This week we look at Smoky Quartz, a member of the Quartz mineral family, which makes up about 12% of the earth’s crust. This brown beauty may not be quite as popular as its colourful Quartz family members like Amethyst, Rose Quartz, and Citrine, however we at Charming HQ absolutely love it for its finesse and simplicity!
Smoky Quartz is a transparent gemstone that comes in a variety of shades of brown, from a light tan to nearly black (referred to as Morion). Those gems that have a deep brown colour tend to be the most valuable. Brown is not a colour that many would choose to wear otherwise, but the alluring beauty of Smoky Quartz is still very attractive to many.
Smoky quartz is an abundant gemstone and is therefore relatively inexpensive. It is found in countries all over the world, with notable sources found in Australia, Brazil, Madagascar, Mozambique, Switzerland, the United States, and Scotland.
Did you know that Smoky Quartz is the national gemstone of Scotland? In fact, Scotland has been associated with Smoky Quartz for over two thousand years with locals referring to it as the ‘Cairngorm’, after the Cairngorm mountains. Smoky quartz from this part of the world is very desirable and therefore more expensive. It has a distinctive smoky yellow-brown hue and is rarely found.
Smoky quartz (or Morion) was first mentioned in a collection of writings by Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD. Medieval lapidaries used the name "Smoky Topaz" for this gemstone. The name "Smoky Quartz" was first used much later, with the birth of modern gemmology.
The use of Smoky Quartz stones in jewellery dates to the time of ancient Egypt. Because of their durability, these stones were often ground into small beads or polished into cabochon cuts. They became very popular as gemstones in Europe during the height of the Renaissance. Many major European royal families utilized this stone as a faceted cut stone in jewelled pieces such as crowns and sceptres.
In China during the twelfth century, it was discovered that Smoky Quartz could be used to protect the eyes from the sun. The gemstone was cut into sheets and used to make some of the first examples of sunglasses! This accessory was later adopted by judges to make their expressions appear more impartial.
Smoky Quartz is favoured amongst jewellers who are learning to facet due to its affordability. It is popular in men’s rings and cufflinks due to its dark, masculine hue. Throughout the Victorian period, dark Smoky Quartz gemstones from the Irish Mourne Mountains were commonly used in mourning jewellery.
The brown colour of Smoky Quartz comes from natural radiation interacting with Aluminium traces in the crystal. Scientists are fascinated by this process which takes millions of years. The longer a Smoky Quartz is left unmined, the darker it becomes. Interestingly, the process can be reversed, and the colour removed if the stone is heated. This allows jewellers to create the perfect depth of colour for their creations. With a rating of 7.0 on the MOHs scale of mineral hardness, smoky quartz is durable enough to be worn every day but does require more care and attention compared to harder gemstones such as Diamonds, Topaz, or Spinel.
Smoky Quartz is said to relieve tension and stress, anxiety, or panic attacks and is believed to ward off negative thinking, and eliminate worry and doubt when one is faced with chaos or confusion. It is thought to absorb misfortune, sorrow, or seemingly impossible obstacles by releasing these negative energies to Mother Earth for cleansing and repurposing.