OBSIDIAN – an evolving article on obsidian

The first two pictures will explain WHY I had to make a comment on obsidian that is often mislabled or downright fraudulent.


Sadly I cannot provide links to a few new Obsidian wonders revealed on eBay, as one was removed after a few comments of mine. Simply said, Bordello Red Lipstick Obsidian does not exist. Like Agates people are now coloring up translucent obsidian.Sadly this offering ended without a bid. Thank God!
Two excellent links to proceed to.
A wonderful and complete link to Obsidian information
An equally great site to show finished pieces of Obsidian Jewelry.

I actually loved these pictures. The description might have read. Under a Aurora borealis, lightning struck a mineral laden vug and created this once in the lifetime gem. BID NOW while it is 9.99 instead of 999.99  Be sure to leave feedback after doing some tests. This was one lucky fella to get these two rare pieces from one unknown source. WOW!

As I posted to the eBay seller, I have never seen glass clear brightly colored obsidian! Only clear brown, gray clear Apache tears obsidian and some of the clear flow obsidians with the flames of mahogany (ribbon obsidian) There are some sellers on the bay selling green and purple glass as obsidian. Lots of gimmicks out there that will lighten your wallet and tell you a lie! There are obsidians that are deep purple, deep green and yellow and are translucent but they are VERY rare.

Obsidian is volcanic glass. It often has flow lines that create interesting effects. Gold sheen and silver sheen obsidian’s display gold and silver shimmerings when polished, rainbow obsidian displays different colors, etc. Obsidian has a reputation for being difficult to polish. Usually the reason for difficult polishing is that coarse grits can create a fairly deep fracture zone that doesn’t come out when the stone is cut at finer grits. Another problem is obsidian doesn’t polish well if it gets too hot. So, if you don’t use super coarse grinding wheels and if you keep your polishing wheel slow and wet, good results will easily be obtained. Diamond wheel finishing works well.

Usually Obsidian is a jet black stone with a vitreous (glassy) luster. Just like glass, obsidian tends to shatter into sharp fragments when hit hard, this strength and brittleness have resulted in its use as sharp cutting implements and weapons such as spear and arrowheads or inserted into wood made wonderful clubs. Pure obsidian is usually dark in appearance, though the color varies depending on the presence of impurities. Iron and magnesium typically give the obsidian a dark brown to black color. Very few samples are nearly colorless. In some stones, the inclusion of small, white, radially clustered crystals of quartz like cristobalite in the black glass produce a blotchy or snowflake pattern (snowflake obsidian). It may contain patterns of gas bubbles remaining from the lava flow, aligned along layers created as the molten rock was flowing before being cooled. These bubbles can produce interesting effects such as a golden sheen (sheen obsidian) or an iridescent, rainbow-like sheen (rainbow obsidian).

 My own collection has been found and collected in Oregon. When so swirled it can also be called Red Ribbon Black Obsidian  Quite rare.  Outstanding nice swirls red ribbon black obsidian.


Impurities in obsidian change its appearance; for example, iron may cause it to appear reddish brown. Mahogany obsidian may range from an orangey to reddish brown, mottled with uneven splashes or streaks of black.

Pumpkin obsidian   — also a Mahogany type. Pale color and questionably attractive.

Fireworks Obsidian  (Or Firecracker Obsidian) or fire cracker orbicular mexican obsidian

Fireworks Obsidian usually comes from Mexico It takes a good polish and cuts easily but is not suitable for knapping. As with all rocks from nature, there may be fracture lines either visible or invisible. Be aware of this in buying. BOOM! Light pink to dark red are the colors of these distinct exploding bursts on display against the backdrop of midnight black obsidian.

Great for lapidary work.

 purplesheenobsidian sheenobsidian

Sheen Obsidian
GOLD SHEEN  OBSIDIAN. These  specimens are striking   BLACK color  with awesome gold sheen in it and it takes a bright  polish. This is one outstanding chunk with awesome   designs — sometimes mixed in with Mahogany obsidian

SILVER SHEEN is the same, with silver sheen in it. Both make for great jewelery

Both Gold and Silver Sheen Obsidian  (can also be found in Mahogany Obsidian  as well) All of these “sheen obsidians are hard to photograph as they need to be wet and in such light as to be photographed.

Rainbow Sheen Obsidian  Wyoming Rainbow Obsidian.  ????  “It looks like Silver sheen but when it moves then it has greens, gold in it also. It was sold to me as Rainbow” Unknown to me. There are also ‘double rainbow obsidian forms. Usually found in black obsidian.

Picture of Rainbow or Purple Sheen is to the left

Very lovely to use in lapidary work.
UPDATE!  It was a total  washout. What was delivered was simply Banded Obsidian No sheen, no Rainbow.  I will never buy from that buyer again. That said, buyers on eBay can only leave positives! This sucker will go into my box of what-to-do with’s. Who wants a cabachon of black rock? The photograph was inspired and totally  misleading. Go eBay

A GOOD eBAY  store for Rainbow obsidian

spiderwork obsidian2
Spiderweb Obsidian — Simply awesome stuff to work with.
GiantSnowflake Obsidian

Snowflake obsidian“Worry Stone”

Milky Quartz deposits in Black Obsidian creates the snowflake pattern.”  Varies in form, I happen to have some super sized examples Makes wonderful orbs and jewelry.

A rare Giant Snowflake Obsidian  4 x 3 inches and very thick (3/8″).  20.00. I may have thinner pieces if you like. This one would make great belt buckets or bolos. When lava ejects from a volcano and forms obsidian, the cooling process is fast enough that the obsidian is considered a natural forming glass. Like glass, this material can break off in razor sharp jagged edges and, if ground up without using proper safety equipment, can disperse tiny shard-like fibers into the air and cause silicosis, a condition shared by people exposed to fiber glass or other dry ground glass material. The “snowflakes” in snowflake obsidian are made from cristobalite.

The hardness a stone is measured by how much force it takes to break it apart, how difficult it is to grind and how useful it is in cutting other stones. (Moh’s hardness scale), which measures all known stones. Diamond rates a 10 as one of the hardest substances, and graphite is rated at 1 because it is easily reduced. While pure obsidian can reach as high as 7 on Moh’s hardness scale, snowflake obsidian sits in the center at 5 to 5.5. Glass is also on this level of hardness, as are opal and turquoise.

Like Fireworks Obsidian, Starry Night Obsidian has wonderful white to colored spots and patterns on a black background. The surface of Starry Night Obsidian is a little crackly, but it isn't that noticeable because it takes a good polish. Cuts easily and polishes well with diamond wheel finishing. Use is for cabochons and lapidary/su_column]
 Finally Obsidian can me found mixed in with other minerals such as Jasper.
This might be called Jasper Obsidian and there are many other possible combinations.
fire obsidian
Very much sought after and just seen at a friends house was Fire Obsidian. This is usually sold by the gram, not by the ounce..

Most of this rock is harvested from Little Glass Butte, in Central Oregon. There are a numerous pumice inclusions present, most of them tiny. Once cut and trimmed down and shaped, these rocks have the best potential to become one or more unique finished stones with good quality fire. Spiderweb Obsidian would be my other choice.

That related, I just deleted a great communication with a guy in Germany looking for unusual stones. I hope he dials back.

(C) Herbert Senft  2009

OOPS I near forgot!

red and black obsidian.
 Velvet Peacock Obsidian  (Mexico) No picture sadly.

Also known as Sea Foam or Pearl Obsidian a dandy trio that have the gorgeous velvet look with a nice mix of pink, lavender & green colors.

However  Obsidian can get all jumbled up with other minerals such as Jaspers and they can be incredible finds.

Even the mixture of black and red makes for wonderful cabs.

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