The title of “gemologist” carries more than just knowledge and skills, it also suggests a person who is perpetually intrigued by the marvels of minerals and delicacy of crystallography and, I’d say, a fascination with the universe in general. Rocks and minerals leak a story of the past. As we study these million to billion-year-old specimens we can relive some of the conditions our planet has seen. More specifically, the microscopic investigation of inclusions in gemstones also tells a tale, where crystal has been, where it has come from and how old it is.
Quartz (Si)2) is one of the most abundant minerals in the earth’s crust, bountiful but so interestingly diverse in all its varieties; agate, jasper, chalcedony, rock crystal, amethyst, rose quartz – the list is almost endless. Its forms and habits are just varied; botryoidal and fibrous structures, geodes, pseudomorphs, druzy, and masses, just to name a few. As well as the micro/cryptocrystalline assortment, crystalline quartz has an entirely different array of structures and attributes, twinned crystals piquing the most curiosity.
My interest in quartz lays specifically in its inclusions, in particular phantoms and those that can be seen with the naked eye. Like a window into the past phantoms reveal the stages of growth of a quartz crystals life. Not present in all quartz crystals, they are a rare and wonderful attribute and need to be celebrated. In essence a phantom (also referred to as a ghost) appears as a smaller crystal visible within another crystal. Not all faces of the crystal appear as a phantom, occasionally it is just the rhombohedra (large angled crystal face unique to quartz) and other times it can the entire crystal form. Both crystal and phantom are aligned with the same crystal axis and scaled proportions.
Quartz is classified as allochromatic, meaning it is colorless in its purest state and owes its varying colors to impurities, trace elements or defects within the crystal structure rather than an element of its basic chemical composition. Occasionally a phantom may form when growth conditions alter leading to the inclusion of colorizing trace elements. In this instance, it is not uncommon to find clear quartz with a Smokey quartz phantom or thin zones of amethyst coloration.
Classically, a phantom is described as a quartz crystal whose growth has paused, generally due to lack of nutrients because of changes in the chemistry of the environment. During this short time, other minerals precipitate onto the crystal forming a layer of colored deposits. This is later embedded into the crystal as the conditions change and the quartz continues to grow. This can happen multiple times during the crystals growth period displaying a repetition of phantom outlines.
At Made In Earth we have a love of all things raw and natural in our gemstone jewelry collection and we’ve had various quartz crystals set into jewelry over the years, however our latest phantoms have had the greatest impact. Large, high clarity, clear Brazilian quartz with well-defined, milky phantoms layered within the crystal and, more interestingly, a small run of green phantoms from Madagascar. The phantoms have been named as celadonite (a mica group mineral) although I speculate that they could in fact be fuchsite particles (chromium-rich muscovite – also a mica group mineral). Their delicate, pale minty-green phantom adds to a subtle pop of color and have been a popular addition to our current quartz crystal jewelry collection.
Bunny Bedi, owner and designer at Made In Earth, discusses his process for setting and designing jewelry with phantoms. “Phantom crystals have become increasingly difficult to find, in particular those with distinctive phantoms and a size appropriate for jewelry. Our designs push the boundaries of traditional jewelry but we still need to take the size and weight of stones into account. Quote often we have crystals without deep striations and a milky exterior and we can set them in their purest form but occasionally we need to polish the outside of the crystals to reveal the phantoms within.”
“These pieces have certainly been a challenge to design, but our clients that appreciate these unique crystals are open to wearing something totally out of the ordinary.”
Sometimes it is about finding the extraordinary in the ordinary. Our planet offers an abundance of rare and unusual gemstones however there can be something spectacular even in the most common of minerals and our Phantom quartz rings and pendants certainly prove this.