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Gemspedia >> Gems >> Introduction to Gemstones >> Obsidian



Natural glass of volcanic origin

Major Sources

Mexico & US

Colors Found

Almost clear, black & very dark green




5 to 5.5

Refractive Index

1.45–1.55; Singly refractive

Specific Gravity


Crystal System




This gem is supposedly named after Obsidian, a Roman said to have first brought this gem to Rome from Lake Shalla, Ethiopia.

Legends and lore

Obsidian is regarded as one of the most important “teachers” of the New Age movement. Obsidian is said to sharpen both external and internal vision. For some crystal healers, it is the warrior of truth and shows the self where the ego is at, and what we must change in order to advance to the next step of evolutionary growth.


Just the facts

Obsidian is formed by the rapid cooling of viscous lava due to volcanic explosions. It is made of the same minerals as granite but cools so quickly that they do not have time to crystallize.


Obsidian has a glassy luster and is usually black or a very dark green, but it can also be found in an almost colorless form.


Obsidian may be fashioned into a razor sharp cutting edge and ancient civilizations used it for jewelry, mirrors, arrowheads, spearheads, scrapers and cutting tools, such as the sacrificial knives of the Aztecs. Because of this, obsidian has been found in locations far from its original source. This might have confused a few gemologists but it has helped us understand more about the travels of our ancestors.

Today, transparent specimens are faceted, usually into step cuts, while less transparent pieces are fashioned into cabochons.


Especially prized in jewelry, snowflake obsidian is a striking black, lustrous opaque gem with white bold markings, formed by internal bubbles or crystals of potassium feldspar, much like beautiful patterns of snowflakes on a black background.

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