Obsidian: A Volcanic Jewel


Obsidian is a lustrous volcanic glass formed by rapid lava solidification. It is similar in composition to granite, but cools too quickly for minerals to form within the stone. The rock gets its name from the Latin obsidianus, which is actually a misprint of Obsianus, pertaining to a Roman called Obsius who allegedly discovered a similar stone in Ethiopia. Because it is found in Iceland, obsidian is also sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Iceland Agate." It is commonly formed in Ecuador, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, and the United States, as well.


What is Obsidian?

12mm Snowflake Obsidian Bead Set: Three Stretch Bracelets #910714

Obsidian is known for its glossy surface, which makes it a beautiful choice for jewelry. The obsidian color is caused by trace elements or inclusions which usually results in a black, brown or green hue. In rare cases, the rock can be blue, red, orange or yellow and sometimes come marbled, swirled, or speckled with a mix of colors. Some trade names for these types of mixed color stones are "snowflake obsidian," "mahogany obsidian" and "rainbow Obsidian."

But before its debut in jewelry, obsidian was used to create tools and weapons, like spears and knives, as it can be easily chiseled into sharp edges. Even today, obsidian blades are used in surgical scalpels and some argue that these blades are better or equal to the precision of surgical steel. In addition to obsidian's practical purposes, it was also used for reasons of vanity. The clean fracturing of the stone creates a highly reflective surface which ancients used as early mirrors.

Obsidian is a shiny volcanic glass commonly found in black, brown, or green. In rare cases, it can be blue, red, orange, or yellow and come marbled or speckled with other colors. Obsidian forms from rapid cooling lava and therefore, never produces minerals within. Valued for its luster and clean fracturing, it is used in anything from jewelry, to sculptures, to sharp-edged tools.

Due to the special fracturing properties of the obsidian stone, it is best to reserve it for less impactful adornments, like earrings, broaches and pendants, rather than rings or bracelets. Rare kinds of obsidian, such as blue, snowflake, or mahogany, are well sought after for jewelry and make one-of-a-kind statement pieces.

The rock can be opaque or translucent and is popularly polished into a cabochon or bead. Special types are cut and faceted into a gemstone shape. Ross-Simons makes every effort to select obsidian stones that express quality, uniqueness, character. Browse our collection or find alternative looks in agate or onyx jewelry.


Obsidian Jewelry Care & Handling

Obsidian ranks a 5-5.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which makes it durable enough for tool-making, but still susceptible to break and scratches if not properly cared for. Avoid chemical or ultrasonic cleaners and wash your obsidian jewelry with soapy water and a soft cloth. Make sure to remove it before high impact activities, such as sports or household chores. When not in use, store your obsidian jewelry safely in its Ross-Simons presentation box.