Cactus Quartz - One of the Earth's Most Interesting Curiosities
I first became acquainted with Cactus Quartz at a gem and bead show earlier this year while looking at the table of a lapidary guy from Florida. The unusual crystal I held in my hand didn't look like any Amethyst I'd ever seen before, but he told me that in fact it was Amethyst which had grown smaller crystals around the main central point and upon which a layer of Citrine had grown on top of that layer because of certain volcanic and mineral conditions. The first one I started with was sort of an experiment to see if it would sell and I still have it, but I began to get lots of inquiries about it and potential buyers started bookmarking it. Some people wrote and asked me if I had any smaller ones that could be used in rings, so then I bought two more (those two of the variety you see in the picture above; more purple and with little or no Citrine in it).
Then I got a custom order for 10, so I thought, "This could really become popular" and I embarked upon a journey into the world of importing gemstones. I had bought a few things here and there from India and Thailand, but this was the first real wholesale import I had done and it was a little scary but alot exciting! Since the particular supplier I was ordering from was located in South Africa where these stones are mined I was able to get them for a better price than anyplace I could order them in the US, and I checked several South African suppliers but none of the others had the top purple material you see here! One of the others I spoke with almost laughed when I mentioned the ones he showed on his website were too pale for my taste and when I asked him if he had any with more intense color. He told me that only about 2% of the material that comes out of the ground is purple and most is pale lavender. He only gets the top purple material once or twice a year and it's sold out within a week's time. He never gets advance notice as to when it will be available. While I was looking around doing an exhaustive search I saw many that were even white or colorless with not even a hint of purple; technically not Amethyst yet still considered Cactus Quartz. They can come in Smokey Quartz too.
The other supplier did not have a Paypal account, doing all of her transactions by direct bank draft, and had no credit card processing capability, and she had up until now only dealt with big dealers who usually ordered at least 20 Kilos at a time. The supplier and I talked by e-mail on a daily basis for about 2 weeks while she set up a Paypal account and I set up an account with a particular courior. Shipping could be either expensive, or if I chose South Africa's Air Freight it could take 12 weeks, and I knew I couldn't wait that long. Knowing I needed to strike while the iron was hot I went with the more expensive but faster courior and after several misquotes from them they gave me the correct shipping quote (while still expensive, not enough to make me bolt and conclude I'd lost my mind, LOL).
The 1 Kilo of stones arrive even a little earlier in the morning than predicted (and in 4 days), and as I excitedly opened the box tightly sealed on all sides with brown glossy packing tape, I was elated to find 107 beautifully glistening purple crystals intact and carefully wrapped. They were all 2 inches or shorter, as requested, and there was an assortment of crystal formations. Some were long and rather phallic, whereas others were more stubby and had more tiny secondary crystals growing around them, and some were closer to flat general clusters whose host crystal was less defined apart from the others. A few have twin central crystals!
Many of these could be used in rings, being about an inch long. That size is hard to come by and that size in the most sought-after purple is really hard to come by! I may need to order more sooner that I think!
If you do wire-wrapping or stone setting and you like to make creative bezel or prong settings to fit one-of-a-kind stones I highly recommend you buy some of these when I get them listed because those in the know really want this material! The market price here in the US is on the rise and some of my sources have told me it is becoming more and more difficult to find. When/if the mines run out it will only be obtainable from old stock which was previously purchased.
Some of you may be aware of other stones like Tourmaline, for instance that has skyrocketed in price because it is either rare, no longer found at all, or is dangerous to mine because of civil unrest in a region or armed bandits looking to make money themselves. All or any one of these conditions can affect market price, so it's good to get in ahead of the game.
History of Cactus Quartz:
The stone was first discovered in 1986, believed to have come from "Magaliesberg" but there was some confusion about the more specific location. This may have been intentional to prevent anybody and everybody from going on the premises and pilfering the newly discovered find. Then after a few years the story given at trade shows changed to reflect "Marble Hall" as the locale; a small town about 120 km north-east of Pretoria.
Since then the story has changed a third time and it is said to be found near the former Boutenhouthoek and Mathys Zyn Loop Farms, approximately 45 km South-west of "Marble Hall", and 80 km North-east of Pretoria.
The mining is done rather informally by local farmers. These special stones are found in quartz veins imbedded in granite of the Bushveld intrusion complex believed to be 2 billions years old, but it is not known how old the quartz is that the crystals grow in, nor how old the Cactus Quartz crystals themselves are. On some pieces there are still parts of this matrix attached.
Cactus Quartz is referred to by local tribal medicine men as "Spirit Quartz", having been used in healing rituals. Metaphysical practitioners here in the US believe Cactus Quartz has strong energy compounded by the many tiny crystals surrounding the central one, and that the stone helps in focus, group cooperation and unification, and is used to provide insight into family or community problems.
Composition and properties;
It is a silicon dioxide mineral and has a Moh's hardness of 7. The crystal ranges from transparent to translucent, and has a hexagonal, trigonal crystal structure.
(Other sources not disclosed).
Watch my Etsy store for these beautiful stones as I start listing them individually. You can buy them here; http://giftbearersupply.etsy.com/