Jewelry Guide

What is Snowflake Obsidian?

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Snowflake obsidian is a fascinating variation of obsidian. A type of volcanic glass, like any other obsidian, the snowflake variant is easily distinguishable because of the many white or grey flakes that have formed inside of it, creating a snowflake like effect.

This affordable and easily available gemstone makes for intriguing jewelry and is very eye-catching when mounted in beautiful settings.

So, what makes snowflake obsidian so different, what should you be looking for when purchasing such a gemstone, and what are the main considerations you should keep in mind? Let’s dive right in.

What Is Different About Snowflake Obsidian?

Snowflake obsidian is similar to other obsidian varieties in its general composition, availability and value. The only difference between snowflake obsidian and black obsidian pieces are the “snowflakes” that you see on its surface. As fascinating as they are to look at, they have a rather simple explanation – they are called “spherulites” and they are essentially just needle-shaped cristobalite, which is a type of quartz. The presence of such snowflakes marks the slow process of transformation of obsidian from volcanic glass into an actual rock.

snowflake obsidian pendant

Quartz is responsible for the snowflakes on the obsidian as seen in this pendant.

Despite being called a gemstone, regular obsidian is not a stone at all. Obsidian is neither a rock nor a mineral as it lacks the typical crystalized structure of a mineral. Instead, obsidian is created when volcanic felsic lava cools off after a volcano becomes inactive. Obsidian pieces are most often found in the rhyolitic lava flows that are otherwise known as obsidian flows. That’s because these flows include a lot of silica and that’s one of the main components of obsidian – between 35% and 80% of obsidian is just silica.

Since there aren’t that many geographical places with past volcanic activity on Earth, the most common locations to mine obsidian are, in alphabetical order, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Canada, Chile, Georgia, Greece, El Salvador, Guatemala, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Scotland, Turkey and the United States.

As a non-mineral, obsidian lacks the standard cleavage that other gemstones have. It also has a conchoidal fracture and forms acute edges when cut. This gives it a rather distinct look and more possible uses when compared to other gemstones.

Snowflake obsidian, however, unlike other obsidian types, includes too much quartz (or cristobalite) which means that it’s not as easily shaped in smooth, sharp edges. These quartz formations can still be polished to achieve a beautiful visual effect but their presence compromises the stability of the obsidian and makes it unsuitable for a lot of things that black obsidian can be used for – knives, weapon blades and surgical instruments.

The name “Obsidian” comes from the name of an ancient Roman explorer called “Obsius” who, first in the Old World” discovered obsidian in Ethiopia.

How To Choose Snowflake Obsidian

The main questions when choosing snowflake obsidian are whether you want bigger or smaller flakes, as well as whether you want more or fewer of them. The choice here is mostly subjective and cosmetic. More quartz snowflakes mean less obsidian, so the surface of the piece will be less smooth and less reflective, but those too are purely subjective considerations.

Snowflake Obsidian Color And Clarity

Snowflake obsidian has a black body tone with gray or white spots scattered across the surface. The black base color of obsidian is caused by the presence of iron and magnesium in it.

snowflake obsidian earrings in geometric shape

Snowflake obsidian is less lustrous than black obsidian. See these here.

Clarity is generally not obsidian’s strong suit and that goes double for snowflake obsidian. Since obsidian is essentially a volcanic glass, it should have a vitreous luster. Because of the quartz snowflakes, however, this type of obsidian will have even less reflective properties. However, when well-polished, snowflake obsidian has a beautiful luster and its natural patterns give it an intriguing quality unlike most other gemstones.

Snowflake Obsidian Cut

This type of obsidian is cut in a rather similar manner to other obsidian variants. It has a hard and brittle nature and can be cut and carved with any good diamond drill. Obsidian is typically cut in oval or spherical shapes and is typically cut en cabochon. However, snowflake obsidian is also often faceted, although large, open facets are more common as opposed to small brilliant facets.

Snowflake obsidian gold earrings

Smooth cuts bring out snowflake obsidian’s natural patterns. See these here.

Because of the quartz, however, snowflake obsidian is somewhat harder to cut than black obsidian. These quartz inclusions are easily breakable than the rest of the obsidian and they are not as smooth. With that in mind, a lot of gemstone cutters will try to cut around the inclusions both to preserve the smooth surface of the stone as well as to accomplish an even more beautiful effect with it. That can make the cut more challenging but also more effective and beautiful when it works out.

Snowflake Obsidian Carat Sizes

Like other obsidian gemstones, snowflake obsidian can come in various sizes and carat weights. You can easily find snowflake obsidian pieces that are as large as 8 or 10 inches in diameter, as well as ones that weigh up to 100 carats or more.

For example, here are a couple of large snowflake obsidian pieces that weigh 72 carats and have dimensions of approximately 35” x 26” x 6”. As you can see, the typical snowflake obsidian price isn’t that high, although extraordinarily large stones can be significantly pricier.

Snowflake Obsidians In Jewelry

Just like other obsidian variants, snowflake obsidian has a significant place in many different types of jewelry. It can be used in rings, pendants, necklaces, earrings, bracelets and many other pieces. Black gemstones always add a touch of chic and modernity to a piece of jewelry, and this is not exception with snowflake obsidian.

Snowflake obsidian necklace

Snowflake obsidian necklace. See it here.

When paired with silver, snowflake obsidian has a modern, casual look but combining the gemstone with gold gives it a classic, chic appearance.

Although snowflake obsidian is an affordable gemstone, it’s sometimes paired with expensive materials such as diamonds and gold. This adds to the value of the overall piece and highlights the gemstone in a unique way.

Some of our readers ask us:

Is snowflake obsidian a good gemstone for engagement rings?

Snowflake obsidian ring in gold

Snowflake obsidian pairs well with more expensive materials. See this ring here.

While its beauty is undeniable and it’s black and white pattern makes for an attractive engagement ring choice, snowflake obsidian isn’t a very hard gemstone, ranking only 5.5 on the Mohs scale. This means that it’s easily scratched and damaged by regular wear and tear. If you want a snowflake obsidian engagement ring, you’ll have to be prepared to take extra care of it (more on this below) as well as mounted in protective ring settings such as halo or bezel.

snowflake obsidian gold earrings

Snowflake obsidian lends itself well to modern, funky designs. See these earrings here.

As we mentioned, snowflake obsidian is unsuitable for practical objects that rely on having sharp edges like knives or scalpels. However, we should also point out that smaller carat sizes of snowflake obsidian are less frequently used in smaller jewelry like rings or earrings because their cristobalite quartz inclusions are less visible. Instead, snowflake obsidian is best used in larger decorative pieces where its beautiful snowflake inclusions are much more noticeable.

Cleaning And Caring For Snowflake Obsidian Jewelry

Snowflake obsidian is even more brittle than its cleaner obsidian alternatives so it should be cleaned and maintained with a lot of care. It can be washed with warm soapy water, provided that the soap is mild and not too toxic, but it should always be well dried off with a clean towel.

These gemstones should also never be placed in jewelry boxes with other harder gemstones like diamonds, as they can easily scratch the smooth surface of the volcanic glass. Instead, either store it separately or at least keep it wrapped up in a piece of cloth. As snowflake obsidian is almost never cut with sharp edges, it should be pretty harmless to other softer gemstones.

Enhanced Or Imitation Snowflake Obsidian Gemstones

Snowflake obsidian isn’t really enhanced in many ways, aside from usually being polished quite well. It also doesn’t have too many imitations as it’s an affordable gemstone and not that rare. The key features to look for when in doubt are its classic opaque look, its glassy luster, and its standard glass-like weight.

Snowflake Obsidian Meaning And Symbolism

Like other types of obsidian, snowflake obsidian is believed to have very powerful “soul cleansing” properties.

Snowflake obsidian is viewed as a very mystical and precious gemstone in the spiritual world. Like other obsidian types, it’s believed to grant protection against negative thoughts and emotions. It’s also believed to suck negativity out of the user and into itself. That’s why it’s viewed as the perfect gemstone for introverts and people who tend to keep their emotions bottled up.

Snowflake obsidian is also viewed as a symbol of purity. It’s meant to easily clear your body and keep your spirit, mind, and heart clean, calm and reassured.

*Disclaimer: Jewelry Shopping Guide does not guarantee or validate any of the claims related to the metaphysical and alternative healing powers of this or any other gemstone. This information should in no way be used as a substitute for medical advice.

Where to Buy Snow Obsidian

Snowflake obsidian is not a mainstream gemstone and finding jewelry with this gemstone at your local store may prove difficult. Thanks to the internet, you’ll be able to find many options and competitive prices at your fingertips.  

When buying online, ensure that you are buying from a top-rated vendor with a proven track record. We recommend starting your search on Etsy and Amazon as these platforms have endless options to suit various budgets and styles.

Etsy

Etsy has a huge assortment of vendors that offer a wide variety of snowflake obsidian jewelry. Their obsidian jewelry ranges from a few dollars to pieces that cost hundreds of dollars and come in a variety of styles.

Amazon

As it is one of the biggest online retailers worldwide, it’s not surprising that you can find all kinds of snowflake obsidian jewelry and artifacts on Amazon. There’s something for everyone here.

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