How to tell the Difference between Black Onyx, Jet, Apache Tear, Black Tourmaline & Black Obsidian

Hibiscus Moon Crystals, grounding, protection 54 Comments

A common question I get from my students in my Certified Crystal Healer Course is:
How to tell the difference between our many shiny black tumbled stones.
There are several common ones that all polish up pretty shiny, making it almost impossible to tell them apart; both physically & sometimes even energetically.

But there are slight differences & I’m going to tell you what to look for right here. 

I’m going to focus on the 5 most common ones:

  • Jet
  • Obsidian
  • Apache Tear
  • Onyx
  • Black Tourmaline

As most black stones usually are, all 5 of these are considered to generally be energetically grounding, protective & usually resonating well with either the Earth Star Chakra or Root Chakra

Now let’s get into the subtle differences…

Non-Mineral Stuffs
I’ve divided the stones into 2 sub-groups of “non-mineral” & “mineral”.

The non-minerals, although usually lumped in with the rest of the crystals, are not technically minerals, b/c they don’t have 1 very important aspect that all minerals must have: a crystalline atomic matrix, a repeating geometric pattern among their atoms.
Jet
Jet is not a crystal/mineral…it lacks a crystalline structure. Why? B/c it originates from a once living thing; a tree.  So it’s organic & not a mineral at all.  It’s actually considered to be coal & forms when pieces of wood from a tree get buried in sediment and get “coalified”. This is a process that took place a looooong time ago; we’re talking literal Jurassic Period here. 

[caption id="attachment_18763" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Raw Jet – By Geni (Photo by user:geni) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Under a microscope you can actually see the old tree’s cell walls! Pretty cool.

B/c of this cell-wall kind of structure it’s very lightweight & that’s one of your clues when comparing it to their black stones. Pick it up & compare its weight in your hands. It almost feels like plastic, it’s so light.

Although it’s usually pretty dull in its raw form, it can be polished up to a high luster & be quite shiny (as you can see in my above picture where its shown compared to other black stones). Another tell-tale clue is that jet can sort of look a bit dark-silvery-metallic (sort of like a really dark hematite).

Energetically, jet is known to be safely grounding + purifying while also being protective…in a gentle, non-forceful way.
Black Obsidian
Obsidian, another non-mineral, is a volcanic glass, born literally of forceful fiery energy.

Birthed in a volcanic eruption when molten lava spews up from a volcano, obsidian flies out & then cools quickly once it touches the cooler land or much cooler water, sometimes forming teeny bubbles within…and cooling much too quickly for its atoms to arrange themselves in the necessary crystalline atomic structure to qualify as a mineral. This makes it a glass & not a crystal. 

So your clue here is that all obsidian (not just the black variety) will be very smooth, shiny & glassy-looking.

If you’re looking at a rough natural piece as in my above photo (where I’m comparing all of these black stones), you’ll notice that obsidian usually has a conchoidal fracture: a geeky-geo-term for a curved break off point when the obsidian gets chipped away.

Can you see that conchoidal fracture in the below pic?

[caption id="attachment_18764" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Rough Obsidian – By Ji-Elle (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]If you’re comparing obsidian to onyx (2 that are quite often confused), obsidian will be the lighter weight of the 2 b/c it’s less dense than onyx (due to the lack of crystalline structure & interior air bubbles) and can even be translucent in spots if you hold it up to the light…something really hard to capture in a photo for me…but I tried in the below photo. See how the sunlight can shine through it & you can even see some layering on the bottom right?

Remember that obsidian is volcanic glass so it has a direct fiery energy to it. Perhaps due to how it originates, I feel it’s not gentle in its ways at all. Generally, it’s a pretty powerful stone.

CAUTION: If you feel that you’re very emotionally fragile or vulnerable, I recommend you try another stone choice instead. 

Now this may not be true for everyone, so it’s not a blanket statement.
You really need to work with it yourself to know EXACTLY how it will affect you.
Obsidian is great for quick & powerful grounding, cleansing away deep or stubborn negative feelings & when you need POWERFUL psychic protection. Again, I do caution people to only use it when you need a really powerful punch & not to work with it for too long…unless you already know that you can work with it safely with no adverse effects. 
Apache Tear
Apache Tear is really a sub-group or type of obsidian; essentially the same stone, both made of volcanic glass and black in color. However, Apache Tears are black obsidian that formed by being thrown up into the air giving them a much less glassy & more rough appearance.

[caption id="attachment_18765" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Apache Tear – By Simon Eugster –Simon 20:06, 14 April 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Whereas black obsidian is known to be a very powerful stone, Apache Tears are gentler in their energy & good for less forceful emotional cleansing like working through grief… b/c it’s much lighter & gentler in its energy it’s great for emotional clearing while also being grounding & protective.
The Inorganic Stuffs – True Minerals
These next stones are the real-deal minerals. All minerals have a crystalline structure at the atomic level where their atoms are stacked in a precise repeating geometric pattern. So these guys are more stable & can more efficiently influence your energetic field.
Onyx
When you hold a piece of onyx, one thing you’ll note is the density & “weighti-ness” of it. Between 2 similar sized pieces of onyx & obsidian…which can look very similar, the onyx will be heavier b/c it has an actual crystalline structure, whereas obsidian does not…with its random molecules & air bubbles. 

Onyx tends to have a slightly duller finish, but can polish up to be quite glassy! So don’t rely on that alone. Onyx may also have some banding & white-ish or grey-ish spots, but usually no translucency.

[caption id="attachment_18766" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Onyx – By Simon Eugster –Simon 14:41, 11 April 2006 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]Onyx, being a true mineral, does indeed have that crystalline structure at the atomic level. Why? Well, it had the time to form one, growing slowly underground, as crystals do.

Onyx’ energy for me, while protective is more about grounding & strengthening. It’s also wonderful for boosting your willpower & discipline
Black Tourmaline
Black tourmaline is a fav of mine & 1 of the crystals I use in my sacred grounding trio.

In it’s natural form (as seen below), black tourmaline is hard to confuse with the others I’ve listed here.

But when it’s tumbled it can be hard to pick out b/c it polishes up relatively well…but usually not perfectly & that’s how I usually tell it from the others. You’ll often see some divots & possibly some rust from its iron content too.

Energetically, black tourmaline is a go-to negativity neutralizer for me. B/c it has piezoelectric & pyroelectric proprieties it’s able to transduce energy quite effectively! If you’re looking for a great crystal for protection & purification that isn’t too intense…this is the one.

So there you are.

I hope you find this info to a be a helpful resource that you’ll be able to refer back to when needed!

Can you tell the difference now?  Do you have these stones in your crystal collection and now you know how to identify them on the fly? Talk to me in the Comments below! I’d love to hear about your favorite black crystal. 🙂

Crystal Blessings,

Why Volcanic Crystals are More Tempting than a Cinnabon

Hibiscus Moon geology, science 5 Comments

So Cinnabon’s are tempting. I stay away from them like the plague, but tempt me, they do…none the less.

Curse you, Cinnabon!

Volcanic crystals are also indeed very tempting…once you understand a bit more about them.

More than a cinnabon, you ask?

I think so, yes. And after you check out this week’s blog post, I think you will too. And, unlike, a cinnabon, they’re good for you!

Here’s an interesting crystal-question to ponder:

In this week’s video I go over why we need not be concerned with the “volcanic” origin & perhaps…it’s that very thing that makes them so tempting!

So first of all, not all crystals & stones will be categorized as “gentle & protective” when of volcanic origin.

When we think of “volcanic” we thing of “fiery”, “explosive”…so I totally get where this question is coming from, BTW.
GEO GEEK WARNING!
Most crystals have a volcanic origin, either directly or indirectly. If you take a look at the rock cycle,  you’ll see that…b/c everything on the Mama Earth’s crust (that’s not man-made) comes through the mantle, through the upheaval in a volcanic eruption or from plate boundary zones  then goes through different processes that happen in the rock cycle.

They morph as they churn through different parts of the rock cycle.

There’s lots happening & at some point  any mineral or rock that you may be holding has probably been a part of the volcanic part of the rock cycle.

Examples of DIRECTLY Volcanic Crystals
1. Peridot. You can find peridot quickly forming & tumbling down directly from the volcano. I wrote an entire blog post on the massive peridot-fever that I caught. You can check out here.

2. Sulfur is another very direct result of volcanic activity, a powerful stone. If you’re interested in learning more about sulfur, watch this video I created for you on Crystal Healing with Sulfur

3. Obsidian. (any kind of obsidian) all the direct result of volcanic activity. Black Obsidian is considered to be very forceful & powerful. Snowflake obsidian not so much. Mahogany obsidian, again not so much. So they are considered gentler. And then, there are other crystals that are indeed considered gentle & are a direct result from volcanic activity.

Diamond is another direct result of volcanic activity found deep, deep, deep in the earth, hence it’s extreme Mohs Hardness. Diamond is a Mohs Hardness of 10. That’s the highest & the hardest mineral you are going to find.

[caption id="attachment_17916" align="aligncenter" width="600"] Rob Lavinsky, iRocks.com – CC-BY-SA-3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons[/caption]When I went to answer this question, I was thinking…
Do we really want to correlate those 2 things; gentleness & volcanic origin? B/c when you think about it, the entire Earth, not just every rock & mineral, but the entire earth is born of volcanism &/or just as volatile tectonic activity.
In fact, there are very gentle things on the Earth that have come from volcanic/tectonic activity.
For example fields; agriculture, where things grow really, really well growing where the soil is quite fertile, this is a direct result of volcanic ash.  In the foothills  of a volcano you will have the best agricultural growing areas for just about ANYTHING.

The most abundant & vibrant, negative-ion-filled forests grow there as well. There are many waterfalls due to this volatile activity…and then, of course there are the CRYSTALS.

So from a violent event emerges all this wonderful energy, beneficial for us in so many ways. And perhaps, that’s exactly why they are so tempting to us…that direct volcanic energy. Kind of like the “bad boy” thing that some of us are attracted to.*whistling*

So are ya with me now? More tempting than a Cinnabon? Hmmmm?

What do you think? It makes a great discussion so please leave your examples, opinions & thoughts in the comments and we’ll have ourselves a Crystal Hottie convo.

Crystal Blessings!