Obsidian Facts and Buying Guide

Obsidian Facts and Buying Guide

by Sheweta Dhanuka

After the volcanic eruption, while hot lava flows into the water some changes takes place during that time. These changes result in change in the chemical composition and surface of flowing layers. There are three possible changes. Therefore, Obsidian occurs in three different varieties.

A person known as Obsius discovered Obsidian in Ethiopia. Thus, it is named after his name. It is natural volcanic glass. Its amazing shining and dark colours makes it preferred choice for jewelry gemstone in every generation. This article provides the buyer an insight to this incredible stone with respect to colour, clarity, origin, varieties etc.


It mostly occurs in black. Dark green and dark brown are also commonly seen. Other rare colours are blue, gray, red and orange. The colour difference appears due to change in the impurities and oxidation state of the chemical elements. It is mostly dark in colour as it is rich in Magnesium and Iron. When variation takes place in the oxidation state of iron, it results in green colour. Similarly variation in both magnesium as well as iron gives black colour to the stone and the presence of hematite in the chemical composition gives red or brown colour.

The surface of this gemstone consists of beautiful patterns in form of streaks, patches, spots, inclusions or colored bands. These varied patterns are created naturally at the time of formation of the stone. In the gemstone market the patterns are being identified as distinctive varieties of the stone and all the varieties are used widely.


After the volcanic eruption, while hot lava flows into the water some changes takes place during that time. These changes result in change in the chemical composition and surface of flowing layers. There are three possible changes. Therefore, Obsidian occurs in three different varieties.

Snowflake Obsidian

Black colored Obsidian consisting of grayish white or pure white inclusions is known as Snowflake Obsidian. These inclusions can appear as patches, spots or streaks on the surface of the stone. It is formed when crystallization occurs in the flowing lava, the silica molecules within the glass are arranged in an organized crystal pattern. This process is called as “devitrification.” During this process the stone looses its glassy texture as white colored inclusions are created.

Sheen Obsidian

In this variety, on the surface of the stone small bubbles are visible that offers the stone with the reflectance of gold or silver sheen (refers to shine). Thus, it is named as Sheen Obsidian. It occurs when hot lava flows into the water, very small inclusions of water vapor in the form of bubbles are formed and gets stretched along the flowing layers. After the lava is cooled the bubbles are left behind as it is. These later cause the reflectance of gold or silver shining.

Rainbow Obsidian

When microscopic crystals of feldspar or mica are created along the flowing layers of the hot lava, it yields beautiful colours viz. blue, green, purple or bronze within the glass. Thus, this variety is referred as Rainbow Obsidian. Different colours can appear in form of a band on the surface of the stone. It is priced most among all the varieties due to its fascinating beauty. When cut in cabochon, round or oval the various colours appear in the center of the stone and the entire look of the stone changes to bull’s-eyes that reflect in the light. This stone is ideal for pendants.


It is not a clean stone. It contains fractures in curved shape. These fractures intersect and make the edges of the stone very sharp. Being a glass, it does not have any proper shape or form. It is opaque to translucent in nature and possess vitreous or glassy luster. A genuine stone would have a smooth surface like a mirror.


An efficient cut can offer the entire difference in the look of the gemstone. As the beauty of the stone is enhanced most is cabochon shape. The cutters for the modern designer jewelry pieces create numerous shapes and styles. Beads are made from this stone and can be given any shape like round, oval, sleek chips form and many more.

Carat Weight

This stone occurs in massive large pieces. After necessary polishing all the sizes are created with different carat weight. For carving, stone with high carat weight is required. The ideal stone weight varies between 2 to 6 ctw for rings and earrings. Pendants can accommodate any carat weight.


The gemstone is priced on the basis of the carat weight. These two are directly proportional to each other that is higher the carat weight higher shall be the price. On the over all scenario this gemstone falls in the affordable range of the common man. The variety – Rainbow Obsidian is valued most in terms of money among all the three varieties of this gemstone.


When volcanic lava comes in contact with water this mineral is formed. In the process of formation, after the volcanic eruption takes place the lava flows into the ocean/lake/river and gets cooled quickly on the rock giving no time for crystallization to occur. This cooled lava turns into solid volcanic glass known as Obsidian. The lava can flow anywhere in the water to any rock and also between the rocks. Thus, this mineral is formed in compact lumps or thick massive layers and is amorphous in nature.
It is procured from different countries where volcanic eruption takes place and the lava is rich in silica such as Hawaii, Japan, Iceland, Java, Hungary, Russia, Ecuador, Italy, Mexico and Scotland. Arizona, Colorado, Texas, Utah and Idaho states of United States produce respectable amount of this stone.


Our stone age ancestors used this stone for making cutting tools like knives and blades due to its sharp edges. They also made arrowheads and spears to protect themselves from animals and enemies. Today, with the change in technology it is used in different ways. It is used in many medical treatments such as bacterial and viral inflammations, general muscle tissue healer, scalpel by doctors in very sensitive eye operations etc. Archaeologists make use of this stone in excavations. Its bright shiny black colour makes it very popular as ornamental stone for carvings. Many decorative pieces are made from this stone. Even pen stands, desk sets, clock stands, office souvenirs, jewelry boxes are created magnificently.

Last but not the least, it is used as a semi precious stone for jewelries. It makes captivating rings, earrings, bracelets and pendants. It is very well paired with another semi precious stone such as Aventurine and Turquoise. The jewelries can be made of sterling silver or 14K / 18K yellow gold. Snowflake and rainbow varieties are more common for gemstone jewelry.

However, this stone is mostly used as beads for making lovely jewelry pieces in sterling silver. Many females treasure beaded necklaces of this stone. Black beads with white streaks look very attractive. Beads can vary in size from 2mm to 10mm and can be of any of the three varieties. These are also used for making stud, rondelle, hoop and dangle earrings in sterling silver that are suitable for casual wear.


It is rated only 5-5.5 Mohs on the hardness scale and needs extra care. As it is fragile, it has to be protected from sharp blows and scratches. It is a very delicate stone. While wearing it, the wearer has to be extra cautious as once dropped would result in split of the stone or beads for sure. Excessive exposures to harsh chemicals and cosmetics should also be avoided. The jewelry pieces must be stored in a separate jewelry box lined with soft cloth or velvet or cotton.


It is believed to offer courage, self-control, strength and wisdom. It is considered as a stone of honesty, sincerity and truth. It prevents the wearer from negative thoughts and energies. It helps in changing the misappropriate behaviour and overcoming the harmful obsession.

All together it is a stone that enables the individual to be a better person by developing the positive and eliminating the negative characteristics. So if one wants to gain maximum positive qualities in life then should try wearing this stone. All the best !!