A Writers Guide to Obsidian



Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass formed as an extrusive (lava that makes it to the surface or explodes violently into the atmosphere) igneous rock. It’s commonly deep black or blackish green, but there are many varieties.

The Varieties:

  • Apache Tears are small rounded obsidian nuggets embedded within a grayish-white perlite matrix. According to legend, these nuggets formed from Apache women’s tears as they cried when their warriors were driven over cliffs to their deaths by the cavalry.
  • Blue Obsidian has trace element or inclusions. It’s rare. Most translucent glassy blue obsidian in the market is man-made.
  • Fire Obsidian has multicolored, iridescent layers. Light reflecting off thin layers of concentrated magnetite nanometric crystals produces this effect. These are rare stones and only found in Glass Buttes, Oregon.
  • Green Obsidian has different amounts of iron and magnesium.
  • Mahogany Obsidian has high concentrations of iron inclusions creating a deep reddish-brown color with black inclusions. Also know as Red Obsidian.
  • Midnight Lace Obsidian has a mixture of black and clear layers in a lace-like pattern.
  • Rainbow Obsidian has inclusions of magnetite nanoparticles creating a variety of iridescent colors. The difference between fire and rainbow obsidian is the thickness of the layers; rainbow obsidian is thicker. This stone is found in Mexico, California, and Oregon.
  • Snowflake Obsidian has small, white, radial clustered crystal inclusions of cristobalite creating a blotchy or snowflake pattern in the black glass.
Fire Obsidian

fire obsidian

History and Lore

  • The word obsidian first showed up in the English translation of “Natural History” written by the elder Pliny of Rome.
  • There are a few sentences on volcanic glass called Obsian, named from its resemblance to a stone (obsiānus lapis) found in Ethiopia by Obsius, a Roman explorer.
  • Obsidian is hard and brittle. Because it fractures with sharp edges it was used in the past for cutting and piercing tools. Archaeologists working at the site of Tlapacoya in the southeast of Mexico City discovered an obsidian blade radiocarbon dated to 21,000 BCE.
  • An obsidian two-finger amulet (index and middle finger) was placed on a mummy near the incision were the internal organs were removed before embalming. It’s thought it might be to reaffirm the embalming process, the fingers representing Anubis, the god of embalming. Alternatively, it could have been intended to hold the incision closed, to prevent malign forces from entering the body. (Other black stones were used as well like basalt.)
  • Aztecs used obsidian as mirrors as well as for tools.

Obsidian is also referred to as glass agate, glassy lava, and xaga.

Dr Dee's Magical Mirror

Dr Dee’s Magical Mirror

Famous Obsidian

  • Dr. Dee’s Magical Mirror | Dr. Dee’s Magical Speculum: An Aztec cult object in the shape of a hand mirror brought to Europe in the late 1520s. John Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, and an occult philosopher. He used the stone to call spirits.
  • Neclace of Reniseneb: A gold and obsidian beaded necklace found around the neck Reniseneb’s mummy.
  • Moai / Mo‘ai sculptures eyes: The eye sockets on the monolithic human figures carved by the Rapa Nui people on Easter Island were designed to hold coral eyes with either black obsidian or red scoria pupils.

Magical and Mystical Mroperties include

  • relieving stomach aches
  • relieving intestinal problems
  • aiding in healing
  • sharpening focus
  • providing protection
  • removing negativity
  • protecting against psychic attacks
  • revealing half-truths

Apache Tears

  • removing toxins from the body
  • reducing pain
  • relieving grief and sadness
  • releasing negative emotions
  • clarifying issues
  • bringing good luck
  • aiding in meditation
  • aiding with transmutation
  • giving protection

Blue Obsidian

  • helping with astral projection
  • keeping away negativity

Green Obsidian

  • reflecting away draining energies
  • reconnecting with nature

mahogany obsidian

Mahogany Obsidian

  • detoxifying organs and tissues
  • increasing liver and kidney function
  • improving circulation
  • relieving pain
  • removing energy blockage
  • protecting from psychic attacks
  • strengthening the aura
  • healing from emotional abuse
  • helping with overwhelming emotions
  • helping ease anxiety
  • balancing energies
  • realizing goals
Rainbow Obsidian

rainbow obsidian

Rainbow Obsidian

  • bringing joy and happiness
  • bringing gratification
  • protecting against depression
  • blocking negativity
  • sharpening senses
  • enhancing clairvoyance
  • aiding in protection
  • relieving fears
  • used as a scrying stone
Snowflake Obsidian

snowflake obsidian

Snowflake Obsidian

  • detoxifying organs and tissues
  • relieving muscle cramps
  • helping to recognize bad patterns in ones life
  • promoting self-esteem
  • bringing things to the surface
  • providing balance
  • providing serenity
  • shielding from negativity

Discharging & Recharging

Discharge obsidian once a month by holding it under warm running water. To recharge obsidian, place it in the sun or among rock crystals. (In stone therapy, when using stones to heal, their energy is used up, requiring the stones to be recharged.)

This is a reference for fiction writers and should not be taken as medical or spiritual advice.gemstone index

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  1. I never knew there were so many varieties. I’ve only seen black.

  2. My father was a rock hound and collected a lot of obsidian. I still have quite a few of those rocks.

  3. I live in volcano land. We have a huge obsidian flow near us and we went digging at glass butte once. Most of the varieties of obsidian you mentioned can be found there.

  4. And here I thought obsidian was only black and was a synonym for the color black.

    That’s pretty cool. I particularly like the fire obsidian!

  5. I’ve always been drawn to obsidian, but I’d never heard of fire obsidian before. So cool!

  6. LIke Alex I didn’t realize there were different kinds of obsidian. It’s a cool stone, so smooth and shiny.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Road trippin’ with A to Z

  7. These are cool stones. I’ve seen Apache Tears, but that’s the only one. That fire obsidian is gorgeous!

  8. I didn’t know about the other varieties. I thought it only came as black. Beautiful stone.

  9. So pretty. Really a brilliant piece.

  10. Like many of the other people commenting, I thought obsidian was always black. Those other varieties are gorgeous, especially the fire obsidian and the mahogany.

  11. When a young boy I stumbled across a piece of fire obsidian, and I kept it until my home burned. The legend of the Apache Tears form of obsidian is fascinating, isn’t it?

  12. Wow, wow, wow! A lot more than I ever knew about this stone – the varieties and properties. Just wow! Thanks!

  13. In the RED RISING trilogy I’m translating, Obsidians are the race of ruthless killers and bodyguards 🙂

  14. Interesting post, Holly. I’ve seen Apache Tear, but didn’t realize it was a type of obsidian. Plus, I had no idea obsidian came in so many colors—but when you think about where the rock comes from and how it’s formed, it makes sense.

  15. Those are beautiful! I had no idea there were so many version of obsidian out there.

  16. I thought it was always greenish for some reason! It’s such a beautiful stone, I can understand why it has such beneficial properties.

  17. i never knew there were so many types of obsidian! i always like reading your descriptions of how they can influence us or help us – i need to find some snowflake obsidian, it’s pretty and useful.

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