obsidian jewelry

Obsidian – meaning, types and history

I love Obsidian! I like how the word even sounds. It’s history is incredible. and as a useful material, it’s fascinating. It’s a material that I have rockhounded pieces of, and use in my work as a lapidary artist. There’s a lot of aesthetic variety, and so many visually stunning types to work with! In the metaphysical realm, it offers protection from negativity.

what is obsidian?

Obsidian is an igneous rock that makes a dramatic entrance into the world. It is formed by the rapid cooling of viscous lava from volcanoes. That’s pretty cool, Volcanic glass! Volcanoes are talented glass artists!

Obsidian deposits are all over the world, in areas of recent volcanic activity. In the United States, you can find it west of the Mississippi River. Primarily at many locations in Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

Obsidians historical uses are for making weapons, tools and jewelry. The ancient Aztec, Greek and native Americans and many other early peoples used and traded obsidian. Obsidian tools and arrowheads have been found at the sites of ancient villages on the east coast, far away from any known source.

The Aztecs made some pretty gnarly weapons with it. The “macuahuitl ” is one. It’s name comes from the Nahuatl language and translates into something like “hand-wood”. It is essentially a wooden club with several embedded obsidian blades. Prepared correctly, Obsidian can produce an edge sharper than a high quality steel razor blade. It is also desirable for doctors performing surgery for that reason.

rainbow obsidian ring
Rainbow Obsidian displaying a green sheen

Obsidian in folklore and pop culture

 Obsidian is referenced in the popular book series and television show ‘Game of Thrones’. Where it is found to be the only effective weapon against the frost zombies invading from the North. In the series, it is called Dragonglass, presumably because it was formed by dragons, scorching the ground with their fiery breath.

You can polish Obsidian to reveal a highly reflective surface. People use it for mirrors and decorative objects. Obsidian scrying mirrors and crystal balls were once very popular. Even Nostradamus is said to have used one!

The name Obsidian comes from the name Obsius, a Roman credited with discovering a similar stone in Ethiopia.

Types of Obsidian

By far, the most common color of obsidian is black. However, brown or green shades exist to a lesser extent. Even more rare are shades of red, orange, blue or yellow. Color variations happen through contamination by trace elements and inclusions when the rocks form.

Sometimes, obsidian can have an iridescent sheen. This sheen is a result of light reflecting back from microscopic inclusions. Usually tiny gas bubbles trapped near the surface of the rock. Careful cutting and polishing can enhance this iridescent effect. These colored pieces are known as rainbow obsidian or gold sheen obsidian, depending upon each specimens particular color. 

Over time, some Obsidian can begin to crystallize. This is due to a degree of chemical instability, and the crystallization process does not always happen uniformly within a rock. Sometimes it can begin at different locations within the rock. At these locations, the process can form tiny clusters of white or gray crystals within the obsidian. When cut and polished, this variety is snowflake obsidian.

Sometimes, two colors of obsidian combine together in a single rock. The most common is the color combination of black and reddish brown obsidian together. The reddish brown color is a result of the presence of hematite or iron oxide. Usually called mahogany obsidian, it is one of the most beautiful types.

obsidian jewelry
Mahogany Obsidian set in hoop earrings by Stelae

Obsidian meaning and properties

 some of most observed and agreed upon effects are:

  • Protection against negativity.
  • Obsidian can help dissipate negative emotions and negative mindset. 
  • It can give you the courage to dissolve old traumas.
  • Obsidian worn as jewelry or in a pocket can help you feel safe and secure, and can release your mind of self doubt.
  • With meditation, it can keep you focused and determined on creating a better self.
  • This stone has the power to remove all kinds of stress, fatigue, and guilt from the body, which can promote natural healing.
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