Friday, February 25, 2011

Apache Tears is the gemstone of the week

It was over 30 years ago when I saw my first Apache Tears stone and heard the legend of how it came to be called that. This stone has had a fascination for me ever since then.

Apache Tears is a type of obsidian which is a natural glass that forms from volcanic activity. It was first discovered in Ethiopia. Apache Tears are only one of eight types of obsidian. Obsidian is made from the same material as granite, but cools so quickly when exposed to air that the minerals don't have time to crystalize. It was highly prized during the Stone Age like flint, it could be fractured to make sharp arrowheads or blades. It has been used in surgical tools also. Well crafted surgical blades have a cutting edge many times sharper than high quality surgical steel scalpels.

Apache Tears are a deep, rich translucent brown color. The have a Moh scale rating of 5-5.5. Obsidian can be found in many places across the world, but Apache Tears comes only from Arizona. It is sometimes confused with Smokey Quartz because of the similarity of the color.

Obsidian is not a true mineral, although it is mineral-like. It is not crystalline and does not have a well defined chemical composition. It is usually at least 70% silicon dioxide.
The name, Apache Tears comes from an Apache legend. On what is now called Apache Leap Mountain, near Superior, Az., a small band of about 75 Apaches fought a large group of U.S. Calvary, in the 1870's. Rather than face defeat, the Apache warriors rode their horses off the mountain to their deaths. Their families cried when they heard the news and as their tears hit the ground, they turned into the gemstone, Apache Tears. The photo has some of the stones from my collection. 

On the metaphysical side, it is believed that Apache Tears can help alleviate grief. It is also believed to help with muscle spasms and twitches.

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