Natural Glass Value, Price, and Jewelry Information


indochinite tektite
Indochinite (656-755 ka, Pleistocene; Australasian Tektite Strewn Field, Guangdong, China) by James St. John, on Flickr

Natural Glass Value

Libyan Desert Glass is rare, Tektites are somewhat rare, Obsidian is common except in fancy colors.

  • Obsidian Highest values go to rare colors, the closer the stone is to transparent the higher the value. Faceted stones highest. Chatoyant somewhat higher. All others are close to the same value, with cutting costs greater than material cost.
  • Tektites Size, transparency, color, and quality of cutting.
  • Libyan Desert Glass Size, transparency, color, and quality of cutting.

The International Gem Society (IGS) has a list of businesses offering gemstone appraisal services.

Natural Glass Information

DataValue
NameNatural Glass
Is a Variety ofGlass
VarietiesMacusanite, Obsidian, Apache Tears, Fire Obsidian, Mahogany Obsidian, Rainbow Obsidian, Sheen Obsidian, Snowflake Obsidian
Crystallography Amorphous
Polish Luster Vitreous
Fracture Conchoidal
Toughness Poor
Cleavage None
Stone SizesTektites to ~25 carats, obsidian and Libyan Desert Glass often weigh several pounds
Heat SensitivityYes
Enhancements None
Transparency Transparent to Opaque
UV LongNot diagnostic
UV ShortNot diagnostic
Absorption Spectrum Not diagnostic
Phenomena Obsidian, iridescent, chatoyant. Others none.
FormulaPrimarily silicon
Pleochroism None

Forms of Natural Glass used in Jewelry

Glass comes in several natural forms; all of these are all used in jewelry:

Obsidian

Obsidian is the most common natural glass. It is formed by volcanism and large pieces are common. It is frequently cut into cabochons and carved. The broken edges are sharper than any steel knife, so it is also used for scalpels, arrow heads, knives and scrapers.

Tektites

Tektites are created by meteorites striking the earth. The heat of the impact melts local sand, creating natural glass and scattering it over a wide area. The best known tektite is Moldavite, which is found in the CzechRepublic. Other tektites are found in several locations around the world.

Bubbles are common and numerous in tektites. It is very challenging to facet a stone and not have any breaking the surface. If a bubble reaches the surface on the pavilion, it has a minimal effect on value, based on how visible it is. On the crown it is conceded a significant blemish and greatly reduces value.

Libyan Desert Glass

The source of Libyan Desert Glass is a mystery. It is a transparent, light yellow glass that is usually faceted.

Mount Saint Helens

Mount Saint Helens glass is relatively new to the market. While there are reports of natural glass being found in the lava flows, that is not what is being sold. The ash is melted and coloring agents are added. This is not a natural product, although it does have a special romance that is not found with other glasses.

Natural glasses have the same bubbles and swirl lines of man made glass. (See Identifying Inclusions.) Its optical and physical properties are the same as untreated glass. However, most of our glass simulants have additives that raise their RI and SG above natural glass. Natural glass is also likely to have mineral inclusions that are not found in man made material. (See Identifying Characteristics.)

Properties

Obsidian

Source Hardhigh Hardlow SGhigh SGlow RIhigh RIlow Birefringence O Dispersion
Natural 6 5 3.00 2.25 1.69 1.480 A  –

Moldavite

Source Hardhigh Hardlow SGhigh SGlow RIhigh RIlow Birefringence O Dispersion
Natural 5.5 5 2.40 2.32 1.69 1.480 A  –

Libyan Desert Glass

Source Hardhigh Hardlow SGhigh SGlow RIhigh RIlow Birefringence O Dispersion
Natural 5.5 5 ~2.20 ~2.20 ~1.46 ~1.46 A  –

Colors

Obsidian, black, brown, gray, sometimes spotted or banded. Rare, red, green, orange, blue, purple

Moldavite, yellowish to grayish green

Libyan Desert Glass, light yellow to greenish yellow 

Identifying Characteristics

Obsidian gas bubbles frequently elongated, crystallites, (small nearly crystalline shaped mineral inclusions,) stubby needle like inclusions. May be banded or have closely oriented inclusions that cause sheen.

Moldavite gas bubbles, swirl lines, roiled effect

Libyan Desert Glass irregularly shaped gas bubbles, tiny rounded grains

Variety and Trade Names

  • Apache Tears Rounded pieces of obsidian, usually transparent to translucent and gray or brown.
  • Banded Obsidian has curved bands
  • Mahogany Obsidian has brown bands in black or gray base, resembling wood grain
  • Onyx Obsidian has straight banding
  • Rainbow Obsidian shows iridescent colors
  • Sheen Obsidian has a gold or silver sheen when viewed under proper lighting
  • Snowflake Obsidian had white or light gray inclusions resembling snowflakes, on dark gray or black base

Misnomers

Obsidian

Fire pearl, agni mani, glass agate, Montana or mountain jet, mountain mahogany, Nevada diamond or topaz, tokaylux diamond, Iceland agate.

Moldavite

Bohemian chrysolite, false chrysolite, glass chrysolite, glass meteorite, pseudo chrysolite .