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Quartz is a mineral composed of silicon and oxygenatoms in a continuous framework of SiO4 silicon–oxygen tetrahedra, with each oxygen being shared between two tetrahedra, giving an overall chemical formula of SiO2. Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in Earth’s continental crust, behind feldspar.
Quartz crystals are chiral, and exist in two forms, the normal α-quartz and the high-temperature β-quartz. The transformation from α-quartz to β-quartz takes place abruptly at 573 °C (846 K). Since the transformation is accompanied by a significant change in volume, it can easily induce fracturing of ceramics or rocks passing through this temperature limit.
There are many different varieties of quartz, several of which are semi-precious gemstones. Since antiquity, varieties of quartz have been the most commonly used minerals in the making of jewelryand hardstone carvings, especially in Eurasia.
The word “quartz” is derived from the German word “Quarz”, which had the same form in the first half of the 14th century in Middle High German in East Central German and which came from the Polish dialect term kwardy, which corresponds to the Czech term tvrdý (“hard”).
The Ancient Greeks referred to quartz as κρύσταλλος (krustallos) derived from the Ancient Greek κρύος(kruos) meaning “icy cold”, because
some philosophers (including Theophrastus) apparently believed the mineral to be a form of supercooledice. Today, the term rock crystal is sometimes used as an alternative name for the purest form of quartz.
Quartz belongs to the trigonal crystal system. The ideal crystal shape is a six-sided prism terminating with six sided pyramids at each end. In nature quartz crystals are often twinned (with twin right-handed and left-handed quartz crystals), distorted, or so intergrown with adjacent crystals of quartz or other minerals as to only show part of this shape, or to lack obvious crystal faces altogether and appear massive. Well-formed crystals typically form in a ‘bed’ that has unconstrained growth into a void; usually the crystals are attached at the other end to a matrix and only one termination pyramid is present. However, doubly terminated crystals do occur where they develop freely without attachment, for instance within gypsum. A quartz geode is such a situation where the void is approximately spherical in shape, lined with a bed of crystals pointing inward.
α-quartz crystallizes in the trigonal crystal system, space group P3121 or P3221 depending on the chirality. β-quartz belongs to the hexagonal system, space group P6222 and P6422, respectively. These space groups are truly chiral (they each belong to the 11 enantiomorphous pairs). Both α-quartz and β-quartz are examples of chiral crystal structures composed of achiral building blocks (SiO4 tetrahedra in the present case). The transformation between α- and β-quartz only involves a comparatively minor rotation of the tetrahedra with respect to one another, without change in the way they are linked.
Pure quartz, traditionally called rock crystal or clear quartz, is colorless and transparent or translucent, and has often been used for hardstone carvings, such as the Lothair Crystal. Common colored varieties include citrine, rose quartz, amethyst, smoky quartz, milky quartz, and others.
The most important distinction between types of quartz is that of macrocrystalline (individual crystals visible to the unaided eye) and the microcrystalline or cryptocrystalline varieties (aggregates of crystals visible only under high magnification). The cryptocrystalline varieties are either translucent or mostly opaque, while the transparent varieties tend to be macrocrystalline. Chalcedony is a cryptocrystalline form of silica consisting of fine intergrowths of both quartz, and its monoclinicpolymorph moganite. Other opaque gemstone varieties of quartz, or mixed rocks including quartz, often including contrasting bands or patterns of color, are agate, carnelian or sard, onyx, heliotrope, and jasper.
Amethyst is a form of quartz that ranges from a bright to dark or dull purple color. The world’s largest deposits of amethysts can be found in Brazil, Mexico, Uruguay, Russia, France, Namibia and Morocco. Sometimes amethyst and citrine are found growing in the same crystal. It is then referred to as ametrine. An amethyst is formed when there is iron in the area where it was formed.
Blue quartz contains inclusions of fibrous magnesio-riebeckite or crocidolite.
Inclusions of the mineral dumortierite within quartz pieces often result in silky-appearing splotches with a blue hue, shades giving off purple and/or grey colors additionally being found. “Dumortierite quartz” (sometimes called “blue quartz”) will sometimes feature contrasting light and dark color zones across the material. Interest in the certain quality forms of blue quartz as a collectible gemstone particularly arises in India and in the United States.
Citrine is a variety of quartz whose color ranges from a pale yellow to brown due to ferric impurities. Natural citrines are rare; most commercial citrines are heat-treated amethysts or smoky quartzes. However, a heat-treated amethyst will have small lines in the crystal, as opposed to a natural citrine’s cloudy or smokey appearance. It is nearly impossible to differentiate between cut citrine and yellow topazvisually, but they differ in hardness. Brazil is the leading producer of citrine, with much of its production coming from the state of Rio Grande do Sul. The name is derived from the Latin word citrinawhich means “yellow” and is also the origin of the word “citron”. Sometimes citrine and amethyst can be found together in the same crystal, which is then referred to as ametrine. Citrine has been referred to as the “merchant’s stone” or “money stone”, due to a superstition that it would bring prosperity.
Citrine was first appreciated as a golden-yellow gemstone in Greece between 300 and 150 BC, during the Hellenistic Age. The yellow quartz was used prior to that to decorate jewelry and tools but it was not highly sought-after.
Milk quartz or milky quartz is the most common variety of crystalline quartz. The white color is caused by minute fluid inclusions of gas, liquid, or both, trapped during crystal formation, making it of little value for optical and quality gemstone applications.
Rose quartz is a type of quartz which exhibits a pale pink to rose red hue. The color is usually considered as due to trace amounts of titanium, iron, or manganese, in the material. Some rose quartz contains microscopic rutile needles which produces an asterism in transmitted light. Recent X-ray diffraction studies suggest that the color is due to thin microscopic fibers of possibly dumortieritewithin the quartz.
Additionally, there is a rare type of pink quartz (also frequently called crystalline rose quartz) with color that is thought to be caused by trace amounts of phosphate or aluminium. The color in crystals is apparently photosensitive and subject to fading. The first crystals were found in a pegmatite found near Rumford, Maine, USA and in Minas Gerais, Brazil.
Smoky quartz is a gray, translucent version of quartz. It ranges in clarity from almost complete transparency to a brownish-gray crystal that is almost opaque. Some can also be black. The translucency results from natural irradiation creating free silicon within the crystal.
Not to be confused with Praseolite.
Prasiolite, also known as vermarine, is a variety of quartz that is green in color. Since 1950, almost all natural prasiolite has come from a small Brazilianmine, but it is also seen in Lower Silesia in Poland. Naturally occurring prasiolite is also found in the Thunder Bay area of Canada. It is a rare mineral in nature; most green quartz is heat-treated amethyst.