In this article, we will discuss the identifying properties, uses, and meaning of the man-made gem Helenite. We will also briefly discuss its history and chemical composition.
Helenite: Identification, Uses, and Meaning
What Is Helenite?
Helenite, also known as Mount St. Helens Obsidian, is a man-made silicate gem that most closely resembles other glass gems, such as regular obsidian.
Red variations of Helenite are called “Ruby Obsidianite” while green forms of Helenite are dubbed “Emerald Obsidianite” by professionals in the geology and jewelry-making fields.
The substance is formed by overheating and condensing samples of ash from the eruption of Mount St. Helens in the 1980s.
The volcano from which this glass hails is located in Skamania County in Washington State, U.S.A.
It is frequently used in finished jewelry by mounting it onto a piece.
However, Helenite enthusiasts also enjoy purchasing this stone as a faceted rough specimen, tumbled stone, faceted stone, and more.
When manufacturers melt Helenite’s ash down, they create different colorations including green, red, and blue shades by adding coloring agents to the melted substance.
The stone is then mounted, tumbled, or faceted roughly and sold mainly to tourists visiting the Mount St. Helen’s eruption site.
As a species, Helenite is classified as a glass by geologists. In terms of transparency, Helenite is best described as translucent.
The gem’s Refractive Index settles around 1.490. Helenite’s Polariscope Reaction is Singly Refractive (SR) With ADR.
It does not have any pleochroism.
When it comes to hardness, Helenite scores between 5-5.5 on the Moh’s Hardness Scale.
The average specific gravity for the glassy gem ranges anywhere between 2.320-2.400, although it usually falls around 2.360.
Toughness varies for this gem, so toughness is not the best way to identify Helenite.
For those looking for inclusions, they can expect some air bubbles in a specimen of Helenite.
The gem’s luster is considered.
Helenite gems contain conchoidal fractures.
These gems do not have any form of cleavage.
How To Identify Helenite
To the naked eye, Helenite samples will look very similar to colored glass.
They are colorful–typically with color evenly distributed throughout.
Helenite also has a smooth, polished finish most of the time that can be easily observed with the eyes as well as feeling with the hands.
This gem may even appear like plastic at first to the untrained observer.
However, it is heavier than a plastic chunk of similar size.
It can also look like emeralds or rubies, depending on the color.
The main distinction between Helenite and the gems that it mimics is the hardness of each gem.
Rubies possess a 9.0 on the Moh Scale, so they are very hard.
Emeralds normally possess a 7.6-8.0 on the Moh Scale, which means that they are also pretty tough.
Since these gems are harder, they will take more wear and tear to scratch than Helenite.
It could also be mistaken for obsidian. However, the main distinction between these two gems is that obsidian is naturally occurring whereas Helenite is a man-made material.
Their chemical makeup will indicate that they are not the same and help rockhounds identify the two.
This is useful for rockhounds to know as they attempt to identify a potential Helenite gem and for wearers of the jewelry to consider.
Where Is Helenite Found?
Since Helenite is manmade, it is usually not found in nature, such as along creeks or under the dirt, or buried on the sides of cliffs.
The only situation in which a rockhound may encounter it in nature is if a previous owner dropped it and left it to weather the elements.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, Helenite is often sold as part of the tourist attraction of Mount St. Helens, a volcano in Washington State.
Helenite is also sold online at various jewelry and crystal retailers. It is particularly popular in metaphysical shops.
Sometimes this stone is sold in metaphysical shops under the name “Gaia Stone,” which refers to its green earthy tone and the relationship between that green hue and “Mother Earth/Gaia.”
Many rockhounds enjoy Helenite for its bright coloring.
History of Helenite
Helenite was originally created after the Mount St. Helens eruption in May of the year 1980.
This historically significant eruption affected parts of the northwestern United States by distributing a light layer of volcanic ash throughout the region.
Residents of the area and travelers in the region began pocketing bits of the ash as a sort of souvenir.
When people shared bits of the ash with relatives and friends outside of the region, it became a tourist attraction.
People wanted a piece of this historic event.
Eventually, it was discovered that superheating the ash turned it into a solid chunk of green, glassy material.
This became what we know today as Helenite.
Ever since that event, this material has been used in jewelry and other forms as a reminder of the eruption.
Cost of Helenite
Helenite, though beautiful, is not particularly expensive. It is relatively inexpensive compared to rarer gems.
Due to the limited nature of the resource that makes Helenite–volcanic ash from an eruption that happened decades ago–it could become rarer in the future and that would drive up the price point of Helenite pieces.
For now, it is more expensive than a regular glass pendant but less expensive than high-quality diamonds.
Budgeting $50-$100 would allow someone in the market for a Helenite piece to purchase a decent piece.
Helenite is valuable mostly for its historical context.
Many of those who visit Mount St. Helens want to take a piece of history home with them.
So it is very emotionally significant to some, even if it is not monetarily the most valuable gem in the world.
In conclusion, Helenite is a man-made gem that is made of melted, colored ash from Mount St. Helens.
It most closely resembles glass, obsidian, or even emeralds or rubies, depending on its coloring.
Helenite is not particularly valuable but it is historically significant.
It remains popular today for its clear, vibrant charm and its historical relevance.
When people have a piece of Helenite, they have a melted piece of history in their hands.
Although the stone is man-made and not naturally occurring by any stretch of the imagination, it is nonetheless a pretty and worthwhile addition to any rock hound’s existing collection.
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