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Why are crystals the colour they are?

Hi kids,

Have you ever wondered how crystals get their colours?

Some colours come from the minerals that the crystals are made of. For example, a black crystal may have manganese, carbon or haematite in it. A blue Quartz could be blue from Lazurite (as in Lapiz Lazuli) or blue Tourmaline needles, even Fuchsite.

Amethyst, Smoky Quartz and Citrine all have Iron (Fe) as the mineral but the different colours come from whether the crystal has been exposed to radiation which then affects the electrons in the iron.

Smoky Quartz can be anything from a very pale grey or brown to a very dark brown almost black colour. And this is due to exposure to radiation. I once saw a Smoky Quartz that was very black on one side of the crystal cluster and a paler brown grey on the other. The owner told me that this crystal had grown in an area where there was uranium and it was therefore very obvious to which side of the Smoky Quartz the uranium had been buried. Needless to say I was not comfortable buying that cluster!

Sometimes the colour comes from air bubbles. Gold Sheen Obsidian sparkles with gold because a lot of air bubbles trapped as the lava flowed. But sometimes it is a silver colour or a purple or green or even a rainbow like in rainbow obsidian because the surface is reflecting the light differently based on the structure of the atoms in the crystal. This is the same effect of colours in butterfly wings or when you hold a glass prism up to the sunlight and it creates a rainbow on the wall.

Sometimes geologists don't know what colours crystal and so Rose Quartz they think is pink because of manganese… But didn't I just say manganese will turn other stones black? Again it is thought that the way the manganese is interacting with the other minerals in the crystal is what creating two different colours to appear.

And in some cases, the colour is just a coating around another crystal. "Peacock Ore" is Bornite coating Chalcopyrite to create those love rainbow colours. And chalcopyite, is pyrite with copper adding itself in!

It is interesting how mother nature can still remain a mystery to a scientist, isn't it?

...and there is always those coloured or created by man - examples being chryso-howlite, goldstone and aura quartz!!


Peacock Ore


Blue Tourmaline in Quartz


Gold Sheen Obsidian