Shungite vs Obsidian: What Are They, And What’s The Difference?

The fascinating mineraloids of shungite and obsidian resemble one another and have curious similarities and marked differences.

In this article, you’ll learn about these two materials, and how they are similar and different.

Shungite vs Obsidian (EXPLAINED)

Shungite consists mainly of the element carbon, lacks a common crystal structure, and is silvery black in color.

Black obsidian is an igneous rock and volcanic glass formed as molten rock cools quickly, preventing atoms from creating a crystalline formation.            

What is Shungite?

As a shiny black mineraloid that is non-crystalline in structure, shungite can have a carbon weight percentage of low, medium, and high.

It was discovered near the village of Shunga in Karelia, Russia. Its non-crystalline structure is similar to those of obsidian, amber and opal. 

For many centuries, shungite has been noted for its healing properties.

In Russia, Peter the Great used this intriguing stone to purify water for use in his spa.

The oldest and most extensive source of shungite is in northwestern Russia, and other deposits have been found in Austria, India and Kazakhstan, as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Although shungite is most often black, it can also be a dark, rich bronze color.

This mineral is usually lustrous and opaque with a metallic appearance.

The ultimate quality formation, “elite shungite,” consists of 90 percent carbon or more.

“Regular” or common shungite may contain 30 to 50 percent carbon, and it is extracted from the earth by industrial mining.

Interesting Shungite Facts and Beliefs

The shungite that is most frequently sold on the market today is actually a shungite-bearing rock.

It may actually contain widely varying percentages of shungite.

This rock may also contain pyrite or quartz inclusions that are visible to the naked eye along with other trace elements.

The rock formations with high percentages of carbon have a definite metallic appearance.

They are typically marketed as silver, noble, or elite shungite.

In general, geologists hold the belief that the carbon content of shungite has its origins in prehistoric algae clusters.

These clusters or colonies were converted later from oil shale into shungite by the presence of heat below the earth’s surface. 

This conversion by alchemy that resulted in shungite is the reason for the stone’s reputation for possessing metaphysical properties.

Shungite was celebrated as an organic entity (spirit) that was created via clusters of aquatic algae (water and air).

This material was deposited underground (earth) and was subsequently subjected to heat from magma (fire).

Due to the metaphysical explanation for its production, shungite was then often considered a source of purification, energy transference, and spiritual protection. 

This stone has long been thought to be a powerful purification agent for water.

Yet today’s geologists advise against placing shungite-bearing rock in drinking water due to its variable chemistry and overall content. 

See also: Can Shungite Go In Water?                   

Where Did Shungite First Exist on Earth?

So far, geologists have not determined the true origins of elite shungite on earth.

One scientific theory is that this stone, as a form of carbon, arrived on earth along with a falling Alland meteorite. 

This theory was formed due to the fact that the type of carbon present in shungite is not found in any other rock formations or materials on earth.

The theory also resulted from the fact that the discovery of shungite was concentrated solely in the northwestern region of Russia that borders Finland. 

Most Desirable Types of Shungite

We know from the research of expert geologists that the most desirable forms of shungite are the classic and elite categories.

The primary characteristics and properties of these two varieties of the stone are as follows:

Classic Shungite. This stone is a rich black color, and it was the first and most widely known type of shungite in Karelia. This classic stone category may be either type-2 or type-3, based on criteria set by Professor P. A. Borisov. Although deep black, it is often streaked with strands of either gold or white due to the mineral content of pyrite or quartzite. 

However, the primary mineral present in this shungite is a form of carbon, typically from about 30 to 60 percent.

Fullerenes c60 (an allotropic carbon form) has also been identified in this unique carbon content.

Other components are silicon oxide (45 percent), complex silicates like mica or chlorides (20 percent), and sulfites (3 percent).                              

Elite (or Noble) Shungite. This category of shungite has a silvery color and a reflective glass-like surface. A major difference between the elite and classical shungite is that the elite has a 98 percent content level of an allotropic carbon. As we know, the classic black type is only 30 percent allotropic carbon. The elite form also contains more fullerenes than the classical type.       

What is Obsidian?

Obsidian is a volcanic glass with a smooth, consistent surface and texture.

It is classified as an igneous rock and an amorphous material called a mineraloid.

Obsidian forms as molten rock cools down quickly, preventing its atoms from creating a crystalline formation pattern.

Typically an extrusive rock, obsidian achieves a solid consistency above the surface of the Earth. 

This volcanic glass can fracture in a haphazard, unpredictable fashion.

Obsidian may take form in multiple types of cooling environments.

These locations are on the edges of a lava flow or a volcanic dome, where lava meets water, or where airborne lava cools (an extrusive example).

This igneous rock can also form at the edges of a dike or sill (intrusive example).

The majority of obsidian is black, but some forms can be tan, brown, or green as well.

Rare examples of this rock may be red, orange, yellow, or blue.

The color of each rock formation is generally attributed to its content of trace elements or inclusions (imperfections). 

Sometimes two hues may form a swirling pattern in a sample of obsidian, and these colors are frequently black and brown.

This two-tone swirling style of stone is known as mahogany obsidian.

There is also an iridescent type of stone called rainbow obsidian.

See also: Can Black Obsidian Go In Water?

Interesting Facts and Legends About Obsidian 

The production of tools by humans began during the Stone Age.

At some ancient historical venues, myriad obsidian flakes still present today indicate the early existence of factories.

Due to the amount of stone debris still evident at these sites, historians have concluded that many people worked at these factories over the ages.

They manufactured various obsidian items, including arrowheads, spearheads, scrapers, experimental surgical instruments and knife blades.

There is also evidence that in ancient civilizations, obsidian and objects made of obsidian were transported and traded within as wide a radius as 1,000 miles.

The use of these stone items has been tracked by archaeologists and found to have been widespread.

At various times over many decades, they have been used in many different global areas, including the western states in the U.S.

Obsidian was also believed to ward off negative energy.

When worn or carried by an individual, this stone was said to protect the human psyche from attacks. 

Known Origins of Obsidian on Earth

As we know, obsidian was first used by ancient civilizations.

Yet proof of occurrences of this stone that date back more than a few million years is rapidly decreasing.

This is due to the fact that this form of glass rock is easily damaged and destroyed by harsh weather and excessive atmospheric temperatures. 

However, obsidian is currently found in a large number of venues worldwide.

Countries with noteworthy obsidian deposits include Argentina, Canada, Chile, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, and the United States.

Different Desirable Forms of Obsidian

Aside from traditional black, rainbow, or mahogany obsidian, there are other desirable types that are in popular demand.

Consumers also have a strong interest in the following variations of this stone:

Snowflake Obsidian. The chemical composition of glassy obsidian is frequently unstable and may crystallize over time. This process can create radial clusters of crystals (cristobalite) inside the stone. After cutting and polishing, these obsidian samples are called Snowflake Obsidian.

Golden and Silver Obsidian. The iridescent sheen or metallic appearance that obsidian can have when light reflects from tiny imperfections of its composition creates colored rock samples. Aside from Rainbow varieties, there are also Golden or Silver Obsidian samples resulting.

Shungite vs Obsidian: A Comparison

Comparing the characteristics and unique features of shungite and obsidian, we discover the following major facts:


• Both shungite and obsidian are mineraloids and lack a crystalline structure.

• Aside from the common black and silver-black, both rocks are found in additional colors.

• Both shungite and obsidian are available in different quality grades and formations. 


• Shungite consists mostly of a unique carbon, while obsidian is a volcanic glass formed from molten rock cooling. 

• Shungite was first found near the village of Shunga in Karelia, Russia, while obsidian has been mined in a variety of global locations, including Argentina, Greece, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Russia, and the United States. 

• Geologists believe that the carbon content of shungite has its origins in prehistoric algae clusters, while obsidian is formed mostly at the edges of volcanic domes and lava flows.

Main Uses of Shungite and Obsidian

Shungite has been used over the centuries for creating pyramids, spheres, pendants, and many other items of jewelry, as well as stunning decorative pieces.

It was also used as a water purification agent.

Obsidian’s uses have included the making of arrowheads, spear points, knives, and other cutting tools, experimental surgical instruments, and jewelry.

It has also been said to protect the human psyche from negative attacks. 


Shungite and obsidian are two mineraloids that both lack a crystalline structure.

When examining these materials, we discover that both stones have been used throughout centuries for fashionable and functional reasons. 

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shungite vs obsidian