, Carnelian, Aventurine, Agate, Onyx, Jasper, Milky Quartz, Smokey Quartz, Tiger’s Eye, Prasiolite, Rutilated Quartz, Dumortierite, Sard, Heliotrope, Moganite, Crystobalite.
Occurring in literally every color under the rainbow, in a near infinite number of forms and shapes, Quartz is the powerhouse of the mineral world.
Identification of your stones
For most people, stone identification relies on the color of the mineral first, then any obvious crystal formation and cleavage patterns, as well as the general obvious appearance of patterns, spots, stripes, chatoyancy, and so on. As a general rule, you probably won’t need to use a scratch plate to identify your stones. A scratch plate is a ceramic plate left unglazed, used to scratch a mineral to see what color residue is left behind. Cleavage, in this case, refers to how the mineral or stone fractures; crystals will fracture along crystal growth lines, and in alignment with the crystalline structure. Instead of breaking your minerals and crystals in half, observe any raw edges or previously broken places. The luster of your stone refers to how shiny or greasy looking the surface is. Emerald and Aquamarine, being Beryls, have a vitreous luster, or look like they’re slightly wet all the time, while diamonds are glassy.
I highly recommend trying to get a hold of a field guide to minerals, especially if you intend to go rock hunting in your area. The National Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Gems and Crystals is a well respected guide, with both pictures and descriptions of the various minerals and stones found in North America. There will be guides for your area, as well! Search them out, and use them. Specialist guides for even smaller geographical areas can be very interesting to read, too.
If you want to identify your crystals, start by looking for gems in your stone’s color, then narrow your search down by crystal shape. Identifying a stone by appearance alone can be tricky. Make sure, if you’d like help, to take a picture in strong sunlight, as in focus as possible, as close as possible. Indoor lighting often tints the images and can make identification by photo tricky, at best.
You’ve inventoried your rocks, identified your storage woes and wins, now it’s time to categorize your collection. Are there stones you couldn’t identify? Time to try to nail that rock down! Do you have Precious Stones? What kind do you have? Identify what you’ve got, then spend some time in meditation with your rocks and crystals.
Meditate with one of your rocks or crystals, and try to figure out what kind of mineral it is, as well as get a feel for the energy it holds. Write your observations down (it’s only science if you write it down!) and give consideration to making a habit to sit with the energy of your crystals, gems, and minerals, to discover their energy and potential uses.
Your assignment: take one of your minerals, gems, or crystals that you do NOT know what it is, and try to identify it. If you know what all your rocks are, take one that you’re certain you’ve identified and meditate with it, or otherwise try to feel what sort of energy it carries. Write about your attempt to either identify your stone or feel the energy it carries. Turn this in via the google classroom, and don’t forget your discord username!
Melody, Love Is In The Earth
Cunningham, Scott, Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, & Metal Magic
Hall, Judy, The Encyclopedia of Crystals