Quartz, the most abundant mineral, is also one of the most diverse minerals known. It’s found in a rainbow of colors, and ranges from shimmering transparency to  impenetrable opacity. Rock crystal, amethyst, and rose quartz are the most familiar varieties of quartz.

Like many minerals, quartz is colorless in its pure state. Colorless quartz is often called rock crystal, or crystal, and it is the substance from which crystal balls are made. (If you’re buying a crystal ball today, however, be advised that it is most likely made from plastic or glass.)

Crystal gets its name from the Greek word for ice, as they believed it was water frozen so hard that it could never be thawed.

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Those who attribute mystical properties to gemstones believe that crystal symbolizes the spirit of human beings. They use it extensively in healing and magic rituals. Placing a quartz crystal under your pillow is said to provide a good night’s sleep, as well as aid in getting answers to psychic questions via dreams. Quartz crystals are also worn to relieve headaches.

Trace amounts of iron and manganese in clear quartz produce amethyst, with all its glorious shades of purple. Color in amethyst ranges from pale lavender shades  known as Rose de France to the rich reddish-purple hues of Siberian amethyst.

Amethyst is rich in folklore, particularly regarding the source of its color. Legends speak of the wine god Bacchus, who, when annoyed one evening, threatened to turn his tigers loose upon the next mortal he saw. Minutes later, the lovely Greek maiden, Amethyst, whose name means “not drunken,” passed by on her way to worship at the shrine of Diana. To protect Amethyst, Diana turned her into a pure white stone. A remorseful Bacchus poured wine over the stone, staining it purple.

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Many believed this gave amethyst the power to protect its wearers from intoxication, and they drank their wine from goblets made of amethyst. One cynical historian suspects that the purple color of the goblets simply disguised the fact that servants watered down the wine.

Those who attribute powers to gemstones believe that wearing amethyst lifts the spirits and makes the wearer calm and at peace. It also increases courage and good judgment. Placing amethyst under a pillow banishes nightmares and improves memory. Amethyst is rare among gemstones in that no negative powers are associated with it, giving it the sobriquet “gemstone of peace.”

People have adorned themselves with amethyst for at least 5000 years. The crown jewels of several countries include amethyst, and it was also used for bishop’s rings.

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Very closely related to amethyst is citrine, a clear yellow to brownish-yellow gemstone. Citrine is simply amethyst which has been heated. Although natural citrine occurs, most of the citrine on the market today is artificially heat-treated. A lovely gem, valuable in its own right, citrine is often misleadingly marketed as topaz.

Ametrine is amethyst and citrine combined in one stone. Titanium gives clear quartz the soft translucent colors found in rose quartz. An inexpensive gemstone, rose quartz is often carved into tiny crosses or hearts.

Folklorists and magicians classify rose quartz as a “receptive” stone. Receptive stones are credited with the ability to attract positive qualities, like peace and love, to their wearer.

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Wearers of rose quartz trust it to mend broken hearts and relieve other kinds of emotional pain. They also rely on it to enhance self-acceptance and encourage forgiveness. Some believe that rose quartz’s ability to draw calmness to them helps reduce high blood pressure. But of all its assumed powers, its reputation for
attracting love is what has made rose quartz treasured through the ages.

Smoky quartz, a translucent brown gem, gets it rich color from aluminum. Like citrine, it is often misleadingly sold as topaz. Cairngorm quartz is a very dark reddish-brown quartz named after its source in Scotland.

Rutilated quartz is rock crystal containing tiny golden needles of the mineral rutile (Venus hair). Other forms of rutile can make quartz look milky, or turn it into star stones.

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Prehistoric humans were the first to use quartz–the flint from which the first tools were fashioned is a variety of quartz. Agate, aventurine, carnelian, chrysocolla, and jasper are also regarded as varieties of quartz by many mineralogists. These varieties are usually opaque, as the crystals from which they’re formed are microscopic. The more familiar quartzes, like amethyst, have large, distinct crystals. Petrified wood and petrified dinosaur bone are formed when quartz replaces the original wood or bone cells.

A compound of silicon dioxide, with a Mohs hardness of 7, quartz also has many industrial uses, especially in electronic and optical equipment. Sandpaper is made from powdered quartz. It’s also used in the manufacture of glass and ceramics.

Not only is quartz found world-wide in one form or another, it’s also found in meteorites and in the moon rocks.

Whether you wear it as jewelry or put it to work for you, look to the quartz family for unsurpassed variety. Its abundance makes it affordable and easy for everyone to own and enjoy.

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