Eye of the Tiger

Published December 2012
by Judy Jenkins, JTV contributing author

The gemstoneTigers Eye is just as pretty and exotic as the name implies. This gemstone is worth the experience if you have never worked with it. The color varies from golden shimmers to deep, dark reddish brown bands, adding warmth and mystery to your jewelry designs. Yes, it does look very much like a tiger’s eye, thanks to a phenomenon known as chatoyancy, or cat’s eye, which produces a band of reflected light that mimics the beauty of a feline’s eye.

Here is a short science lesson on Tiger’s Eye and its sibling gemstones, all composed of silicon dioxide. The mineral source for Tiger’s Eye is quartz, one of the most common minerals on Earth. Quartz gemstones are separated into two groups: large crystal, or macrocrystalline and small crystal, or cryptocrystalline. Though both have the same chemical composition, the macrocrystalline quartz crystals can be seen with the naked eye whereas the cryptocrystalline crystals (sometimes called microcrystalline quartz) are very fine.

Tiger’s Eye crystals are only visible under magnification, a trait shared by all gemstones in the quartz group known as chalcedony (kal-SEH-duh-nee’). The small crystal group includes gemstones you may have used in your jewelry making projects, such as jasper, agate, carnelian, moss agate, and onyx.

So, if all quartz has the same chemical composition, why does it have so many different colors? The crystals may have been influenced deep in the Earth by a metallic element such as iron or subjected to enough heat while underground to change the color. Many of the chalcedonies are dyed or heated in a treatment process after they are mined to alter the color. For example, black onyx is nearly always dyed.

The best Tiger’s Eye is mined in South Africa but there are deposits in other locations around the world including Arizona, China and Namibia. It is a relatively hard gemstone and will tolerate wear as bracelet or ring, as well as pendants and earrings. Tiger’s Eye is known to have been worn by Roman soldiers two thousand years ago. Lore says it provides a calmness, which any soldier going into battle would value.

We have many beautiful beads in various shapes and sizes in our inventory and more on the way. For a change of pace from vivid blues and greens or soft pastels, consider looking into the eye of the tiger for your next bracelet, necklace, ring, or pendant project.

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