Professional Jeweler Archive: Phantom!

January 2005

Merchandise / Gemology


Phantom!

These gemological wonders in quartz are snapshots of their host crystal's youth

by Robert Weldon, G.G.


In a way, using the term “phantom” to describe beautiful, surreal inclusions in quartz is inappropriate. Dictionary definitions of phantom say the presence of something may be felt but it doesn’t exist physically. In quartz, phantoms are present and visible, though often discreet, translucent and ghostly. Other times, they’re starkly outlined inside the host crystal, often lined with thick, colorful inclusions prone to forming abstract patterns.

Phantoms occur in many minerals, including diamond, beryl and peridot. But they’re most appreciated in quartz, where their presence is dramatic and varied.

Mineralogists theorize phantoms occur when another mineral (goethite, chlorite or hematite, for example) deposits itself along the surfaces of quartz’s prismatic faces while the gem material is forming in a hydrothermal environment. The quartz keeps growing, trapping the inclusions in an orderly hexagonal prism. Sometimes, you can see multiple phantoms, akin to tree rings. In a sense they occur for similar reasons. Phantoms form due to a change in the environment of growth, as do tree rings.

Mineralogists define quartz phantoms as a form of the crystal habit. Because quartz’s habit is hexagonal and prismatic, phantoms reveal a time capsule of the crystal’s youthful expression, a moment frozen in place during the crystal’s growth. Quartz phantoms occur primarily in rock crystal (colorless quartz) and sometimes in amethyst, citrine and smoky quartz.

The polished quartz crystal slice pictured exhibits a dramatic, ethereal phantom. You can see at least three prismatic faces in the phantom. It is translucent and pale green (if you look carefully) probably because of the sudden presence, and later disappearance, of chlorite during the crystal’s formation. The image of the graceful female figure on top of the phantom was reverse-carved by Krista L. McMillan of Vineland, Ontario, Canada.

Photo by Robert Weldon

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications