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This is the fourteenth in a series about the gemstones of Namibia. Quartz is the second-most abundant mineral found on Earth (after feldspar), with its varieties distinguished by their colours: amethyst (purple); citrine (cloudy orange); prasiolite (transparent green); rock crystal (clear, colourless); milky quartz (cloudy white); rose quartz (pink to reddish); and smoky quartz (brown to black).
Text Edward Jenkins
Photographs Hannes Brunner/Pangolin Trading
The connection of the Scottish people with smoky quartz, their national gem, goes back for millennia. The stones may have been sacred to the ancient druids during the Iron Age. Because they are relatively easy to carve, they have been used in many societies, including as snuff bottles in China; intaglio (an engraved design on the surface of the gem) seals in Rome; cylinder and ring seals among the Sumerians; and beads and scarabs in ancient Egypt.
Morion is a dark brown to very dark black variation of smoky quartz. The name derives from the Latin mormorian, a term Pliny the Elder coined to describe ‘a kind of dark-brown crystal’. Today, ‘morion’ continues to be used as a synonym for smoky quartz in a number of European languages, including German, Danish, Spanish and Polish.
Cairngorm, found in Scotland, may be yellow brown or grey brown, and has been used for centuries to adorn kilt pins or ‘sgian-dubhs’, the single-edged knife worn at the top of the kilt hose. The largest known cairngorm, located at Braeman Castle, Scotland, weighs 52 pounds (about 24 kilograms). A third variation of smoky quartz, called ‘coon tail’, so named for its resemblance to the tail of a racoon, alternates grey and black banding. This variety has been found primarily in the southern United States.
Smoky quartz is widely distributed. It is most commonly found in Africa, the United States, Switzerland, Brazil and Scotland. In Namibia, high-lustre specimens have been mined in the Gobobseb Mountains, west of the Brandenburg; at the Spitzkoppe Mountain, where dark-grey to black transparent crystals are found; in southern Namibia, near Tses, in the Karas Region; and in the Karibib District, where crystals of 40 to 50 centimetres in diameter have been mined, including some of gem quality, on Otjua Farm.
The crystals are popular as ornamental stones, carved into eggs, pyramids or other sculptures, and may occasionally be used to be cut and faceted in an unusual way.
Having smoky quartz around the office may be a sound business decision. The stone is said to enhance focus, drive and clarity in the workplace, and to improve organisational skills for those who rarely see the bottom of their ‘in’ baskets…
Smoky quartz is said to bring peace to its owners, helping them to come to terms with their circumstances; to accept their bodies and their lives; to stimulate pride, self-esteem and self-respect; and to alleviate depression. Some people believe it is an important stone for those suffering from breast tumours, radiation-related illnesses, or undergoing chemotherapy, and that it enhances one’s survival instincts.
This article appeared in the Oct’11 edition of FLAMINGO Magazine.