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"Strawberry" Quartz - true facts


#1

Dear Orchideans, The first discovery of ‘strawberry quartz’ came from
a very obscure location in Mexico. I believe the first pieces were
brought to and first notice by the international market in the
1970s. They were walnut to fist size quartz rhombs full of thin
iridescent reddish needles. The deposit produced little material and
quickly played-out. The location of the deposit remained a secret
and unknown to everyone I have encountered during my last 23 years
in the gem business. I’d be surprised if more than a 50 kilo sack of
this material made it to market.

The few pieces that occasionally surface on the market are normally
in the hands of mineral collectors and show the natural crystal
faces with one usually being polished to show the 'strawberry’
inclusions. These large partially polished crystals always demand a
price equal to or higher than their cutting value - thus are rarely
cut. On occasion a cut stone may be seen but they are very rare. The
Mexican material could and would produce gems full of dazzling red
shimmering needles in very large sizes if cut. Certainly it would be
possible to cut stones in the 50 to 100 carat range of top quality
from these Mexican strawberry quartz crystals. The few single
crystals I have seen alway sell for $700 or more USD each.

Then during the fall of the Soviet Union in the late 1980s early 90s
a new source of ‘strawberry’ quartz came onto the market from
Kazakhstan. The crystals were smaller but of similar habit to the
Mexican material. However, the ‘strawberry’ red needles only
occurred in a thin, more disperse layer within the crystals. This
layer in my experience is never more than 6mm thick (usually just 3
to 4 mm thick), and bound by areas of common quartz either milky or
clear on one or both sides. These thin layers of reddish needles
usually lay in the same plane as the pinacoid (termination) faces of
the quartz crystal. This makes it impossible to obtain large gems
that have an even dispersal of the red ‘strawberry’ needles
throughout the stone from this new Kazakhstan material.

It is possible to get stones up to 15 cts (maybe) that are real nice
from the Kazak material, but nothing nearly as large as what the
Mexican ‘strawberry’ quartz locale produced. The Kazakhstan material
does not contain the density of needles like the Mexican material
did either. Overall it can still produce some very beautiful gems
but nothing in comparison to the Mexican material IMHO.

To this day the location of the Mexican material remains a mystery.
Enough came out to whet the appetites of many gem dealers and
miners. There have been one or two ventures in the past by ambitious
individuals hoping to find this “lost” locale. But to this day there
has been nothing mined anywhere in the world like the original
Mexican “Strawberry Quartz”. They say it came from high in the
Sierra Madre del Occidente - which would either be in Sonora or
Chihuahua. These reports are unverified, and it would not be the
first time misleading reports were made about Mexican mineral
locations. I only hope that someday somebody comes up with the
original source for this exceptionally fine material. If that
happens they will strike it rich in the process. Until then we will
have to make do with the Kazakhstan material which is by no means
common either.

If I ever go back and live in my childhood home of Mexico (the
thought does occur to me) it will be on my list of adventures for
sure. Mexico is full of gem accounts like the above, but the
Strawberry quartz is certainly one of the most unique, beautiful
and rare of them all.

BTW, a necklace made of 20-30 mm chunks of legitimate red strawberry
quartz, cut to gem purity (not full of white milky quartz) would be
a very expensive item indeed!

Steve Green / Rough and Ready Gems, Inc. Your source for fine
natural gem briolettes… even “strawberry” quartz briolettes. Also
precision ultrasonic drilling. www.briolettes.com


#2

After all that - I went to your website, and not one picture of real
strawberry quartz could I find! I’ve seen the “fake” material, but
after your description, I’d love to see the real thing.

Tas


#3

What I saw this year was at the Tucson Show - a glut of beautiful
color transparent reddish material being called “strawberry quartz”.
My Wife and Mom both bought some beads for $20 per large chunky
strand thinking they got a deal. When they showed it to me I set
them straight, but they still liked it regardless if it was glass or
not. (It was glass btw.) The material was also being sold in
larger rough pieces. All the foreign dealers I met, who were
carrying this material were misrepresenting it as “quartz”.

As for ‘cherry quartz’- there is nothing by this name in natural
gems that I have ever seen or heard of. (There is cherry opal) I
suspect it is the same or similar glass material being sold under a
different name. Whether cherry or strawberry glass material, it is
not actually ‘dyed’ as that would wash off with solvents. Rather it
has coloring agents (usually metal oxides I think) mixed into the
melt during production. I would think the color is pretty stable.
The material I examined under 10 power magnification revealed areas
of splotchy red color not in solution within the clear colorless
glass but held in suspension within the glass once the melt
solidified. Due to the numerous suspended color ‘splotches’ the
glass took on the overall ‘strawberry’ color when viewed with the
naked-eye. I do not know what chemical was used to obtain this red
color, but I bet a lab or glass expert could easily identify it.

BTW it is quite possible there are numerous types of this
"strawberry’ & ‘cherry’ glass floating around the market. What I saw
in Tucson was all similar, but it is possible that new & different
materials have surfaced that I have not seen.

—Add a little dash of this chemical and a dash of that chemical
and next thing you know…

PRESTO! you have “papaya quartz” or “watermelon quartz” etc.
etc…—

Don’t be confused by names and slight variation in color. Look at it
under magnification and see the similarities and differences that
way. Determine if it is quartz or glass, natural or synthetic. By
viewing natural and synthetic materials and with practice you’ll be
surprised how much knowledge and insight you can gain on our own.
Reading gemological and mineralogical books helps too.

Regards, Steve Green / Rough and Ready Gems, Inc.
www.briolettes.com Fine gem briolettes, solutions for setting them
and ultrasonic drilling


#4

All, The real strawberry quartz with which I am familiar came out of
Mexico decades ago. It was actually amethyst which contained dense
inclusions of what was apparently rutile. The coloration was pinkish
red and the cut stones vaguely resembled the sunstone that comes
from Oregon except that the Oregon material has more scintillation
and more of an orange coloration. The crystals were well formed and
rather large. I don’t recall there ever having been a great deal of
the material on the market. Ron at Mills Gem, Los Osos, CA.


#5

Steve, is it known what the inclusions are, chemically? Thanks for
you other info.

Kevin (NW England, UK)