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Brand new to rocks and minerals

Posted by Erin Orchard  
Erin Orchard May 12, 2018 02:19PM
Hello all! I am very new to learning about rocks and minerals. A friend of mine created a beautiful necklace with a Herkimer diamond (quartz) and it started my interest into the wonderful world of minerals! I have been Googling obsessively to learn about some of the pieces I've picked up, but I'd admit that a lot of the science-y stuff goes over my head! For instance, I was reading on Wikipedia about labradorite and this just made my head spin:

"The cause of this optical phenomenon is phase exsolution lamellar structure,[8] occurring in the Bøggild miscibility gap.[9] The effect is visible when the lamellar separation is between 128 to 252 nm (5.0×10−6 to 9.9×10−6 in); the lamellae are not necessarily parallel;[9] and the lamellar structure is found to lack long range order.[10]"

But, I'm still reading and learning. I'm also a little frustrated that most of the information I come across has to do with the "healing properties" and that sort of woo. Just not my thing.

Anywho, this seems like an amazing place to learn about these minerals. Right now I'm primarily interested in learning about where these minerals can be found and if what I've acquired are 100% legit and have not been altered in any way. I picked up three pieces of calcite in the last couple of weeks - one blue, one orange and one green. They seem a little smoother than they should be. I asked both sellers (these were at gem shops) if they were coated with anything or treated in any way and they both said no, though the seller of the green calcite said something about an "acid bath". They just seem like they have a coat of something on them. Any info on these pieces would be appreciated. :)

I'm glad to be here and look forward to learning lots more!

Gary Weinstein May 12, 2018 03:18PM
Welcome to Mindat and the mineral collecting community. Those calcites are from Mexico and they are dipped in acid to give them the shine and smooth surface. Color is natural. Don't worry about the science going over your head, some of it is still over mine after 50 years. Keep reading and enjoying and you will learn lots over a short period.
Erin Delventhal May 12, 2018 10:11PM
Hi Erin,

Welcome to mindat! If you're not a fan of "healing" stone "woo," you'll fit in perfectly around here. :)

As Gary said, these calcites are dipped in acid, but I wanted to give a bit more detail to that: usually the acid is muriatic acid for this process, which reacts with the carbonate ion in calcite (which is calcium carbonate or CaCO3). This breaks down the calcite structure (you could think of it as dissolving, or like ice melting), and leaves the pieces looking very waxy.

I'm sure others will chime in here with more detail than I have, on this and plenty other subjects.

And as others will express, we are all still learning, so don't ever hesitate to ask a question!
Jolyon & Katya Ralph May 12, 2018 11:12PM
Welcome to mindat Erin!

I can simplify slightly the Labradorite story. The effect is caused by tiny alternating layers of two different types of feldspar that cause interference patterns, much in the same way that you see when you hold a CD up to the light.

If you have any questions, even if you worry they may be silly ones, ask away! Right now we really want to build up our educational section to help answer all the questions that people like yourself may have - so the more you ask the more you help us!

Erin Orchard May 13, 2018 01:36AM
Thanks for the warm welcome! :D Thank you Gary, Erin and Jolyon & Katya for the helpful information. My main interest right now is learning and making sure I don't buy any altered, colored or fake stones. Good to know the calcite colors are dyed.

The guy at one of the shops did mention the acid bath and that makes total sense. It just didn't seem like the surface of those calcites would be that smooth based on what I've read about them. Is most calcite for sale treated this way? I did watch a video or two of the process on YouTube and it was neat. Definitely something I'm not going to mess around with tho!

Right now I'm obsessed with labradorite! In my early 20s I picked up a few gemstone necklaces and one of them was labradorite. I'm pretty sure my amber necklaces are fake amber though! That seems pretty easy to fake.

The # of sites I come across when I Google just about any mineral mostly seem to focus on that "healing" BS. I can't wrap my head around the fact that so many people buy into that! I mean, whatever floats your boat, but rocks and minerals to "heal"?! C'mon! LOL But, if someone's buying, I guess it doesn't matter the reason. It's not hurting anyone, I suppose. I just hope people aren't using "stones" instead of real medical care. I have to admit, I don't even bother reading any of those websites... my brain can't handle that nonsense.

I picked this up at one of the gem stores I visited in Burlington, IA yesterday. I refer to it as my "big ass labradorite". It's so amazingly beautiful! I'm amazed people like diamonds when stuff like this exists!

Wayne Corwin May 13, 2018 02:44AM
You said... "Good to know the calcite colors are dyed."

You misunderstood, those are natural colors, just acid dipped to give them smooth surfaces.

And Welcome to Mindat, where we try to keep the truth alive!
Erin Orchard May 13, 2018 02:51AM
Oops, meant to say "not dyed"!
Ed Clopton May 13, 2018 07:11PM
Nobody has mentioned it yet, but you might want to look into visiting or joining a club. If you live in eastern Iowa (my home territory even though I now live in Maine) or western Illinois there are rock & mineral clubs in Waterloo, Cedar Rapids/Iowa City, Quad Cities, I think Mount Pleasant, Des Moines, and so on. (Check out the AFMS website for a complete list of clubs by region.) Most clubs welcome visitors to their meetings, and you are free to check them out and see whether you wish to join. There are lots of people of all knowledge & experience levels, and they/we are happy to share what we know, help identify each other's finds, and help you learn up to whatever level you are comfortable with.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/13/2018 07:13PM by Ed Clopton.
Gary Weinstein May 14, 2018 07:22PM
I like to think that the stones which some use for healing are just tools, like a hammer or stapler. Those using them need to understand this, also. The stones, themselves, do not do the healing. It is our minds and our belief that do the actual healing (if there really is some). As I have stated before, metaphysics is a belief system just like religion. Many have found religion to be less rewarding than their ancestors did and have turned to alternative possibilities. No one on this site would ever think of going into a church and telling the pastor that he is spewing a bunch of garbage. We should all keep an open mind when it comes to others beliefs.
Erin Orchard May 14, 2018 07:39PM
Gary, I understand your perspective. I am a "live and let live" kind of person. I just find it frustrating the sheer number of sites that talk about "healing powers" of these rocks and minerals when I'm trying to learn scientific information. I'm also not a big fan of patently false information being put out there; it gets people's hopes up all in the name of all the almighty dollar. If someone wants to buy a crystal to "heal" or use it's "energy", I could never knowingly sell them one and give them the impression that these rocks have any magical powers. I know the placebo effect can be a very powerful one, but in terms of "keeping an open mind", I'd never go into a church and tell a pastor he's spewing garbage, but I also believe in tangible, provable science. So open mind or not, I'm a "proof" kind of person.

So, when first website I see when I search for labradorite says:

"With its pearly sheen of iridescent blues and greens, the color of water, Labradorite harnesses the life-giving elements of the planet and opens up the mind to multiple levels of consciousness that goes beyond everyday reality and our outdated belief systems. Labradorite crystal healing properties are linked with the third eye chakra, the energy field that ignites spiritual expansion and higher levels of the mind and spirit. If you're looking to expand your mind and increase your spiritual growth, meditate with Labradorite and connect to higher realms of consciousness and parallel worlds of endless possibilities...If you’re in the mood to get weird, Labradorite also helps you channel powers of clairvoyance, recalling past lives, or other psychic abilities. "

I mean...come on. How exactly does a rock help you channel powers of clairvoyance?!

So open mind, sure, but some of this stuff is just pure nonsense.
Debbie Woolf May 14, 2018 08:18PM
Nice piece of labradorite :-)
Hiro Inukai May 14, 2018 09:33PM
Recently, my collection has expanded enough that I could put a few of my more common specimens in my work cubicle. I have had at least one coworker ask me if I collected crystals for their "energy." I also have a few friends who collect specimens for their purported healing properties, or simply because they are pretty, without any interest in their mineralogical characteristics. Moreover, I have been asked by a few acquaintances if I believe in these sorts of things. Needless to say, I am surprised at the apparent popularity of such perceptions; I have had a lifelong scientific fascination with minerals but only in the past few years have begun to build a serious collection. I am dismayed that the popular notion of minerals and mineral collecting is that of a certain segment of society that is decidedly unscientific in their approach to their study, and that even after getting to know me, the power of such attitudes is such that my friends would still think of associating me with this type of thinking.

To be precise, I believe others are free to hold spiritual or metaphysical or mystical beliefs about minerals--so long as they aren't substituting such beliefs for medical practice or passing them off as scientifically valid. Rather, what irks me is how people simply assume I must share such views because that is the commonly held perception of mineral collectors among the public.

One of the local gem and mineral retailers in my area, for example, gets bad reviews on certain business rating sites/apps. These reviewers complain about exorbitant pricing, lack of information about healing properties, inadequate selection, and rude employees. In fact, the pricing is entirely reasonable if a bit inconsistent from species to species. You could find crocoite from Australia, pyromorphite from China, or zoisite from Tanzania. And not too far away, in another area, is another business that sells minerals, but they get glowing reviews--but when I visited that store, all I found were bulk quantities of common and treated minerals like quartz, calcite, and gypsum. Of course, there was not a single label indicating locality to be seen anywhere. Honestly, I felt so deflated after leaving that store that I briefly entertained the notion that if there were any "properties" or effects these wall-to-wall selenite slab candleholders could have on me, it would be as a depressant.
Doug Daniels May 16, 2018 01:01AM
Somehow this thread went from being "are these stones dyed" into the metaphysical aspects. We need to be careful about this - there have been a few threads shut down because of our comments (I'm guilty in some of them). How do we answer such questions? Well, scientifically - to the best of our ability. As much as we want to say something about chakras, energy, and so forth, just hold back. Or offer to discuss it privately via emails.
Dana Morong May 16, 2018 06:20PM
Do the astronomy websites have a similar problem with those who do not know the difference between astronomy and astrology, and who do not know the boundaries between the two?
Gary Weinstein May 16, 2018 09:21PM
Not sure about the websites but at our astronomy club meetings and star party outings we do have the general public make that mistake. Too easy an error to make due to the similarities in the words. Just like Stilbite and stibnite.
Gregg Little May 16, 2018 09:46PM
I tease my wife, who buys the occasional lottery ticket, offering to put one (or lots) of my quartz crystals on it. Not that it has never worked and I am 99.99% (or what ever the lottery odds are) sure that it will never work.

Years ago I worked for a company that analysed drill samples and had "Well Logging Services" in its name. They received so many calls about lumber that they changed it to "Stratigraphic Services".

Hopefully I am not too sarcastic sounding when I say "What metaphysics does to mineralogy is gneiss".
Keith Della Grotta May 16, 2018 09:50PM
Ok need some help with this rock it has a luster to it , it has a 2.56 specific gravity ,i can see good two direction cleavage ,it is hard for me to distinguish a full crystal end but I would say it’s hexagonal ,it doesn’t react to acid ,the I have three pieces one is black one is dark gray the other is tanish the smaller piece looks more squished it is hard to see the X kind of pattern that it has the other two can clearly be made out ***( all test and info from small black one )***if more information is needed please let me know I will get back to you ASAP email is deepinthewoods@icloud.com
Thanks much for your time

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/16/2018 09:56PM by Keith Della Grotta.
Erik Vercammen May 17, 2018 07:42AM
Looks like a metamorphic rock with crystals in it (andalousite or something like that), that has been weathered so the crystals are now 'in relief'.
Keith Della Grotta May 17, 2018 09:40AM
I never have seen a rock that had this kind of structure I was going to hit with a burr tool just didn’t want to do it before finding out what it was going to look into what you said first thank for the info
Ed Clopton May 17, 2018 04:44PM
Might also be a porphyry, basalt (or similar) crowded with feldspar crystals, and the basalt weathered away. Not exactly attractive, but an interesting piece none the less. Where is it from?
Gregg Little May 17, 2018 06:50PM
Was the specific gravity test of the whole rock? Assuming you tried that then the test would be off because of the usual mixture of minerals that compose rock; you would only get an average of all of the components. Plus it will likely be lower due to the trapped air in the weathered surface. Best to break off a small piece, as fresh as possible, of one of the crystals for the test.

A likely candidate is an amphibole due to the apparent hexagonal cross-section and 2 good cleavage directions, if they are around 56 degrees. This would also indicate a possible metamorphic assemblage.
Wayne Corwin May 17, 2018 07:36PM
I was thinking they looked like hornblende,,,,, maybe, a close up would be helpfull.
Matt Neuzil May 18, 2018 12:57AM
Keith I am not sure where your rock comes.from but going on what I am familiar with, or reminds me of some apatite or hornblende that might form the wall of a calcite vein.
Matt Neuzil May 18, 2018 12:59AM
Upon zooming with my phone I'd say it looks like scapolite with some tiny pieces of purple fluorite. Do you have a jewelry loup to take a look closer at the piece?

Did you find this piece or how did it cone into your possesion.
Matt Courville May 18, 2018 12:33PM
Keith, the 1st of your photos seems to have monoclinic crystal shapes in the upper left side. I have collected highly weathered pyroxene minerals that look similar to this.

Telling the messageboard the location it was found will greatly increase your ID success because of deduction based on the geology and site, and since many members have likely handled other pieces from an area in question.
Erin Orchard May 29, 2018 01:12AM
Dang, for some reason, I got unsubscribed to this thread!

Hiro Inukai - thank you for so much for your input. Very much appreciated. I have labradorite at work and many people come over and check it out/hold it. I constantly tease about it's healing properties and we all have a laugh. It's just a fun stone to hold and admire. With as many people in our office who use essential oils for "healing", I'm sure we have some crystal healing people there, too. I honestly don't care... my only point was my frustration when researching as a new hobbyist. I came across far more metaphysical garbage than science and it bothered me.

ANYWHO... I look forward to my next paycheck and the next trip to the rock and gem store!
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