Quartz – Your Complete Guide
One of the most abundant minerals on Earth, quartz has been in use by civilisations dating back as far as 7000 BC, for the purpose of jewellery, carvings, ornaments, and tools. Quartz’s piezoelectric qualities were uncovered by French physicists and brothers, Jacques and Pierre Curie in the late 1800s. Piezoelectricity refers to a solid material’s ability to produce an electric charge when mechanical stress is applied to it.
This special quality would later lead to the design of the quartz oscillator by American physicist and electrical engineer, Walter Guyton Cad in the 1920s. These days, quartz is used extensively in the fabrication of glass, by rail and mining industries and in electronic devices, such as mobile phones and TV’s.
Like all gemstones, quartz was believed to be imbued with special magical properties that could aid the wearer. In particular, the ancient Egyptians believed that quartz could be used to halt the onset of aging, while in Medieval Europe, quartz was often used as a key component by physicians in their elixirs, to treat wounds and heal various illnesses.
Facts about Quartz
- There are almost 40 different varieties
- Can be found in almost every colour imaginable, including colourless and black
- 7 on the Mohs hardness scale (making it suitable for everyday jewellery, such as engagement rings)
- Some mined samples can measure over one thousand carats in size
- It is sometimes subjected to treatments in order to improve appearance, such as dyeing and irradiation, among others
- Birthstone month varies, depending on the variety
- ‘Quartz’ is derived from the German word ‘Quarz’, which descended from the Polish term ‘kwardy’, the Czech term for ‘hard’
Where is quartz found?
As one of the most plentiful minerals in the world, quartz can be found in every continent on Earth and exists in every kind of rock, including sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic. In particular, it’s commonly found in mountainous terrain and also occurs naturally as quartz sand in rivers and at beaches. Despite the enormous global quantities and ease at which it is found, quartz specimens of immaculate purity are hard to come by. In fact, there are only two known regions in the world where high-quality quartz can be found; North Carolina in the US and Goiás, in central Brazil.
There are several different treatment methods that can be applied to quartz specimens to help improve their appearance, including:
Dyeing – can be used to strengthen the existing colour or alter it entirely. Dyeing requires the use of another technique known as Quench Crackling. Results are usually favourable and long-lasting.
Quench Crackling – a technique that develops cracks in the crystalline structure to achieve a shimmering effect and allows dyes to permeate. This technique impacts the strength of the stone.
Heating – this helps to reduce the intensity of the colour in grey quartz and completely alter the colour of purple quartz (amethyst). Heating doesn’t affect the structural integrity of the stone.
Irradiation – modifies the colour of the stone. Doesn’t affect the strength of the specimen.
Artificial quartz was first produced in the mid-1800s when German geologist Karl Emil von Schafhäutl developed synthetic quartz crystals within a pressure cooker. Although the resulting stones were no match for the quality of naturally occurring deposits, later efforts would soon change this. During World War II, artificial quartz was produced in huge volumes for the purpose of radio components and in today’s world, it is used extensively throughout the electronics industry.
How to look after quartz jewellery
While quartz is a hard, durable stone that does not scratch easily, it most certainly will scratch other softer materials, such as pearls, opals, and turquoise among others, so be sure to store your quartz jewellery in its own compartment to prevent accidental damage. With the exception of clear quartz, avoid exposing quartz jewellery to sunlight, as it will cause discolouration. To clean quartz, simply rinse it under running water. Avoid the use of cleaning agents as these may damage crystalline structure.
If you need additional advice on looking after your quartz jewellery, consult your local jeweller.
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