Folks, I’ve recently seen a spate of faceted gems marketed as
"Helenite" and described as gems created in the eruption of Mt. St.
Helens in Washington State. Can any of you shed any light on this?
Are these considered valuable from a gemological perspective? What
are they, really? Do you think they are worth looking at for use in
some jewelry pieces in a mid-range market? Do you think they’re a
trend or will their appeal hold up over time? Or are they simply
another marketing gimmick? Just curious – it’s an area about which I
know very little, and this one has me bugged.

Many thanks,
Karen Goeller

Hello, I am Jim Laymon of Earth Gems of Arkansas and a new member. I
don’t mean to sound like I’m correcting a statement, but I use alot
of Helenite purchased from a cutter here in the US. There are alot
of gemstones out there made of “ash” melted down and dyed. However,
the helenite I use isn’t that at all. It’s the obsidian belched
forth by Mt. St. Helens, recovered, and through a process known
pretty much only to its developer, re-worked through a melting,
cleaning, and dying process that is permanent. Be careful out there
that you aren’t getting melted ash, it isn’t the same as the
re-processed obsidian. The ones I use are bright and flashy, much
the same as spesserite garnet and topaz. There are available several
colors, green being the most available. I’ve seen and used red,
orange (padparadscha) color, teal blue, and an emerald green. Very
nice stones! I make alot of silver jewelry, and helenite is an
economical way to produce unique jewelry at an affordable price. It
is the only gemstone created in the 20th century, so it has some
historical significance. We all know the market will bear just “so
much” in the world of silver.

My stone suppler has bought all the slabs left from the developer’s
estate (he’s deceased), and is marketing cut gemstones of very nice
quality. As we all know in this time of technology, no doubt,
someone else will or already has, developed a process for the
reworking of obsidian, and will market the same. Of course, the
purity of the name helenite will be somewhat diluted as others
market obsidian recovered from other locations around the world.
There is without a doubt quite a substantial investment in the
equipment for processing this material, and there isn’t a “high
dollar” market for the product, so it will take someone willing to
spend the cash in order to proceed with re-processing of average
obsidian. (just a common sense approach to the thought)

Have a super day! Would like to hear from you.
Jim Laymon
Earth Gems of Arkansas

Jim: My gal is a glassblower, we live in the great Northwest. First
’nothing ’ is permanent! I get rainbow obsideon from oregon, It has
red, blue, yellow, green, white,and brown. I would be willing to bet
that ‘helenite’ is made from the green band in the obsideon! I Know
for fact that the ‘glass eye’ in Seattle uses a tiny pinch of ash
in a 250 lb glass pot… there is no obsideon in mt st helens as it
was a pyroclastic flow of ash and boulders, no new magma, just ash
period! the ash is so contaminated with unlike chemicals and
minerals that a ‘’‘stone’’ made from it would be a conglomeration of
minerals and silica… pure true unflawed green??? I think not…

Karen, I believe Helenite is a trade name for the glass made from
Mount Saint Helen’s ash, along with something added to give the
glass some color. To my knowledge, this glass was not made during
the eruption, but has been made since the eruption with the
resulting ash. I remember hearing about someone (maybe GIA) who
melted some of the ash only to find that the resulting glass is gray
(as is the ash). Therefore, something has to be added to make the
color. These stones are not rare, there is a whole mountain of
material available for production of the glass for faceting into
stones, which will probably continue until sales die.

From a gemological viewpoint, glass is pretty but not very durable.
So don’t use it in rings. I’m traveling and so do not have my
reference material available to give hardness, etc. And because
this material is not rare, there is little chance of future
"investment" value.

However, you could possibly use this material for earrings and
pendants (that won’t get heavy wear as a ring would) where you want
to use nice color.

Kitti de Long

I know the peraon personly who came up with Mt St helon’s Iven
Polson he had Polson’s rock shop in Seatle about 10 yr.s ago he had
a patten or coppyright on it at one time he said he has been to
court serveal times with it. It is glass with a collor added. from
Itlay. or some place like that. He nows lives in Idaho Falls Idaho
U.S.A . 83404