Obsidian Stone: History, Meanings, Properties, Uses & More 

Obsidian informationIf you’re on the lookout for a mysterious and breathtaking jewel, look no further than obsidian stones! A gorgeous variety of volcanic glass, obsidian is a quiet part of our everyday world from homeware to jewelry. Since ancient times, people have turned to obsidian for its extraordinary healing properties and spiritual symbolism.

In this extensive guide, we’ll explore obsidian’s many superb qualities and specifications. A stone this special deserves a thorough look!

What is an Obsidian Stone?

Technically speaking, obsidian is not a gemstone but rather a variety of natural volcanic glass. While black obsidian is the most common form, many other types of obsidian stones exist as well. 

Obsidian Varieties

APACHE tears obsidian stone

Apache Tears

Apache tears are round black obsidian stones with smooth and polished surfaces. Apache tears are named after a famous 19th-century legend about the battle between the Apache tribe and the U.S. Cavalry. 

Rather than facing slaughter, the Apache warriors hurled themselves off a cliff to their deaths. Overcome with grief, the Apache women shed dark tears that fell and transformed into black obsidians.

Despite their tragic backstory, apache tears are beautiful stones that symbolize healing and recovery. 

Rainbow obsidian

Rainbow and Fire Obsidian

If you prefer your obsidians with some color, rainbow and fire obsidians may be the stones for you! 

Rainbow obsidians are full of brilliant colors thanks to inclusions of an iron-rich mineral called magnetite. 

Despite their namesake, fire obsidians are not fiery orange stones. Instead, they resemble rainbow obsidians with their stunning array of colors. The difference? Fire obsidians have thinner layers of magnetite that mimic the iridescence of flames in their appearance.

Regardless of their differences, both rainbow and fire obsidians are bold stones full of personality and color. 

Snowflake obsidian stones

Snowflake Obsidian

Do you wish for a winter wonderland all year round? Try turning to snowflake obsidians for some icy magic!

Snowflake obsidians, as you may have guessed, contain delicate white flecks that resemble snowflakes. If winter is your favorite season, snowflake obsidians are the perfect stones to include in your gem collection.

Mohagany obsidian beads

Mahogany Obsidian

If you prefer a warmer-colored jewel, mahogany obsidians are sure to keep you cozy with their reddish-brown streaks and spirals. Mahogany obsidians derive their rare colors from iron impurities like hematite during crystal formation.

Sheen obsidian gemstone

Sheen Obsidian

Sheen obsidians are ethereal stones that look like they contain entire galaxies. With tiny gold and silver air bubbles, sheen obsidians are absolutely divine.

While many varieties of obsidian exist, they all share certain characteristics and properties. 

Obsidian Specifications and Characteristics

Obsidian stones are mainly composed of silicon dioxide – about 70 percent, in fact. Silica is one of the most abundant minerals on Earth. From sand and cement to even amethyst gemstones, silica richly populates our planet.

How strong is obsidian? The Mohs scale of mineral hardness ranks obsidian at a humble 5, right above fluorite. Basalt glass varieties of obsidian are slightly harder at a 6.

  • Color: Black, silver, gold, reddish-brown, rainbow

  • Fracture: Conchoidal

  • Luster: Vitreous

  • Transparency: Transparent to opaque

  • Refractive index: 1.48-1.51 (usually 1.49)

  • Density: 2.25-3.00

  • Cleavage: None

Obsidian properties have fascinated humanity for thousands of years. So, how have different cultures used obsidian over time?

Obsidian History

Obsidian uses reach as far back as the Paleolithic Age. Thanks to their brittle and sharp edges, obsidians were fashioned into deadly spears, arrowheads, and other weapons.

As time trickled by, ancient people began using obsidian for other purposes. Of course, obsidian jewelry became popular. Obsidian was also carved into kitchen utensils and other homeware. Shamans and healers, on the other hand, revered obsidian for its spiritual properties.  

The first mention of the word obsidian dates back to 77 AD in Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder’s encyclopedic work Natural History. Pliny noted that obsidian glass was similar to a stone discovered in Ethiopia by a traveler named Obsidius.

Obsidian stones held a special place of honor within the Mayan Empire. The Mayans cherished obsidian the way others coveted gold. Mayan merchants would exchange obsidian as a form of currency. The Mayans even believed that obsidian mirrors revealed the future.

Many centuries later, the Aztec Empire came to venerate obsidian as well. The Aztecs associated the striking volcanic glass with Itzli, the god of stone.

We know how people used it, but how is obsidian formed in the first place? 

Rough obsidian slab

Obsidian Stone Origins and Sources

Obsidian stones are born from fire and ash. As volcanic rock cools and hardens, traces of silica quickly seep in. Because this process happens so quickly, the volcanic rock transforms into glass instead of crystals. In contrast, gemstones like emerald and amethyst can take thousands of years to crystallize.

Where is obsidian found? 

The United States is a major supplier of obsidian – Arizona, Colorado, and California, to be exact. Other U.S. states produce different varieties of obsidian. For example, snowflake obsidian mines exist in Utah, while New Mexico produces apache tears. Meanwhile, Oregon contains fire, mahogany, and rainbow obsidian deposits.

Other obsidian mines are scattered all over the globe:

  • Mexico

  • Brazil

  • Ecuador

  • Iceland

  • Indonesia

  • Italy

  • Japan

No matter their origins, obsidian stones have enchanted many with their unique metaphysical properties. But why is that? What does obsidian symbolize?

Obsidian stone

Obsidian Stone Meanings and Uses

Obsidian meanings can promise a life full of peace, patience, self-love, and happiness. So, what does obsidian mean spiritually? And just what is so special about obsidian?

If you value honesty, try turning to obsidian for guidance. Obsidian symbolizes the truth in all its messy glory – the good and the bad, the pretty and the ugly. You’ll be able to better understand both the light and darkness in your soul. Moreover, obsidian can help you turn away from that darkness to embrace light and love.

In a similar vein, obsidian stones can soothe any type of aggressive energy with serene patience. As a result, you’ll be able to overcome challenges and discover self-acceptance.

With such rich spiritual meaning, it’s no surprise that obsidian is treasured by many worldwide. So, what is obsidian used for? 

Just like in ancient times, this sleek and shiny stone makes for some stunning jewelry. Obsidian necklaces and obsidian bracelets are popular choices. Obsidian engagement and wedding rings are a fantastic way to celebrate love.

Obsidian is more than just a pretty piece of jewelry, however. Just like in ancient times, obsidian is used to create cutting tools and other kitchenware like mugs and utensils. Obsidian mirrors are highly sought after, although they’re mainly used for decorative purposes. Even surgical scalpels are made out of obsidian!

In fact, obsidian benefits include outstanding spiritual and healing qualities. You may be wondering, “How do you use obsidian for healing?”

Excellent question! Let’s go over all the powerful obsidian healing properties.

tumbled obsidian healing stones

Obsidian Spiritual and Healing Properties

Like other healing stones, obsidian has physical, emotional, and spiritual healing powers.

When it comes to your physical health, obsidian can ease digestion issues and cleanse bodily toxins. Dealing with any arthritis pain, joint aches, or cramps? Obsidian may be the answer!

Obsidian can preserve your emotional wellbeing, too. If you’re suffering from stress, try keeping an obsidian stone nearby. You may find your tension melting away, leaving behind peace and clarity. 

What about spiritual healing? If you find that your basic physical and emotional needs aren’t being met, your root chakra may be blocked. As a sacred energy center, it grounds you to Mother Nature, the world, and life itself. Obsidian can balance the root chakra and help you find your footing again.

How can you tap into obsidian’s healing powers? If you enjoy meditating, try holding obsidian while doing so next time. You can carry obsidian with you or keep it in your home or office, too.

Now let’s switch gears and get into obsidian’s unique properties.

Obsidian Buying Factors

When shopping for obsidian stones, consider these four factors: clarity, color, cut, and carat weight.


Remember how rainbow obsidians contain magnetite inclusions? Well, inclusions themselves are gas, liquid, and other tiny particles that get trapped within a gemstone during its formation. Gemstones that are inclusion-free are considered “eye-clean” and are highly desirable.

Obsidian stones are usually opaque with a gorgeous gleam. Gem cutters often fashion high-clarity obsidians into mirrors.

Not all obsidians are eye-clean, however. Some stones may have inclusions like crystallites, bubbles, needles, and snowflakes. In the case of rainbow obsidians, inclusions are the key to their coloring.

What about the other obsidian colors?


Obsidian’s trademark color is a calming midnight black. However, if black is a little too strong for your taste, you’ll find plenty of other obsidian colors around!

We’ve already touched base on the different varieties of obsidian, aside from its traditional black coat. Whether they’re gold, silver, reddish-brown, or rainbow-colored, obsidians come in a wide variety of shades. 


In the past, obsidian stones were cut into arrows and other weapons. Today, they’re fashioned into decorative arrowheads and other carvings.

Interested in shopping for obsidian jewelry? Obsidian cuts can be faceted, tumbled, or carved. Because of their fragility, obsidians are typically shaped into rounds, ovals, and cabochons to preserve as much material as possible. Obsidian cabochons are incredibly sleek and polished. 

How large are these jewelry pieces, though? 

Carat Weight

Obsidian stones are large, small, and everything in-between. Their sizes vary from minuscule to several hundred carats! If you’re thinking of buying obsidian carvings, keep in mind that these can be up to 10 inches. 

Once you find the perfect obsidian piece, you’ll never want to part from it! So, how do you care for obsidian? 

Obsidian Care and Maintenance

While obsidians are beautiful, their brittle nature requires a little extra TLC. As long as you look after your obsidian jewelry, it should remain in perfect condition for years to come!

Be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Store obsidian away from other gemstones to prevent scratching. Consider using a fabric-lined jewelry box.

  • Always remove any jewelry before cleaning, exercising, or engaging in sports. After all, you want to avoid knocking your obsidian around.

To give your obsidian jewelry a light cleaning, gently swipe a lint-free cloth over it. Make sure to avoid any rough rubbing to prevent chipping or breakage.

Is it safe to put obsidian in water when cleaning? Absolutely! To get a deeper clean, you can bathe your obsidian stones in warm water and softly scrub with mild soap and a soft brush. However, stay away from mechanical cleaning systems like steamers – these are too harsh for obsidians!

Speaking of harsh, will obsidian prices make you wince? Or is obsidian cheap?

Obsidian gemstones

Obsidian Prices and Value

Earlier, we talked about how obsidian contains silica, one of Earth’s most abundant minerals. Thankfully, that makes obsidian bountiful and budget-friendly to boot!

So, how much does obsidian cost? Prices for this sleek black jewel can vary anywhere from $2-100 per piece. When bought by the pound, obsidian stones typically cost $2-5 per pound. 

Ultimately, obsidians are very affordable and therefore unlikely to break the bank. Thinking of stocking up on several pieces of obsidian jewelry? We won’t stop you!

Open Your Life Up To Obsidian

Obsidian has proved to be a  versatile stone time and time again. From Paleolithic arrows and spears to modern kitchenware and jewelry, obsidian stones have always had a place in our world. 

With so many stunning varieties to choose from, finding your perfect obsidian match can be fun and easy! Consider soaring into space with sheen obsidian or celebrating Christmas all year with snowflake obsidian. Whichever stone you happen to pick up, you’re sure to discover peace, hope, and happiness!

Looking to buy obsidian? Browse obsidian stones from Gem Rock Auctions today!

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