Sunday, July 1, 2012

How are amethyst geodes made

Amethyst geodes commenced life when a volcano erupted. As the lava flowed to the surface, gas pockets were entombed in the solidified lava, usually in a sort of volcanic rock called basalt. Deep below the solidified basalt, Mother Nature continued to maintain an especially hot molten lava structure. From time to time, super-hot fluids would rise from the molten lava area and find their way to the gas pockets through small crevices and cracks in the basalt. These liquids carried with them the mineral elements to build a stunning crystal. In the case of amethyst, these involved the components of silica dioxide (SO2, the chemical formula for quartz) and small amounts of iron ions. As the quartz crystalized, little imperfections of the iron ions would replace silica in some of the molecules, providing the base for amethyst coloring. If the molecules were then also subjected to relatively extreme heat levels and small amounts of radiation, a beautiful deep rich purple amethyst crystal would be born. Heat most often would come from the diagonally opposite lava structure, and the miniscule amounts of radiation needed would come from rocks like granite that give up small quantities of radiation as they slowly rot.

Over millions of years, Mother Nature would sometimes do many cycles of this super-hot, mineral carrying liquids inundation process. Dependent on the precise mineral composition of the liquids at different times, different colours of crystals and indeed different mineral crystals may be formed. Very often, the quartz that forms in a geode could include a big amounts of clear or milky white quartz as well as the purple amethyst. Less often, wholly different types of crystals can be created on top or embedded in the quartz most often this takes the form of interesting, accenting crystals of calcite. Most often the calcite crystals are clear or white, but occasionally they are definitely a very interesting hue of pink.

In theory, geodes can be discovered anywhere on earth where volcanos helped shape the earth's crust. Volcanos are vital mountain range builders, and most existing sources of geodes are in or near mountains. For amethyst, some of the most vital deposits are found in South America. A big area in southern Brazil contains large basalt structures, many of which contain geodes of diverse qualities. Brazil is easily the largest exporter of amethyst geodes by volume. Across the border in Uruguay, a much smaller area contains significant deposits of a few of the world's very best coloured amethyst geodes. Also close by, in eastern Bolivia, there are 1 or 2 mines that contain amethyst deposits that include cavities with large crystals. It is unreal to extract these huge crystals in a complete geodes due to the massive amounts of rock concerned, but once in a while clusters or individual crystals removed from those structures make their way to the USA.

Many kinds of crystals form in the pockets and crevices that gas pockets form in solidified lava. In the rock type basalt, a few kinds of zeolite minerals also form wonderful geodes. Among these are brilliant green or clear apophyllite, frequently accompanied by peach colored stilbite or white scolecite are found in big amounts in the Decca Flats area in India. Also frequently forming in basalt structures are different types of quartz like agate, chalcedony, onyx and jasper. In granite pegmatites (granitic lava that formed under ground, often in a columnar structure) plenty of the planet's finest gems crystalize. These include diamonds, emeralds, topaz, tourmalines, and wonderful individual quartz crystals. These granitic structures are also found in areas formed by volcanos.

Extracting geodes is to all intents and purposes a well refined mining process. Although the method involves heavy equipment and explosives to reach geode producing areas in the basalt, all of the main work involves a hefty dose of manual labor. The geodes are first exposed through mining efforts. The basalt is removed revealing the shape of a geode in the floor, wall or ceiling of the mine. The following step is to examine the interior of the geode to establish if the crystals are of high enough price to pay for the manual effort needed to take the geode. This is most often done by cutting an inconspicuous hole in the geode and inserting a little light and viewing gadget which seems like a flexible periscope.

If the colour is an ordinary colour like milky white quartz, the geode will be bypassed and regularly demolished in subsequent mining efforts. If the crystal is amethyst of a good colour, then the geode will be. Chipped out of the basalt a little at a time. This process can require days of labor for a single amethyst geode Once the geode has been removed from the base basalt, it is then carried to a workshop some distance from the mine. This typically involves the use of a wheel barrow to manually remove it from the mine itself, and then a truck, narrow gauge rail car, or truck to carry the piece to the workshop.

At the workshop any remaining basalt is removed and the geode is cut to show the crystals. Most often, geodes are of a broadly columnar shape. These will be cut vertically along the longest portion of the geode. These pieces are then prepared as a form known as a cathedral. The geode at this initial stage has an exterior surface that contains many pointed bumps of the base level of the quartz. These are perilous to both the workers and to the final buyer. To bypass the attendant danger, the geode is covered in a delicate layer of cement to cover the sharp points. The cement is then routinely painted with a flat black colour to enhance the aesthetics of the purple amethyst crystals. If the piece is to be shown as a cathedral there will often also be a tiny fill of cement at the base of the piece to form a level structure on which to stand the piece. Any remaining sharp quartz points along the entrance to the geode are then polished to a smooth surface for both appearance and safety here for a way to make extra money

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