Crystal collecting and selling has seasons.
These are based on newly discovered pockets, mine closures, and the emotional and political zeitgeist. In 2016, I had a lot of people at shows asking about moldavite and tektites (natural glass crystals from meteor impact craters). Tektites are energetically ‘sparky’ crystals; think of them as energetic catalysts. People were looking for change.
This year has been markedly different at rock and gem shows. A kind of bewildered seeking is something I see a lot of. In a politically volatile time we are all looking for beauty, for comfort, and for a stronger connection to the earth that we can feel in our hands. It seems that every time I tune into social media I end up wishing I hadn’t. I’m not entirely sure how useful distraction is…I am a firm believer in not avoiding the dark, but arming yourself to meet it.
To that end, I’m stuffing my crystal horde with a lot of two particular things recently: Chiapas amber and rhodochrosite.
Chiapas Amber is the trade name for amber coming from the Chiapas region of Mexico. It is about 25-28 million years old, and has a signature greenish surface tinge in sunlight, and a milky green-blue fluorescence under UV light (as is pictured above). This is some very special material both because of its fluorescence and its wholeness.
A lot of amber set in jewellery is heat-treated – formed by compressing amber chips to make solid chunks and sheets that cabochons and beads are cut from. It’s very easy to spot these processed pieces – they are full of those circular spangles that catch the light – they almost look like tiny reflective lily pads – these are a result of stresses in the compression process. It is still “genuine” amber, but it has been re-formed.
In contrast, Chiapas amber specimens are an example of how unprocessed amber looks – solid chunks of honeyed resinous goodness.
So how does this fossilized tree resin relate to emotional fatigue?
Energetically, amber functions much like new tree sap – which seals up its tree’s wounds, aiding in healing and preventing infection. As it warms instantly to the touch, it has long been thought of as being alive with the familiarity and warmth of the forest. Amber has been used in protection and healing rituals since before written language. There is something about the captured living essence of a tree that is so comforting, and in that comfort we can find solace.
How it’s mined: As in the case of most mining practices – amber has its share of exploitation – however, much amber out of Mexico comes out of communally owned land and is cut and polished through craft guilds. As always, I encourage everyone to buy from small business and ask questions about the provenance of their pieces.
How it’s graded: amber grading is fairly easy – with the exception of opaque ambers – clarity is key. This means a minimum of fractures most of all – as inclusions of plant and animal life are highly sought after. That being said, fracture lines that are deep in a piece of amber also create that rainbow effect that I personally am very fond of.
If amber offers solace, I would say that rhodochrosite helps us to bring forth lost treasures from within ourselves.
Rhodochrosite is known for its signature banding of deep luscious pink crystal layers and frothy white banding. In the past year some truly high quality rhodochrosite has come out of Argentina (its most prominent source) which has given me cause to consider a stone that previously was very much under my radar.
Rhodochrosite is a stone all about plumbing the depths of self with love and acceptance. It’s said to bear the spirit of discovery, bringing forth hidden or forgotten talents. Not unlike amber, it is said to help one heal after emotional trauma. As it is on the “soft” side of the colour spectrum I also think it celebrates the gentle qualities that strengthen us – like a sensitivity and innocence.
Lately, I’ve been using rhodochrosite with my personal tarot readings. Those little spheres are nestled in with my Dreaming Way deck – which is what I’m currently using for my daily card draw. They are serving to remind me to think with childlike abandon and imagination, to remember myself through my dreams.
Where it’s mined: Argentina is most often where rhodochrosite is from. As a mineral locality Argentina is usually a fairly transparent source. They are longtime trading partners with Canada – who they have many combined geological and paleontology projects with. To date, I have not heard of any truly shady mining practices with Argentine minerals.
How is it graded: gem-grade rhodochrosite is a translucent, deep and sexy blush pink with no banding; however, the lacy banding is also aesthetically pleasing and a lot of museum grade specimens are stuffed full of it. Rhodochroscite is a soft crystal – only a 3-4 on the mohs scale, so I would recommend just buying what aesthetically calls to you.