Rock crystal

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Roman amphora
MFA# 99.457


Colorless, transparent Quartz. Rock crystal has been gathered or mined since Paleolithic times. Sources include India, Egypt, Hungary, Spain, Cyprus near Paphos, Kharga oasis, the Alps, and Turkey near Lake Van. Rock crystals were used in rings, bracelets, seals, cups, and carvings. In Egypt, they were also used for the cornea portion of stone eyes in statues and as thin inlays over red cement to simulate Carnelian (Aston et al 2000). Currently rock crystals are used in optical instruments as lens and prisms; in circuitry as piezoelectrical devices; and as a semiprecious Gemstone.

Quartz crystal

Synonyms and Related Terms

rhinestone; quartz crystal; Herkimer diamonds; Pecos diamonds; cristal de roca (Esp.); cristal de roche (Fr;); cristal de roche (Port.); bergkristal (Ned.)



Raman (MFA)

Quartz, collodion slide, 785 nm copy.tif



Physical and Chemical Properties

  • Trigonal crystal system
  • Usually occurs as six-sided prism
  • Low thermal expansion
  • Fracture = conchoidal
  • Luster = vitreous to greasy
  • Streak = white
  • Fluorescence = generally inert
  • Low birefringence
Composition SiO2
Mohs Hardness 7.0
Density 2.65 g/ml
Refractive Index 1.544; 1.553


Natural and Simulated Diamonds

Properties of Common Gemstones

Resources and Citations

  • B.Aston, J.Harrell, I.Shaw, "Stone" in Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, P.Nicholson, I.Shaw (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 52.
  • Mineralogy Database: Quartz
  • Gem Identification Lab Manual, Gemological Institute of America, 2016.
  • Wikipedia: Quartz (Accessed Dec 2022)
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 644
  • Richard S. Lewis, Hawley's Condensed Chemical Dictionary, Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 10th ed., 1993
  • Jack Odgen, Jewellery of the Ancient World, Rizzoli International Publications Inc., New York City, 1982
  • A.Lucas, J.R.Harris, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries, Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., London, 4th edition, 1962
  • Encyclopedia Britannica, Comment: "rock crystal." Accessed: 7 Apr. 2005.
  • C.W.Chesterman, K.E.Lowe, Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Rocks and Minerals, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1979
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981

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