In my collection, you find (when it is not sold already) an absolutely gorgeous necklace. Really one of a kind made with beads that look like diamonds. Beads that are as clear and lustrous as diamonds. They feel like diamonds, but it is quartz. People call the bead a Herkimer diamond. Extraordinary quartz, but quartz. But why do people call this beautiful quartz a Herkimer diamond?
What are Herkimer diamonds exactly?
Herkimer diamonds are double-terminated quartz crystals, formed in the dolomite formation of Herkimer County near New York and Niagara Falls.
They have 18 facets (diamonds have 52 facets). That means 6 facets around the center and 6 facets on each point. This quartz is very clear and the facets are naturally formed. Sometimes they have inclusions of water or gas or even petroleum.
They are formed about 500 million years ago. In a shallow sea full of sediments from the Adirondack Mountains. There are little caves or vugs formed in the rock by acid water. And the crystals grow very slowly in the caves. There explains why they are so clear.
Why are they called diamonds?
The Mohawk people and early settlers in the surroundings find these quartzes in their fields and in the river. They are so clear and beautiful that they call them diamonds. The people use them as amulets or make tools of them and exchange them with other Indian tribes.
In the early 1600s European beads come on the market, made of glass. And the popularity of the Herkimer diamonds becomes less and less.
But in the late 18th century workmen cutting dolomite in the Mohawk River ‘rediscover’ the Herkimer quartz and start mining this beautiful gem. They call this quartz the Herkimer Diamond, due to its clearness and its naturally formed facets, which makes the quartz look like a diamond.
Besides this, … double-terminated quartz is very rare!
A Herkimer diamond or a ‘real’ diamond?
A diamond has 55 to 58 facets (depending on the shape of the pattern) and has a hardness of 10 on Moh’s scale. A diamond can have more colors, like yellow, pink, blue. While a Herkimer diamond has 16 facets and has a hardness of 7 on Moh’s scale. The color is transparent to smokey.
Diamonds are mined deep in the earth and they are found in rocks. You find the Herkimer diamonds on the surface (as well as deeper in the earth) and they hide in geodes. In the mines around Herkimer, you find Herkimer diamonds yourself. That is… the mines let you search their diamonds for a fee.
When you are lucky you find the right geode (that is a piece of more or less round rock with an empty space in it). When you hit your hammer hard the rock breaks and the crystals are there for you.
Is ‘Herkimer diamond’ the right name?
People know this gem as ‘Herkimer Diamond, already for ages. But it is a ‘misnomer’. In 2015 the US Federal Trade Commission decides that the improper use of the name of a gem is a felony against the seller.
But until now they call the gem ‘the Herkimer diamond’. And it is as beautiful as a diamond is, although it is quartz.
There is so much to say and know about gemstones. Rare ones and well-known precious stones. FlorenceJewelshop published a practical PDF with all the information and fun facts about birthstones and well-known gemstones. Also, a great gift to add to your gemstone present. It is free of charge. Just let me know where I can send it to.
Hug, Florence of FlorenceJewelshop